October 19, 2017

A Moral Continental Divide?

divide

I will refrain from opining on this subject, but since we’re talking about evangelicalism this week, we should probably note some developments with regard to the issue that many evangelicals see as the key moral issue in our culture and society. Several recent statements by prominent evangelicals have been in the news, and I want to give you a chance to talk about them today. I’d like to focus on the idea being set forth that this is, indeed, a watershed issue. Let me put it this way:

Do issues surrounding LGBT acceptance form a moral “continental divide” for the Church in Western society today?

This is and has been the stated position of conservative Christians, from Roman Catholics to evangelicals. Al Mohler asked the question this way on his blog: “Which Way, Evangelicals? There Is Nowhere to Hide.” Religion News Service put it this way in their article, “Why a ‘yes’ to gays is often a ‘no’ to evangelicalism.”

Here’s the context for the recent reiteration of these statements.

DSC_8674First, Tony Campolo, who has always urged the church to be more loving and accepting of people in LGBT relationships but who also maintained a traditional position that such relationships were ultimately sinful, came out with a statement announcing that he now takes a different view.

…I have done my best to preach the Gospel, care for the poor and oppressed, and earnestly motivate others to do the same. Because of my open concern for social justice, in recent years I have been asked the same question over and over again: Are you ready to fully accept into the Church those gay Christian couples who have made a lifetime commitment to one another?

While I have always tried to communicate grace and understanding to people on both sides of the issue, my answer to that question has always been somewhat ambiguous. One reason for that ambiguity was that I felt I could do more good for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters by serving as a bridge person, encouraging the rest of the Church to reach out in love and truly get to know them. The other reason was that, like so many other Christians, I was deeply uncertain about what was right.

It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.

Campolo grounded his change of mind in several conclusions: (1) Though the Augustinian tradition teaches that the primary purpose for marriage is procreation, he believes that marriage ultimately is one of God’s greatest means of spiritual growth and that same sex partners can likewise enjoy a mutually edifying relationship. (2) His own personal relationships with gay couples has led him to see how much these folks want and need the support of the Church, and how much their exclusion hurts them. (3) As a social scientist, he recognizes that same sex attraction is not a choice, and as a Christian he takes seriously that Jesus does (and therefore the Church should) accept people “just as they are.”

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Second, though conservatives were not surprised by Campolo’s announcement (they’ve never trusted him anyway), they were taken off guard by David Neff, former editor in chief at Christianity Today, who affirmed Campolo’s new position on social media and then clarified his position in an email.

I think the ethically responsible thing for gay and lesbian Christians to do is to form lasting, covenanted partnerships. I also believe that the church should help them in those partnerships in the same way the church should fortify traditional marriages.

Neff’s words provoked a response from Mark Galli at CT, who sought to reassure their Christian readership that the magazine itself had not budged in its stance.

At CT, we’re saddened that David has come to this conclusion. Saddened because we firmly believe that the Bible teaches that God intends the most intimate of covenant relationships to be enjoyed exclusively by a man and a woman. We’ve stated this view explicitly in many editorials, and it is implicit but clear in many of our feature stories.

Galli, however, refused to buy into the narrative that the “defection” of two prominent evangelicals means that evangelical Christianity is coming apart at the seams over this issue. As he put it, “the evidence doesn’t support a narrative of division and collapse on this point.”

Third, we come to what Al Mohler wrote about these developments, highlighting the significance of Neff’s statement. He agreed with Mark Galli on the issue, but said he doesn’t understand how Galli can be so blasé at a time like this.

This is a moment of decision, and every evangelical believer, congregation, denomination, and institution will have to answer. There will be no place to hide. The forces driving this revolution in morality will not allow evasion or equivocation. Every pastor, every church, and every Christian organization will soon be forced to declare an allegiance to the Scriptures and to the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexual morality, or to affirm loyalty to the sexual revolution. That revolution did not start with same-sex marriage, and it will not end there. But marriage is the most urgent issue of the day, and the moment of decision has arrived.

In this season of testing, Christians committed to the gospel of Christ are called upon to muster the greatest display of compassion and conviction of our lives. But true compassion will never lead to an abandonment of biblical authority or a redefinition of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I was contacted yesterday by Sarah Pulliam Bailey of The Washington Post. She asked about these very developments. As I told her, this issue will eventually break relationships — personally, congregationally, and institutionally. This is the sad reality and there is simply no way around it. No one, especially in a position of leadership, will be able to fly under the radar on this issue.

Now, there are times when I might read such words and just blow them off as culture war posturing and hysteria. But these folks really believe this. And we haven’t even begun to talk about the Roman Catholics or other religious and cultural conservatives who see this as a genuine moral “continental divide.” I think we can all dispense with any apocalyptic talk here. However, sides are being formed around this issue that appear irreconcilable.

My fellow prophets, what does the future hold?

Comments

  1. Either the bible is hopelessly wrong about the subject of marriage, or we are hopelessly confused in our reading of the scripture.

    If the first instance is true then we have to re-examine other beliefs we hold to be true. Are they cultural anomalies, or are they just statements written for that particular point in time. In other words, the bible should be considered a relativistic document that is not reliably applicable to today.

    In the second instance, if we cannot trust our exegesis then we need to come up with some other way of parsing what the bible really says and how it is applicable to our lives today.

    Despite either case, our behavior toward the alphabet group should be one of love and compassion. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we throw over all we believe to be true, but it DOES mean that we must treat others as Jesus would.

    • StuartB says:

      Either the bible is hopelessly wrong about the subject of marriage, or we are hopelessly confused in our reading of the scripture.

      I tend to believe the latter. But first, define “hopelessly wrong” and define “marriage” from a biblical standpoint, both culturally as well as religiously (in the nation of Israel/in the church), and compare that to today’s definition of “marriage”, both biblically as well as culturally.

      I can’t believe it’s a yes/no binary choice between “right” and “wrong” on the Bible’s position on the subject of marriage. Or many different subjects we talk about here.

      • I can’t believe it’s a yes/no binary choice between “right” and “wrong” on the Bible’s position on the subject of marriage. Or many different subjects we talk about here.

        You may not, but you can sure bet that many evangelicals, and almost all of the Calvinists/YRRs *do*. And that’s the ultimate problem. For that mindset, the eschatological/Christological understanding of the Christian calling – in social justice, in marriage and sexual ethics, and in evangelism and church life – will always take a back seat to specific moral issues, which are defined in a black-and-white surety, and always ultimately based on Old Testament laws and mores. In that mindset, Jesus’s teachings on the ultimate relativization of sexual roles and social power in light of the coming Kingdom may as well not exist.

        • Yeah I know. And I was lockstep in with them not too long ago too.

          Realizing so many things come down to interpretation, and often biased ones at that, opened my eyes. The need to prove instead of accept.

          In that mindset, Jesus’s teachings on the ultimate relativization of sexual roles and social power in light of the coming Kingdom may as well not exist.

          Good pull quote.

    • StuartB says:

      the bible should be considered a relativistic document that is not reliably applicable to today

      How many authors over how many centuries to specific audiences in specific cultures and times…that just so happened to be compiled hundreds of years later under on label cover and declared “sola”.

      In a nutshell…YES, it is absolutely a relativistic series of documents, but that doesn’t mean it’s not reliable today when properly understood and applied.

      lol, i’m going to bed…and maybe taking a sabbatical

      • StuartB says:

        Oscar, do you see the slight of hand, or the jump in logic, you pulled in that piece I copied?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Despite either case, our behavior toward the alphabet group…

      I call them The Unpronounceables.
      (Have you ever tried to pronounce “LGBTQ”, even without the extra letters tacked on?)

      • It’s pronounced H-U-M-A-N-B-E-I-N-G.

        • turnsalso says:

          Zing.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          N-I-C-E.

        • Christiane says:

          STEPHEN, God bless you for that !!!!! It certainly made my day. 🙂

          you might like this story:
          ” a rabbi asks his students how they will know the exact moment when night ends and a new day begins.

          ‘Is it when it becomes light enough to tell a cedar tree from an olive tree’, one student asks.
          ‘No’, the rabbi says.
          “Is it when it becomes light enough to tell a sheep from a goat on the hillside”? Again, the rabbi says, ‘No’.

          Finally, the rabbi shares the answer with his students, this:
          “The moment when the night ends and a new day begins is the moment when you look into the face of a stranger and see the face of your brother…at that moment, that’s when the new day begins.”

          STEPHEN, I share this story because your comment tells me, this:
          ‘ when we can see a human being instead of a ‘label’, then a new day will begin for us also’.

          Forgive me if I declare you Imonk’s unofficial ‘talmudic rabbi-for-a-day’, so good was your comment. 🙂

      • turnsalso says:

        LGBTQ-IA, ia, Cthulhu ftaghn?

        But seriously, I marvel at the need for the labels sometimes. Lord haste the day when we can all pronounce it like Stephen did.

    • Christians can be confidently trusted to overestimate their capacity for understanding the divine will, conflating it with their own arrogance, and then inflicting it on others.

  2. cheesehed says:

    Honestly?

    I never bought into the whole conservative/Christian narrative: “The country’s has gone to hell in a handbasket because of the 60s/relative morality/hippies/prayer was removed from the schools.”

    If evangelicals think the LGBT issue is a “continental divide,” it says a hell of a lot more about them than it does the LGBT community. As John Stott once said of American Christianity, “it’s a mile wide and an inch deep.”

    This is why many, many folks don’t AND WON’T associate with evangelicalism. It’s a huge revolving door. If they keep up this us/them mentality, they’ll continue to be more and more marginalized. Maybe it’ll be Amish 2.0.

    And all I can say is, thank the Lord right now for the mainline churches and the RCC!

    • I hear you, but I wouldn’t be so quick to seek solace in the RCC with regard to this issue.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        At least in my corner of the world within the halls of the RCC there isn’t nearly has much kerfluffel over these culture-war issues.

        I do recognize that a couple of shows on Catholic Radio / EWTN go there pretty hard. But one can still go hours without hearing about culture war issues. That is in sharp contrast to the Evangelical stations – which are culture wars, family values, and end-times wall-to-wall [including a morning reading from the Left Behind series]. I am curious to see if they stop carrying Mr. Campolo; who is always fun to listen to.

        The priorities of – again, at least my local – RCC parish are oriented much more towards local and welfare issues.

        To be fair there is one Lutheran church here, which might consider itself Evangelical [I should ask next time I’m there], who also participates in a mature engagement with its environment.

        At worst it will be interesting to see how the RCC evolves into this climate; currently everyone can take Mr. Francis’ comments in a way which suits themselves [the mark of a true political genius].

    • Yeah, no kidding… your beliefs on it aside…

      The sky falls, and the world comes to an end at least every single day. I mean, REformation was the end. Great Schism the end…

      About that day or hour no one knows. I think they should focus on being CHRISTIAN, which is about loving in Jesus’ Name, not preaching hate all the time.

      • Define hate, as you see it, and how is it different (or IS it?) from simple disagreement. The term “hate” is often used as a discussion ender, and not a beginning.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Hate(TM) is anyone who disagrees with me in any way.
          Hate(TM) is telling me anything other than what I want to hear.
          Hate(TM) is saying I can’t do whatever I WANNA.

        • Very familiar with that usage from many discussions I’ve had…

        • Hate to me is that always react strongly against it, and Sith intense anger. For example when World Vision in the US decided to start hiring people who are gay/lesbian? The evangelicals were so enraged by out that millions upon millions pulled their child sponsorships. Or all the protests against sans sex marriage where the signs read “God hates faggots,” or something similar. Not to mention the comments I’ve read on social media from loving evangelicals that contain slurs, derogatory terms, and when a transgender person appears, like Caitlin Jenner, people purposefully misgender them in a rudest way possible…

          That’s not love or politely disagreeing. It’s making it clear how little room there is at the table for members of the LGBT community among evangelicals.

          • Jazziscoolithink says:

            +1

            To deny the reality of hate is often a conversation ender (I agree that hate does not equal simple disagreement, but not everyone plays it fast and loose with throwing the word “hate” around, although some people often do). “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” Yeah, right…

          • Fair point. I think the World Vision debacle really showed what a lot of evangelicals value (and don’t value).

          • Drena I agree with most of what you say.
            But I don’t think you can accuse someone who donates money to a charity of getting their back up when the charity goes against their values. That’s not hate, that is following your convictions.
            Now if those people are saying inflammatory things about gays its a different story.

          • kEN, I believe your comment is over-simplistic, and doesn’t deal with how WV actually works, etc. To reduce pulling sponsorship to funding a certain values set is frankly dishonest. I’d encourage you to think through this a little more carefully.

          • kEN: It is hate because the real people who paid for all that were not World Vision, nor people within th LGBT community, but the children that were being sponsored by those millions of donors who had next to nothing if it weren’t for them being sponsored.

            Honestly if evangelicals would rather not sponsor the children in Africa who have literally nothing save maybe the clothes on their backs, little to know food, and drinking filthy water because of who World Vision happens to employ, there is something seriously wrong with the people sitting in the pews of evangelical churches in the US.

            I specify in the US because here in Canada LGBT people have been working at World Vision for decades and no on in Canada cares. All they want is to donate to world vision to help the children in those impoverished countries.

          • Drena, intersting about WV in Canada, though not entirely surprising. You guys seem much more tolerant, on the whole, and i have yet to hear any reports of your society falling apart post-legalization of same-sex martiage. 😉

          • Nope, Canada and Canadian society keeps on going and going, not falling apart…

          • I think I’ve said this previously (somewhere) about WorldVision, but as I understand it, they weren’t ‘selling’ caring for poor children, they were selling CHRISTIAN caring for poor children.

            In that sense, they changed the contract unilaterally, and some sponsors reacted accordingly.

            There is NO reason to believe that those sponsors didn’t take their money elsewhere to other charities caring for poor children.

    • I had a Sunday School teacher who once said that American Christianity could do with some actual, North Korea level persecution – if only to show them how spoiled rotten they were.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Sounds like he could have held a side job writing editorials for Guns & Ammo or Soldier of Fortune. In the Late Cold War, both mags were obsessed with “Spoiled Rotten Baby Fat Americans” vs the “Rugged Communist Supermen”, hand in hand with Hypermasculinity.

      • He wasn’t concerned at all about Americans being “unmasculine”. He was concerned about how American evangelicals pick fights over secondary societal and moral issues, and cry “PERSECTUTION” when people call them out for their shenanigans. There *is* persecution in the world today – and what we have going on in America today ain’t that by a long shot.

    • I was raised in a conservative, evangelical environment so I bought into the fear-mongering hook, line, and sinker. As an adult, I look around and I feel that feeding fear is frequently how any group gathers its members. It’s really nice to finally breathe and read Mohler’s stuff and say, “I can be with Jesus without that; I am called away from fear toward him.” It’s also really nice to not feel like I have to have an answer to everything, part of that freedom in Christ thing, I think.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        “”” It’s also really nice to not feel like I have to have an answer to everything, part of that freedom in Christ thing”””

        I do not believe it is “freedom in Christ”. The ability to say “I don’t know” is far more fundamental than that, as well as the ability to discern that two [or more] things are not concomitant, both these behaviors are characteristics of Intellectual Maturity.

        Maturity is a far more restful and pleasant place than adolescence.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Good comment about maturity being more restful and pleasant than adolescence. And for another group to say I should feel concerned about something, I say, “No I don’t.”

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            “””And for another group to say I should feel concerned about something, I say, “No I don’t.””””

            I don’t know, someone else may be correct I should be more concerned about X than I am.

            I would prefer to answer “perhaps”.

            🙂

            But then I occasionally just enjoy the sputter that results from a non-committal answer to an argument of moral imperative. Which I admit is adolescent. 🙂

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Adam, that’s actually a good point, and I stand corrected! “Perhaps” is the right answer. But the more someone jumps up and down and says “YOU NEED TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT THIS!” the more I tend to think, “Probably not.” Especially when it comes to religion.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        I like your take on fear. Good comment.

    • Nothing new about American Christianist handwringing:

      Charles Dickens, “Martin Chuzzlewit”, 1842: “Martin knew nothing about America, or he would have known perfectly well that if its individual citizens, to a man, are to be believed, it always IS depressed, and always IS stagnated, and always IS at an alarming crisis, and never was otherwise; though as a body they are ready to make oath upon the Evangelists at any hour of the day or night, that it is the most thriving and prosperous of all countries on the habitable globe.”

  3. I have so many thoughts and ideas about this that I can’t even begin to get them written down, but I’ll start with this one comment.

    Dr. Mohler wrote the following: “But true compassion will never lead to an abandonment of biblical authority or a redefinition of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    Since when is sexual identity part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is about grace, Jesus’ amazing love for us, Jesus giving himself for us, Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming.

    I’ve been reading a lot lately about gender roles, complementarianism, and gender identity being “gospel issues” and it bothers me. Denominations are going to disagree about points of theology, but the basics of the gospel are basic and core. We need to remember that sexuality and gender identity issues are not gospel issues, but are secondary issues.

    Jesus is the gospel issue.

    • Right. Fundagelicals tend to link all their morality issues to the Gospel in order to justify their position. The problem is that the link is simply not there, it is just a confusion of law and gospel. Morality belongs to matters of the law, not the Gospel.

      • And beyond that, the ultimate morality is that defined in the Sermon on the Mount – radical seranthood, radical forgiveness, and radical devotion to Christ and His work.

        And I ain’t seeing a lot of that in this whole mess right now.

        • You won’t, either – those things are done quietly in a particular locality, and they don’t make news and twitter feeds. You can’t rail on the internet or from the pulpit about those things even, to be done, they have to be /done/. They don’t make position statements, they make actions.

      • The evangelical megachurch I work at is in the midst of a sermon series about the ten commandments. The pastor’s summary says something like ‘My goal is to give you the unshakable hope that your future is bound up inextricably to the choices you make.’ I’m thinking “since when is Christian hope in the Law, or in our obedience to the Law?” No surprise that he can’t tell the difference between Law and Gospel (hope) but it still boggles the mind when successful and trained ministers bungle this.

        • Yeah, that’s not a very unshakeable hope. The choices I make generally suck. I’m pretty damn screwed if that’s all he can offer me. And I feel like church is a waste of time too, because I’d have nothing of value to offer anyone else. “Eat, drink, and be merry” is better counsel.

          But you shouldn’t be surprised, Evangelical ministers generally don’t study Law and Gospel. This, particularly, is a weakness in Evangelicalism that is most easily remedied, and indeed some are beginning to catch on. They can read books by Walther and Tullian Tch… that will really help them in this regard, without having to change the rest of their religion that much.

        • Nate, you asked, “since when is Christian hope in the Law, or in our obedience to the Law?” (I am going to color outside the lines here at IM)

          Jesus is our Hope; He is the Law Giver as well as the fulfillment of the Law. Recall Jesus told the teachers of the Law that the greatest commandment is to love the LORD your God with all your heart . . . this summarizes what God SPOKE (Ex 19:9) to the nation of Israel when He gave His Law on the mountain – He begins by revealing His authority. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Ex 20:1-3.

          And yet we have “other gods.” I find that most of the time the other god is me. My wants and my desires take precedence over God. I want the authority to decide what is right or wrong, good or bad – for me.

          And yet love for God is described as our obedience to His command – to His Word . . . and the WORD became flesh and dwelt among us . . . Can you “hear” Jesus say, “I AM the LORD your God who bought you out of the kingdom of darkness, out of the bondage of sin” . . . and we beheld His glory . . . where do we behold His glory today? Where is God’s glory evident in a relationship that He has not given honor to? Can we even begin to legislate that? I am wondering if this course we have embarked upon as a society (calling evil good) is part of the prophetic “deluding influence” (2 Thess 2:11) that will precede the coming of Jesus?

          • A law giver can not give you any hope. If law had the power to give hope, Jesus had no point in coming, Moses would have been just fine. Jesus wasn’t telling the teachers of the law anything they didn’t already know. He didn’t give a new moral code or alter the previous one.

            If you are going to Jesus looking for a taskmaster, he can be no kinder to you than Moses was. All the demands for perfection will continue to magnify your failure to achieve it. This can lead only to despair, unless there is someone to whom you can look for forgiveness.

            And that’s what Jesus is really about. The Gospel does not overturn the demands of the law, but it does deliver grace to those who have failed to obey but who believe that Christ has risen.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Until “gospel” (and “gospelly”) become just another “smurf” or “marclar”.

    • flatrocker says:

      Catherine,

      > “Since when is sexual identity part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

      There is one place where Jesus is asking us to think about this. In Mt 19, beginning with verse 4, Jesus is answering a Pharisee’s question on the grounds for divorce. I find it interesting how Jesus starts his answer. He simply makes it clear how we were created. It’s curious that he is basically stating what is foundational. But in explicitly stating this, he is calibrating us to begin on the same page – an important point to move the listener to the real argument he is about to make. He lays down a clear, unambiguous and fundamental starting position. With characteristic clarity and simplicity, he states who made us and what we are. Nothing more and nothing less.

      This leads us to the point he is about to make in the next verse – “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.” Actually, if we read these words as they are written, they are not so much given as a statement as they are a command. Christ doesn’t leave an option or allow for a multiple choice response. If we read these words for what they say, he doesn’t leave much wiggle room on what type of relationship we were created for. If verse 4 gives us “the who and the what,” then verse 5 gives us the purpose. If we buy into his opening statement, it then becomes clear what our relationship purpose entails – that a male and female shall be joined together.

      I find it interesting that this statement is so short and to the point. No rationalizing on the plight of an individual’s orientation. No swimming in a pool of “what ifs.” No heartfelt empathy in the name of justice or fairness. It is a simple and direct command. “A man shall….be joined to his wife”.

      From here, Jesus moves from defining the relational purpose for marriage and concludes with the true intent and destiny for this type of relationship in verse 6. It is a destiny wrapped in the glory and mystery of two opposites – male and female – becoming one. Man and woman are willed to become one flesh in complete union with each other. Verse 6 concludes with God’s powerful pronouncement that sanctifies and makes permanent this holy joining.

      I find what Jesus did say on this “joining” to be more pointed than what we might endlessly conjecture on what was not said. He simply and clearly states what constitutes a valid relationship in the eyes of the Father. Think about how many possible relationship combinations we can create on our own – some have or are rapidly becoming culturally acceptable. I would submit that in the minds of men, ALL relationship combinations (not just same-sex and not just monogamous for that matter) are viable and on the table because we become our own arbiter of what is acceptable. But in the eyes of God, as Jesus states in the above verses, there is only one relationship type that is sanctioned by our Creator.

      In fairness, this verse says nothing to the issue of sexual orientation – best to save that for another time. It does however raise a legitimate question concerning the concept of leading a celibate life outside of the only relationship type as taught by Christ in accord with our divine purpose. And maybe (gulp) this celibate life applies to us all outside of the relationship he described in Mt 19. Now there’s a radical discussion I’d like us to have!

      And maybe ( double gulp) these verses also lead to a distinct challenge for all of us. Maybe it’s time we all extend a little more compassion and special grace to those conflicted brothers and sisters who choose to lead this type of chaste life. Or in the slightly modified words of that famous blanketed philosopher – “That’s what Christianity is all about Charlie Brown.”

      Finally, I find it refreshing that Christ’s words, in contrast to the harshness of Leviticus or the directness of Paul, are not words of condemnation. They are words that speak to our origin, intent, purpose and destiny. However, within these words of promise, Christ does stand in solidarity and consistency with the rest of scripture. How can he do otherwise?

      • Amen!

      • grberry says:

        I don’t think we realize that “shall leave his father and mother” was a radical portion of that statement. I’m not certain how patriarchical Jewish law was at the time – but it definitely was. But the area he was teaching in was also under Roman governance and occupation, and that law was very patriarchical. The pater familias had complete authority over his sons, even to the power of life and death over them. Only the pater familias could own property, so the sons could not while their father lived. The Roman laws for marriage were undergoing reformation in the period around the time of Jesus’ birth, with an Augustine reformation in BC 18-17, the Lex Papia Poppaea in AD 9, and other issues. So when Jesus said to “leave his father” he was challenging a secular law of the time that was in flux.

        These law reformss also strongly discouraged celibacy, subjecting celibate adults to extra taxation and privileging parents of multiple children. Paul’s teaching on celibacy, and the church’s adoption of it, also acquire a new angle when seen this way.

        I also note that in Roman law there were two forms of marriage, one in which the wife became part legally of the husband’s family, one in which she remained tied to her own. The one in which the wife became legally part of the husband’s family was rare by the time of the later Republic, so this difference might not have been in Jesus’ view. But if it was in his view, this verse can also be read as a direction as to which of the legal forms of marriage to engage in.

        I bet there is a fruitful study to be done here, but I am not the one to do it.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          These law reforms also strongly discouraged celibacy, subjecting celibate adults to extra taxation and privileging parents of multiple children.

          Pagan Roman Quiverfull?

          • More Jewish than Jesus, that Roman sympathizer…

          • That Other Jean says:

            More like short life spans, lots of children dying young, soldiers forbidden to marry while in service, and the belief that there might not be enough soldiers to keep the conquests coming and the empire safe if eligible men didn’t marry and start contributing to the birth rate.

        • These law reformss also strongly discouraged celibacy, subjecting celibate adults to extra taxation and privileging parents of multiple children. Paul’s teaching on celibacy, and the church’s adoption of it, also acquire a new angle when seen this way.

          Sounds so familiar…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            As I understand it, both Roman and Jewish cultures of the time were heavily into Patriarchy, Dynasty, and Genealogy. If you weren’t plugged into a House/Family/Line/Gens, working to advance the power & prestige of that House/Family/Line/Gens, and producing offspring to continue that House/Family/Line/Gens, you had NO status and were disposable. (Even missing out on an afterlife as you had no descendants to remember you.) Even on a practical level, you wouldn’t have family connections or descendants to care for you as Elder/Patriarch.

            One of the appeals of Christ among those of such low status and bleak future (before and after death) was that the Church, the Body of Christ, provided such support networks for those without connections. The “local” Church became that House/Family/Line/Gens for those without.

            I am almost 60 years old. Never married (not for lack of desire), no kids. By the standard of both ancient cultures and today’s Quiverfulls, I am at the bottom of the heap in status. Yet so many churches have joined the ancient Romans and Jews with their Bedroom Evangelism, Quiverfull breeding programs, 200-year-plans for Dynasties, Salvation by Marriage Alone, and Focusing on the Family above all else. Where is the Church as Family/House/Line/Gens for those without?

          • neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.

            For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;

            Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.

  4. StuartB says:

    That (sexual) revolution did not start with same-sex marriage, and it will not end there.

    And with that, Al Mohler proves to me he’s not worth listening to. He denies the necessity of all the good that has occured in history, and lays the blame of it straight at the feet of women. The 50s happened. The 60s happened. Everything since then has happened.

    That attitude is sexist, backwards, and repugnant. It has no place in the body of Christ.

    • Stuart, I am no fan of Mohler but he says nothing about laying the blame on women. He is not denying any good anymore than I can say your statement denies any good.Perhaps you need to read his statement again without such angry eyes.

    • Michael says:

      You are jumping to some unfair conclusions that I think I have more to do with how you perceive Mohler than his statement here. I’m sure you disagree with him regardless, but at least disagree with what he actually said.

    • I don’t think I’m that far off, guys. His mention of the sexual revolution, which was a direct result of women’s liberation, speaks volumes about his worldview. And in this type of worldview, so many problems stem from the fact that “traditional gender roles” have changed, and that all started way back when.

      Sure, he didn’t address it specifically in this case, but it’s in his and many other’s thinking. I could be wrong, however, but I see the connection. I don’t know how you can separate the two out.

      And in a way, he’s right. When you question such things like the complementarian position, it is a slippery slope. All that slippery slope rhetoric has always been half right, because of the house of cards nature of so many modern theological systems. Built on sand…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And what about Hellenistic Culture of New Testament times?

      Seems to me they had quite a reputation when it came to “Teh Gay” as an integral part of that culture. The early Church in the Eastern Med would have been immersed in a surrounding culture famous for universal same-sex (male) eroticism and worship of the perfect (male) human body as “traditional family values”.

      And the Church made it through that.

  5. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “””But marriage is the most urgent issue of the day”””

    The thing is – if you don’t accept the above statement as true – so much of this conflict theme just collapses. That is, I believe, the real crux of the division, and why reconciliation is nearly impossible.

    I believe in old school traditional sexual morality – and I believe we [including I], as human beings [not just Americans] – have never ever really done well at realizing that vision or those roles. … And western society has lived on, orderly and productively. Children have been born, raised, become good citizens – under the tutelage of all manner of parents, some with less than one and some with many. And western society has lived on, orderly and productively. I mean – those Romans were serious perverts, but they created many templates we still use today in every sphere of life.

    My prediction is that someday relatively soon this raucous fight will be over, and by then nobody will notice that it ended. Like so so many things it will fade into the gray with the passing of the Boomers, without which one side of the fight will lack the political and financial muscle to fight.

    Footnote: But there will always be the guy downtown holding the placard “He who is born of God does not sin” while yelling at ‘effeminate looking’ men or women wearing cloths he does not approve of – and how he can offer then ‘real love’. I find it encouraging to see that nearly everyone calmly goes about their business and ignores him.

  6. I am sorry. The problem I have is the hijacking of a word. Now in the scope of my life it isn’t going to change the hot as hell day I’m going to have or tomorrow. I have a feeling inside and I really don’t know how to deal with it at times. You see I’ve probably done everything a person could do sexually at one time in my life or another. I’m not proud of it and at times I wonder to myself what were you thinking. Today I almost feel like my life was hijacked at certain points. I try not to sow into my flesh anymore at all and when I do i don’t feel good about it. It isn’t the act as much as they way I think that bothers me. A whole lifetime of not doing things God’s way. I feel broken.

    Do you know how many men I have known who have not been faithful in a marriage covenant. I got divorced after 20 years of doing everything wrong. Well we both were going to end up killing each other. Never thought I would ever marry again. Really never. Then someone said after many years that God cannot bless your relationship unless you enter into a covenant before him. I looked at the lady I was with who never wanted to marry again and said I want to be your friend for the rest of my life and I want God to be able to bless us together. My first wife has become dead to me. I can’t remember how things felt anymore. My second wife is my partner and I love her even though she has the ability to annoy me in an instant.

    I don’t have a right to judge. Especially me with what I have been forgiven for. I have had my hands on gay men praying and speaking over them. I know Jesus loves them. How would I know that so personally. I have great love for my Lord. I really don’t know how I feel about it. My encouragement would be of one that people should pray and get before HIM and ask HIM how HE feels about what it is they are doing. When I married again it was about asking Him into our relationship.

    It get backs to the hijacking of a word as it was always traditionally defined. I have been close to a lot of same sex couples here in our city. I have found that the open mind thing really only applies when I see things like they do. I wonder if because I seem to be in a majority why they seek to hurt me when they redefine a word for their own benefit. What you think something inside doesn’t hurt when this is done to me. Oh How comes I feel so sad then?

    Again I am only trying to type out what is going on inside me. I want for people to know Him. It is the only thing to have ever changed me for the better and I’m still trying. So if it in some way hurts you that I have typed this or you think it is wrong well it could be but I was trying for honesty. In the long run there has to be honesty. Do I love through Jesus any more or less those who do both right and wrong. Man, how could I after the way Jesus has treated me. Really the best thing this life has ever offered me.

    • I just have one more thing to add. My grandmothers and others in my life who went through 50 plus years of marriage being faithful deserve honor. I believe God has honored them in their prayers. More than I could know now. When I see the hurt in my mothers eyes about some of these issues I do get a bit ruffled. I also know she would love me no matter what and still does. Amazing thing what love can do.

    • This. +1MM

      Until we all take on this humble attitude, the divide will exist and no movement forward or reconciliation can be expected.

      –Justin

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      I appreciate how you concentrated on the actual humans and not labels or agendas. That is how it should be.

      • I so appreciate your forgiveness and grace towards me. It melts my heart. I read your comment thirty times and this is what come through to me. I take a knee before you in humbleness kind person.

  7. Clay Crouch says:

    A moral divide? Not hardly. It’s more seismic than that. Forget redefining marriage and gender roles, Albert Mohler and his cadre are well spoken, well dressed, well educated hucksters of a repackaged and repurposed “gospel”. I would to God that the nature of the divide were clear to all.

    • There are so many issues here – and I am working on a longer comment – but Mohler is right about one thing. This is a “gospel issue”. Specifically, it is about Mohler and the gang redefining the gospel and shilling poisoned water as fresh. It is kind of unfortunate that he is part of this post, because his hubris distracts from the points of the other players.

      • Clay Crouch says:

        I look forward to your comment.

        On another note, in a secular, pluralistic society (USA), why should evangelicals or any religious institution get to define the marriage contract? Why should the non-religious be forced to accept a particular religious view of marriage and, in so doing, be denied the rights, obligations and benefits that all married couples enjoy? Shouldn’t this discussion remain in the legal/political realm? After all, no one is requiring anyone who agrees with Al Mohler to reject their beliefs. They just can’t force them on others.

      • AMEN, Dr. Fundystan. Nailed it.

  8. Henry Darger says:

    I think the issue is that religions have lost most of their moral authority (since TV?), and no longer get to define public morality. Sure, the anti-gay churches are still full, but people know they are making a choice by going there, and the liberals can go elsewhere (if they don’t just quit Christianity). It’s like belonging to a club or political party. It makes sense that some anti-gay preachers would switch–it’s just marketing. They’re aiming at that broad middle demographic.

  9. It’s not a moral divide. There are sinners on both sides. It’s far worse.

    It’s an ontological and epistemological divide.

    I can say this from the relative safety of the Eastern church, where homosexual genital sex will not be sacralized during the lifetime of the species, but this whole kerfaffel is not going to end well.

    Wrap your heads around this – gender is not a social construct. Society is a sexual construct. That is the nature of the divide.

    • Wrap your heads around this – gender is not a social construct. Society is a sexual construct. That is the nature of the divide.

      I have good news for you, and I have bad news, my fellow asinian. 😉

      The good news is that I do agree with you that society is a sexual construct.

      The bad news is that I am still enough of a Calvinist to believe that construction is warped by sin, and may reflect that warping more than God’s original intention for our species. And what some theologies consider “God’s intended natural order” is actually their social/sexual preference for patriarchy.

      How’s that for a briar to chew on? 😉

      • I am also not a Catholic, so I am not a ‘Natural Law’ exponent. I also can’t think of a father who exercises less patriarchal control over his family than I do over mine. I take my guidance on this matter from Philip K Dick, who said that reality is what is still there when you stop believing in it.

        I also kind of recoil from rhetoric such as “God’s natural order”. I prefer the verbiage of the Declaration of Independence which states that ‘[customs] long established should not be changed for light and transient cause’. I also have a sneaking suspicion that the great Baal of our time – Progress, and his consort Liberation represent a project of self-creation that owes its sinews to the availability of long-chain hydrocarbons storing ancient sunlight soon to be depleted.

        After which we’ll see what sort of order prevails.

        • Damaris says:

          Come on over for a glass of wine or beer sometime, Mule, and plan to stay for a long time! We have much to discuss in the twilight of an approaching dark age.

      • Calvinist to believe that construction is warped by sin

        And to many, homosexuals have a double portion of depravity. God created them to work twice as hard as everyone else to overcome it and be victorious Christians.

  10. The cowardice of the American church is, quite frankly, shocking to me. Are we so coddled and comfortable that we’re terrified of going against the tides of what the surrounding culture considers acceptable? So scared of offending someone that we’d rather compromise what we believe than make someone upset?

    This issue is crystal clear: Homosexual behavior is sinful. Homosexual people are faced with the exact same morality as heterosexuals in the church: you can marry someone of the opposite sex, or remain celibate. The issue here is not the church “hating” gays – I am unequivocally against any sort of hate or discrimination against homosexuals. I think that often, Christians have wrongly lashed at at homosexuals because they’re confused and don’t understand how to stand up to a cultural agenda while still loving the people who are, in a manner of speaking, the (often unwitting) pawns in a bigger game.

    The issue is homosexuals demanding that sinful behavior be accepted as legitimate by the church. Anyone who identifies as homosexual and recognizes the sinfulness of homosexuality and agrees to live by the same sexual ethic as the rest of the church should be welcomed. People attempting to normalize homosexuality in the church, no matter how benignly, should be handled with extreme caution. Yes, we need to be loving toward others, but that doesn’t mean tolerating sinful behavior in the church.

    This would be no different from individuals in the church saying that pornography is okay, or drunkenness is okay, or having sex with your stepmother is okay (to use an actual New Testament example!) There is a huge difference between sinning and seeking repentance (as is the case with many alcohol, drug, or porn addicts in the church, who I’ve noticed rarely try to justify their behavior and recognize it for what it is) and trying to justify your sin.

    The real underlying problem is not The Threat Of Teh Gayz; that’s just an illuminating example of the real issue. It’s a church that fears confrontation and standing up for anything they believe, one that’s easily cowed into submission by Feelbad.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      So it’s either the Bathhouses in the Castro or Fred Phelps?
      WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
      Just like during the Thirty Years War and today’s Islamic Civil War.

    • Kyle, I appreciate the clarity of your statement, but it sounds to me like you are speaking to this issue from a distance, which is the same feeling I get listening to Mohler.

      The big difference about having this discussion in today’s culture is that so many of us know gay couples personally and that what we know of them doesn’t at all reflect the kind of depravity people have stereotypically identified with same sex relationships; as you put it: “pornography, drunkenness, or having sex with your stepmother.” This is compounded by the fact that so many are now testifying of their faith and desire to serve Christ in the Church.

      I think this is why Campolo and Neff changed their tune. Read what they wrote carefully. They do not give a blanket “OK” to gay sex. They are talking about accepting same-sex, committed relationships within the context of Christian morality that is about faithful love and not what kind of genitals one has.

      As I said, I’m not opining on this today, but I say this just to clarify the argument in light of your comment.

      • Chaplain Mike – I certainly appreciate your appeal to getting up close and personal. Without hurting and crying alongside one who has dealt with the issues of their homosexuality and faith, the moral sermonizing seems calloused, and even un-Christlike.

        But, I have to admit being perplexed by the response by Neff, Campolo, and so many others. Basically the thought seems to be, since these people involved in same-sex relationships are committed, not depraved (whatever that means, we’re all depraved), and desire God, well then, there is no reason not to accept their behavior into the church.

        This suggests that the issue is not whether the behavior is sin or not, because really, how can we call anything sin at this point, if the morality of the behavior is defined simply by one’s commitment? You do say that this in “within the context of Christian morality,” but it appears to me that this morality really seems to be a moving target these days.

        If commitment is the barometer, then to avoid hypocrisy you have to open the door to any committed, “lasting” relationship – couples living together and sexually active before marriage, polygamous relationships, etc.

        • there is no reason not to accept their behavior into the church.

          To use an analogy, some churches don’t accept a believer’s baptism as legit unless it was done in that church/tradition.

          What about marriage? What if churches started to not accept people’s marriages unless they were performed in that same church/tradition? Should believers get remarried when moving churches?

          The church does not marry people. Probably never has, probably never will. Do churches have the right to reject someone’s marriage since it comes from the state?

          Fun side question: if a person in a married homosexual couple comes to Christ, and their spouse doesn’t, would we encourage that person to divorce or to stay married?

      • I can say without a doubt that I’ve known those living together whose quality of relationship put my marriage to shame. What does that mean (except that I’m not very good at being a good husband). Do we use this kind of plumbline for deciding if cohabitation is just as valid as marriage ??

        I’m as concerned with the “how” of these kinds of decisions as I am the “what”. I say this is as one with strong fondness for Wesleys (?? think it was him) quadrilateral. Experience is great, but not sure I want that guy driving this bus.

    • On the church fearing confrontation–

      Here’s a piece of my story: For a time, I manipulated other women to have inappropriate emotional and physical relationships with me. I was a Christian and in good Christian community. I told some of them about this–I wasn’t ready for confession–fearing rebuke and rejection. I received neither. Instead, they always pointed me to Jesus. It wasn’t they who feared confronting me, but they encouraged me along in life with Jesus until one day when Jesus confronted me, I said, “Yes, this is not me.” From there, the journey became one of confession, repentance and forgiveness. And it took years. And these people remained my friends all the way through.

      Maybe it’s easier to rail again the *Church*. But the *Church* was not a relevant speaker in my walk. I grew up always knowing the *Church* said same-sex relations were sinful and such people were to be feared. That didn’t stop me and it sure as heck didn’t help me get out. So is it really a soft church or is it soft people who are unable or unwilling to take the long, long walk of loving each other in Christ in our brokenness?

    • I really don’t think it’s as simple as “cowardice” or being afraid to go against the tide of American culture. If it were a matter of cowardice, people wouldn’t be putting their jobs and relationships on the line in questioning the traditionally understood teaching to begin with.

      • I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there has been a sea change recently and the coercive threat is no longer from the side of the traditionalists.

        • Clay Crouch says:

          I hate it when that happens.

        • There’s plenty of threats from everywhere.

          Doesn’t change my point that “cowardice” doesn’t strike me as the real issue here.

          • Maybe “cowardice” isn’t the right word to be using. Calling someone a coward is strong medicine. I don’t think there is a word that covers the unwillingness to hold unfashionable opinions so that the cool people won’t make fun of you. Cowardice is too strong a word for that, but there are elements of that present.

            Let me see if I can say plainly what I mean. My parish priest, easily the kindest and meekest of men, has been mentioning in his sermons that difficult times are coming for the Church, by which he means the Orthodox Church. Now, we are not going to change. Men are men, women are women. Women don’t become priestesses, and men don’t marry men, nor women women. You don’t paint an icon any old way that seems right to you. You follow the Tradition. If you don’t paint an icon according to the Tradition, it becomes religious art, not an icon. It might be pretty, but it will never heal.

            When I looked around the sanctuary, I realized that some of the gray heads there had been in the Gulags, and Father’s words gained considerable poignancy.

          • Understood Mule.

            I’d say that applying “cowardice” in this particular case just isn’t the right term. Cowardice, in this case, might be defined as holding something to be true but not be willing to defend it. And in that sense there is cowardice in many different areas of life at times, but the issue here seems to be about the convictions themselves.

            In the context of “unfashionable opinions”, cowardice varies depending on your baseline. It takes courage to hold certain convictions against modern American culture. And likewise, it certainly takes courage to hold certain views that are contrary to evangelical culture when that culture defines a persons existence, now and In the future. So cowardice just isn’t the issue. I don’t think that either side being presented here is a “coward” in the sense of not defending their convictions. Both will get their share of hate mail.

          • Mule, as ever, you drag gender essentialism into this, which, imo, makes your argument invalid. So, fine, let the Orthodox keep ordaining men only, but don’t sneer at women, or gay people, from your lofty position. (Which, of course, I think is nothing of the sort.)

            Manosphere, where art thou?

          • Simply asserting gender existentialism doesn’t make it so.

            You’ll notice I’ve never repented nor retracted my “manospherian” ways. Deal with them as you will. I’ll never convince you

          • Burro –

            Men are men, women are women. Women don’t become priestesses, and men don’t marry men, nor women women.

            1) That does not address those who happen to be born with ambiguous sexual organs.

            2) That assumes/presumes that genitalia have a determining factor in personality, spiritual status, and roles in church and society. Many traditions believe that (including the Orthodox, as we are both aware) – but some do not. I think those that do not have the stronger exegetical case. And THAT is where the discussion needs to happen. Unless you are already convinced that you have The Truth, that is…

          • 1) I got letter from the confessor of a person with ambiguous sexual organs, who represent a very small sliver of the people in this debate, but whose use as an extremely small fulcrum is invaluable for the very large lifting that the ideologues of gender want to accomplish. The letter is as follows;

            “My son [for he currently identifies himself as a man] has this body [which has both male and female genitals]. We in Orthodoxy do not believe that the soul can be redeemed apart from the body, therefore it is with this body and this body alone that my son will achieve salvation. However, his body is not transparent to him in the way that most of our bodies are, by the grace of God, transparent to us. Through prayer and obedience, the true nature of my son’s body will reveal itself, and in this, his struggle is no different and no more arduous than any of ours. We appreciate your prayers in this.”

            2) Genitalia are not something that is bolted on to an already complete generic human as an afterthought. the human form is deeply iconic. As Charles Williams put it, even the majesty of the enthroned Emperor depended upon the stability of the unlauded buttocks. As such, each part individually and in concert points to something beyond itself.

            When somebody mentions exegesis, I almost always feel the bitter winds of reductionism blowing. It’s not that I believe I already have The TRVTH, it’s that I’m pretty certain that the road you’re pointing to doesn’t lead to it.

          • Mule, I sometimes think you chose the O. church at least partly because it validates ideas you already had. I am well aware that your views have not changed, but the point is more that you speak about women, gay folks and those who disagree with you in a snarky way.

            There are good ways to engage in a convo, and not-so-good ones, and ISTM that you habitually choose the not-so-good ones when discussing gender, sexual orientation and the like. Please.just.don’t. You can be decent and un-sarcastic about it, and I would have a lot more respect for you if you did.

          • Mule: see Christiane’s rather long quote from St. Ambrose, here – http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/57131/comment-page-1#comment-974261

          • I’m looking for the snark. When I wrote Men are men, women are women. Women don’t become priestesses, and men don’t marry men, nor women women, I did so without any desire to be ironic or condescending.

            Maybe that’s even worse.

            Maybe I should have put it in academese: “men and women should co-inhere in complementary distribution with well-defined roles and expectations for those roles”, but that wouldn’t erase the infamy, would it?

            Ambrose humbled the emperor Theodosius. Obviously he knew when and where to be direct and confrontative, and when to be gentle and meek. That’s part of being a saint. I’m sorry if I’m not a saint. I assume full responsibility for that.

          • StuartB says:

            Mule, how do you love and show Christ to those who you disagree with, and who disagree with you?

          • By talking to them about the things that matter to them, asking them questions, listening to them. Helping them when they need help. Asking for help from them when I need it. Praying for them. Asking them to pray for me.

            People are far more than the sorts of opinions that can be expressed on an Internet board.

            Jesus, Stuart, do you all think I’m a monster?

          • StuartB says:

            Not a monster, of course not. But I don’t know any Orthodox types in real life, so I’m using you to gauge them, I guess, lol.

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            Most Orthodox are better people than I am, but then, that is also true for most Lutherans, most Catholics, most Pentecostals, most homosexuals, most Calvinists, and most atheists.

          • Mule, dropping the word twisting (like “gender existentialism” and “priestesses”) would be a start. But I doubt you’d want to do that.

            However, there is that pesky Golden Rule to take into account, and I don’t think it’s suspended for online exchanges., or any other reason.

          • Mule, using that “most (fill in the blank) are better people than I am” line is just an excuse. It doesn’t play well. You really seem to want some kind of license to say whatever you want, however you want.

            Not falling for it.

            (Cue clip of key-jingling in Wenceslas Square)

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            Trouble is, numo, I’m saying exactly what I mean. Using your vocabulary to some degree means capitulating to your position.

            “Gender existentialism” is a perfect phrase to describe what you consider “liberation”, or “normalcy”, or something.

            “Priestess”, last I checked, was a good word for a female priest. Women can’t become priests any more that hens can become capons.

            I’m a very bad sinner, but one thing I am not is confused, nor do I use language inaccurately.

            (Cue clip of happy Crimeans singing to celebrate the annexation by Russia)

          • Mule – ??? You make one hell of a lot of assumptions about what I think, as well as about what I say.

            I don’t like that, I hate snark, and I hate sarcasm and I also hate the way you try to wriggle out of any discussion whenever anyone calls you on how you interact with others online.

            I’m done.

          • Robert F says:

            Mule, Doesn’t the seal of confessional confidentiality apply to this letter? Why is a priest sharing this with you? Even with names edited, my understanding is that such a letter is under the seal of confidentiality, or is this not observed in the EO?

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            Robert,

            The Orthodox do regard the confidentiality of the confessional

            Please note that no particular acts were discussed. The seal of the confessional was not broken, Also, the letter was shared with me, not directed to me, and not by the individual in question, but a concerned party, so it’s quite possible some confidences were broken. I asked no permissions Ibefore I shared this and that was probably wrong to do.

          • Robert F says:

            It would be best if the comment were deleted. The seal of confession is absolute, the same as if the one who confessed had spoken only to God. It’s not worth the risk of betraying confessional confidence even in the smallest way just to make a point toward winning an argument in an online discussion.

          • Robert, I’m glad you raised the issue, and very much agree.

          • Frankly, the confessor didn’t do right by passing on information gained during confession, but i cannot imagine how painful it would be for this young person and their family to find out that their situation was being plastered onto an internet message board.

            This oversteps all sorts of lines, and would no matter who had posted it, though I’d like to believe that most people wouldn’t have dredged it up for online publication.

            Just when i was starting to think that online comments sections couldn’t get any worse… (i do not mean the bulk of the comments on this thread, by Mule or anyone else – just this specific comment.)

            Betrayal of confidences is a terrible thing for anyone to do.

        • Was there something coercive from Campolo?

          Would you say that there are no “coercive threats” coming from the conservative side on this particular issue? My goodness, most of what I hear finds its foundation in one big (sometimes veiled) coercive threat.

          Beside the point though. If Mohler is correct in that the very gospel and implicitly people’s eternal lives are at stake then these (what I perceive to be) implicit threats are actually quite justified.

    • This issue is crystal clear:

      If you want to have a loving, grace filled discussion, this type of rhetoric needs to stop. Unless you are just here to state your piece and expect us to bow.

      • The issue is homosexuals demanding that sinful behavior be accepted as legitimate by the church.

        You confuse the church with the government. Which I’m sure many do, because America is God’s chosen nation.

      • This would be no different from individuals in the church saying that pornography is okay, or drunkenness is okay, or having sex with your stepmother is okay (to use an actual New Testament example!)

        Two out of three are ok in specific context and times and sometimes even condoned by scripture, but one clearly isn’t. I’d suggest finding a better example.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      My problem with what you say is that it reeks of “we need to draw the lines in the sand and plant the flag HERE!” I simply can’t stand and don’t agree with that approach any more. The only flag I need to plant is the flag of Jesus, and I don’t need to draw any lines in the sand around him. I need to try to make his flag MORE attractive to people, not less.

      • And besides, the flag should be planted into the rock, not into the sand…lol

      • Hey if the fundamentalists want to charge up Mt LGBT and die there we should wish them well. After we clean up the mess we can build them a little monument surrounded by a park. Maybe a statue of an old man clutching a KJV Bible shaking his fist at the sky. It’ll look majestic glistening in the sun of a Sunday afternoon as the lovers stroll by hand in hand. Pigeons will love it.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          The problem is that they think anyone who doesn’t charge up the hill with them must not be Christian. (Not that I care, but they make us all look bad.)

  11. Michael says:

    Though the Augustinian tradition teaches that the primary purpose for marriage is procreation, he believes that marriage ultimately is one of God’s greatest means of spiritual growth…

    I saw this in Campolo’s statement a day or two ago, and it stood to me that he treated the two like they were mutually exclusive. I would imagine that most who call themselves Augustinian would also claim that marriage is a great means of spiritual growth. Some of them might call it a sacrament, even.

    • Which is ironic in the sense that Augustine himself was very ambivalent about sexuality in general after his conversion (and that is a prize understatement…)

      FYI – I’m home sick today, so you’re gonna be hearing from me much more than usual… 😉

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Augustine brought a lot of personal baggage into his conversion.

        The Church did not distinguish the personal baggage from the rest of his theology (treating it as a package deal), and we’ve been dealing with the aftereffects ever since.

        • And we’re all heretics for saying we should separate the two…lol.

        • Augustine brought a lot of personal baggage into his conversion.

          I guess one prize understatement deserves another in reply. 😉

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    My fellow prophets, what does the future hold?

    Two words: HOLY WAR.
    To the Death.
    Because both factions are Utterly Righteous to their One True Way.

    • After the disastrous Ebro campaign, the Republican government attempted to sue for peace in May, 1938, but General Francisco Franco demanded unconditional surrender, and the war raged on.

      Sometimes it falls out that way, HUG

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Yep. Even the language in some of David’s psalms would suggest the need for God to destroy the unrighteous. Ugh.

      • Which is why Jesus and the New Testament are SO adamant about offering radical grace and forgiveness. Because once God starts handing out judgment, who will be able to stand?

        • Rick Ro. says:

          I was just discussing this with a friend. He said imagine walking up to the gates of Heaven and Jesus is there telling people that he’s covered them and to go in and enjoy, and then a guy comes up and says, ‘Wait a minute, why are you letting them in, why aren’t you judging them?” Jesus might just turn to them and say, “You want me to judge them, do you? Okay…come here and let me start with you.”

          Those are most likely the folks who might not make it into Heaven covered by Jesus’ blood.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            “…turn to HIM and say…”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Jesus might just turn to him and say, “You want me to judge them, do you? Okay…come here and let me start with you.”

            Another example (very Biblical) of God being a smart-ass.

  13. Michael Z says:

    Given that we live in a country with an ever-growing divide between rich and poor, a justice system that is biased against minorities, police officers committing acts of racial violence, an out-of-control military budget, untold numbers of of abortions per year, obsession with guns and gun ownership, a broken education system, crippling student debt, and widespread denial of climate change despite recent natural disasters… how exactly does Al Mohler think gay marriage is the most pressing moral issue of our time?

    Or, is it just that he knows that if Christians began to speak out en masse on any of those other issues, we would be facing *real* persecution, instead of what he and his followers like to *pretend* is persecution?

    • an out-of-control military budget

      Fixed that for you. 😉

      Beyond that, yes you are correct – and I would add obsessive consumerism and an entertainment culture to the list as well. The Bible, overall, has MUCH more to say about economic sins than it does sexual ones. The Roman Empire did not fall due to its sexual mores – it fell because it depended on exploitation of conquests for its economy, and when it could no longer do so, it went into decline.

      • Kinda like Sodom and Gomorrah? lol

        • Whatever the sins actually were that Sodom/Gommorah were punished for, it remains a special case in biblical history – usually, God lets events play out to their logical conclusions, which historically speaking are usually outworkings of the greatest problems of that civilization.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Everyone thinks the SIN of Sodom & Gomorrah was homosexuality, based on the attempted gang-rape in Genesis. Yet a later prophet specifically spoke of their sin as the Rich and Powerful of the two cities oppressing and abusing the Poor and powerless among them.

          There probably is some overlap in the case of sexual abuse of the powerless by the powerful (including gang-rape), but it sounds significant that the later prophet put the abuse of the powerless by the powerful as the REAL sin of Sodom. (But that would probably ruffle too many feathers; those CEOs that vote themselves seven-figure bonuses paid for by the savings in laying off their workers (Or Grinning Ed & Creflo Dollar buying private jets with the Social Security tithes of widows) wouldn’t want to think of what they’re doing as Sodomy.)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The Roman Empire did not fall due to its sexual mores – it fell because it depended on exploitation of conquests for its economy, and when it could no longer do so, it went into decline.

        One of the definitions of “empire” is a system that must always grow or it will decline, no stable state permitted. Add a PREDATORY empire dependent on a never-ending supply of fresh prey (“Arise! Devour much flesh!”) and things go from bad to worse. What do predators eat when there is no more prey?

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Good point. Perhaps social justice would be more important and Christ-like for us Christians to wade into, rather than morality wars.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        As long as you don’t tunnel-vision into Social Justice like others have tunnel-visioned into Culture Wars or Personal Salvation. Because either way you lose your Reality Check.

    • This is the world we live in. There are so many things we should be focusing on and fixing. There is true evil happening everywhere, and we just piss away at small fires.

  14. Christiane says:

    whenever ‘the gospel’ is used in a way that injures innocent people, then what is being preached is NOT ‘the gospel’

    if a people wish to follow Christ and want to honor marriage in the way that they view it as ‘Christian’, then let them return to their homes and live out ‘Christian marriage’ in a way that is recognizably ‘of Christ’ . . . that witness has not been clearly seen in our land, due to the amount of abuse, separation, divorces that plague ‘Christians’ who see themselves as righteous on the issue of marriage

    I grow weary of the hypocrisy. Let people return to being Christian in a way that IS ‘of Christ’, and stop tormenting and belittling those who are ‘different’ in ways they have not chosen to be different. There is no ‘gospel’ of contempt for others. There is no ‘gospel’ of ‘thank God I am not like that other sinner’. I agree with CATHERINE on her observations on the misuse of the term ‘gospel’.

    You want ‘gospel’? Look to Christ. And be at peace with all mankind if possible.

    • Christiane says:

      some really timely advice for fundamentalist-evangelicals from the early Church:

      ““For he who endeavours to amend the faults of human weakness ought to bear this very weakness on his own shoulders, let it weigh upon himself, not cast it off.
      For we read that the Shepherd in the Gospel (Luke 15:5) carried the weary sheep, and did not cast it off.

      And Solomon says: “Be not overmuch righteous;” (Ecclesiastes 7:17) for restraint should temper righteousness.
      For how shall he offer himself to you for healing whom you despise, who thinks that he will be an object of contempt, not of compassion, to his physician?

      Therefore had the Lord Jesus compassion upon us in order to call us to Himself, not frighten us away. He came in meekness, He came in humility, and so He said:
      “Come unto Me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” (Matthew 11:28)
      So, then, the Lord Jesus refreshes, and does not shut out nor cast off, and fitly chose such disciples as should be interpreters of the Lord’s will, as should gather together and not drive away the people of God.

      Whence it is clear that they are not to be counted among the disciples of Christ, who think that harsh and proud opinions should be followed rather than such as are gentle and meek;
      persons who, while they themselves seek God’s mercy, deny it to others . . .”

      St. Ambrose (340-379 A.D.),
      a Father of the Church and a Doctor of the Church

      • Whence it is clear that they are not to be counted among the disciples of Christ, who think that harsh and proud opinions should be followed rather than such as are gentle and meek;
        That is SO un-manly!

        • Christiane says:

          Hi Dr. FUNDYSTAN
          I really don’t think the male followers of the CBMW cult would approve of St. Ambrose’ words, come to think of it. I certainly couldn’t see Driscoll embracing the teachings of St. Ambrose, no. Not with all Driscoll’s poisoned hubris. In the humility of the cross Our Lord defeated satan, but that is a paradox that the male superiority crowd will never understand, I’m afraid. They need grace to get it, the kind of grace that is given to the humble. . . prideful male hubris is its own prison.

  15. Neff is Episcopalian, and has been for quite a long while. I’m surprised that anyone is surprised at his stance. Campolo has always answered questions with questions, so I’m actually surprised that he really answered a question for once. Galli is a really good writer and also an Anglican. I hate to see him and Neff divided on this issue. And who doesn’t expect Mohler to be angry and at an extreme polar end of any debate?

    We live in a generation where cultural mores and whims are redefining the Church, when it is the Church that should redefine culture. I believe that we should love all people, but we cannot so easily discount the Augustinian teachings, and the standards that have held fast in the Church for 2000 years. This is trap we laid for ourselves, though, when we Protestants chose to strip marriage of its sacramental nature. The evolution has progressed to this point, and we somehow act surprised. Some things are just holy and shouldn’t be fiddled with. There are now several denominations that support same-sex marriage, and have even altered their liturgies to reflect this. My best advice in regard to this mess: If you don’t like your current denomination’s stance on the matter, please go to one that does, instead of ripping your denomination apart. The UMC is about to go the way of TEC, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc., because of a very small, very vocal minority. Now, dissenters from the Book of Discipline for that denomination are complaining that there are back-room talks saying that individual parishes that support same-sex marriage may leave and retain property, and pastors who leave may retain pensions. This is a much gentler, more merciful stance than TEC took, yet those who disagree with the Discipline insist that they would rather beat their heads against the Book until it falls apart, and they get their way. Peaceful parting is better than being ugly about things, if there must be a parting at all…

    “Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way. You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet. Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?”

    + James 4:1-12, The Message +

    Here’s a recent post re: developments within the UMC…

    https://oboedire.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/editorial-ducks-in-a-row/

    And here’s a post I wrote on the subject a while back…

    https://homiliesprayersbread.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/the-great-we-vs-them/

    Peace of The Lord be with us all…

    • We live in a generation where cultural mores and whims are redefining the Church, when it is the Church that should redefine culture.

      And maybe we are. How many from the cradle Christians, after decades of Bible study and teachings, are now in positions of power where we can say it’s wrong to ban homosexuals from being married, or that we were wrong about our various stances of prohibition, or that women should indeed be full equals with men, or…?

      Maybe this is the logical outpouring of such teachings and tradition. “POST-” Christian. So thoroughly Christian, it rubs some the wrong way. The Kingdom of God coming more into fullness.

      What comes after Christ?

      The fullness.

      • Maybe all these debates in america are nothing more than intramural arguments within christianity between various factions and degrees of conservative and liberal.

        What is truly secular, after all.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      I doubt you would have considered racial or gender equality a cultural whim back in the day – in or out of the church. So I’m not sure how you can consider homosexuality with all of it’s tangential issues a cultural whim. Perhaps it is just your frustration and not dismissiveness. I can sympathize with your predicament. Evangelicalism has left you cold while the liturgical mainlines are becoming more and more accepting of LGBT Christians. Your choices are narrowing. God’s peace to you in your journey.

      • Wow. Clay, you really painted me with a broad brush there. To correct you, I am post-evangelical in every sense of the word; however, this does not mean that I must adhere to progressive theology, or be wrong in every way, or be automatically labelled as “fundegelical”.

        Can any of us sit here and honestly say that the media and pop culture don’t play on human sexuality as a phenomenon of our time? Seriously? We look more to Bruce/Kaitlyn Jenner for guidance about issues of theology than we do Augustine or any of the other Church Fathers. Therein my problem lies.

        As usual, inclusiveness welcomes every opinion, until someone has a different opinion.

        • Clay Crouch says:

          Sorry, Lee but I wasn’t being snarky. In fact, I gave you the benefit of the doubt. Everything that I wrote I did so sincerely. You used the term “cultural whim” to describe the complicated issues that involve gender identity and I was only questioning you about that. I have followed your comments over the years enough to know that you consider yourself post-evangelical. That is what I meant by “evangelicalism has left you cold”. No where did I imply that you must adhere to any stream of theology or that you are a “fundegelical” (hate that term).

          Of course we are all products of our culture. Who in their right mind would deny that? It does seem to me that you are using a very broad brush when you proclaim “we look more to…for guidance about issues of theology…” I assure you that for me it was NOT an epiphany. I came to my conclusions thoughtfully, prayerfully over years of consideration. Please don’t take my pushback as not being inclusive, but for what it is – discussing a complicated issue.

          And I really do wish you God’s peace in your journey.

          • Clay Crouch says:

            The church fathers were hardly a homogenous group and FAR from inclusive with those that disagreed with them. The Church’s history reads like one long dysfunctional family feud. At times, just like the rest of us, they were flat out wrong. So I’m not sure they are always the best peg to hang your hat on.

  16. There are so many ways one could go with this. Let me just pare down my thoughts to a core issue:
    The reason that Mohler comes across as a frantic, wild-eyes Zwickau prophet is not because of his stance on homosexuality. It is because of his “stance” on the gospel. The “continental divide” is between historic Christianity and Mohler’s cheap, vinyl substitute. You see, in Mohler’s religion (which he misleadingly calls reformed), there are specific sins that can keep a person out of the kingdom. While this is not logically tenable nor able to justify with several passages of NT scripture, there it is. Homosexuality is a “gospel” issue to Mohler because he is teaching a false gospel. What a church “does” with homosexuals is an whole other issue.

    And just as a little aside: when I was in seminary at SBTS, the most common prayer request among the young men there involved pornography and self-satisfaction. Are these future pastors required to give up their pet sexual sin before they can enter the kingdom?

    • Homosexuality is a “gospel” issue to Mohler because he is teaching a false gospel.”

      Notice that his first paragraph– “…moment of decision…” — is altogether the language of conversion and being born again. What he knows as the way faith fundamentally takes hold of a person, of that person’s born again experience, is being blended in with beliefs about sexual morality. This is the same old syncretism: faith in Jesus’ life death and resurrection and my pet social issue. That’s what you’re being “converted” to in Mohler’s gospel. Given a ‘gospel’ like this and some time, especially with the less careful and discerning elements of pop-evangelicalism, it’s not surprising when Jesus fades to the background completely.

      • This is a very good comment, and goes well with the discussion we’ve been having this week.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Notice that his first paragraph– “…moment of decision…” — is altogether the language of conversion and being born again.

        You find such “Moment of Decision” Salvation all over Fundagelicalism; why wouldn’t they try to apply it to Life, the Universe, and Everything?

        And it’s a trap. After your “Moment of Decision” and “You’re SAVED”, NOW WHAT? Keep going back to it Rededication Altar Call after Rededication Altar Call? Sit back on your butt and wait to go to Heaven? Because after “Moment of Decision” Uber Alles, what do you do afterwards?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The reason that Mohler comes across as a frantic, wild-eyes Zwickau prophet is not because of his stance on homosexuality. It is because of his “stance” on the gospel.

      More like his stance on EVERYTHING?

  17. As an outsider who enjoys this site for the spirited and well-considered give and take, I wonder if anyone else sees this as history repeating itself. The arguments seem so similar to the anti-divorce arguments of the 1950 and 1960s. But after 40 years, even the most conservative of Christians have accepted divorce, and even the pastors are commonly divorced and remarried. So my guess is that in 2050 there will be gay married clergy in the pulpits of churches of all the protestant denominations.

    • Were we wrong to address the divorce issue and change the perception? Are we closer to the truth of the scriptures and what Jesus intends under our new perspective?

      Kinda like with the slavery issue?

      Broader context :what does it mean to accept and live Jesus/gospel truth while rejecting the 1st century and previous cultural contexts?

      • Whatever it means, it probably should NOT mean attempting to force Christian morality, whatever our conception of it, on the rest of the culture by political force. Top-down moral crusades via legal fiat rarely work, if ever. Prohibition, anyone?

        • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was viewed by the South as pretty much what you just described, and it has held its own pretty well, even in the South.

          I guess the secret to successful legislation is to pass laws requiring people to do pretty much what they are going to do anyway.

          • StuartB says:

            In a way, that Civil Rights Act was the church fighting against and winning against the church, lol.

            So maybe the lesson is conservative top down moral crusades rarely work, but liberal ones (so to speak) do…and work surprisingly well.

          • StuartB says:

            Remember, they’re not The Church, they are “the black church”, or “the liberal church”, or “the affirming church.” But they’re not The Church.

          • The groundwork for that legislation was laid in a 5-year bloody civil war, 100 years of discrimination after that, and lots of calls for acknowledgement of the hypocrisy of racism. And there are some who are *still* not convinced.

    • I recently asked this question somewhere else: If the same ‘contextualisation’ that was applied to justify divorce in the face of anti-divorce scripture is applied to anti-homosexual scripture, what conclusions do we end up with?

      I think another ‘war’ which the church is going to lose (or is losing) is the “no sex before marriage” one. In many places it has already morphed into “no sex before committed relationship”.

      So many wedges, so many thin ends 🙂

  18. On a more somber note…rest in peace, Sir Christopher Lee. A true legend.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      +1

    • He brought class even to his weakest roles (Scaramaga, Dooku). A villainous opponent of worthy stature. And a fanatical Tolkien fan to boot…

      Requiescat in pace

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      Rest In Peace as well, Virgil Riley Runnels Jr., better known as “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.

      Died at his home in Austin, TX at the age of 69.

  19. The “Continental Divide” that continues to fall into the “swamp” of amorality, all flows from the same stream. Once people strip away “apostolic succession”, make patristics an anachronism, claim “sola scriptura” (and then relativise that same scripture), claim “sola ecclesia” (& relativise scripture), strip away any notion of God’s providence in “Holy Tradition”, strip away God’s providential actions in history were meant for a reason (eg defining marriage in Judaic-Graeco-Roman cultural terms)…. then evil becomes good & good becomes evil.

    Church politics reign supreme, the Inquisitions become a “Holy War”, an infallible Reformation replaces an infallible pope, abortion is OK as it protects the future abandonment of an unwanted child, dead infants of unwed mothers can be dumped in a convent sewer, paedophilia isn’t that bad a sin & the church is allowed to keep silent, preachers are allowed multi-million dollar mansions, adultery & fornication is hushed up (well used to be anyway…), monastics and prophets are ignored, same-sex couples can practise un-discipleship.

    • And there will always be those who claw and fight and cling to “what came before”, instead of looking to make things better or accept new.

      Reverse chronological snobbery, lol. Truly they all had it right, and we should turn back.

      • instead of looking to make things better or accept new.

        And Saul crucified the new believers.

        Just as Jesus was crucified.

        …you want to talk about a real gospel issue, Al?…

    • God’s providential actions in history were meant for a reason (eg defining marriage in Judaic-Graeco-Roman cultural terms)

      So, tell me, how does one separate “God’s providential actions in ethical history” (G-R gender roles in marriage) from things that are not ethically correct (slavery)? Or does “is” always imply “ought”?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Wasn’t widespread-to-universal Manly-Man Homosexuality and the Perfection of the (naked male) Human Form part of the Hellenic side of G-R culture?

        • Robert F says:

          Yeah, in Hellenic culture, wives were for breeding and taking care of the household, but a young, submissive, socially inferior male lovers were for special male bonding and intimacy. Is that what God had in mind when defining marriage in Graeco terms?

          • Hi Robert,

            I think you are confusing a revelation within a cultural context, that can be used to illustrate the sacramental nature of marriage (which happens later in the NT), with condoning practises outside and imposing upon what marriage is supposed to be.

            In the OT, God used the captivities of Israel to illustrate HIs jealousy & their punishment for spiritual adultery (intentional for salvific purposes). He always opposed the non-Jewish cultures but used them to drive Israel back to Himself. In the prophetic, He always identifies Himself with the jilted husband putting up with an unfaithful wife. Why use this cultural context ? Why not identify himself with a jilted wife instead ?

            I think the Church pretty much got it right supporting marriage, where Christ is the head, the husband comes under Him & then the wife. Why this hierarchy ? This is the way God planned it & there must be some reason for doing so. Does this mean oppression can occur in this system ? Yes. Does God condone it, no. The problem isn’t with the system but with man’s rebellion, pride & hypocrisy.

      • Hi Eeyore,

        I think you might have your “rose coloured” glasses on. God doesn’t condone slavery, it is part of the human condition whether you like it or not. Are you free from your job, or your blind legal system or hypocritical government and the decisions that impose on your freedom ? Are you free from the culture you live in ? Are you free from abandonment if you don’t have an income ? Are you free from evil inclinations within yourself ?

        God’s way is to “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s & unto God what is God’s “. If we have the blessed capacity or ability to change “Caesar’s mind” on things, in submission, let’s go for it. Otherwise should we be in a constant state of revolution ?

        My wife comes from a country that has low paid house servants. I’m sure it’s government won’t change on the issue. Should people sack their “servants” & allow them to live in poverty on the streets ?

        • Quite.

          I’m not sure that slavery as the OT prescribes it, and in the economic context of that time, can be considered as ‘unethical’ at all.

  20. Here’s my thoughts…

    1) It’s fine to desire cultural change to accommodate cultural trends. Go out and change government policies through protest, stumping, and the ballot box. It’s not okay to bend scripture and Church tradition for the sake of tickling someone’s fancy. The Church is a unique institution. It’s not to be fiddled with for the sake of making us feel better about ourselves. I believe that this includes our liturgies.

    2) Please don’t use the argument, “Jesus never mentioned one word about homosexuality” as a justification for your opinions. I’m not even going to provoke by asking, “What about Paul? Didn’t he make some strong statements about the practice?” That’s not my point here. Jesus also never mentioned meth labs, frozen pizza, kissing your cousin, puppy mills, setting forest fires, or packing my Facebook inbox with Candy Crush requests; however, I think everyone would agree that all of these things are pretty much incompatible with the Scripture and Church Tradition. Except maybe the pizza. Depends on the brand.

    3) Inclusiveness is a two-way street. You can’t argue in favor of inclusiveness, then deny the validity of every argument that isn’t in agreement with your opinions. That’s the definition of “not inclusive”.

    4) Anything that divides the Body of Christ, The Church, is not a good thing. Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it. How dare we presume that it is ours to alter according to our whims? My great dream in life is to see a shared communion table amongst all believers, a unified Church. This should be a goal for all believers. We can’t allow our own agendas to outweigh God’s agendas. When crying out for reform of the Church, one most always check their motives: Is what I’m fighting for truly according to God’s plan, or is it the fruit of personal and cultural opinion?

    5) We must love one another, and be welcoming and hospitable as Christians. Welcoming and hospitable doesn’t always equal condoning, or even agreeing. That being said, there’s no reason we can’t be nice to each other. Mama always said, “Don’t be ugly.” If you’re from the South, you know exactly what that means. When the gay, African-American, Libertarian guy from down the street sits next to you at church, don’t refuse to shake his hand during meet and greet, or for my more liturgical friends, ignore him when you’re passing the peace. And remember, GAALG (I just created an acronym for gay, African-American, Libertarian guy!), just because your spiritual leader doesn’t feel that officiating at your wedding is compatible with scripture and Church tradition, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a closed-minded bigot. It’s an issue that all compassionate, caring pastors and priests struggle with…How can we be loving and welcoming, but tell people “No” at the same time? Know that it’s a dilemma for everyone involved.

    We live in a time of “We” vs. “Them”. The mindset is promoted in every media outlet, every political arena, every sports town. It has no place in our churches.

    Pay attention to your own sin more than the sin of others.

    Focus on Christ, not whether your neighbor is as Christ-like as you think you are.

    Love the Church. Even if it pains you, or you disagree with her historical stance on topics relevant to you.

    Love the Church. Even if the media continually lights fires under you, telling you that division is necessary and inevitable.

    Love the Church. Fight for her unity, above any other agenda.

    Love Christ.

    Love one another.

    In the Name of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.

    Amen.

    • Except maybe the pizza. Depends on the brand.

      Old Chicago Inn. Will change your mind on frozen pizza.

    • Stephen says:

      Lee…

      1)This same argument was used to oppose abolition and women’s rights. The writers of the Bible clearly assumed slavery was God’s plan and women were inferior to men. Scripture and tradition bend all the time.

      2) I agree but see point number 1.

      3) Inclusiveness doesn’t mean accepting bad or harmful ideas. Note the absurdity of people who exclude a whole class of people whining about inclusiveness when they’re called on it.

      4) I simply point you towards the letters of Paul. Most of the time he’s not agitating against Jews or Pagans but against other followers of Jesus who had a different interpretation of the gospel than he did (including apparently Peter and James!).

      5) Yes love those who spitefully use you. But see point 3. And note the absurdity of people who are showing a lack of love whining about a lack of love when they’re called on it.

      • Paul had some very strong words about human sexuality and sex in general, as well, Stephen, but we ignore those as “Old Testament” rules. It seems to me that a faction of our faith has become so convinced that it’s how we feel about an issue that really matters, disregarding tradition and Scripture, and in fact, saying that our feelings are the natural progression of tradition and scripture. I like to text and drive, so obviously, God must will it. Don’t violate my rights by saying I shouldn’t do it. Jesus didn’t say we couldn’t do that.

        Does loving someone mean we must absolutely condone and support every single behavior or inclination they exhibit? This is the road progressive theology leads us down.

        Must everyone embrace progressive theology in order to be considered a loving Christian?

        • StuartB says:

          Must everyone avoid progressive theology in order to prevent themselves from becoming a loving Christian?

          I’ve known loving Christians of all types. But more often or not it comes down to the person, and how loosely they hold on to their theology. Still, I’ve known more loving type believers who were more progressive than conservative, and more angry type believers who were more conservative than progressive. That’s just my experience.

          • Stuart, in the UMC, I’m finding an almost opposite attitude. The minority that wishes to change the Book of Discipline has been disruptive and quite disrespectful at times. Currently, there are rumors of talks to allow churches that support same-sex marriage to leave with their property intact, and pastors who support to leave with pensions intact. Not to be pushed out, but to leave peacefully, if they so strongly disagree with the BoD. The backlash from the rumors has been angry and ugly. The minority is pushing and pushing and pushing, while the majority that continually discusses and votes to keep the language of the BoD the same tries to maintain some semblance of peace. At least this is how it’s playing out here in North Georgia. The minority forgets the grief of Christ Church, the mother church of Georgia, which lost its home and whose priest lost his standing when they opposed gay marriage.

            Now, I won’t disagree with you that many of our more angry, judgmental Christians are “conservative”, but we have to be careful how we interpret “conservative”. Even Caitlyn Jenner identifies as “conservative” politically. I consider myself conservative in terms of orthopraxy, “moderate” theologically , moderate politically, liberal in terms of love. I am not opposed to civil unions and partner benefits for same-sex couples, but I do adhere to the idea that Christian marriage is sacramental in nature, and has been since the earliest days of the Church. I am an Anglican theologically, but a Baptist pastor in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which often gets labeled “progressive”, just because we ordain women, and give our pastors liberty as to whether to consider baptism and Communion as sacraments or ordinances. I am a fully Sacramental Christian. My children were baptized as infants in the UMC, and I would likely pastor there, but I do not feel called to be itinerant, which the UMC in our region requires (show me where that’s at in the Bible…).

            My deacons and I have ongoing discussions about same-sex marriage, and how we will deal with it when we are approached by a couple. The two distinct messages that I hear from them is that 1) They want to be loving and welcoming to everyone and 2) They want to stay true to Scripture, as established by Ecumenical Council as Holy and unchanging. This means we have determined we will say “no” to same-sex unions in the context of Christian marriage. It also means that we are grieved that we can’t be all things to all people, and that some will perceive us as bigots because of where we stand. I’ve seen grow,n heterosexual, theologically conservative men and women weep over this matter over the past few months, because our ultimate goal is for people to know that Jesus loves them, and we love them to. No family is untouched by same-sex relationships, including several of our deacon’s. We never want to come across as cold a-hole Westboro regurgitators of hate rhetoric. We want to be loving. There are just lines we don’t feel we can cross and still call marriage a Christian union.

            I hope you can feel my heart as you read this. I’m no hate-monger, but I also feel that a lot of progressive theology has roots in relative morality. Just because something feels right doesn’t mean that God ordained it, Jesus approved of it, and the Holy Spirit confirmed it.

          • StuartB says:

            Good response, thank you.

          • Robert F says:

            Lee, Could you please tell me what Ecumenical Council defined our canon as holy and unchanging? Heck, I’d settle for an Ecumenical (not merely local) Council that defined our canon of the New Testament (remember, this Council would have to be before the Great Schism to be Ecumenical) as we have it today: could you tell me what that Ecumenical Council was?

          • DennisB says:

            Robert,

            You’re probably right in that the Canon wasn’t defined by an Ecumenical Council. However, it was the mind of the Universal Church, being led by the Spirit that helped discover the canon. Jesus promised the GATHERED Apostles, His Spirit would lead them into “all truth”. When He breathed His Spirit on them after His resurrection, again it was His GATHERED Apostles. This indicates He will guide His church corporately, not individually. When they had to choose another disciple to replace Judas, again, a “conciliar” decision, under the Spirit. So it’s no surprise that Councils were the means God used to lead the Church. It may be difficult to see what is authoritative in the Councils, but I would suggest this “consensus” led by the Spirit would intermesh with the Scriptures, liturgy, monasticism and local congregations. It’s either this or you make up your own authority. May as well make up let’s see, another denomination…no..another religion !

            http://articulifidei.blogspot.com.au/search?q=infallible

            Cheers

        • Stephen says:

          Lee, serious questions. They deserve a serious answer. But to do so I have to back up a bit.

          First of all this is a secular social issue, not primarily a religious one. As I said in one of my other posts the secular state is compelled by its institutional mandate to treat all its citizenry equally under the law. All rights and privileges extended to one class of people must be extended to all unless there is some compelling reason to deny them. This is the issue being decided by the Supreme Court, NOT what the New Testament teaches about sexual relations. As far as I can determine the only compelling reason to deny these rights and privileges to this class of people is a religious one. But the secular state is specifically prevented by its charter to make just this kind of distinction.

          Secondly I’m really not a fundamentalist. A lot of people say they’re not but when push comes to shove they cede the scripture and tradition an authority that is pretty indistinguishable from fundamentalism. The only tools I have to use are my own reason and conscience. But If I’m wrong I’m willing to take the consequences. I accept the value of scripture and tradition but only up to the point where it begins to hurt people. I know what Paul said about sex and women but I cannot be bound by it if it violates my reason and my conscience. I don’t have all the answers but then I don’t pretend to have all the answers.

  21. BTW, I saw Tony Campolo at a charismatic conference in Australia, back in the 80’s. He was great. He knew God, in a profound way. It tears my heart to hear he is going down this track. Also quite disappointed Philip Yancey seems to be “sitting on the fence”, on this one:

    http://philipyancey.com/q-and-a-topics/homosexuality

    This backs up what I said above…

  22. Phil Dickens says:

    I want to thank and congratulate all the imonks for this open, thoughtful, and non-hurtful discussion. This is the way Christians should handle issues that we disagree on.

  23. Funny how the comment section always explodes whenever there’s a post related to this topic…

    • Yeah, and I’ve observed that elsewhere. I wonder, does that lend support to Mohler’s point that this issue really is a line in the sand litmus test type issue? The front lines, so to speak?

      Of course, many of the comments are about whether it actually IS an all or none line in the sand type thing to begin with…….

      • Like going to a Calvinist board and posting a devotion to our Lady.

        • Of course, you would NEVER do such a provocative and hornet-nest-stirring thing, would you? 😉

          (Full disclosure – I speak as one who killed a Reformed e-mail list by a similar provocation, some years ago. I was a full member at the time, but still, it needed to happen. I still consider that one of the finest Christian works I have ever done in my life.

          • Too much peace, love, and kum-by-yah makes me scratchy and irritable.

            Im always thankful for a topic like this where I can roll a few turds.

      • I don’t know if the issue is really a line in the sand issue…but Mohler’s response to it is. 9 times out of 10, I know for me, that’s what I’m responding to. I may even agree with Mohler or others on the topic, but I will certainly call out their bs response and attitude.

        I think we need to keep ourselves honest. We need to better police ourselves in the church. And if I need to be an irritant in order to do that, to keep us from lying, from manipulating, from whatever…then so be it.

        • I think we need to keep ourselves honest. We need to better police ourselves in the church. And if I need to be an irritant in order to do that, to keep us from lying, from manipulating, from whatever…then so be it.

          Stuart, thank you for being everyone’s judge and jury. But you are right it is an irritant.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Nothing racks up the comments like Evolution or Homosexuality.

      And nothing disconnects everything above the brainstem and pours Crystal Meth onto what neurons are left like the subject Homosexuality.

    • I think it’s because we see better with the third eye.

  24. We can only hope that Bruce Jenner will throw his or her hat into the ring of the Democratic primaries.

    • Actually, I think Jenner is a Republican.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      BTW…Her name is Caitlin now.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I understand it’s still not officially changed. Until it is, Teh Jenner is “Bruce, AKA Caitlin”.

        And the whole Bruce-or-Caitlin Jenner brouhaha has been Weird from the start and gotten Weirder as time goes on. Maybe that’s because of the JUICY Celebrity gossip angle, but it’s become like the Da Vinci Code those many Easters ago. (What’s always gotten me is why Teh Jenner waited until he hit his/her mid-Sixties before he/she decided “Do It!” Like some sort of Bucket List item or something. THAT’s what weirds me out the most.)

        • It does not matter if it’s been officially changed or not! That’s what she wants to be carried, and it’s disrespectful to call her otherwise. Regardless if she reads this or not. She’s not Bruce anymore, she’s Caitlyn.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Meh. It’s weird, yes. But I assume someone doesn’t go to that extreme just for effect. And I’m guessing the reason for the wait was due to the nature of the process and surgery and fear and everything you and I fear when we do something that is way outside the box.

        • That Other Jean says:

          I personally know a woman who waited until she was 70 to undergo a sex change. She knew she was female from the time she was five, but was pressured by a conservative Catholic family to conform to their expectations, which she did. She chose to get the counseling and surgery necessary for her body to conform to her inner self after the death of her (his) wife, and is now living happily as a woman.

        • Jazziscoolithink says:

          HUG, can you really not come up with one or two perfectly rational reasons for why Jenner would wait so long to come out about this? If not, I’ve greatly over-estimated your capacity for imagination.

    • It’s rude and transphobic to purposefully misgender a transgender person, especially since they’ve fully transitioned. Her name is Caitlyn Jenner now. Please respect that.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        I was arguing with a friend about this the other day. I said that if you’re trying to share the gospel with Jenner and are trying to break down the wall and wanting to actually have a dialog, you’d have to call her Caitlin. And he insisted he’d still call “him Bruce.”

        And I said, Well, then…I doubt you’d get very far in talking about Jesus.

        • Lots of LGBT people are xtians. But those who speak out about it often get slammed, and from more than one direction. Evangelicals don’t want to hear it, other religious conservatives don’t want to hear it, and some in the LGBT communities don’t want to hear it, either. (Though certainly not *all*, as there are many LGBT people who are openly religious, and who are welcome in many synagogues, churches, etc.)

        • I agree with you. And to me, epecially reading on some of the social media sites i am a part of, it is like they are purposefully refusing to call them by their preferred gender for no other reason becasue they can. It was so heartbreaking… Seeing an entire group just alienated like that. Given I’m a woman of colour, and has been alienated those kinds of shallow reasons before…

          It honestly breaks my heart….

          • Drena, my purpose in referring to Caitlyn as Bruce is to secure the nomination without alienating half of the electorate right off the bat. This is not a matter of political correctness but political expediency. Once nominated, strategies change completely, as I’m sure you have observed. However I must be frank and admit that I have not yet been approached to become campaign manager, and if this does not happen soon I would be more than open to manage your own campaign, assuming you do understand that American presidents are elected entirely on shallow reasons. Glad to have you here. Hearts are sometimes mended here, sometimes even by Jesus.

          • i’m glad you’re posting here, Drena. your perspective is much-needed, and not just here.

          • Charles Fines… I have no idea what you just said. Though what I said had NOTHING to do with elections. The point is that it is transphobic to purposefully misgender a transperson, and by using their old name. My criticism of you has nothing to do with US politics, but respecting a fellow human being and their wishes, wishes that do not hurt you in the slightest.

            And to numo: Thank you.

          • Drena:

            Pluralism runs both ways. And so does respect. To insist that I call Jenner a woman when I think that “she” is just someone who has the $ to change “her” gender is also intolerant on your behalf.
            Some people just don’t agree with you. And we need to agree to disagree.

            It has nothing to do with hating. I tend to take a more biological approach. Gender is down to a cellular level and that’s just how it is.

            I do not see this attempt to re-engineer language and force it on all of us as any different than the fundamentalism I grew up with, no different in attitude, just different in content.

            IMHO fundies and progressives both need to learn to leave others alone.

          • So you choose to alienate an entire group of people, because instead of respecting their wishes and call them what they want to be called, you choose to force gender binary down their throats?

            Hardly loving on your either.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And he insisted he’d still call “him Bruce.”

          “This is Bruce, Bruce, Bruce, Bruce, and Bruce.
          “Why don’t we call you ‘Bruce’, just to keep things clear?”
          — Monty Python’s Flying Circus

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f_p0CgPeyA

      • from what I have read, Caitlyn Jenner is a pretty staunch evangelical/charismatic, and has been for some time, too, so the point is moot.

        And yes, please refer to her as “her.”

        • Maybe Jenner doesn’t have the right to assign pronoun usage arbitrarily, pronouns being communal property.

          • She said…chewing thoughtfully on a briar.

            Wear the shoe, mule 🙂

          • Stephen says:

            But what everyone should have the right to define themselves. If you demand that right then there comes an obligation to extend it to others. If you deny it to others then what becomes of your right to demand it?

          • But what everyone should have the right to define themselves

            That is the core and content of the whole damned project. When you are finished, there is nothing left of createdness.

            And you all are right. There is no way a secular state can rein this in, nor put a limit on it. It will be limited by the passions and resources of those who want to do the defining. Thank God resources are finite. Passions, by their very nature, are not.

          • Also, if I used the pronoun she in reference to Caitlyn Jenner, it would always be “she” in my mind, never she.

            Our modern gender ideology excels in this – soon we will have marriages, and “marriages”; men and “men”; women, and “women”.

            If an attempt is made to remove the quotation marks in peoples’ heads, it will result in a situation like that of the late Soviet Union under Brezhnev where everybody pays lip service to the ideology to keep their jobs and stay out of trouble, but nobody but the most deluded believes it ex corde.

            You progressives aren’t on the side of the angels on this. Your hatred of Dobson and his ilk blinds you to it.

          • I misgendered some chickens once, and wound up with three roosters and one hen!

          • Mule, I wish you would take the time to learn about gender dysphoria and trans people from better sources (like, y’know, actual trans people) before coming here and going who knows where all else and making these kinds of pronouncements.

            Let me put it another way: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            Like I said, I don’t get out much.

            You are right. There are no “trans” people in my life – there are those pesky quotation marks again – and only two gay people.. I live in a pretty traditional area.

            Let everybody interpret my remarks in light of this.

          • If that’s true Burro, then perhaps you need to look at how you define a man, and how you define a woman. because from a sociological and cultural perspective, it has very little to do with biology and much to do with culture.

        • StuartB says:

          I wonder if she prays in tongues.

      • Drena: So you choose to alienate an entire group of people, because instead of respecting their wishes and call them what they want to be called, you choose to force gender binary down their throats?

        And you want to alienate 100 million people world wise who disagree with you by insisting we adopt your viewpoint? Some of us just don’t agree with you. Get over it.

        If people are going to live together in this world we have to accept that some people will not agree with us. Tolerance is not agreeing with one another and singing kum ba yah together. Tolerance is recognizing that although we may not agree with one another we have to live together and so we try to show some respect. And coming in here and accusing people of being transphobic because they don’t agree with you is not a good start.

        As I mentioned earlier a good number of us here came out of fundamentalist backgrounds so we are well used to people trying to force us into a mold or a way of thinking, so don’t do the same. Discuss, dialog, argue and we will respond. Start lecturing on how we need to change to fit your worldview and you are going to lose.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          I’m not interested to know what you call Jenner when you’re not around people like her – whether you refer to her as a “he” or a “she” with your own friends and such – but what I am interested to know is what you would call her if you were to sit down and have a discussion with her? Would you call her a man or a woman, to her face? Would you call her Bruce or Caitlin?

          Look, this is a respect thing. If Lloyd B. Free wants to change his name to World B. Free and Ron Artest wants to be known as Metta World Peace, yes, I might find that ridiculous. I might even continue to refer to them as Lloyd and Ron when talking with friends about them. But if I want to respect them as individuals, then I best call them World B. Free and Metta World Peace when I’m with them…or whatever it is they want to be known as.

        • You do realize Ken that you’re trying to force your worldview onto me with your comments?

          And yes it is transphobic to purposefully misgender a transgender person. This isn’t about tolerance to me, but standing up for a group of people who have discrimination on a daily basis ranging from being harassed to even being killed. Many do not live to see their 30th birthday, and some it’s a result of being so depressed about how they were been and how much the world had little room for them that they end their own lives.

          So… Yes, I’m intolerant of transphobic comments and attitudes. Because it’s comments like purposefully misgendering, or comments that say calling people out on it are part of the reason why many transgender people are nervous about leaving their front door.

          • Each of us is entitled to believe our own version of the universe and how it works. Just don’t get offended if people do not agree with yours.

            I am not what leap of logic one takes to go from a person not agreeing with you to being harassed or killed. I do not see it doing much for the cause if you say ‘agree with me or you hate me’

          • I do not think you hate me. ANd I am not afraid to answer you or stand up for myself.

            The leap is simple: Throughout history the slope between off handed comments to violence breaking out is a slippery one. For example antisemitism in Europe started with comments and then resulted with the holocaust. The same can be said about allowing casual homophobia and transphobia by not speaking out when homophobic comments, or misgendering a transgender person, occurs. That’s why I speak out on here and that is why I refuse to intimidated by people online.

            It is not a matter of disagreeing. I have many friends who are transgender who have no choice but to bite their tongue when comments are said out loud, for fear they get ridiculed or dismissed. If I can defend them, I will. So accuse me of intolerance, making a big deal out of it, and shoving my beliefs down your throat as much as you like. I will stand up against transphobia and I am not afraid of you.

  25. Randy Thompson says:

    It seems to me that the “Continental Divide” will be between those who are willing to love their neighbor and be willing to suffer in doing so, and those who are not.

    Loving my neighbor–gay or straight or whatever–creates relationships where one can speak the truth to one’s neighbor in the context of an established (trust) relationship. (This can be painful even so.) To love one’s neighbor is a long-term commitment; it lasts as long as our neighbor is our neighbor, which is another way of saying “until death do us part.” When one disagrees with one’s neighbor, one shares one’s thoughts or values. One does not “take a stand.”

    Custer took a “stand,” and look what that got him.

    • Uh, so did Athanasius.

      • Randy Thompson says:

        A good response here.
        Still, though, he took a stand within the Church that mattered to the Church and its faith.
        He did not take a political stand on the loose morals of Roman pagans because Christians were offended by them!

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      People love playing at being heroes! Especially if they can do it in their air-conditioned offices and it falls in line with them continuing to receive big salaries and book deals for mindless pontificating, rather than doing something productive like digging a ditch or giving little one a glass of cold water.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Or getting your head sawed off with a knife to the chorus of “AL’LAH’U AKBAR!” for refusing to convert like those Copts.

  26. dumb ox says:

    “My fellow prophets, what does the future hold?”

    1. The sun will come up tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar.
    2. Evangelicals will not evangelize.
    3. Pundits will have a field day next week.

    If you need any more advise from Captain Obvious, let me know.

  27. Well I am both bisexual and a follower o Christ, I believe that Paul was talking about male gay prostitutes in Romans 1 and in 1st Corinthians 6. Plus they did not understand the issue of sexual orientation back then..,.neither did Plato, Aristotle nor Agutine understood sexuality or sexual orientation very well either…..
    Oh, btw….I go to both a catholic church/parish and I also go to a disciples of Christ Church here in San Diego…..and Im currently reading some books by Rob Bell and Brennan Manning…,

  28. grberry says:

    This ties into an issue related to being post-evangelical (since we didn’t lock in in a better phrase – see Monday’s discussion). That issue has personal relevance to me as my family looks for a new church home.

    There is a slippery slope argument made in support of biblicism/fundamentalism/literalist interpretations of the bible. That argument runs along the lines of “if you don’t hold the line here, you’ll slide into liberalism, which will lead to abandoning the importance of the gospel, eventually abandoning the gospel completely, and shrinking churches.” There is some apparent evidence in favor of that argument – the massive decay of the mainline denominations and individual examples such as Spong. But slippery slope arguments are slippery to use well – it is easy to mess up.

    Such slippery slope arguments can also be associated with legalism. Sometimes this is good and wise, and sometimes it gets overblown. I think of the the Rabbinic Jewish saying in Pirkei Avos, attributed to the Great Assembly that led in Jerusalem at the beginning of the second temple period “make a fence for the Torah”. And viewed humorously, we get the joke that Southern Baptists are against pre-marital sex because it might lead to dancing.

    Doing some genealogy last night, I tried to figure out if one of my ancestors was actually (he is said to have been) involved in the run up to the separation of the Methodist Protestant Church from the Methodist Evangelical Church in the 1820s. One of the churches our family is thinking of joining is affililated with the Conservative Bapist Alliance that separated from the Northern Baptist Convention (now American Baptist Churches) during that denominations fundamentalist-modernist controversy. And we see in the news of our era divisions and separations within the mainline denominations as churches leave them or divide over the gay marriage issue. So I’m starting to wonder how much of the decline of the mainline denominations is due to separation rather than the individual switching we’ve lately been discussing in Mike Bell’s series of Friday posts. Their shrinkage is relevant to the slippery slope argument if it is primarily due to individual switching and demographics. Their shrinkage is not relevant to the slippery slope argument if it is due to separation. The real answer is probably partially both – but then how much of each type?

    So how slippery is this slope? And if it is slippery, how should that affect where I choose to stand on it? I want data, not polemics, but don’t know where to get good data that really means anything.

    • As someone with a long history in the United Methodist Church, I would respectfully say our denomination’s shrinking since the 1960s is due to:

      — too many “cultural Christians” in the generations leading up to the Boomers, who saw church as another civic/social club in their community and didn’t know, or want to know very much about their faith
      — these folks hanging on to “power” in their churches, making the battles about cultural and generational matters, with the dysfunction driving out younger people
      — too many tiny churches founded in the 19th and early 20th century that are a great burden to the connectional system
      — the connectional system placing more emphasis on keeping itself afloat than in being very interested in its individual churches, their needs and their opportunities, or passing on the faith
      — Bishops and conference officials being way out in front on social justice issues, while their local churches are not on the same page at all (especially true of the cultural Christians)
      — which finally leads into some of the social issue problems of the day, with talk of schism

      In general, it is the weight of an old-fashioned bureaucratic system and a lack of attention to the local church and discipleship that is doing in the Methodists. The social issue arguments that get us in the headlines are just one of the denomination’s problems. They are, however, the juiciest.

      • grberry says:

        Thank you Vera.

        • You are very welcome. In my experience, it is primarily people outside of the mainlines who think the decline of the mainlines is due to slippery slopes, liberal ideas, and the like.

          I can only speak for my UMC experience, but here it is primarily trying to prop up old-fashioned bureaucratic ways of doing things and top-heavy, myopic judicatories that is doing us in. Whenever something blatantly isn’t working, instead of really taking a hard look at it, the “solution” always seems to be, “we need to return to what John Wesley would have done! How did he organize things? What methods did he use (back in the 1700s)?

          There is much to admire about Wesley, but he was not a genius at everything he tried. Lots of his ideas failed or were unworkable. Alas, those who steer his movement today are mired in the past.

  29. What does the future hold? Nothing all that different. As long as the government does not seek to redefine sacramental marriage, civil unions won’t be that big of a deal. I have a feeling that once same-sex couples get a taste of no-fault divorce, alimony, custody battles, etc., gays and lesbians, et al, will start looking at each other and wondering, “…and why did we want this, again?” I suspect the only people who will materially benefit from civil unions will be divorce lawyers.

    That being said, I would find it amusing if same-sex couples did civil unions better than straight couples did marriage. Maybe they will!

  30. Lorelei says:

    Just last Sunday our pastor preached out of Judges 17:6. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” We are once again living in days like those of the Judges. Until Jesus is acknowledged as King, there can’t be an answer, because everyone (on both sides) is right and cannot or will not be taught otherwise.

    I am despairing of hope that true unity will come to the body of Christ this side of whatever your personal eschatology teaches.

    Come, Lord Jesus!

    • And of course, after the king, everyone did what was right in the king’s eyes – which was usually wicked, hence the deportations. I’m not sure that scripture has any relevance at all to the current conversation, but whatever. I mean really – are you suggesting that we need a theocratic king to make sure everyone walks the straight and narrow? That doesn’t even mesh with the NT gospel – and it didn’t work in medieval Europe when it was tried.

      • Lorelei says:

        No. That’s not what I’m saying at all. Human kings are just that, human. Not the answer.

        It is patently obvious that everyone has their own opinion of what is right. Hence the 240 comments on one thread. It simply grieves my heart that the body of Christ cannot come to a place of agreement on this or a myriad of other issues. Not until Jesus is acknowledged as King (and not until we ALL lay down our own right to be right and submit to Him, regardless of our opinions) will His prayer of unity for everyone (male, female, gay, straight, black, white, brown, evangelical, post-evangelical, catholic, protestant, etc.) be answered. I don’t think it can happen on earth.

        • I hear you Lorelei and understand your sentiments.
          But you better be prepared for some of the gang to parse it and eventually throw it out because it ruffles their sensibilities.

  31. I came across this recently. Thought it would be relevant to this discussion since Jenner’s name has been brought up.

    Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins, pioneered in sex-reassignment surgery in the 1960’s and subsequently disavowed it. He wrote last year:

    “’Sex change’ is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”

    There also appears to be a growing number of transexuals who regret their reassignment surgery, some even undergoing reversal procedures.

    • This is scientifically accurate. Every cell and every DNA strand in the body is male or female, no matter what surgery a person goes through. While compassionate, my sister (who is a pharmacist) has several horror stories about the drugs that have to be taken – forever – by those who seek this kind of surgery. But I think there is a pretty big difference between gender and sex, mental disorder or no.

      • I am not a medical professional, so anything I write here is best taken as “something I read.”

        Having said that, I believe that the psychiatric term for a man who thinks he’s a woman–and vice versa–is called “gender identity disorder.” There are many other related disorders whereby someone has a false image of who they actually are.

        But is surgery the answer?

        I read elsewhere (can’t find it at the moment) that although only 20% of transexuals regret having undergone sexual reassignment procedure, most transexual continue to experience the same psychiatric issues that the experienced before going under the knife.

        The Church must have better counsel for people who see themselves as someone other than who they actually are, i.e. something better than hormonal therapy and surgery. In other words, if the Church cannot help its own to get their bodies and souls in sync, who can? Psychiatry? I suppose that could be of value in cooperation with pastoral counsel. But…surgeons and endocrinologists? I think not.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          The issues of life probably don’t change much whatever path a person decides. Stay a “female trapped in a man’s body” or go through with the procedure, I’m guessing that after a period of time, life issues remain life issues.

          I was thinking it would be interesting to do a documentary on transgendered people to find out: 1) when they realized they had an issue, 2) are they glad they went through with the procedure, 3) what things are better and worse years after post-procedure, and 4) would they do it again, or find some other way of dealing with the angst.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Good to have you drop in, Calvin. I know you and I don’t see eye to eye on all things, but whenever you disappear for a while, I miss your posts and your perspective.

      This is good info to bring to the table. It makes me think that an analogy might be “sexual reorientation surgery no more turns a man into a woman than botox, face-lifts and liposuction turn an elderly person into a younger one.” They might FEEL younger (or female), but really it’s just a cover-up.

      Before folks throw stones at me, I’m NOT saying that there’s anything morally wrong with the cover-up. While I may THINK botox, liposuction and face-lifts are weird and that I’d never do them, I don’t know if I have the right to tell someone they shouldn’t do those things. Maybe in the same vein, I may THINK gender reorientation surgery is weird, but maybe I don’t have the right to tell people they shouldn’t do them.

      • Thank you for the sentiment, Rick Ro; it is mutual, of course.

        What a person does with his/her body is their business–as long as it affects ONLY their body (I refer to abortion, but that’s a discussion for another time) and as long as they are old enough to “wisely” consent. In my opinion, however, one is worse off having their uniquely male/female tissues surgically rearranged and foreign hormones introduced for no reason other than inducing opposite sex characteristics. But as I said, it is their body and…

        I am, however, deeply concerned for children who experience gender identity disorder (GID). I read elsewhere that many children experience some form of GID but that by far most (I believe the figure I read was 80%) grow out of it by the time they’re 18 or so. What I find disturbing is encouraging these kids to dress and otherwise act as though they were the opposite sex. And what I consider outright criminal is when they are given hormone blockers early on so to prevent the outset of puberty.

        I also read that professional counselors who advise folks with GID often get it wrong (the 20% I mentioned previously) as they frequently jump too quickly in the sexual reassignment wagon. Frankly, I’m don’t think any of them know what the h*** they’re doing.

    • It’s not reassignment in the sense they’ll miraculously become the other gender. It’s more so that they… “pass” as the gender they identify with. I recommend getting testimony from many transgender people as some transition just with hormone replacement therapy, some with surgery, while others simply cross dress for lack of a better term, and others do none of that. It honestly is a spectrum and depends on the person.

  32. dumb ox says:

    For it’s own sake the church needs to drop this. Without taking into consideration recent current events, American evangelicals have this myopic view of reality: because they do not engage in certain certain behaviors, they are beyond criticism. Again, forget recent events and think back to the Sovereign Grace Ministries debacle. Focusing on the behavior of those outside the church is destroying holiness. Holiness is not about being right. It’s about a life seized by God and fully devoted to Him. As a result, it is a life which reflects the nature of God. I don’t think (yes, personal opinion) anger over the sins of others is a reflection of the nature of God, who gave his Son for the sake of the world (God so loved the world, NOT God so loved himself).

    • Very good. Although many YRRs I know have re-interpreted that verse to mean precisely “God so loved himself”.

      • dumb ox says:

        What does imitation of a god who loves himself above all look like? I think exactly what much of (not all) Evangelicalism looks like: narcissistic, pragmatic self-absorption which views ones neighbor as a burden, an irritation, or a means to an end. Imitation of the God of the incarnation looks very different. If one views God grudgingly plugging his nose to enter the world to save it has no understanding of the nature of God. Just look how Jesus closely interacted and compassionately embraced the most untouchable depths of humanity.

        Worshipping a god who loves himself above all is the reflection of the idolatry of self.

        • dumb ox says:

          Again, God is better off dead than reduced to a cosmic rationalization of self-worship.

  33. Robert F says:

    “Girls will be boys
    and boys will be girls.
    It’s a mixed up muddled up world shook up world,
    except for Lola…”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LemG0cvc4oU

    I hope the Church in it’s entirety, evangelical and non-evangelical, learns to affirm and celebrate the marital unions of non-heterosexual couples. I, of course, have no idea if it will.

  34. MelissatheRagamuffin says:

    My mother has long held that acceptance of homosexual marriage would be the “mark of the beast” that Revelation speaks of. Every day I am more and more convinced that she’s right.

    • Yet another theory of the identity of the “Mark of the Beast” to add to the ever-growing list I have encountered over the past 25 years. Credit cards, tattoos, implanted chips, ration cards… and the beat goes on.

      • Robert F says:

        Somebody should brand “Mark of the Beast” and sell a whole bunch of merchandise emblazoned with it: jeans, coffee pots, garden hoses, casual wear, etc., you name it…..

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Yet another theory of the identity of the “Mark of the Beast” to add to the ever-growing list I have encountered over the past 25 years.

        Someone should have started a “take-a-number” system a long time ago.

        Credit cards, tattoos, implanted chips, ration cards… and the beat goes on.

        Don’t forget the National Sunday Law, where the Gubmint forces everyone to go to church on Sunday instead of the Sabbath. That’s the Seventh Day Adventist take on the subject.

    • Robert F says:

      I’m convinced that the “mark of Cain” is on all those individual Christians and Christian communities throughout history that have persecuted and killed non-heterosexual persons in their midst in the name of idolatrous conceptions of God and morality.

      • Wow, Robert… THat is harsh but +1

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Not just “non-heteros”.
        Just like high school, all too often it’s anyone who’s DIFFERENT.
        “Non-hetero” is just an extreme version of DIFFERENT in Christianese.
        Beware Thou of the Mutant.

  35. If there is a continental divide, then I really think people who speak and position themselves like Mohler is here are responsible for a significant portion of it. I have often wondered how different things might have been if the vast majority of evangelicals and Christian leaders had acted differently towards homosexuals starting decades ago. Remember the many declarations of God’s judgement and condemnation when AIDS first came about in the 80s? I sure do. I suspect that if instead of those shrill voices we had seen the vast majority of evangelicals and other Christians, including leaders, reach out to and care for gays with compassion and love in an incarnational way, we might have created a very different and better history and foundation of relationship from which it might be possible to effectively communicate the love of Jesus today. In other words, somewhere along the way we forgot that sacrificial love is the very power of God in Christ. Lord have mercy.

    • “I have often wondered how different things might have been if the vast majority of evangelicals and Christian leaders had acted differently towards homosexuals starting decades ago.”

      I’ve wondered that very thing many times… and I’m with you on the damage that the cultural warriors framing of things has done. So sad. When I hear them continual to shrill away, I shake my head and have to wonder if they didn’t contribute quite a bit to our present mess. (maybe even the majority of it)

  36. So, Chaplain Mike…has this thread answered your question? It seems to be a huge issue that is a big divide amongst many. And it’s a shame. There has to be common ground, common grace for all.

    How do we get there?

  37. A question for those who support the notion of self-definition.

    How do you apply this to Rachel Dolezal?

    This is not trolling, I sincerely wonder how far you are prepared to push the logical conclusions.

    OK, so she’s probably lying, but if she has ‘decided’ that she’s black, who are we to disagree?

    Should she undergo surgery to make herself black?

  38. DennisB says:

    Stuart,

    The only common ground, outside of “loving your neighbour” & assisting each other (inc gays & transgenders) in REAL discipleship, will be: the ground Jesus stands on when He takes away the “candlestick” ie denominations that will become irrelevant and blended in with a society they won’t be able to speak to anymore. The shell will remain, as a fossil.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Meh. Or maybe it’ll be the religion that was so protective of its interpretation of truth that it cut people off from entering the Kingdom. See Matthew 23, all of it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “The Devil sends sins in matched opposing pairs, so that in fleeing one we embrace the other.”
        — either C.S.Lewis or G.K.Chesterton

      • Completely agree Rick. Interesting to see verse 3 advises to listen to the “hypocrites” because a lot of the time they say the right things….

        Verse 23, interesting that law & judgement is listed with mercy & faith. Reminds me of 1 Corinthians 2:15: “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” (Because the Spiritual person is doing the right thing)

        Verse 37 seems to be pretty much ignored over the centuries. Prophets, monastics, pastors, “average Joes”, try to point back to what was handed down so it doesn’t get deviated from.

  39. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    And we’re over 300 comments and counting.

    Nothing packs ’em in like Evolution or Homosexuality.

  40. Chaplain Mike asked,

    Do issues surrounding LGBT acceptance form a moral “continental divide” for the Church in Western society today?

    Answer: Yes.

    Although I can’t answer for all of Western society, the evangelical world is circling the wagons. As Al Mohler suggested, there is no middle ground, and I’m seeing churches re-writing statements of faith to define marriage, investigating complementarianism, and installing means of discipline.

    Liberal churches decided what to do years ago. The split in the Episcopal Church is one of the effects. Conservative churches, with the law turning against them in the form of legalized same-sex marriage, only recently have awakened and realized that “something must be done.” And they’re doing it. So, yes, it’s a continental divide.

    Compounding the problem for the evangelicals is the generational divide. As Mike Bell’s stats demonstrate, younger people are straying from the fold at a faster rate than the general population—and in my observation it’s largely because of our stance against gays—or really, against same-sex marriage, but in their minds it will be perceived as homophobia—and either way, young people won’t return very soon.