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Unity of Churches? What Does the Bible Say?

I think modern calls to unity and ecumenism are wrongheaded. Al Kresta talked about it in the podcast below calling Evangelicals “separated brethren” and I believe Steven Greydanus has said that evangelicals are “sheep outside of the fold” and/or a younger brother of RCC. Thus, we don’t experience the “fullness of the Gospel” because we are not under the umbrella of the RCC. These RCC can correct me if I’m wrong but it seems as if they hope for a formal unity where everyone, including the Orthodox are under the RCC. Evangelicals work with the same assumptions. George Yancey has written about it in, “One Body, One Spirit: Principles of Successful Multiracial Churches” and in other places. And progressives actually seem to have no problem coercing others into what they believe. They want everyone to follow their liberal agenda’s, ie., everyone SHOULD be welcoming and accepting of LGBT and SSM (not just between races and ethnicities but anyone who is different). This was something that really struck me as I read, Skillen’s “Recharging the American Experiment.” In there, Skillen’s said that the government should not coerce theological conscience. There are some churches that believe in SSM and some that do not. As we live in a pluralistic society, all should be allowed to exist in their differentiation. By implication, this could be the same for churches between themselves. Churches don’t tell others churches what they should believe with regard to a host of issues. So it should be the same with SSM. Churches are not united for a myriad of reasons—theological, moral, worship style, ethnic, etc. The problem with calls for unity, it seems, is that this is:

1.An ideological utopian vision influenced by modern Kumbaya culture.

2.It is not what Jesus had in mind in John 17.

Here is D.A. Carson on John 17. The John 17 unity prayer needs to be understood within the greater context of the Father’s protection for those who would be followers of the Messiah.

“The constant goal is that the disciples be one as Jesus and his Father are one. Like any analogy, this cannot legitimately be pressed without limit. The unity enjoyed by Jesus and his Father has numerous features that could not be duplicated in the unity among believers. For instance, Jesus and his Father are but two; the believers are many. Jesus and his Father stand together in their creative work (1:1–3); this cannot be predicted of the disciples. Jesus and his Father enjoyed the brilliance of pretemporal glory (17:5); but obviously that unity could not in the nature of the case be shared by temporal creatures. Many other such distinctions suggest themselves on the basis of the fourth Gospel alone. Yet clearly the analogy is important, and must not be robbed of all content by endlessly peeling the onion. Many of the relational ties between Jesus and his Father described by John’s Gospel are functional in nature. Moreover, as chapter 2 of this book demonstrated, if Jesus stands with his Father with respect to man in revelation and authority, he simultaneously stands with man with respect to his Father in dependence and obedience. Within this framework, the Father and the Son enjoy a perfect unity of love, of purpose, of holiness of truth. Now, Jesus prays, so protect these people you have given me that they may be one as we are one: one in love (a theme already stressed, 13:34f.; 15:13), one in purpose (obedience, fruit bearing, witness—all prevalent themes in these chapters), one in holiness (it is not for nothing that Jesus here addressed his Father as “Holy Father,” and will shortly ask him to sanctify the believers), one in truth (they, unlike the world, have come to recognize the fundamental truth that Jesus is the revelation of God). This theme of unity is an important one in Jesus’s prayer. It is picked up again and repeated (17:21, 22, 23), and so we shall return to it in the last chapter of this book—at which time its relevance to the modern church may be usefully explored. For the moment, it may be helpful to note that if the prayer is a request that Jesus’s disciples be protected in order that they may be one in love, purpose, holiness, and truth, it follows that the greatest dangers lie in those things that seek to destroy unity in love, in purpose, in holiness, and in truth. An adequate catalog of such evils, coupled with a careful assessment of their danger, would immediately double the length of this book. Such a catalog would include jealousy, hate, friction, arrogant isolation, selfishness, bitterness, an unforgiving spirit, a wretched tongue; for these vices seek to destroy the unity of love. The catalog would go on to mention one-upmanship, an uncooperative spirit, brinkmanship and impatience (which threaten unity of purpose), all kinds of sin (which abhors holiness), and lies, dogmatic half-truths, unwillingness to admit error or sympathetically learn from one another, chronic unbelief (which conspires to obliterate unity in truth). From all such evils, good Lord, deliver us.”

If this is the case, as I believe it is, Sunday morning is not the most segregated hour in America. That is an ideological utopian vision of how one believes things ought to be. James Kalb and of late, Jared Taylor have spoke about some of the sociological aspects of human communities where they expound on the idea of “birds of a feather flock together” and “where we find ourselves naturally.” Let’s face it, it’s right there in front of our faces EVERYDAY. Diversity. Diversity is with us as a constant—as the way of the world. Why do we still have the black race? Why do we Asian peoples? Why do we still have Anglo-Saxon European peoples? Spanish and the sub varieties therein. As said above, people group together for various and myriad reasons. It is still basically the same in schools, in marriages, and in friendships. This is not to say that persons from one group will not venture into another group, but if it is done, it will be done organically without changing the distinctions of that particular group.


Separation of Powers and Religious Liberty

I have been interested in religion/faith and politics from as far back as I can remember. Mostly from my early 20’s. These are the kinds of questions I lose sleep over. Not in an anxious sort of way, just in an OCD sort of way. 🙂 One question that seems to come up time and time again has to do with equal treatment between religion and non-religion in the public square.

A number of years ago, I came across the Kuyperian view of things that gave explanatory power to these questions, however, (at least the materials I have read) they didn’t seem to respond to this question in substantial ways.

Kuyper, if you may recall, talked about the different spheres of society, each having distributive authority from God. For an example, the police have their own authority and a union has it’s own authority. Neither authority should be “omni-competent” taking over the other sphere’s authority. The police can’t take over the union and carry out their responsibility nor should the union do the job of the police. This is essentially what Kuyperians say is an injustice. I personally can bear this out with my job and that of Canadian Customs whom, in the past have expected me to do their job for them at times (I crossed the border fourteen times a night on a round trip. I have never had a problem with American Customs in this regard).

What you see here is what conservatives have always talked about and of which you can read in many of the writings of conservative websites and think tanks from some of their brightest thinkers—a separation of powers— plain and simple. I’m all for this because of my view of human nature. I believe that power can corrupt (not that it does so necessarily) and thus too much power in the hands of a particular sphere or authority is detrimental to the common good.

As an aside, Kuyperian political philosophy is actually conservative in this manner and I came to see this the more I delved into sphere sovereignty. Interestingly, I have a friend of mine who comes to LIBERTARIANISM from a Kuyperian position. Yet, Kuyperians will tell you that sphere sovereignty is different from conservatism and surely different from libertarianism. However, the reason I think Kuyper and conservatism are closer is not because of something I’ve discovered on my own but because it has actually been written about in books like Mark Larson’s book: “Abraham Kuyper, Conservatism, and Church and State’’ where he lays this out very succinctly.

It seems to me that where Kuyperians, conservatives and libertarians all lay their heads down is in this area of separation of powers. They may do so for various reasons but one of the underpinning reasons has to do with justice over-all.

Having said that, I think this touches on the first paragraph of the equal treatment of religion and non-religion in the public square stated above. It’s not so much a question of fairness (for life is hardly ever fair) but one of justice. How do we, as a society, do justice to religious belief and non-religious belief in the public square without establishing one or the other? Again, it comes up time and time again in battles that take place in the courts. For an example, the statue of Satan being placed next to the Ten Commandments in a public square-how does a society do justice to both?

An aside: Satanism is most assuredly a belief system and so I would not say it is UNBELIEF, thus I think it would differ from atheism which seeks to be free OF religious experience. Concerning belief and non-belief though, how does a government seek to do justice to both of those?

At the moment, I’m reading, “Secular Government/Religious People” by Ira C. Lupu and Robert W. Tuttle

I can’t say much about the book because I’ve just gotten into it other than this:

In there, they argue that a “secular government” is not necessarily hostile to religion and establishes an official religion of secularism. Kuyperianism will tell you that in many respects the role of government is to act in a judicial manner between the differing spheres (something the authors recognize). A further implication of this separation of authorities (authorities here can mean the different religious authorities as well) is that government:

“…does not promote religious worship, oversee religious indoctrination, or exercise religious authority. Instead, that responsibility belongs solely to the people and their voluntary religious communities.”

That being the case then, my question is, can the public “space” be filled with religion or no religion? So coming back to our example of belief and non-belief in the public square, would it be the case of government, not endorsing any particular religion per-se, but by allowing religious belief in the public, is that not essentially a violation of government backed religion? Would it violate the rights of those with “no religion?”

The authors as far as I can tell may get into this question but for now they say that each side:

“…ignores half of the “Constitution’s distinctive way of connecting secular government and religious people.”

That is,

“One group exalts the secularity of the state but dismisses the religious character of the people, and the government’s legitimate responsiveness to that character. The other group denies the distinction between the government and the people, and expects the government to mirror and celebrate the community’s (usually the majority’s) religious identity.”

For me, at this point, “no-religion” IS religion. It IS religious. That to me seems to be an important question I hope the authors address. For there really is no violation of establishment of religion when all is religious. If the character of the people is religious, as the authors say, then atheist or theist, a government is ultimately going to violate, at a fundamental level, one party’s religion.


Yeah…Jesus Didn’t Condemn Having Wealth and Resources

I saw two pieces on Facebook about five days ago about the top 1% of the richest in the US. The first was by fiscal Marxist David Fitch a professor of theology at Northern Seminary 🙂. I kid, I kid…you can see that article here.

The other was by my Facebook friend, Dwayne Polk, whom for purposes of credentials worked for Greg Boyd and is a graduate of ORU (Oral Roberts University) in theology. Here is what he posted:

“If I were President, Id just make a public call to the 1% to help *personally* fund the things we cant get past Congress that are needed. I mean, go straight to them. And on television. Social media. All that. Call out names. And id appeal to them as Americans and Americans OF FAITH and talk about the Golden Rule…and Loving the Neighbor as Oneself. I would put overt pressure on them to help the American people in a failing governmental system.

But thats just me.”

Eric Reitan, a professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University had this to say:

“And then realize that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk both have well over 100 billion in personal wealth. Making $100k a year without taxes and it would take you a *million years* to achieve that level of wealth. Or invert it: Elon Musk could spend $1 million a year on his own pleasure (meaning about $950,000 a year on mere luxuries) and it would take him a hundred thousand years to exhaust his wealth–and he’s unlikely to live more than 40 more years. While money does add to happiness in the sense of ensuring needs are met, lifting away anxiety, enabling one to pursue meaningful activities and develop talents, and providing resources for sustaining meaningful relationships, the amount needed for this falls well short of a million a year. Meaning if Bezos gave away to those in need 99.99% of his personal wealth, he’d be left with far more than the maximum wealth required for optimal human happiness (and might be more likely to be able to access the other necessary conditions for true happiness, such as the cultivation of benevolence).”

Now, let me start off saying this.

A. Christians should struggle with their wealth and riches INTERNALLY. However, most of what passes for critical self (or otherwise ie., Christian community as a whole) is negative. It sees it FIRST in terms of what is said in the quotes above or, to put those quotes another way, it sees wealth and riches and capitalism in general, in terms of exploitation, or class warfare or oppression.

B. I’m a believer in “free markets” as far as markets are free. What I mean by that is not that a society can’t have government regulation, (I am not wholly put off by the government regulating when it should. This is really not much different than what Roger Scruton talks about when he spoke at his website about the environment. That is, for an example, if a private company spills waste into a river and pollutes it, it should bear the brunt of the costs of what it has done. This is only proper from a conservative point of view because at a base instinctual level one should care about the community to which they are attached to. However, this doesn’t rule out government intervention if need be. You can read Roger Scruton’s post here) but rather the market itself is very much one sided in terms of corporate pressure in marketing of said product(s) ie., as Cavanaugh asks, “When is the market free? How can we judge when any particular transaction is free?” Freedom isn’t merely negative ie., freedom from coercion (as Milton Friedman would have us believe).

Here’s my main point though that I posted to Facebook of which I think really get’s to the some of the assumptions that guys like my Dwayne and Eric Reitan are working with.

From Facebook:

“I’m not a full fledged libertarian, though I do think libertarianism makes some valid points, especially as it concerns economic inequalities. I mean there is this sin called, “envy” and it rears its ugly head in more ways than one—not just between individuals but between those who say they are advocating for the poor by criticizing those who have resources (which, for me, is quite a relative measure ie., one can complain about Bezos EXTRA BILLIONS that could go to the poor, which I’ve seen done even this week on FB, but those same folks have extra that they don’t need either and when you consider all us middle to upper-middle folks whom have “more than we need” then I wonder why there is no complaints or voluntary giving of THEIR over-and-above resources of which no one can really say what that amount should be). Anyhoo, most of what passes for “critical self-analysis” is negative in nature, as if there is nothing positive to ownership of wealth and resources. It is ASSUMED, as pointed out in question 40 in the book, that there is a connection between those who have wealth and those who don’t when in reality the problem isn’t Bezos’ billions but personal and social/governmental complexities.”

And then I go on to quote from the book mentioned above:

“38. What about the inequalities that capitalism creates? Economic inequality has always existed wherever there have been economies. In pre-capitalist days, having wealth often (but not always) entailed exploiting others who then remained poor. This is one reason we see so many admonitions against wealth in the Bible. It is also why many early church leaders and theologians decry wealth. It is only recently that being wealthy has not been associated with unjust acquisition of wealth but instead with the indication that mutually beneficial trade is occurring. Under free market capitalism, wealth must be obtained by effectively and efficiently providing value to others in exchange for their money. Whenever inequality indicates that the few are exploiting others and leaving them worse off, we should stand against it. But under conditions where everyone is better off and some are “more better off,” we can appreciate, if not applaud, the gains through exchange. Christians are often concerned about the well-being of others, yet it is all too common that concern over inequality is not about the wellbeing of those with less but a suppressed envy that arises because of perceived reasons behind the injustice. We must be mindful that we are not suppressing our envy when we advocate for the wellbeing of others. All too often the concern over inequality is not about the wellbeing of those with less but the perceived reason behind the perceived injustice. For example, while the purchasing power of the average worker’s wages has improved dramatically for several decades, the top I% have seen even greater gains. Many have pointed out that this is the reason to institute redistributive schemes to rectify the perceived injustice of inequality, even though everyone has gained financially (see Question 40).”—Faith Seeking Freedom: Libertarian Christian Answers To Tough Questions

And of course, Jesus NEVER condemned those who were wealthy but those who were wealthy by ill-gotten means or by exploiting others.


Divisions, Divisions, Divisions!!!

Some years ago I picked up a couple of books, one put out by Randall L. Frame and Alan Tharpe entitled, “How Right is the Right?” and one by Ronald Nash, entitled, “Why the Left is Not Right”

Even in today’s political climate these books are still a relevant read as they both critically expound on the positions of their opponents views (as well as their own) which have not changed since the time they were written (though some political situations have changed). One may try to package things differently and or say it slightly afresh today (we see this with regard to Marxist class theory from the working class to “identity politics” ie., the working class based butt hurt has shifted towards the sexual arena or racism) and yes, in some cases, the intent to do this is to deceive those who are not aware that these ideas have been around for quite some time now (the younger folk). Why they would do so has to do with political power. That is, they would like to get their way enshrined not only in law but the minds of the aforementioned un-informed or the gullible (which can impact law).

For me, one of the most important ideas that I understood, prior to ever reading it in Nash’s book, was that it is not that both Left and Right wing Christians don’t love their neighbour but that they both have different solutions or answers to social and political problems that exist in society. It really is a sad state of affairs that uncivilized national discourse has crept into the Christian community as a whole where one or both sides is either claiming who is loving as Jesus did or claims God’s answer to a particular social ill is “the Christian response.” One use to see this from the right back in the day but now one sees it from the left. This is not to make a judgment on the rightness or wrongness of left/right policy positions but rather to mention the bad faith between Christian brothers and sisters.

So politics divides Christians.

(As an aside, I’m OK with that, for I’ve usually been comfortable with tribalism. Tribalism in the Church, in politics and in society. I’m not completely against openness to other people, groups, nations, churches, etc, as long as others are open to each other “naturally,” (James Kalb) where the feeling is mutual and it is not forced whether by government or one another and where the goal is not to change the other. End of aside)

But to the point above, let me be a little more precise about the civil discourse (not so much the uncivilized aspect as much as the argument itself).

Basically it goes something like this:

Progressive Christian: Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Me: This is a broad neutral statement. For me the important question is, “What does this look like in the concrete reality of life?” If, say, we wanted to improve the economic standing of the poor (which is a loving thing to do), how would we do that? Would we do that via a socialist scheme or a free market capitalist one? The answer doesn’t reside in the raw theology of the Bible for the Bible is not a comprehensive economic guide. Like science. It doesn’t tell us which way to go on these things. It only gives us the raw data, broad neutral statement of “loving our neighbour.” We need to go “beyond the Bible” if you will to economic theory.

(As an aside, what I mean when I say the above concerns “full fledge” free-market capitalism as opposed to a simple base line one. That is, I believe the Bible does provide the “seeds” of a capitalist economic system, ie., ownership of property, free buying and selling of goods, etc, and not the seeds of a socialist one. For me, socialist interpretations of scripture are rather strained. End of aside)

That alone should be enough for us to bring up our level of discourse. The problem is not in theology. The problem is in reality. The “facts” if you will. What we have is basically two parties wedding economic theory to the Bible. Even if you wanted to say that the Bible supported a democratic socialism or socialism or communism (as we understand them today) one would still have to contend with the individual economic theories. Here is a quote by Ronald Nash on all of this:

Is There a Religious Left?

Why Should We Care

Years ago, I supposed conservative Christians would have been surprised—even shocked—that self-professed evangelicals were supporting and even actively promoting liberal causes But those were the days when evangelicals—better known as fundamentalists—separated themselves from societal affairs at large. On still encounters people like this. But most evangelicals themselves care deeply about what is happening in America’s schools, government, and abortion clinics. They also care about racial justice, the environment, the poor, the elderly, and the homeless. As indicated by the charities they support, they also care about poor, sick, and starving people in other nations. For most of my lifetime, liberals have been telling this nation that caring in these ways **must translate**into voting for liberal politicians and supporting liberal social policies. The evangelical liberals have been part of this liberal establishment. But I contend that liberalism is an exercise in fraud and deceit. The more than five trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money the federal government spent in the vain hope that it would put an end to poverty in America did not simply fall short of the goal. It actually made the situation worse. We now have more poor people in the United States than there were before the start of the War on Poverty pr-grams in the mid-sixties—and they are also worse off today. Some in the evangelical Left now tell us they no longer support the liberal welfare state. They admit that it has failed, and they propose to provide new leadership and direction in the next decade. The past record of these people needs to be known so we can better judge their claims about the present and their promises for the future. Why do they attack evangelical conservatives? What do they believe? Are they really centrists, and if not, why do they claim they are.

A WORD ABOUT RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVES

The secular and religious Left find it convenient to demonize politically conservative Christians. It is true that many evangelicals were unconscionably inattentive thirty or forty years ago; of course, the world was a different place back then.

Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., observes:

It is strange that twentieth-century evangelical Christian, would have ever needed to be convinced that they should be concerned about social problems. Many of their spiritual forebears always were. Their compassion and fervor animated the campaigns against the slave trade and child labor in England and, one could argue, was the basis of most reform initiatives of the early nineteenth century. The claims that the faith of American Christians should always be an intensely private affair between the individual and Cod would have been news to such diverse persons as the Pilgrims, from John Winthrop to Jonathan Edwards, Abraham Lincoln and the abolitionists of slavery.

Whatever their shortcomings may have been back then, Michael Cromartie observes, “Evangelicals of every perspective no longer need convincing that political and social concern is an important part of Christian discipleship. It is a settled issue that `the least of these’ among us should be treated with both charity and justice. The debates now revolve around prudential questions regarding which policies are in fact the most effective in meeting the normative standards of justice.” The members of the evangelical Left are wrong to claim that they hold the monopoly on concern for peace and justice. The more central issue for evangelicals today is what those terms mean. The evangelical Left has appeared to some to have simply assumed the standard liberal understanding of the words and then discredited anyone (including their politically conservative brethren) who understood the terms differently and who pursued the objectives of peace and justice in a different way. There is no evidence to support liberal insinuations that being a conservative entails opposition to racial and social justice means being unconcerned about unjust social structures. What the Left does is simply assume, for example, that concern for poverty **must manifest itself in unqualified support for misguided liberal social programs.** They simply take it for granted that concern for racial justice **must translate into support for so-called Affirmative Action programs** that turn out to be exercises in reverse discrimination. It is time to strip away the false front that the evangelical Left has hidden behind and see what they really stand for.”

This is a most important point that colours everything you read in these volumes and for me personally, it colours my view of politics as a whole. Even if one were to disagree, why the name calling or ad hominem, especially from Christians is beyond me. For all they are really doing, it seems to me, is arguing over political philosophy not theology. And it is the theology that holds them together as brothers and sisters.


McCarthyism and Truth

Back in the day (1940-1950’s) there use to be political concern (more like hysteria?) about communists and communism in America. It was known as McCarthyism, named after Joseph McCarthy.

Under McCarthyism there was a:

heightened political repression and a campaign spreading fear of communist influence on American institutions and of espionage by Soviet agents. (From the Wikipedia page above under McCarthyism)

McCarthyism would spread over into the TV and Hollywood worlds as it was a political witch-hunt for communist and communist influence in America and what better way to influence America but through these channels.

Today, McCarthyism is pretty much all but forgotten except for by some liberals who mostly want to remind conservatives that witch hunts always get out of hand and are silly fear-mongering. (Personally, I think it would make for some great tv or film via the likes of Steven Spielberg).

Regardless, whatever one thinks of this “red scare,” one thing I think we as a society can learn from McCarthyism is this.

Whether we are looking for Communism, Marxism, socialism, jihadism, “Islamism,” or whatever “ism,” we should not lie about our neighbour. We should be smart and accurate about these ideologies or evil “isms” because to not do so hurts what one is trying to TRUTHFULLY SAY about these things. One discredits themselves when they OVERSTATE the case. Kinda like how some folks see racism everywhere or under every rock.

Lastly, however, this should also tell us something else. That something else is this. We should not deny the fact that McCarthy was. on. to. SOMETHING. It is not to deny that among the excesses there was something TRUTHFUL in his hunt. Let’s face it, Hollywood, at the time, was shot through and through with communists and communist sympathizers. It is this that seems to be a point that behooves those moderns who write off McCarthyism.


The Billy Graham Rule

I want to talk about this issue of men and women and what has come to be known as the “Billy Graham Rule.” Most of the pushback by progressives and libertarians has been mostly of two strands.

1. Women won’t have access to powerful men.

2. It reduces women to sexual temptations. Related to this is something that Cathy Young brought up and that has to do with stunting interactions and relationships between the sexes, which of course, has to do with adhering to “social distancing” to use today’s vernacular.

You can see some of those points made in the links, here, here and here.

In response to this, I like like to listen and heed the moral wisdom of others who have come before us which seems linguistically speaking, is counter to the cultural speak that infuses psychology to the point of undermining morality.

Yesterday, I was listening to a radio show in which a lady called to say that she thinks her husband was cheating on her (she thinks it’s happened on more than one occasion) and where the host makes an exceptional point. It went like this:

The caller: I have a little bit of a marital issue going on. This happened last night. The second incident where my husband sometimes travels for work and there is a co-worker that lives out of state that goes on these trips (with her husband to Tahiti?) The first time it happened was about 10 months ago. It happened again last night.
Host: Can you tell me what happened? You keep saying it happened, it happened. What happened?
Caller: They go out drinking, schmoozing, dinner.
Host: Who is THEY?
Caller: My husband and his co-worker who is a female. And they ended up continuing to go to bars and stuff and they close the bars down and he ended up spending the night at her home and he is saying, nothing happened and nothing would ever happen. I’m struggling because….
Host: OK, do you know anything about Judaism?
Caller: No.
Host: They have a million rules. 632. If you’re Christian, you guys have got 10. You know. So never whine. One of the 632 rules is that you are not supposed to do anything that looks like you are doing something wrong because it influences others in a negative way. That’s an interesting rule. And the story goes like this:
A rabbi on Saturday (and Saturday is the holy day if you are a Jew, you’re not suppose to shop, etc, even cut up toilet paper, I mean no work, OK? But you can walk)! So this Orthodox Jew is walking by this bakery and his friend is in the bakery and his friend is not Jewish and his friend says, “Come on in! Come on in!” The rabbi wouldn’t go in! The guy came out and said, “Why don’t you just come in?” (The rabbi says) “Cause I can’t give the IMPRESSION that I’m doing something wrong. Because I’m a role model, as a rabbi, as a Jew, as a man, as a father, as a husband. I’m a role model to people walking up and down the streets who wonder what a Jew is. I’m a role model! Constantly!”
And whether you’re Jewish or not, that’s true! Everything we do is role modelling. This goes for everybody. Which is why a lot of very famous people who are very religious, like Billy Graham for example and other people and military and…I was going to say politics but I don’t know if that exists anymore but…will never be in the room with the opposite sex without a door open or somebody else there. Because:
  • A. They don’t want temptation.
  • B. Misrepresentation.
  • C. Role modelling.
So what your husband has been doing is extremely wrong, it’s counter-productive to…it’s, it’s…it spits on the vows, it’s disrespectful to you and to the marriage. What you are going to do about this, I have no clue. But what he is doing, is terribly wrong whether he humped her or not.
Caller: Correct. And that’s how I feel about it.
Host: I’m not talking about your feelings at all. I can guess that you’re hurt. That’s a feeling. But we don’t feel facts. We know them. And the fact is, a loving responsible man who is married does not behave like this. He disrespects you. He disrespects the vows. Pretty self-centered and probably has a drinking problem. So when you put that all together, I don’t know what you are going to do with it.
Caller: I don’t know either.
Host: Can’t tell you that.
Caller: (sobbing) OK.
Host: But that wouldn’t happen on my turf.
Caller: (sobbing) Agreed. Thank you.
Host: And I’m very sorry. Hate to hear you hurt like that by somebody who made vows, to love, to honour and to cherish you. Certainly isn’t following those. I’m sorry.

Why is this problematic for women connecting to men in power? People like Pence or Billy Graham did NOT say they would never meet with women. They said they would not be ALONE with them. So, for example, if there was a need to meet with the second most powerful man in the world, how is that a problem? He could meet during business hours with other people present, or cameras, etc. It really is a straw man argument. For radical leftist feminists to make the argument that it reduces women to sexual temptations for men is disingenuous in this era of #metoo and “all men are potential rapists.” Lastly, I fail to see how men and women in the work place or outside of it fail to have flourishing interactions between themselves when there are numerous occasions to do so (even in situations where they are not married but can be in the appropriate company of each other in a public place).


How Far Can We Take The Cruciform Model?

I’m reading Greg Boyd’s latest book, “Inspired Imperfection” at the moment. So far, I’m digging what he is saying. He gives a great analogy from the Indiana Jones movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” about what we would expect if a book claimed to be from a divine being—perfect. No mistakes. No errors. In the movie, Donovan, the leader of a Nazi group and Indiana Jones are on a quest to find the chalice that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper. They are told by a wise knight, whom is watching over the chalice among others chalices in the chamber where the chalice Christ drank from, that they should choose wisely for the proper one. For if they don’t choose the proper one, they will end up as a pile of ash.

Some of the chalices look eloquent and perfect. Some don’t. Donovan chooses the chalice he thinks Christ would have drank from. The chalice is one of the beautiful and eloquent ones. This one, he thinks, is one that is fit for a King. Christ would not have drank from one of those uglier, drab, crude ones. A KING wouldn’t do that! Donovan drinks from it in choosing which one he thinks was Christ’s. Poof! A pile of ash. He chose unwisely.

Indiana Jones chooses a more crude and ugly one. This is fit for a carpenter! He drinks from it and survives.

This greatly illustrates Boyd’s “Cruciform Model.” Basically, the cruciform model shows how God would have used weakness and ugliness and imperfection to accomplish his purposes. And this is a major theme or motif throughout Boyd’s works and frankly, is one that I would agree with concerning this question as it relates to the Bible. God can use imperfections to accomplish his will. You see this throughout most of the scriptures themselves. In Philippians Paul pretty much comes out and says exactly this Philippians 1:15-18. And so, God can use a Bible with imperfections.

My only pushback on Boyd’s cruciform model is that he seems to stretch it beyond where he should. In chapter 10, “The Foolish and Weak Bible” Boyd says,

“This brings us back to this fundamental point: if the cross reveals what God is truly like, it must be considered the quintessential expression of what God is like. **It must, therefore, also be considered the perfect expression of, rather than an exception to, the way God generally operates in the world, a point Paul confirms when he announces that the cross is the wisdom and power of God.**”

What is problematic about this is what this actually looks like in concrete situations. This seems to be the Achilles heel of the cruciform model. For Boyd, a cruciform model colours EVERYTHING down to the concrete examples. However, this is simply implying one’s bias. For example, what does the cruciform form look like in politics? Could it not look like a doctor who is about to perform surgery causing pain and suffering? Could not serving look ANYTHING like this? Could it not look like surgery including pain and suffering for the sake of a greater good, the cutting off of a leg to save the body? I have to admit that an emotionless doctor “who has to do what he has to do” doesn’t look very loving, serving or cruciform to me. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t.

This post is really not about the biblical questions PER SE but rather about the cruciform model and how far one is willing to take it. For Boyd, the cruciform model is persuasive (normally) which downplays any unilateral action on God’s part (the doctor analogy above). And for that, I think it should include this.


The Spirit/Body Unity-Connection to Communion with the Divine

I want to take another look at this issue of abortion, personhood and the self. Essentially, the concept that was conveyed in the last post was that bodily existence and the spirit or soul or some bodiless “I”/self are inter-connected. Where you see bodily existence you see the person. For me, it’s not like when you die you end up separating the two. When you are resurrected you are not resurrected without a body. To adhere to that is to adhere to Gnosticism in which the body is considered evil.

Here, I want to clear up some loose ends that could possibly arise with the personhood/body connection. The way I hope to accomplish this is via relying on the work of Christopher Veniamin’s little booklet, “Euthanasia: A Theological Approach.”

In this booklet Veniamin deals with euthanasia from an Orthodox perspective. In looking at A: the other end of life—in terms of euthanasia specifically (though euthanasia can occur at pretty much any time) and B: communion with God, I think it will make the grounding for prenatal life (theologically) more clearer. In other words, understanding euthanasia from this biblical/theological perspective helps to get a clearer understanding of abortion and the self and the human person from this end of life. Ironically, this post won’t be talking about euthanasia per se but rather using it as the framework for this matter. I happen to think that abortion and euthanasia are two sides of the same coin with regard to personhood. For if one believes that the moment of conception (the very beginning of bodily existence)—at the zygote and embryo stages that all that is there is a clump of cells and there is no brain activity or consciousness then that works at the other end of life as well.

For an example, Veniamin’s book uses the Terri Schiavo case to make his point. Why preserve someone’s life who is in a vegetative state both physically and mentally?

Veniamin thinks that western theology has been found wanting when it comes to these moral dilemmas. He says:

“…the divorce between doctrine and ethics, between faith and the life in Christ, which in turn stems from the fact that when applied to practical, every-day, ethical or moral situations, western theology is sadly found wanting.“

I think I have to agree with him. As much as I appreciate natural law (and I DO appreciate natural law) it only goes so far. To argue that our essence is human like an oak tree is “oaky” doesn’t tell me anything beyond that as to why I should preserve a human life. It seems all it tells me is that one is human from the moment of conception and hence I end up with speciesism.

Don’t get me wrong. I follow that logic and I agree with it. One is human from the moment of conception. But why preserve a human being? What makes them so special that I should preserve them? I need something deeper. Something that goes further than speciesism and this is where, I think, the Orthodox perspective contributes a response.

In my opinion, a response can only be grounded in theology or a theological metaphysic of the human person or the relationship of the created to the Divine. This was a complaint concerning Francis Beckwith’s book, “Defending Life,”—that it didn’t cover the theological angle—though I understand that was not the stated purpose of his book as the cover and title shows.

Having said that, Veniamin doesn’t want to reduce relationship or interactions to the mind or the physical. He is critical of Augustine’s “image of God” as being primarily rational. As it regards the eternal (the Godhead) there is no discernible organic body. To quote Veniamin:

“The human person, consequently, is seen and defined as the sum of its relationships and inter-actions, which is why, in respect to our earthly existence, such emphasis is placed on “doing”, and why, on the eternal plane, we are seen primarily as spirits or minds, either beholding God’s substance intellectually from a distance (as in the Roman Catholic tradition), or simply enjoying “fellowship” with God (as in the various Protestant traditions). But again, both of these views are understood rationally in terms principally of the mind.”

What Veniamin says is that with such an emphasis on the mind and on the rational there is an

“…absence of the level of communion with God on the level of the Uncreated, which surpasses both reason and mind, and which, in Orthodox theology, refers to the level of deification, the level of glorificatio or theosis.”

In the case of Terri Schiavo:

“…the startling fact is that once Terri Schiavo had become incapacitated in her faculty of reason she ceased to be regarded as a person possessing the capacity for communion, and was subsequently never treated as one still capable of enjoying a personal relationship with other human beings in this life; and even more startling, as one still capable of enjoying a full and perfect communion with God.”

In the Godhead, the unity of God consists in communion. In the case of human beings the unity of the spirit and the body is NOT

“…as a coming together of two distinct elements merely for the duration of earthly life–but as a unity from the beginning of human existence, intended to continue into eternity, and beyond.”

Now why is this important? It’s important because we COMMUNE WITH GOD IN THE WHOLENESS OF OUR EXISTENCE whether we are incapacitated or not.

Veniamin on St. Maximus the Confessor:

“In 1 Thess. 5: 23, Saint Paul adds the “spiritual” dimension, which underlines the fact that the human person is not a person in the fullest and truest sense unless he or she is in communion with God: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and **body** be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is an important point to grasp or understand. Veniamin again:

“Thus, the human person, created in the image of God, is only fully and properly such as a member of Christ’s Body, and our communion with God **involves the body (soma)**, the soul (psyche) and the spirit (pneuma). The emphasis, therefore, is on the human person’s communion with God **on every level of existence: the physical, that of the soul, and also that of the spirit. Human existence is embraced in its entirety;** it is healed, sanctified and transfigured in God, and at the same time, the union of the created with the Uncreated signifies a transcendence, that is to say, the raising of the human person to the right hand of God the Father (cf. Ascension), which means above and beyond necessity and all the limitations of created existence.”

Interestingly, as a side note, we are not saved as individuals but as the whole body of Christ. We are saved via communion with Christ and SIMULTANEOUSLY through communion with one another. Veniamin quotes 1 Corinthians 12: 25–27, where he explains that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member be honoured (the Greek, in fact, reads doxazetai, “is glorified”), all the members rejoice with it.

This communion (with each other) can only be accomplished through bodily existence.

Veniamin finishes with this:

“As mentioned earlier, in the Orthodox tradition we have three levels of existence, three aspects which come together in man qua man, that is to say, when the person is what he or she has been created to be, namely, in communion with God on the physical plane, on that of the rational soul, and also on that of the spiritual or pneumatological level of existence (1 Cor. 12:25-26). Thus, there is the level of reason, the level of the nous, and the level of perfect union and communion in Christ, which both includes and goes beyond the other two. The amazing thing about this schema is that the body is included on all levels of personal existence. Now I realize that there is much more that could be said on this question, as also on other related question that I have not even touched upon. But since my intention is merely to point to certain oftentimes neglected considerations, allow me to conclude these brief remarks on the question of Euthanasia, by stressing that communion with God and one’s fellow human beings cannot be measured either by how physically active we are or by what an Electroencephalogram (EEG) is able to detect, however sophisticated. For this reason, it is of vital importance for us as a society to be mindful of the fact that communion with God and our neighbour is a state that at one and the same time includes and goes far beyond every aspect of our created nature: beyond, therefore, the physical aspects of our existence, beyond the rational or reasonable aspects of our existence, and even beyond the noetic or intellectual aspects of the God-like human mind itself.”

For me, this means that even if you were to have an zygote or an embryo that is not conscious or have any situational awareness as one might have with a Terri Schiavo type person that is not to say that said person cannot be in communion with God. There is a communion in the spiritual/body inseparable unity that goes beyond mind or physical functionality.


Abortion, Personhood and the Self

So I was essentially banned off of Facebook for a month for a meme I posted I don’t remember when. Anyhoo…I was able to read my feed and because of the Alabama signing of restrictive abortion laws I read what a friend of mine (my buddy Dwayne Polk from An Open Orthodoxy [on WordPress]) wrote about abortion among other posts by others. He adheres more or less to a gradualist position regarding the unborn. That is, at some point, (not conception) one becomes a full-fledged member of the human race. I don’t adhere to that. As a matter of fact I think Dwayne completely contradicts himself given his beliefs concerning the “self” and embodiment. Dwayne doesn’t think there is a “core” being called the self that exists through time. On this I agree with him. But partly because of his gradualist position and his ideas about the self he can justify abortion at least until brain activity or pain receptors start kicking in.

But there’s the rub. One doesn’t have to believe in a self that exists through time to believe in personhood. All one has to believe in is bodily existence. And when does bodily existence begin? Conception. And THAT is ALL you need. When you see bodily existence you see human personhood. You can’t separate the two.

Back in ‘98 I came across a book on the web entitled, “Abortion & the Xian.” I don’t remember who it was written by but I printed off Chapter 4 titled, “What Does the Bible Say?” I won’t post the full chapter but I’ll post about a page and a half because it deals specifically with this question.

“Man as Animated Flesh

The relation of the physical and spiritual aspects of man’s nature is very relevant to the status of the unborn before God. [24]The older questions concerning the time of ensoulment and whether the child receives his soul from his parents (traducianism) or by the immediate creative activity of God (creationism) have their secular counterparts in the contemporary abortion debate. They now reappear as questions about the time at which the unborn child becomes a “person,” whether at conception, implantation, formation of the cerebral cortex, “quickening,” viability, or birth.[25] All but the first of these suggestions, conception, separate to some degree personhood from biologically human existence. They suggest a dualistic understanding of man that has more kinship with Greek and certain modern European philosophies than with the biblical outlook. For Plato, the body was the prison house of the soul. Aristotle’s theory of ensoulment postulated a developing sequence of nutritive, sensitive, and rational souls, the latter being infused at the fortieth day in the case of a male and at the eightieth day in the case of a female. Descartes’ distinction of “thinking substances” and “extended substances” as applied to man has led to the impasse of a mind-body dualism that has plagued modern philosophy for centuries. Modern thought is still haunted by dualistic and mechanistic images of man.

All such dualisms are fundamentally foreign to the biblical outlook. As John A.T. Robinson has observed, in Old Testament theology, “Man does not have a body, he is a body. He is flesh-animated-by-soul, the whole conceived as a psycho-physical unity.”[26] Similarly, Edmond Jacob states that, in Old Testament anthropology, “Man is always seen in his totality, which is quickened by a unitary life. The unity of human nature is not expressed by the antithetical concepts of body and soul but by the complementary and inseparable concepts of body and life.”[27] The essence of human personality is not man’s spiritual or intellectual capacities in distinction from his “lower” physical nature. The Greek tendency to deprecate the body and to disassociate it from man’s personality conflicts with biblical thought. Man’s flesh (basar) and his soul (nephesh) are not dichotomized entities thrown together in accidental association, but are complementary aspects of a unified psychomatic being. Man as a whole can be characterized as either basar or nephesh. Both biblical terms express his total creaturely dependence on God in all the aspects of his existence. The Old Testament’s unitary conception of man is also a key to understanding man as the imago Dei. Recent Old Testament scholarship has shown a concern to correct previous tendencies to exclude man’s body as a legitimate expression of the imago. As Gerhard von Rad comments, the image (tselem) and likeness demuth) “refer to the whole man and do not relate solely to his spiritual and intellectual being. “[28] Though man’s intellectual, moral, and spiritual capacitites are of course crucial, the image of God extends beyond them, to his total existence as a psycho-physical unity. Such a view provides an adequate framework for understanding a text like Genesis 5:3, which describes the seminal transmission of the image from Adam to his son Seth. If the imago were restricted to man’s conscious mental capacities, it would be difficult to understand how such a statement could be meaningful. In terms of the more holistic understanding of man found in the Bible, however, such a text points to the transcendent value and dignity conferred on man from the very first moments of his bodily existence.

The New Testament anthropology presupposes and builds on the Old Testament view of man as a psychosomatic unity. There is no dualism of body and spirit, not even in Paul’s prominent contrast between “flesh” (sarx) and “spirit” (pneuma). [29] That is made clear by such texts as Romans 8:6, where Paul speaks of the mind of the flesh; 1 Corinthinians 3:3, where carnality is associated with jealousy and envy; and Galatians 5:19ff., where the “works of the flesh” include idolatry, sorcery, and envy. The body in Pauline thought is not merely the external casing of the real, inner man, but rather the man himself considered in a certain mode of his existence. [30] Paul exhorts the Roman Christians, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service” (Rom.12:1). In dealing with antinomian tendencies in Corinth that tended to dichotomize the life of the body and one’s relationship to Christ, Paul reminded the church that the body was not for immorality, but for the Lord (1 Cor. 6:13). The believer serves the Lord with his entire being. Instead of being of lesser worth than the spiritual self, the body is in fact a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), and the believer is to glorify God in his body (1 Cor. 6:20). Thus the Old Testament revelation of man’s dignity as the imago Dei is deepened and enriched by the New Testament portrayal of the believer’s body.

The biblical conceptions of the goodness of human bodily life and man’s essential unity should make us very suspicious of attempts to restrict human personhood — and hence moral and legal protection to those among whom man’s “higher,” rational capacities are evident. Man is to be valued not merely as a “thinking substance,” but as the bearer of the transcendent image of God — an image that includes the bodily aspects of life. In biblical thought, man’s “personal” life is not separated from his bodily life. He is animated flesh, and where there is animated human flesh, there man is. Consequently, this consideration of the biblical understanding of man as a psycho-physical unity, again leads us to question approaches that define personhood in purely mental or psychological terms.”


Eric Reitan’s, “The Triumph of Love: Same-Sex Marriage and the Christian Love Ethic: Some Initial Thoughts

I’m in the middle of reading Eric Reitan’s book, “The Triumph of Love: Same-Sex Marriage and the Christian Love Ethic” Chapter 5, “Homosexuality, Mental Health, and the Good of Children.”

Obviously, I will only write about what I’ve read so far. Essentially, (and I’m going with the gist of what I’ve read OVERALL) Reitan is making the argument against the more strict argument that it is not realistic to expect people to hold off on their sex lives as well as the argument from stigmatization. The Christian love ethic, Reitan says, requires that we seek the good of others and when you stigmatize and foist upon people such a stringent moral code you hurt them.

There is much to commend in terms of stigmatization that Reitan speaks about. Obviously, Christians should not stigmatize gay people. This is a basic teaching Churches of all persuasions and denominations would, I think, for the most part agree with, except for your Fred Phelps and some fundie types.

However, Reitan wants to go further than the stigmatization that I’m suggesting here. He wants to go so far as to say that homosexual orientation and acts are not sin (after all, that is why he is arguing for SS intimacy and SSM). To suggest this is in itself stigmatization. I find this problematic.

Reitan doesn’t draw a clear line or clearer line than I’d like between the Church and the world.

The formula I have in mind (principled pluralism) looks like this of which the rest of this post will be how it works out.

1. The World
2. The Church (organic and institutional)
3. Christian should not obliterate all sin and should live side by side with it (this doesn’t mean arbitrarily changing reality).
4. The sinful things of the world should not be obliterated (this means SS intimacy/friendships/”SSM” can exist (in quotes as will be explained below).
5. Churches (institutional) are diverse and exist as such, in part, because of theological reasons (theological consciences). Churches have rules, moral codes, codes of conduct, etc.

For Starters—the Church
I want to make two intial points.

First, I come from the position that our sexuality can manifest itself in sexually inappropriate ways. Heterosexuality can be JUST AS sinful as homosexuality. There are desires and urges and drives on both the homosexual and heterosexual dichotomy spectrum that are inappropriate from a Christian moral standpoint.

Second, I want to inject pastor Greg Boyd into this to make a wider point. Boyd has held for YEARS that homosexuality and SSM are sin. However, he argues that the Church should allow it because God accommodates sin, ie., divorce, divorce and remarriage, polygamy, etc. So my question (and wider point) is this: How does stigmatization (that Reitan talks about) work in this scenario? Say for example, all the people who disagreed with Boyd on this question, left his church like they did when he came out with his Anabaptist views on government such that all you have left are people who agree with his views. Now, say you have a gay couple who are married coming to his church. On the one hand, he obviously allows for it. However, on the other hand, he still holds that it is sin. Reitan, I presume, would stand outside of his church and protest like he did with Village Baptist Church in Oklahoma that he talks about in the beginning of his book? How does one feel stigmatized in this situation exactly? If Boyd were to preach about this subject and still call it sin (though God would allow for it), would these folks be stigmatized? Yes, it’s a better situation than full all out condemnation and stigmatization where they are not even allowed in the church, but by having the very sentiment of calling it sin, according to Reitan, Greg would essentially be unwelcoming and stigmatizing. Greg certainly could not hold to his theological position or his theological conscience.

A less hard line/strict conservative position, ALLOWS for people to be gay and have SS relationships AND for people to hold to their religious convictions. Ultimately, it seems to me, that the problem has to do with pluralism (which is usually the case).

In chapter 3, Reitan tells the story of Village Baptist Church and a fellow named “Don” in which Don had protested in front of the Village Baptist Church. One day Don and a blind friend “decide to worship with” the folks at Village Baptist Church. Don, at one point during the service, stands up and tells everyone how he is gay and proud of it and are quickly ushered out of the church. Don attempts to speak to one of the men where the man tells him that the pastor is entitled to his beliefs.

This is an important point for the pluralism I’m talking about. Reitan wants to change Village Baptist Church’s view of homosexuality as he finds this harmful and stigmatizing. What he seems to do is put the importance of their beliefs and religious conscience on the back burner. THAT’S not as important as how we treat people. However, imagined if the pastor of Village Baptist Church went to Reitan’s church and tried to force his beliefs on him and his congregation. Would there not actually be damage done to those who believe otherwise? We’re not talking about cognitive dissonance here. We are talking about having someone attempting to foist their beliefs on others. True love–agape love–the Christian love ethic allows for people to not be force to believe what you believe or want them to believe. It allows for others to come to a place of their own decision making. It allows for them to grow naturally. This is one reason, fundamentalism is problematic and people have left these churches and those teachings and beliefs behind. Think of this with regard to children. You set the moral/theological horizon but eventually, you have to allow them to find their own way with hopefully that horizon in view.

Furthermore, everything passes through my principled pluralism grid of understanding of these and other issues. For example, I don’t believe the government has a right to tell anyone what to believe. It should allow for people to have their own consciences about matters, religious or otherwise. Thus, (and this is Skillenesque here) if a Church wants to believe that homosexuality is a gift and blessing, the government should not dictate the theological consciences of individuals or churches that believe such. By extension, neither should one church say to another church, “Hey! You believe this and this or this and that!” So, in reality, you can have churches that have theological beliefs that are welcoming and affirming and not stigmatizing gay people on ANY level ie., such as the belief that homosexuality or orientation or SSM is sin ie., Greg Boyd’s stance. People can go to these churches and enjoy fellowship and peace and love.

The Church in its organic form can be very diverse (I’ll leave judgment as to whether liberal or progressive churches are Christian for I’m speaking about pluralism at this point) but in that diversity she also exists in institutional form with boundaries, teachings, doctrine, codes, rules of conduct and so on. Is it any wonder that someone like David Gushee has started to talk about separation over this question? Maybe it’s come to that. Maybe this is or will be one of those things that separate and divide us–like baptism, salvation, communion, etc. That’s OK by my Kuyperian standards. I’m willing to let the chips fall where they may. Now does this mean that one church should not try to convince another or denomination convince another or a individual not convince another? Well, I think it’s OK to do that as long as there is MUTUAL DIALOGUE. In other words, there is a willingness to listen. But if that is not there, then it really isn’t going to get anywhere is it? Also, how would this tribalism play out in non-church settings? Could I attempt to persuade over social media where I interact with people of other traditions? Yes, but as long as it’s cordial. I could possibly change one’s tradition over time as the old guard moves out and the new guard moves in or it may have no affect. The Church changes to some extent and this is about that somewhat.

Reitan spoke about having the gift of celibacy. This is a question I remember talking with friends and our youth pastor about back in the 80’s and was reminded of again in an article from the, “Spiritual Friendship.” My belief is that there is no such thing as “the gift of celibacy” but rather that celibacy is a gift. And the Bible seems to look at it this way. Marriage is a gift. And singleness is a gift. It’s not some divine will power that over-rides sexual drives. We are all wired sexual beings such that even those who are celibate still have sexual drives. Paul is simply saying that when we are celibate, which can happen for a host of reasons we can view EVEN THAT as a gift.

Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen talks about the Kingdom of God as being like a box within a box. You have the Kingdom of which is the largest box and marriage and singleness are boxes WITHIN that box. So everything is relative to the larger box. Whatever station you find yourself in in life what are we supposed to be? Content. You can serve God in marriage and you can serve God in singleness. As a matter of fact being single may be the better of the two options because it gives you opportunities to serve God in ways that you can’t because you have to take care of your family responsibilities. And this brings me to my final related point…

The World (and the Church)
Reitan paints this dark picture of LONG defeat. It goes like this: “Conservatives say: You won’t be able to have intimate relationships for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. Heterosexuals have the opportunity but gay people are not allowed.” I don’t know if I can even call this a strict conservative view. If you frame it as Reitan does I guess you could say that it is. If sex is reserved for marriage and intimacy it should be reserved for the opposite sex and if homosexuality is immoral and wrong then that means that those who hold to this position are saying that gay people are exiled to a sexual Siberia of sorts. Whenever I hear this, I picture closeted gay people sitting in conservative churches loathing their lives while the rest of the congregation get to enjoy their relationships–sex and the whole romantic intimacy and all that fun stuff.But there are several problems with this. We go back to the world and the Church delineation. When you look at the actual sex lives of people you come up with a picture that looks quite different. For example, people “find themselves in a state of celibacy” (involuntarily). They may not want it, but that is what “their lot in life” has handed to them. Those are the cards they’ve been dealt. What do you do now? It’s not voluntary for them. Being in a relationship is not the same as buying clothes or changing your clothes for that matter. It is not something one easily enters into. I’ve always likened being in a good relationship to two things

  1.  Astrology
  2. Shooting arrows at a target.

With astrology, it’s LIKE the stars have to line up to before things work out to where you can say, “I think this is a good relationship. I think I could spend my life with this person.” Things like chemistry, status (from the same basic economic class), compatibility, religion, family, job, distance, and so forth have to be there. Obviously, some of these may be negotiable while others won’t. Liking relationships to shooting at a target is like shooting a bow many times before you hit the right one. In other words, you may go through a few relationships before you can say, “I think this is a good relationship. I think I could spend my life with this person.”

So what happens during the “in-between periods?” What if that in-between period is a LONG time? Perhaps months. Perhaps years. If it CAN be done for an unspecified amount of time, is it not possible that it can be done for life? What about where, in one’s senior years, one spouse has died and the other has to go on without them? I see this in-between period as an extension of the “long life” as a celibate. One is not living in the moment under this view of things.

Lastly, from the paradigm I’m working from, gay folks can establish intimate relationships and get “married” (marriage is in quotes as for a reason. It really is not a marriage on a conjugal/traditional view). This is really a legal point. Under the Constitution, people have the right to associate or not associate with others (marriage is another question). If gay folk want to attend a church which will bless their relationship and hold ceremonies where they “wed” or “marry” each other then both (individuals and church) are and should be free to do so (though the “marriage” would not be legally recognized via the law).

This allows for churches or companies such as bakeries or even private companies such as Hobby Lobby to not have to recognize these relationships as marriage (to hold to their own theological consciences). It allows for churches to hold their own theological teaching about SS relationships and allows them to perform ceremonies in which they could “marry” each other. Thus, gay people are not being denied having intimate relationships on both a religious front nor a societal front. Do I think gay relationships are a sin. Yes. (So does Greg Boyd). Do I believe gay relationships are less than what God’s ideal? Yes. Not God’s plan? Yes. I see them as being a form of friendship (Skillen). If they are this, then the least Christians on all sides could do is think about them in light of a dark, cold wasteland. We all need touch, and relationships and to be loved in a dark cruel world. Why would we deny ANYONE that no matter how far it falls short of God’s idea.

In summary,

  1. People are allow to form friendships and associations. The Constitution allows this.
  2. Churches can hold their own theological consciences and practices.
    This means:
  3. Gay folk can have intimate romantic relationships.
  4. Churches can “marry” (hold ceremonies) and hold theological beliefs where they practice and affirm and bless SS relationships.
  5. Other Churches will have their own theological consciences and rules, and moral codes of conduct which will be able to call certain practices sin, less than God’s ideal, falling short, etc.

If a person wants to feel accepted and not stigmatized by the community then they should go to Churches that accept them. At the end of the day, the stigmatization argument doesn’t hold much water on such a view.