Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Random Thoughts From My Last Two Posts

This has been an intense week since my last post. Several things have cause me to continue to reflect on what I’ve written in the last two blogs.

First, recalling a past conversation on a list serve on which I am a lurker. The idea being expressed by fellow pastors who share many of the same theological and biblical prejudices was that we Christians couldn’t make gay marriage a big issue because we would loose our “right” to talk to the younger generations who feel strongly about gay rights and equality. I think this is what concerns Rick Warren in his recent “about face” regarding his support for Prop 8 in California.

I suppose the answer came in a subsequent conversation with a colleague. “You won’t have a seat at the table by betraying what you believe,” he said. And I think he’s right on the money. Yes, the “young” are far more likely to embrace social license and call it equality. But the next generation also has no time or respect for those who betray what they believe in order to be hip. They’ll see right through those “Bible believing Christians” who are fudging on the issue of gay marriage and rightly call them hypocrites. I think we will do much better as stewards of the Gospel by being true to what we profess we believe, namely that the Bible is True and is the authority for us in how we are to live, if we stick to our guns and say about gay marriage, “It isn’t part of God’s design.” That is biblical truthful, faithful, and not hateful. It simply states what we believe.

Second, to back this up, a recent article in Leadership Journal caught my eye. In that article, a Muslim professor at a Christian Seminary (yes, you read that correctly) stated that in his experience, Christians frequently were willing to compromise their beliefs in order to prevent others from feeling “uncomfortable.” This is his response to that kind of behavior, which, in my opinion, has taken over the Church:

“If you enter a ministerial gathering as a Christian minister and downplay your Christian identity in an attempt to make everyone comfortable, as a Muslim leader, I’m immediately suspicious. I don’t trust you. Embracing your identity as a Christian creates safety for me to be Muslim.” - Eboo Patel, McCormick Theological Seminary and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core.

Patel goes on to remind Christians: “If you don’t use the Christian narrative to define reality for your people, then someone else will define reality for them with a different narrative.” This is most certainly true. We have allowed those proponents of gay marriage to define the entire debate in terms of “feelings” and not kept the debate centered around Jesus, who loves sinners but doesn’t leave them hostage to their sin.

Finally, a good conversation on FB with a great friend who is Roman Catholic. He follows my blog and has written the following in three or four different responses:

“I think it isn't so much re-defining (christian) marriage in light of the same sex stuff as it is reclaiming the original meaning. The (christian) Church was the arbiter of marriage until this power was ceded to the state. The state was, after all, more favorable to divorce than the Church. Call it the law of unintended consequences, 500 years on.

“Some might argue that this was (in part) the original motive of moving marriage from church authority to state authority (convenience). The state no longer recognizes the authority of Scripture. A democratic state is by nature interested in equal protection of its citizens. Seems to me this same sex stuff is only the natural outcome of transfering this authority to the state (which in addition to being arbiter of divorce includes the ability to define it). Perhaps the mistake on the part of some sects is in too closely identifying with state authority and too willingly cedeing authority over marriage to the state? The only way out I see is the theological way...

“I think the answer is theological. legal contracts don't make a marriage because it is a spiritual covenant - i.e., God is the third party, not the government. In short, because marriage is covenant and not a contract, government doesn't define it. God defines it. Government can only define a contract, not a covenant.

“We need a theology of marriage that is not dependent upon the civil contract. In Mexico (and all over Latin America), couples go to the courthouse the week before their church wedding to finalize their civil union, which can only be done before a civil judge. Interestingly, couples don't generally regard this as their wedding date. They regard the day of their church wedding is the start of their marriage. Marriage as Sacrament needs to be restored...a marriage begins when Jesus is invited into the relationship, not when the papers are signed because it is a covenant, not a contract.”

I argued in my previous blog that supporting gay marriage as a denomination means that we nullify Scripture. And as a Reformation Church that staked everything, including our identity, on the authority of Scripture, that leaves us with no reason to do mission because we have no Holy Book, no reason to exist. Without Scripture, as a Reformation Church, we have no reasonable basis on which to base our identity. If we can pick and choose what we like and don’t like about Scripture, then that means that we can pick and choose what is true and what isn’t, and if that’s the case, there is no reason to believe that Jesus was right when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

My dear Catholic friend responds from the heart of his tradition, which, unlike my own, gives equal standing to the tradition of the church along with Scripture. He writes, “Losing the Authority of Scripture is a particularly difficult problem where tradition has no authority. I see the "slippery slope" argument here. What else is left?”

Indeed. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

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