A commenter’s concern……

Matthew, a commenter, shared his concern for the emergent church in the comments of my previous post. He also expressed some concern for my personal beliefs and I thought I’d post some of his key points and respond as best I can.

“While I highly laud and personally embrace some of the emphases of the emergent church (the desire to interact culturally and the concern for social justice), the more I have been privy to the “conversation,” the more I am appaled by what I hear and feel. First of all, the general attitude and ethos, to stick with that term, seems to be overwhelmingly reactionary and cynical.”

I would like to point out that it’s interesting you cite the “reactionary and cynical” nature of those who resonate with the emergent ethos. I may be wrong but it seems you tend to use the weapon of cynicism with some regularity in your own comments. I will readily admit I’m not innocent of expressing cynicism and I appreciate your concern. I do hope it leads to me to mute my cynicism and sarcasm in future posts. But I hope you can see that your first concern about the emergent conversation is also prevalent on the conservative (for lack of a better term) side as well. I agree, cynicism is not constructive or helpful, but I hope you can agree that this problem is a two-way street and not just a problem on the emergent side

“The issue is more ex-evangelicals who are disenfranchised because of their personal experience and who will do whatever it takes to push the evangelical buttons, than people who know what they stand for. The intense vitriol towards other Christians who are conservative, right-wing, and modern is striking and saddening. The book of 1 John has reminded me lately, Zach, that hatred for the brotherhood is a sign that one does not have eternal life (or, to use synoptic gospel terms, has not entered the kingdom of God).”

Are you implying that I’ve expressed hatred for conservative Christians? Also, are you implying that you question my “salvation” because I’ve voiced frustration with the religious-right? This is a severely generalized statement. Some specific examples would be helpful.

“Further, I am troubled by the “Sola-Cultura” approach to Scripture. Though the emergent leaders claim to be aware of understanding the baggage one brings to the text (if I’m not mistaken, a-la NT Wright’s “critical realism” cf. Wright, The NT and the People of God, pp 31-46, among others (maybe Derrida and other deconstructionists)), they themselves actually approach the text with culture as the supreme authority.”

I’d love for you to provide some specific examples of those who are considered to be major influences in the emergent church who adhere to a “Sola-Cultura” approach to scripture. I’ve never heard that. Culture does have an influence, but I’ve never heard anyone emergent or not suggest that our cultural influence have inherent supremacy over the Biblical text.

“A case in point is your willingness to accept, without in-depth study, a stance that says homosexuality is acceptable, or at least a stance that says “I don’t know.” I know, at that point, you will say “I have studied.” I’m sorry, Zach, but as an even somewhat new student of the New Testament (I hate to pull this card), your reasoning and approach to the text is not sound. It becomes clear that the priority in your exegesis is maintaining a preconceived notion of what the Bible can or cannot be saying. This notion is based on 1.) acceptable cultural norms, and 2.) the so-called “hermeneutic of love,” which sounds unobjectionable but actually overemphasizes one of God’s attributes (love) as if he had no others (wrath, justice, etc).”

First, how do you have any idea how in-depth my study has been? Are you suggesting that if only I study the scripture more, I’ll agree with you? What arrogance and condescension you show here. Your asking me to be less cynical here but you’re not helping me with comments like this. If this will be your posture when trying to save the body of Christ from the emergent church, I’m not sure you’re going to have very much success.

“Please prayerfully and genuinely consult the Scriptures and allow them to speak their message clearly. Thanks again for allowing me to give input, but this will be my last interaction. I sincerely hope that you will turn from hard-heartedness and cynicism and especially from your approach to Scripture that superimposes what is culturally acceptable upon it.”

Your suggestion here assumes that I don’t already “prayerfully and genuinely consult the Scriptures”. Again, your tone here is so off-putting and condescending. Is it at all possible, Matthew, that people who believe differently than you about the Bible also prayerfully and honestly seek God’s direction? Reading this comment of yours, I’m not sure you share that assumption. I’d love to hear you elaborate on this.

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26 thoughts on “A commenter’s concern……

  1. i will admit that i agree wholeheartedly with the first quote from matthew that you offer zach, though not necessarily about you in particular. most of my emerging homies are just twentysomethings who are pissed of at the religious right, and they are (over)reacting against it, just like the religious right was (over)reacting to mainline protestants before.

    this is why i’m not big on labeling myself ’emerging,’ because most of the talk within that conversation is of a reactionary nature (though not necessarily cynical). i’m as big a critic of the religious right as you can find, but i try not to allow my evaluation of modern american (politically) conservative evangelicalism be shaped by my knee-jerk reactions against it. i’m not implying that you do this, zach, however many (though far from all) trying to join in the emerging conversation do this in a very populist manner. they simply want to beat their chests and say “they bad! we good!” or more properly “they square! we cool!”

    that’s why i prefer a more proactive and less reactive approach. let’s leave the religious right alone, and let’s talk about the way things should be, not talk about how wrong they are and how we aren’t going to be like them. theologically, reactionary movements like this never end up with a positive result. just look at continental neo-orthodoxy in the early 20th century. it’s very possible that it helped give rise to the third reich (not purposely, though). it was some guys who were fed up with 19th century theological liberalism’s historical-critical method and heavy reliance on reason and wanted to critique it and correct its problems. does that sound familiar?

  2. Although I agree that we should talk about how things should be; we do have an obligation to turn over the tables in the temple. We have an obligation to defend the poor and the widow. We can’t just study our theology and ignore the tragedy in our midst. We must keep fighting for the church.

    I yearn for church unity as much as all other believers, but we do need to hold each other accountable to the vision of the body.

    I think we all agree that cynicism and
    sarcasm are not often construction means to that end. We end up justifying our words because Paul used sarcasm and many of our leaders do too.

    But what we need is a true return to gentleness and humilty. Strength of the movement depends on our commitment to becoming like Christ.

    I believe that this chasm is Christianity right now is due to the last gasping breaths of Christian culture as we know it. We have for too long been living in a Christian culture that accepts the same suburban standard of living as our neighbor.

    The difference in our lives is hard to distinguish. Our division in the Christian culture is a division of theology versus praxis. Both sides desire to be a light to the world around us because we realize we have lost our saltiness.

  3. jamie, i think you misunderstand me. i’m not saying that we should ignore the problems of the world and blab about theology, especially since the content of our theology is what motivates our praxis (or that’s how it’s supposed to be, because if not, then we’re just doing some ‘good’ deeds that might make some people feel better). that’s the exact opposite of what i’m saying. i’m saying instead of going around poking all of these holes in american conservative evangelicalism that we should just BE the church. i didn’t say that critiques shouldn’t be offered of the religious right (in fact, i said that i, myself, am a critic). what i did say was that the critique shouldn’t be reactionary in nature (which it is within the emerging church, for the most part).

    and when i said that we should talk about the way things should be, i didn’t mean talk only. i was using the language of conversation (since we’re talking about the emerging ‘conversation’ and all, and i’m trying to join in this ‘conversation’). i mean that the conversation and subsequent action should focus not on what shouldn’t be done and how to do something besides that, but what should be done. it should be a conversation in positives, not a conversation in negatives, if that makes sense.

    when jesus turned over the tables in the temple he didn’t say (and wasn’t saying), “this is wrong, so what we do shouldn’t look like this” he was saying, “here is what’s right, and you aren’t doing it.” subtle difference in how the conversation goes, but it’s implications are huge.

    also, in the last couple of paragraphs, are you talking about society as a whole moving from a pseudo-christian society to a post-christian society? i’m just having a hard time following. sorry.

  4. I’ll I can say is this Zach…If you want to do some theology in community, let’s do it. Let’s look at the cultural and historical context of Romans 1:18-32 on the specific topic of homosexuality. Instead of bantering about who’s arrogant and who’s not, let’s look at the text and dialogue about it, coming at it with the Christian presupposition that what it says is authoritative. I’m sorry that I offended you. Rather than do that anymore, let’s just go to the text in community. Let’s make each other justify our presuppositions, let’s challenge one another’s assertions, and let’s allow God to really say what He wants to say, regardless of it is what you or I want to hear. Let me know, I’ll begin the work on my end. Aside from this, I don’t want to bicker…It hasn’t and probably will not get me anywhere. Let me know if you’d like to have a sustained dialogue on Scripture.

  5. Sean, I do agree that we should be proactive. I also believe we should react when we see something wrong. I disagree with your observation of Jesus in the temple. I believe He was saying that what the moneychangers were doing was not how things should be. In your words, “This is wrong, so what we do shouldn’t look like this.” He did say that the temple should be a house of prayer, but He didn’t take the immediate action of praying in the temple, he overturned the tables.

    And no, I am not talking about post-christian society. I am talking about the growing rift between some types of Christians–what you are saying is the difference between evangelicals versus emergents. (Even though I think those categories are too limiting. For example, where do you fall?) I think as a whole, there is a growing debate within “the Church” as to: what we should look like, how we should act, what we should say, and what we should do. I believe the fighting is becoming more heated not because the pressure is persecution, but because we finally have realized that are very lives are indistinguishable from the society around us. (I hope that makes better sense, I struggle with words.)

  6. Matthew,

    You write:

    “I’ll I can say is this Zach…If you want to do some theology in community, let’s do it.”

    You’re making the assumption that I don’t already do this in my faith community. I’m sure that some in my community would disagree with my view at times, but they find a way to do so with humility and respect.

    You write:

    “Let’s make each other justify our presuppositions, let’s challenge one another’s assertions….”

    I thought that is exactly what my post did but you’ve chosen not to respond.

  7. Hey All,

    Zach, I usually enjoy your blog. You have a bright mind. Your criticism is often well founded. The thing is, is that often times, you do come across as defensive and in regards to Driscoll, a bit mean spirited. I was as confused and offended by Driscoll’s comments, but I understand that men, even Pastors like Dricoll, are fallible, and will screw up. They are in no way to be seen as God-Heads of churches or movements. That is God’s position to hold.

    Zach, I think Matthew was attempting an honest dialogue. Of course, being that this is being discussed on an online forum, misunderstanding inevitably will arise. Text, is misinterpreted all the time. I think that both you and Matthew need to understand that. Honestly, I think being that both you and Matthew seem like intelligent cats, you’d come to clearer, although not the same, conclusion/understanding if you got to actually discuss in person.

    Remember above all, humility. We can talk so much about Christ love in today’s culture, but first and foremost, let us be Christ-like in the practice of it in our lives.

    Peace,
    Matt

  8. Matt,

    Thanks for your comment and I appreciate your observations. I think you’re right in the sense that I’ve certainly been defensive and mean spirited at times. Sometimes my passion gets the best of me and there is clearly room for me to be more considerate in this regard.

    I also agree with your thoughts on the trickiness of debating through comments on a blog. It is difficult at times and I think you’re right in stating that it’s very easy to be misunderstood. I’m sure if Matthew and I sat face-to-face and shared with each other what was important to us, we would share plenty of common ground.

    Where I disagree with you here is your assessment that Mathew is attempting honest dialogue. If that were the case, he’d respond to the questions I’ve raised rather than dismiss them. I must also point out that there are plenty of commenters here on my blog (i.e. Sean, Steve, J.I., yourself) who have disagreed with me but have done so in ways that are not condescending and arrogant. I appreciate the different opinions but when assumptions and generalizations are made about me personally that are incorrect, I feel I am free challenge those. If I’ve misunderstood Matthew’s assumptions about myself and those who are supportive of the emergent church, then he is free to clear the air and shed some light by answering the questions I’ve listed above.

    Thanks again for the comment and I do really appreciate your perspective.

  9. jamie, i follow you now, and i see what you mean by theology vs. praxis. i think that’s a bad way to describe the divide, though. that’s because theology and praxis goes hand in hand. as i said before, without theology, we’re just doing some “good” things that might make some people feel better. there is plenty of theologizing in the emerging conversation, so to say that it’s theology vs. praxis, i would say, isn’t correct.

    also, i’m not the one drawing the lines and framing the argument between conservative american evangelicalism and the emerging conversation. i wish these weren’t where lines were being drawn, because i don’t think they’re fair, given the wide diversity in both evangelical and emerging circles (and the fact that they overlap in a few places). but since ’emerging’ has become a populist term (and, of course, ‘evangelical’ is already this way), you know like ‘mall metal’ or ‘mall emo’ there’s now ‘mall emerging,’ this is where the uninformed majorities have decided to draw the lines.

    certainly we shouldn’t just operate within these categories (and i try to distance myself from both sides), but with so many already pounding their chests, it’s tough, nigh impossible, to eliminate them all together.

    where i stand in this is tough for me to say, because as i’ve said, i’m not taking sides. i would say that i’m an evangelical, though not in the vein of american evangelicals. it’s a more generous and self-aware evangelicalism, much like in england. i have sympathies on both sides of the fence, as it were, though i don’t fit in on either side. some people who i would link myself to in terms of approach and convictions would be kevin vanhoozer, n.t. wright, lee camp and alister mcgrath. there are more, but those will suffice. if you want to know exactly what it is about these guys i like, i expound upon that.

  10. Sean, I think you and I do have much in common. I am in total agreement that you can’t have theology without praxis and vice versa.
    The evangelical versus emergent battle will probably continue for awhile and I am grateful that people are trying to grapple through these tough issues.
    I hope that we as a culture find more common ground than debatable issues. I hope that we can transform our bad name and return to a time when others will know we are christians by our love.
    (I would love to hear why you like those particular people though. Only because I’m interested…)

  11. “I agree, cynicism is not constructive or helpful, but I hope you can agree that this problem is a two-way street and not just a problem on the emergent side.”

    Sure, cynicism is something that is present “on both sides,” to answer my charges against the emergent movement with “you’re cynical too, Matt” doesn’t really answer the charge. I was speaking about an overall cynicism and disdain for those who are not “emergent.” I have seen this present repeatedly and some of your readers agreed with the point.

    “Are you implying that I’ve expressed hatred for conservative Christians? Also, are you implying that you question my “salvation” because I’ve voiced frustration with the religious-right? This is a severely generalized statement. Some specific examples would be helpful.”
    Zach, I apologize if I’ve misunderstood you, but it seems that you want to do anything to distance yourself from republican, dispensational, focus on the family listening, modern Christians. I do feel that you have a mocking spirit a lot of times. Have I misunderstood you? Honestly? I feel like you make it a point to bash these people, point out their weaknesses, and make them look laughable. What you are forgetting is that there are many pious Christians in this group. In these groups, there are many brothers and sisters who give generously and pray faithfully and who extend grace and mercy to those around them. As far as questioning your salvation, I don’t think that I did that. I pointed out what John says in 1 John about loving one’s brother. This passage serves a paraenetic purpose for all of us; do we love our brother? Do we love the modern, megachurch Christian who reads Left-Behind books and uses James Dobson’s books to raise his kids? (By the way, I don’t read Left-Behind books. Just for the record).
    “I’d love for you to provide some specific examples of those who are considered to be major influences in the emergent church who adhere to a “Sola-Cultura” approach to scripture. I’ve never heard that. Culture does have an influence, but I’ve never heard anyone emergent or not suggest that our cultural influence have inherent supremacy over the Biblical text.”
    “Sola-Cultura” is a term I created ad hoc as I was typing that post. I believe that the fact that you cannot conclude that homosexuality (in general) is condemned as sinful is an instance of a “Sola-Cultura” approach to Scripture. I know others have come down similarly on this topic (McLaren, for one) and I believe they are letting culture dictate a priori what the scripture can and cannot say. For this reason, I thought examining texts in their historical and cultural context would either prove me wrong or provide you with no wiggle room to say “I can’t say Paul condemns homosexuality.” I don’t think any emergent would openly advocate Sola-Cultura, but this is what we do subconsciously. (By the way, it is not just emergents who approach the text in this way)

    “First, how do you have any idea how in-depth my study has been? Are you suggesting that if only I study the scripture more, I’ll agree with you?”

    I am only suggesting that if we can agree on presuppositions and agree on the authority of the text, that it seems that we would come to the same conclusion on the matter. I don’t know how in depth your study has been, but I’d like to find out. I don’t think that your reasoning in the couple of times we have actually talked about the text has been very sound. I don’t say that to be arrogant. I think it is the case. You mentioned that you take Romans 1:25-27 to be referring to homosexuality in the context of idol worship. This doesn’t work linguistically. Verse 24 reads “for this reason (dio) God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts…” I mentioned previously that your assertion about the homosexuality taking place in idolatry doesn’t work in the text. You never responded. Can you defend that assertion?

    “Your suggestion here assumes that I don’t already “prayerfully and genuinely consult the Scriptures”. Again, your tone here is so off-putting and condescending. Is it at all possible, Matthew, that people who believe differently than you about the Bible also prayerfully and honestly seek God’s direction? Reading this comment of yours, I’m not sure you share that assumption. I’d love to hear you elaborate on this.”

    There are some things that I do think one must agree with to be a Christian. I don’t think that we have necessarily reached that breach in our interaction. Although I am fearful about your approach to Scripture (as articulated above). I am fearful that you have been sucked into a system that doesn’t allow for who God really is to come shining forth into reality. Zach, please, if you don’t answer any other questions, does your theology allow for a holy, righteous, wrathful, avenging God? Please don’t think I’m not into grace and mercy. I am not a homosexual basher, and I’m not quite the fundamentalist that you might think I am (by the way, that is a horrible term, “fundamentalist.” What does that even mean?). Does God judge? Does God exclude people because they do not accept the message of the kingdom? Does God condemn certain things as heinous sin? It seems that there is a huge side of God himself that the emergent church folk want to leave hidden in the closet because these attributes aren’t culturally acceptable. We can’t have half of God, we have to take Him as He is.

  12. “Sure, cynicism is something that is present “on both sides,” to answer my charges against the emergent movement with “you’re cynical too, Matt” doesn’t really answer the charge. I was speaking about an overall cynicism and disdain for those who are not “emergent.” I have seen this present repeatedly and some of your readers agreed with the point.”

    I wasn’t trying to answer the charge. I was actually pleading guilty to it.

    “Zach, I apologize if I’ve misunderstood you, but it seems that you want to do anything to distance yourself from republican, dispensational, focus on the family listening, modern Christians. I do feel that you have a mocking spirit a lot of times. Have I misunderstood you? Honestly?”

    I think you’ve misunderstood my sarcasm and frustration for hatred. Although my tone in the past may have been confusing and unclear, I do not hate those who I disagree with and I’ve never said that was the case.

    “I don’t think any emergent would openly advocate Sola-Cultura, but this is what we do subconsciously. (By the way, it is not just emergents who approach the text in this way)”

    I think it’s impossible for this not to be the case for any of us. Even you, Matthew, are subconciously shaped by the culture and how it impacts your approach to scripture. Even the writers of the books of the Bible were influenced by their time and place to emphasize certain elements of their writings or even flat out contradicting other biblical writers. While I don’t agree to your term “Sola-Cultura”, I also don’t agree with “Sola-Scriptura”. I think God can speak to his body outside the confines of the text. A great example of this would be Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. There are plenty of verses in the Bible that support owning slaves, but today it is not acceptable thanks to the influence of the cultural consensus aided by the amazing efforts of Dr. King and those who joined in his struggle. The cultural consensus, even within the Church, is now shifting on the issue of divorce as well.

    “I don’t know how in depth your study has been, but I’d like to find out. I don’t think that your reasoning in the couple of times we have actually talked about the text has been very sound. I don’t say that to be arrogant. I think it is the case. You mentioned that you take Romans 1:25-27 to be referring to homosexuality in the context of idol worship. This doesn’t work linguistically. Verse 24 reads “for this reason (dio) God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts…” I mentioned previously that your assertion about the homosexuality taking place in idolatry doesn’t work in the text. You never responded. Can you defend that assertion?”

    In regards to how much I’ve studied the scriptures, I’m not sure any answer would suffice. Whatever my answer would be, I’m sure you’ve studied more. I’ll concede that contest to you. With that said, I’m not sure you can reject my biblical “reasoning” on Romans 1:25-27 due to my lack of study. You must realize that there are Biblical scholars who’ve spent their entire lives studying the scriptures who fall on both sides of this issue. I am not saying here that your view is wrong. All I am saying is that there are valid arguments on both sides of the issue (even on Romans 1) and regardless of what side we fall on, we should fall with humility. I happen to fall on the more affirming side in the allowance of same-sex relationships, but I do that with a posture of uncertainty and humility. If I’ve failed to do so in the past, than I apologize.

    “There are some things that I do think one must agree with to be a Christian. I don’t think that we have necessarily reached that breach in our interaction. Although I am fearful about your approach to Scripture (as articulated above). I am fearful that you have been sucked into a system that doesn’t allow for who God really is to come shining forth into reality.”

    For you to assume that God can’t reveal himself in any kind of “system”, hostile or not, leads me to say that I’m concerned for your view of God. What a weak and incapable God you believe in. For you to suggest in any way that because of my beliefs that God doesn’t “shine forth into reality” is absurd. Again, you plead for me to be less cynical but you make it so difficult with your steady behavior of condescension and dogmatic arrogance.

    “Zach, please, if you don’t answer any other questions, does your theology allow for a holy, righteous, wrathful, avenging God?”

    God may be all those things, but all I can do as a disciple of Christ is follow what Christ has commanded me to do. Christ does not want me to be wrathful or avenging. He calls me to follow him into servant-hood, forgiveness, to care for the orphan and the widow, to love my neighbor, to turn the other cheek. If God is wrathful and vengeful, I’ll leave that to him for God is the only judge.

  13. zach, i think you’ve mentioned that biblical scholars are somewhat split on the meaning of romans 1. i’m not contesting that statement, because it is probably true. i was wondering, though, if you’d be able to tell me who those biblical scholars were that don’t interpret romans 1 as being against homosexuality outright. i know plenty of theologians who do this, but i honestly don’t know of any biblical scholars offhand that feel that way. and that’s where my point has been in this discussion. there are plenty of people who theologize (talk about theology), but they aren’t the same people who are biblical scholars. in the world of christian academics there is a divide between those who are very conversant with theology (theologians) and those that are conversant with biblical/extrabiblical texts (biblical scholars). certainly there are some that float between the two, but they are very rarely specialists in both fields.

  14. Sean,

    As far as the distinction between “scholar” and “theologian” goes, I’m not sure it’s relevant to my point. The point I was trying to make is that there are many who’ve studied the scriptures for much longer than Matthew and I have combined who have found themselves on both sides of the issues. Whether they are theologians or biblical scholars is not necessarily important. I’ve heard Walter Wink (who is sympathetic to my view) be described as both a scholar and a theologian so I guess it depends on your criteria. Another I could mention is Dr Jack Rogers, but he may be seen as more a theologian than a scholar.

    What I think would be wise for Matthew to get away from here is the flexing of his scholarly muscles and recognize that just because someone has a different view from you doesn’t mean they are ignorant to what the scriptures reveal.

  15. i agree with your last point, zach. implying that someone who disagrees with you is ignorant of the text is wrong. that said, i know plenty of people who are against homosexuality that rape the biblical texts while trying to prove their point.

    and while the distinction between biblical scholar (not just scholar) and theologian might not be relavent to your point, it is relevant to mine. often what gets lost in doing systematic theology (or most theology, for that matter) is extensive exegesis of the entire canon. if you aren’t aware of all of the nuances, intricacies, and debates surrounding a certain text, regardless of its size, your reading of the text will be effected by that.

    many theologians can have a handle (or think they have a handle) on a specific text and go from there. then they depart from the text and start theologizing, without necessarily interacting critically with recent/historical scholarship. that’s why it’s relavent. most of the people i know who support homosexual relationships deal more with theology than with intensive historical/socio-rhetorical research. that doesn’t mean that the text isn’t important at all, rather that the text becomes deposed from the central place it should occupy in doing theology and being the church.

    it also has something to do with how authoritative a person’s reading of a text can be. i’m not saying authoritative in an absolute sense, but rather in terms of the gravity of a certain reading. for example, i would respect ben witherington’s scholarly analysis over that of jack rogers, because witherington has studied (at durham, duke, and other places) and written extensively on jesus, paul, sapiential literature, eschatology, the new testament and will have written socio-rhetorical commentaries on the entire NT (as well as a two-volume NT theology) by next year.

    and i’m not saying that because i agree with witherington on the issue of homosexuality either. in fact, i’ve come in line with some things he says that i previously disagreed with. i say it because he is one of the leading voices in historical jesus study and new testament. i would also say the same about n.t. wright, richard b. hays, richard bauckham, darrel bock, and craig blomberg. but, at the same time, i’m not going to just trust these people without my own investigation. however, i respect what they say and will weight their arguments in my own studies.

    i think i’m more rambling at the moment, so i will stop here for now.

  16. With apologies to those who know infinitely more than I in terms of the Bible I’d like to make a point or two.

    First I must state I am not a Christian, I am agnostic. My experience of Christianity has come from my schooling and my grandfather, who was a vicar (and indeed my Dad is currently a churchwarden).

    It just seems this endless studying of the Bible seems a little counter productive. There are boundless myriad interpretations that can be made, all this endless debate seems to rather impede going about and doing what Christian’s are supposed to do; i.e. in my understanding, living like Jesus. I don’t remember the highlights of Jesus’ life involving being stuck with a head in a book gleaning out who should be condemned. I seem to remember him out and about amongst the sinners trying to do his best to help and heal.

    Like I say I am not a Christian, but I find literal interpretation of the Bible a little dangerous and after all it is mainly mortal men’s interpretation of something divine. A book that has been altered throughout time by powerful priests with their own agenda.

    I just feel that looking to the current day and living your life in a way that you feel God deems sound and making a positive impact in the world and in those you meet seems way more constructive than saying ‘in this [mortal and fallible] person’s interpretation gays are bad’.

    My question is how do you reconcile a situation where two gay men have got together with each other and are incredibley happy, have found their soul mates and share real, tangible love? Are they just wrong? Misguided? Should they just pretend they don’t love each other? I’m pretty certain homosexuality is not a choice, to condemn these people for doing what brings joy to them and their partner in exactly the same way as a hetrosexual couple just seems wrong. You write off so much good, so much joy, so much beauty in these people’s lives just because of something another man wrote 2 thousand years ago, that to me is just so utterly wrong.

    I am not anti-Christianity because of the wonderful things people have done and do in its name. My grandfather was a truly wonderful man, he lived with incredible grace and occupied his time with feats like taking in the occassional person with nowhere to live (much to the dismay of my young Dad and siblings!) and spreading his message of love (and sweet funny stories :)). I don’t remember him once concerning himself with campaigning against homosexuality.

    And Zach he like you was a pacifist. An Irish immigrant to London in WWII, he worked as an air raid warden (including during the Blitz) rather than fight.

  17. Good thoughts J.I….If the Bible is what you suppose it is. If it is something that is inspired, as Christians believe, than it warrants further study. If it is the “Word of God” it warrants careful interpretation. Since the Word of God is rooted in the Acts of God in history, history becomes an important element. I would disagree with you and say that the reason that we don’t have more Christians acting like Christ, is because they don’t really know what he was all about. This is the result of a microwave society and clergymen who try to be hip, cool and relevant instead of radically proclaiming the inverting message of the kingdom of God.

  18. i don’t necessarily disagree with matthew here. the reason more people don’t act like jesus is because they don’t know what the bible says about jesus, or what jesus said/meant himself. oh sure, go do good things, be nice to poor people, give some money. but that’s not really what jesus’ message was (though they are implications of his message), and most people within the church don’t realize that. as matthew said, the message that the kingdom of god is at hand (and in our midst) is a message that everything now works backward. first to last, greatest to least, etc. this is more than being nice to people and doing “good” works.

    and if we don’t take the time to look at the bible and see what jesus commands of us constantly, we will easily forget it. man is evil by nature, and wants to do no good, so if we aren’t keeping ourselves in the word (and keeping one another accountable through organic gospel relationships within the church), then we will not do nor care about jesus’ message of love and compassion as a lifestyle.

    j.i., you said that you were pretty sure homosexuality is not a choice. i’m not pretty sure, but i don’t have a problem admitting that, or at least a more nuanced version of it. i believe that it is very highly likely that some are inclined to choose homosexuality than heterosexuality because of their chemical makeup. however, that does not make it right (and it doesn’t mean that they have to choose it). as a small aside, i also believe that there are often a lot of environmental factors that go into conditioning someone to choose a homosexual lifestyle. i’m not saying nature over nurture or vice versa. i think they are both delicately intertwined, instead of one over the other as many people make the case for.

    as i said before, we are all corrupted in our natural state. the entire creation is corrupted, and that goes for our bodies, too. we are all born a certain way, in sin, but that does not justify us continuing in sin once we enter into the church. i’m not rallying or campaigning against homosexuality, i’m just saying that it is not an acceptable practice for people who have become part of the church. if someone who is not a believer chooses to be homosexual, that’s fine. i have no reason to say to them “you must be like me and accept my traditions.” that would be completely assinine. if the person isn’t going to hold themselves to certain moral obligations of their own volition, then i’m in no place to say one way or the other. however, when someone enters the church, it is my duty as a brother not to condemn them but to love them and be honest with them (and that means to say, “look, this is wrong. jesus died so that you could be free from this, not so that you could do it even more” only in a less condensed fashion)

    a gay man can say “i didn’t choose who i am.” but i can say “i didn’t choose who i am” too, and that doesn’t justify me living a life filled with self-pity and depression because of my own chemical makeup. if i am inclined to think a certain way in terms of my self-image or self-worth, that doesn’t justify wrong actions. in christ, we beomce free—new creations. that doesn’t mean that the struggles we faced before won’t be there, but it means that we have freedom from the bondage of our sinful desires (whether those are homosexual desires, heterosexual desires, or the desire to mutilate ourselves). it means that we no longer HAVE to give in to those things. it is freedom from the way the world works. we can now go about redeeming creation and proclaiming the kingdom, bringing about new creation in an already/not-yet kinda way.

    look, if two guys have a relationship where they really love each other and are committed to each other, i can understand why you would say “what’s wrong with that?” however, just because it seems to be “good” doesn’t make it so. as lauren winner says in her book, that’s not real. the relationship, the sex even, isn’t real. that doesn’t mean its imaginary, it means. it is a close, but incomplete, fascimile of what we are supposed to experience with one another in marriage. by the same token, a heterosexual marriage or relationship isn’t what we were meant for apart from the gospel message that jesus has given us freedom to serve one another.

    i’m not saying that i have all of the answers for what to do when a homosexual becomes a christian. i don’t. however, that does not mean that there is nothing to be done. these are questions that have different answers for each person, because each person is genetically and environmentally different. and as such, they are questions that can only be answered through organic relationships in the gospel within the church.

    also, just want to let everyone know that i’m also a pacifist. old school anabaptist style (except a reformed anabaptist, as much of an oxymoron as that is).

  19. Good thoughts all around J.I.. Thanks for your perspective.

    I think Christians fail to live out the teaching of Jesus because we are fallible beings. We try, but very often fall short. I know this because I’m an expert at it (falling short). I think I, as a follower of Jesus, can learn from your perspective. You show us a reflextion of who we are to the world around us and embracing both the good and band of what we see in the mirror is key to our living out the life Jesus calls us to with more authenticity and humility. Thanks for that reminder.

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