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Friday, April 01, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: To Debate or Not to Debate

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Is there such a thing as too much discussion?
Kristin Howerton thinks evangelicals need to rethink our response to the gay marriage issue. “Is the debate over gay marriage what we want to be known for?” she asks:

“Do these squabbles speak love? Does the loud and passionate protestation about same-sex marriage draw others to Christ?”

Tom: Good questions, Immanuel Can. Is there any easy answer? Or is this a debate where both sides may have legitimate concerns?

The World Vision Controversy

Immanuel Can: I’m never quite sure of the solution that the speaker is pushing for with a line like, “Is this what we want to be known for?”

Is the intended implication, “... so we should stop letting it dominate public discussion of our faith” or “... so we should suppress our view of whether or not God says it’s wrong”?

If it’s the former, then it’s clearly something over which we have little or no control: because really, the media does what the media does. But if it’s the latter, then it’s counseling abandonment of the truth of God, isn’t it?

To be fair, though, maybe all this writer is asking is that we “background” the issue by refusing to talk about it when provoked. But if so, I really wonder what she expects us to do on those occasions when we are cornered on it. I’d like to see a stand on that before I judge what is being advised.

Tom: Oh, I think it’s pretty clear where Kristin Howerton is coming from: she’d like to see Christians drop the issue altogether. She’s reacting to complaints from evangelicals about World Vision’s decision to employ individuals in same-sex marriages, complaints that were numerous enough that World Vision quickly backpedalled.

Weighing the Options

Now it’s certainly the prerogative of World Vision to decide who they want to employ, but equally it’s very much the prerogative of those being constantly pestered to support World Vision financially to decide whether an organization making such choices represents the best place for us to do our giving. And it also seems quite reasonable to me for Christians to discuss the issue publicly when a shift in policy like this occurs.

What’s happening is that Kristin Howerton would like to be able to publicly advocate for greater church acceptance of her gay friends without having to deal with any feedback from Christians who feel otherwise.

IC: Hmm. So the issue is that she wants us to conform our convictions to her personal preferences? Does she have a reason we should?

Three Arguments for Christian Naysayers

Tom: Well, she has three arguments. I’ll put them to you, and you can tell me if you think they hold up. The first is that she says there is a “heightened sense of outrage” in the church over this particular issue. In her words:
“I don’t recall a boycott of companies who hire unrepentant gluttons. Christians aren’t generally voting on issues related to outlawing the right to be drunk.”
I’ll defer to your ‘philosopher’s take’ on the logic of that one.

IC: Ha. Well, her argument would be, then, that we should have “heightened outrage” at gluttony and drunkenness? Or is her point that if Christians are inconsistent, then they ought to be inconsistent in all areas equally? Or is it simply that the Christians to whom she refers are hypocrites, and hypocrites should have no “heightened” standards for anything?

Tom: I’m guessing it’s the last one.

IC: If you can find any logic there, then you’re a better philosopher than I am.

Tom: Or just a worse logician.

A Bridge Too Far

IC: What else has she got?

Tom: She contends that believers have “managed to maintain relationships under the umbrella of Christianity despite doctrinal differences over any number of issues, from women’s roles to ideas about baptism to views about the End Times”. So then she wonders why gay marriage, at least in this instance, appears to be a bridge too far.

She goes on to add:
“There seems to be a large faction of our faith attempting to stand guard at the table of fellowship. Is this what Christ wanted for the church?”
IC: Umm … the short answer to her question is yes, and explicitly in the case of sexual sins of the kind she wants us all to ignore. And at the cost of withholding fellowship? Yes. Christ’s desires on the subject are perfectly clear. My question is, if she’s really a Christian, why aren’t her desires in this matter the same as his?

Tom: A reasonable question, IC. It’s absurd to compare views about prophecy or baptism, or even gender roles in church and home — theological differences of opinion that may be held in error but also in good conscience, and in which the individual holding them submits to the teaching of his or her church leadership — with an ongoing sexual practice that affects every moment of one’s life and testimony and violates both the clear teaching of scripture and two millennia of mainstream interpretive tradition … and, on top of all that, drags other believers into the mud with you, since they are required to validate your choices in the name of “love”.

The two things are not remotely equivalent. It IS a bridge too far for most believers, and understandably so.

The Greatest of These Is … Public Approval

IC: Right. Okay, so what’s her third shot?

Tom: It’s the badfeelz. She says:
“Regardless of our personal theology surrounding sexuality, we are told above all else to love. Do these squabbles speak love?”
Kristin is concerned that more than one of her gay friends felt World Vision’s about-face was a “kick in the gut” that spoke volumes to gay and lesbian individuals about how the church views them.

IC: So let me get her right: she says it’s not a matter of truth or principle, it’s a “squabble”. And it’s not a biblical matter, it’s merely “personal”. And it’s not about the will of God, it’s to do with whether or not the church comes across to the public as “loving”. Am I understanding her aright?

Tom: I believe that’s it in a nutshell. I can say with confidence that the will of God hasn’t come up once — unless you count the bit where she says, “Jesus wouldn’t like this,” as if evangelicals are all kindergartners who won’t share our toys.

IC: I can’t see that she has the slightest knowledge of what the Lord would want in this situation. She does not appear even to engage scripture in her thoughts. If I were feeling cynical, I might say she’s actually mistaken her own preferences for God’s.

I don’t see any more substance in her case when I look at the article. Do you, Tom?

Tom: No. Just that she’s really big on love. Love trumps everything: doctrine, truth, conscience, faith, the will of God. I think her definition of love may be slightly skewed. She’s not using it in the Christian sense, is she?

IC: Nothing like a Christian sense. As near as I can see, “love” is public approval. Her main beef is that criticizing sexual promiscuity is bad publicity. Beyond that, she’s got nothing to say.

1 comment :

  1. What a Merry-go-round, every 2 minutes the same horse comes around and things never change. It is very difficult to have to deal with people who wear deliberate blinders and are inoculated against reason.

    Would it help if one points out ONE MORE TIME that Christian opposition to homosexuality, pornography, perversion, etc., is primarily (at least in my case) based strictly on a sense of self preservation? I WILL BE HARSHLY DEALT WITH if I fail to point out to my fellow man that God's precepts are being violated in this manner (see next link). I will not volunteer for hell on your account.

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+33%3A7-12&version=ESV

    Also, what a devious thing then to turn that around and pretend this is lack of love of neighbor. Let's correct that devious tactic. Here is what love is. The homosexual should realize that all of humanity is condemned to internal temptation, strife and struggle, especially in the formative years, no exception. The rubber meets the road by how you deal with it. The homosexual, who claims a loving relationship with a likeminded person does not know what Christian love is because he/she has no interest in implementing it for selfish reasons of lust.

    Here is what real love should be for the homosexual Christian person. When you encounter a young person with raging hormones you do not take advantage of them by trying to seduce them but you talk to them and tell them not to make the same mistake that you made and you help protect and preserve their soul for the good of that person and their family and for your own good. And if that person mistakenly comes on to you, you disengage, refuse that opportunity, and correct them (and do not tell me I am not talking from experience having even into my young adult working years had to deal even with predatory (married) managers with unaware wife and children. Yes, and I as a committed Christian with firm principles because of God's help always knew exactly how to deal with those situations in both my younger and older years). And guess what, if the LGBT person dealt with it in that truly Christian and loving manner, then it is perfectly obvious that deviance of this type would slowly die out in society because there would be no predation to propagate it.

    What a selfish farce, that must be stopped, to pretend there is happiness in deviant and sinful behavior by using the euphemism of "gay." IT IS NOT a happy, a gay, occasion when a parent, a family is confronted with the fact that their offspring has gone that wrong, no, it is very sad indeed. (I have seen and know families like that). And don't you think that God should not punish you being instrumental in that by not turning that soul towards God instead? Something you could have done if you had fought your internal struggles, asked for God's help and had desired to succeed no matter what? The LGBT community should be ashamed for pretending to care for their neighbor when the primary dictum of love is ignored by them, namely, not to contribute to the fall from grace of your neighbor because of your bad influence and poor example.

    As a matter of fact, such behavior is so horrifying to God that, in this rare instance, he has actually pronounced a curse on those choosing to engage in it, a rare thing for him indeed. The passage below shows that he warns that those making that choice will suffer the curse of becoming even more inflamed in their wrong passions making it less likely for them to be able to extricate themselves. Nevertheless, in my mind it is never futile to turn to him in your specific needs, even then.

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+1%3A26-27&version=NIV

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