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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Price of Admission

If you read only the complaints of Social Justice Christendom, you might be forgiven for coming away with the impression that the only possible reason a local church can possibly object to the idea of having fellowship with practicing homosexuals is a lack of love.

And, to be fair, one has to admit that at times Christians have reacted to homosexuals in ways that might be considered less than charitable (though the strictest Christians tend to be considerably kinder than even the most moderate practitioners of Islam).

But not every gathering of Christians is the Westboro Baptist Church. And thankfully, few believers conduct themselves like Fred Phelps, though the media has a tendency to perpetuate the stereotype.

Still, we are told, homosexuals are suffering:
“The gay community has cried out for justice from Christians, who have a biblically mandated obligation to be just … the suffering imposed on gay persons by Christians is … severe.”
Sorry, I should say severely suffering.

Examining the Options

But doesn’t this misrepresent the situation just a little? After all, homosexuals who profess Christianity and are looking for somewhere to go to church have many, many options available to them.

There are varying degrees of acceptance for homosexual practice among many denominations, but Anglicans, Lutherans, United Church of Canada, United Church of Christ, Metropolitan Community Church, New Apostolic Church and the Moravian Church, along with some Pentecostals, Mennonites, Presbyterians and Quakers, with very few local exceptions, accept practicing homosexuals into their gatherings. Some will officiate homosexual marriages and many ordain homosexual clergy, some of whom are even allowed to practice.

There are in fact thousands, perhaps millions in Christendom who accept those that insist on practicing their real faith.

Code for Capitulation

But an inability to find acceptance in the Christian community is not the real problem. As we have watched the homosexual “struggle for equality” in society, it has become evident that having a comfortable and affirming place to go is not the highest priority on the homosexualist agenda. The “gay community cry for justice” is really an ever-more-insistent demand for universal approval and often even admiration.

“Justice” is code for capitulation, to use the language of the Left.

Let me suggest three reasons some of us will never capitulate that have nothing whatsoever to do with lack of love, and why the hope of universal approval from Christians for homosexual practice is a fantasy rather than an inevitability:

 Conscience

Paul writes “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin”, a statement that comes squarely in the context of expressing approval for things one is unable to bring oneself to believe. The Christian conscience must be clear.

I can understand why many homosexuals insist that they find the arguments of Matthew Vines and other LGBT advocates satisfying to them — so satisfying, in fact, that they cannot understand why we don’t instantaneously accept them too.

But charity demands recognition that the other man’s or woman’s conscience must be clean before God. In any area of disagreement, if, after all our arguments, our brothers and sisters are not convinced by them, the Christian thing to do is to shrug and walk away, not hector fellow Christians into submission to our wishes.

Genuinely loving, truly Christian homosexuals will respect the consciences of their fellow believers.

 Judgement

Some Christians are not unloving, but recognize that God judges churches as well as individuals. Those of us who are convinced that engaging in homosexual acts constitutes sexual immorality have an obligation before God to act in accordance with Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 5:
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people … I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality … Purge the evil person from among you.”
To fail to act on our beliefs is, to our minds, to court the sort of corporate or individual judgement described by John in his letters to the seven churches. It is worth noting that at least one of these expressions of disapproval from the glorified Christ comes not for intolerance, but for being overly tolerant of evil.

Leaving aside whether we’re right or wrong in our understanding of scripture, surely a fellow believer who loves Christ can understand our desire to be obedient to him even if you disagree with us as to how that obedience ought to manifest itself.

 Love

Some Christians express disapproval of homosexual practice and refuse to associate with professing believers who engage in homosexual acts not because they are unloving, but because of the very opposite: they are deeply concerned for their homosexual brothers and sisters in Christ.

Christian discipline is not just about preserving our own corporate purity. It is very much about the restoration of the sinning believer. Paul teaches in another context that the purpose of not associating with sinning believers is in order to shame them and warn them for their own good.

I know that Matthew Vines and his friends are unlikely to see it this way, but if there is any chance that his reinterpretation of scripture via history and culture is incorrect, then the very shame he is trying so desperately to avoid, rather than being merely a product of hatred and bigotry and a source of suffering, is actually an expression of love from a merciful God calling to him through the testimony and concern of his fellow believers.

If Vines is wrong (and since his interpretation is far from universally accepted, that possibility ought to at least be considered), acting on his orientation is actually considerably more damaging to him, spiritually and potentially physically, than repressing his desires. Christians who are genuinely loving get that.

Further, if Vines is wrong, it is those who unconditionally accept him, affirm him and advocate for him that are actively working against his best interests. It is they who are truly unloving.

The Price of Admission

If the price of my admission to the local church of my choice is the destruction of my fellow believers’ consciences, the possibility of the judgment of God on my church, and an end to genuine expressions of love toward me from my fellow members in Christ, do I really want it? Would any sincere Christian?

That price is way too high.

2 comments :

  1. This is from. Kevin Vost's The One Minute Aquinas. That summary book is like a recipe book for human behavior tempered by Christian principles.

    Temperance: Taming the Mind’s Confusion.
    The end and rule of temperance itself is happiness.

    What good is temperance?
    St. Thomas knew about fallen human nature — which was the same in the thirteenth century as in the twenty-first — and he therefore knew how critical is the virtue of temperance. Its job is not at all to keep us from good things, but to keep us from fleeting, pleasant, apparent goods that will damage our souls and lead not to joy, but to disappointment and misery. Temperance’s “end and rule” is happiness.

    Thomas tells us that “temperance withdraws man from things which seduce the appetite from obeying reason.” It is the virtue that moderates the concupiscible appetite, by which we desire things that seem good to us, specifically things that satisfy our senses through eating, drinking, and sexual behavior. In animals, these desires are guided virtually automatically by instinct, but in man, it is the job of reason to control them. If it doesn’t, things like gluttony, addiction, drunkenness, obesity, and all the possible harmful consequences of unbridled sexual passion can follow. Thomas tells us that the first integral part of the virtue of temperance is shamefacedness. Shame is what temperance flees. A temperate person will experience a shameful discomfort at the thought or reality of sinful, intemperate acts. Those lacking temperance will be shameless. Indeed, in some ways our modern popular culture has cast aside this integral part, granting celebrity and fame to many who most flaunt their own shamelessness. It’s a shame to see how often celebrated, shameless people who so influence others, themselves end in the abject unhappiness of addictions and self-destruction.

    What does temperance seek?
    Temperance seeks honesty. Honesty derives from the word for “honor,” and honorable things possess true excellence. The temperate man is characterized by honesty in that his internal thoughts and his external acts and deeds are consistent. He will seek honesty as earnestly as he avoids shame, and it will provide order and beauty to his life.

    Which virtues are tasked with taming lust?
    Thomas describes two “subjective parts” of temperance — chastity and purity, which deal with our most passionate desires for sexual relations. He notes that these desires are good in themselves and work toward the propagation of our species, but they are so powerful that they require strong virtues to keep them in line with reason, so they lead us to good instead of harm to ourselves and others. Before the Fall, this would have presented no problem, as man’s intellect, will, and desires were aligned in a state of natural grace. Since that time, we’ve had a battle on our hands. St. Augustine tells us that “the most difficult combats are those of chastity; whereas the fight is a daily one, but victory rare.” St. Isidore adds that the devil subjects mankind more by carnal lust than by anything else because “the vehemence of this passion is more difficult to overcome.”149 So how do we overcome it? The virtue of chastity “chastises concupiscence, which, like a child, needs curbing, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. iii, 12).”150 Chastity refers to restraint in sexual intercourse; purity restrains related sexual behaviors — such things as looks, thoughts, touch, and kisses. These virtues oppose the vice of lust, which treats others as objects of one’s selfish sexual desires. An unfettered lust can be so engrossing that it gives birth to its “daughters” of “blindness of mind, thoughtlessness, inconstancy, rashness, self-love, hatred of God, love of this world and abhorrence or despair of a future world.”151 So how can we build the charity and the purity to put lust in its place? Let’s take a minute, and go again to Thomas’s tip for keeping it real (in next comment).

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  2. St. Thomas provides one simple, deceptively abstract-sounding, yet exceedingly practical line that can be a big help: “Hence, the most effective remedy against intemperance is not to dwell on the consideration of singulars.”152 The pleasures brought through the sense of touch are the most powerful of all, especially those we derive from eating and from sex. Lust, the most powerful challenge to the virtue of temperance, thrives on singulars, especially for men on images of enticing bodies. Unfortunately, advertisers and the purveyors of popular media know this so well that we are under perpetual bombardment by seductive images designed to arouse our lusts. The styles of dress, attitudes, and manners of behavior they promote bear fruit in the attire and demeanor of real flesh-and-blood men and women. Males by their nature are greatly prone to distraction by these images, both through the media and in daily life. What does Thomas recommend? We should focus on the opposite of “singulars” — namely, “universals.” Instead of turning the eyes and imagination to this or that particular woman, turn the mind to “woman.” Focus on the woman’s identity as a “daughter,” or “sister,” and perhaps as someone else’s current or future “wife” or “mother.” The lustful man functions like an animal at the level of the sensitive soul. He perceives singular bodies and desires them, but does not strive to see the essence of the human souls within. He really loves only himself. Instead, men should emulate the man who shows true love for all women by honoring and respecting them. Married couples can treat each other with special loving attention as singulars, with the eyes of love, rather than lust.

    How can we attain the beauty of a temperate character?
    Thomas distinguishes the potential or connected virtue of continence from the perfected virtue of temperance. When you struggle mightily against that urge for a second gooey doughnut and choose not to have one, you have performed an act of continence. When you’ve trained your soul to the point that the second doughnut does not even tempt you (or not even the first!) then you have acted in temperance. Continence, though, can be a stepping-stone along the road to true temperance. The habitual practice of continence — saying no to our desires through repeated effortful acts — develops within us the virtue of temperance, which, when perfected, eliminates the internal struggle altogether. When our characters are marked by a robust temperance, we will display as well the associated virtue of meekness, which regulates our anger — displaying it at the right time, toward the right person, for the right reasons, as Jesus did when cleansing the Temple. (Meekness is not weakness!) Mildness or clemency walks hand-in-hand with temperance too when we show restraint or leniency in inflicting a necessary punishment on those under our command (as perhaps, in the role of a boss or a parent). Whereas meekness regulates the passion of anger, mildness or clemency regulates its actions in external punishment. A fourth connected virtue is modesty, deriving from the word mode, or “the ordinary.” Thomas advises that a modest person will dress in a manner fitting with the customs of one’s society, and one’s position or role, being neither ostentatious nor showing exaggerated plainness or simplicity (which may portray a spiritual pride153). Studiousness too, is a virtue connected to temperance. It tempers our desire for knowledge, so that we focus our attention on things that matter the most.

    From: Vost, Kevin. One-Minute Aquinas: The Doctor's Quick Answers to Fundamental Questions (Kindle Locations 2117-2122). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

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