Monday, May 25, 2009

Church Experiment #21: New Spirit MCC

We all have agendas. I like to believe I am fairly open about mine. For example, this week’s church will allow me to discuss something I am passionate about.

Men and women should have the legal right to marry a same-sex partner. Denying that right is unfair, oppressive, and goes against everything we value as Americans. Churches (and their pastors) can decide on an individual basis whether to perform the ceremonies, but legally, I don’t understand how this country gets away with denying a basic right to a select group of the population. [Happy to report that this is no longer a debate. Anyone can marry the person they love in 2017, regardless of gender. About time. Now let’s hope it stays that way.]

But I don’t want this whole chapter to be a platform for the gay marriage debate, so with the admission of my agenda out of the way, let’s move on to the church service.

New Spirit Metropolitan Community Church (www.newspiritmcc.com) is located in Northside, one of the most popular gay-friendly communities in Cincinnati. Right across the street is a gay bar called The Serpent, whose dress codes requires that, “a major article of leather be worn.” Needless to say, I had no idea what to expect when I walked into the church building Sunday morning. Clifton United Methodist (Church #4) is open to the LGBTQ community, but New Spirit MCC is a church basically made up of all members from that community.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.

73 comments:

Kelly said...

Hi Steve,
Thanks for your post. As a Christian I have struggled with the whole gay thing. I've been told if I am a "true" Christian I need to not accept this lifestyle in any way, shape or form, have no contact with any gay people, etc. This has caused me inner turmoil over the years because Jesus did not turn anyone away based on their lifestyle. I'm glad there is a church in Cincinnati that is just for them and pray many will find the love and acceptance of God there.

Kendra said...

Hi Steve,

I follow your post every week and enjoy reading about your experiences in the different churches. I wanted to comment on this weeks post. As a member of a "Reconciling Methodist Church," I too appreciate the diversity of our congregation. And like you, I believe that God loves us regardless. I once heard a Methodist minister speak about his gay son. He asked, "why would anyone choose to be a member of a group that is probably the most highly discriminated group on earth, unless of course they truly were born this way?" I have often thought about this question and realize that he's right and as a Christian, who am I to judge this person. Rather, I need to love and accept him/her for who they are and know that they too are children of God. Thanks for the terrific reminder. I look forward to next weeks post.

Rohmeo said...

Steve, I agree this is a highly sensitive area but we need to be careful not to blame Christianity for ostracizing the gay community. Certain Christians or so-called Christians are the ones who have messed up the true Gospel of Jesus for eons because of the "finite" factor. In reaction, this has made a lot of the gay community swing so far to the "victim" side that their own "finiteness" feeds into making their sexuality their true identity. It's like those who are one-issue voters...everything else gets clogged up and you end up starting a church based on sexuality when is that really what the church body is? It's about spreading the good news of the Gospel and bringing God ultimate glory by showing that He is the Supreme treasure...not showcasing man's wants or desires. All of us do a terrible job of "emptying" of ourselves because we want everthing to be about us...and it's not. There are many churches who do shun this group sadly but there are also many who welcome all peoples in love...yes even if they disagree with them and don't believe their choices line up with God's Word. You don't have to agree on everything to Love. Sometimes that gets mixed up and the gay community ends up doing the same thing by "judging" the church as a whole right back and we stay in this vicious cycle, the rhetoric continues and nothing gets accomplished.

Steve Fuller said...

Rohmeo,

I didn't put this in the post itself, but I have actually been surprised to find so many "all-inclusive" (their language) churches in Cincinnati. Someone just invited me to a church in Mt. Auburn that also has a high gay population.

So yes, in the same way I have asked Christians not to lump all gay people into the same category, I need to make sure I don't do the same with churches (which I am guilty of doing).

As far as sexuality becoming such an important part of our identity - wow, we could talk about that all day, couldn't we? It's just interesting that a whole new denomination formed for gay people. The same surely hasn't happened with any other "sins." No churches for people who lust, or steal.

I once wrote something about the Church not welcoming gay people, and someone commented that bouncers don't stand at the door of his church and force gay people to leave. True, but nonverbals communicate a lot. Without the words being spoken, people can feel welcomed or judged. Gay people should feel welcomed at every single Christian church in the world - the same way anyone should feel welcomed and loved.

I will never forget how that man's life changed yesterday because he found a place that loved and accepted him for who God created him to be.

Lydia said...

Thanks for an interesting post. I do get exasperated with Christians that don't show love or respect to the gay population.

My church teaches all sexual activity outside of male and female marriage is a sin, so pretty much the entire congregation has been/is in that category of sin. I guess I support equal opportunity correction in this area. :}

The other thing that we have learned over time is that just because one person has a problem area that I don't have (i.e. his drinking vs my unforgiveness) doesn't mean that I am better or worse than that person. I just have a different propensity toward a particular sin. God loves me anyway, but I believe He expects me to do my best, just like I expect my own child to do.

I know that doesn't fall in line with what you believe in regards to gay marriage, but it is the belief I have and wanted to share. Thanks for your most interesting blog.

David said...

Hey Steve, This topic is pretty interesting to me, and it is fresh on my mind because we just talked about the whole gay/straight thing at my bible study I attend.

Here is my take on things. You said that Jesus accepted everyone so why should churches not, and this is very true, but Jesus didn't just accept sinners, he showed them how there sins can be forgiven, and how to not live in sin.

I don't really understand how anybody can argue that gay relations is not a sin, when the bible so clearly speaks out against it. Notice i said gay relations and not just being gay. I think people can be born with gay tendencies just the same way people can be born with addictive tendencies or what have you.

I agree churches need to be more accepting, and tell them that there sin is not worse than my sin or anyone else, but I don't think that we should tell them that there sin is ok just because they where born with those tendencies.

But that's just my thoughts on the whole issue, I understand if people disagree.

A Modern Ancient said...

Steve said:
"It's just interesting that a whole new denomination formed for gay people. The same surely hasn't happened with any other 'sins.' No churches for people who lust, or steal."

I agree that denominations have not formed around sins, but they have formed around groups that have felt persecuted, unwelcomed, and disenfranchised. For example, the "black" churches. Sure, they would most likely not (at least the majority) turn away a Caucasian, Asian, or Latino person from worship, but the churches were founded to provide a safe place (minus the bombings I suppose) for African Americans to worship together and support each other through adversity.

The MCC was not founded (and I don't think you said this Steve) to encourage homosexuality but to provide an affirming environment for people to approach the God who is love without having to hide an aspect of who they are. I am not saying I agree with people starting churches based upon race, sexuality, etc. I actually think that the church needs to have all different aspects represented in worship.

For, in Christ there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male and female... black or white or yellow or red, heterosexual or homosexual... we are a family based on faith rather than any other defining characteristic. However, those characteristics must be present to fully represent the diversity of the Body of Christ. That is the only reason I would discourage a "black" church or "white" church or the numerous Korean congregations... and a church founded on the sexuality of its congregants.

That being said, I don't think the majority of the church wants that diversity and has had moments of violent and oppressive opposition to the minority elements. It is for that reason that I support (for a time) the establishment of churches like the MCC. But, I believe the prayer should be that one day the idea of churches based upon outward appearances, sexual orientations, and stylistic preferences would become obsolete.

Steve Fuller said...

Metz,

Great thoughts.

David,

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts in a respectful and kind way. I know this is a hot-button topic for many, and I'm glad to see people reacting graciously to my post.

A Modern Ancient said...

David,
However, Jesus never identified homosexuality as a sin. Furthermore, Jesus did many things that the OT specifically regarded as "sin:" working on the Sabbath (not just healing, but he and his disciples would glean from the fields on the Sabbath as well), not marrying by the age of 30 which was required of teachers, and not participating in the stoning of the woman in John 8 just to name a few.

Of course, you nor I condemn Jesus for these apparent sins. The fact that Jesus never directly addresses homosexuality and often ignores other teachings of the OT tells me that it is not a resolved issue. Furthermore, the numerous passages that deal with homosexuality (or are traditionally thought to refer to homosexual behavior) are very much open to interpretation due to context and the exact behavior being discussed.

Often, the Pauline passages refer to unnatural homosexual behavior (i.e. heterosexuals engaging in same-sex activities). Also, other passages sometimes translated as "homosexual" are much better translated as effeminate or molesters. If one considers Paul's background and context, he is most likely referring to the student/teacher sexual relationships often present in the Greek and Roman gymnasiums and not to homosexuals en masse.

I could go on for hours on this issue... also, please know that I am still not sure where I stand completely (other than agreeing with Steve that it is ridiculous for Christians to be involved in such a secular argument over whether the government should acknowledge homosexual marriage or not) on this issue. What I do know, is that there is NO simple answer like "well what does the Bible say" because it is far from clear and there are very strong arguments on both sides which cannot flippantly be discounted.

Read this very introductory essay by biblical scholar Walter Wink:
http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1265

Finally, to accept Paul and the OT's statements on homosexuality is to adopt a First Century view of science. We absolutely KNOW that sexual orientation is ingrained so early that it is NOT a choice. It has not been established that it is genetic, but it is fixed before the child is capable of conscious choice. The OT and Paul believed that is was either demon inspired or just a choice to engage in sin. If we accept Paul's science, we should still be taking epileptics to an exorcist rather than a doctor.

A Modern Ancient said...

Sorry about the long comment. This is just an issue that I am wrestling with as I head off to seminary.

Dan Kalbach said...

Really fascinating discussion.

Lydia said...

Thanks, David for a good comment. I think you stated very clearly what I was wanting to say.

Interesting thoughts all the way around.

Julie O'Dell Munroe said...

While I disagree with some of your beliefs here, I still appreciate the spirit of your post. Everything changes when we put faces to labels (or even just stories of faces).

DanThoms said...

Steve, you have to give me credit if you quote one of my past comments. I think that's some sort of rule or something ha ha.

Seriously though, I'm going to refrain from debating this issue too much. I'll just say to A Modern Ancient, if you believe that the Bible is the word of God than you can't trump it with what you believe to be scientific fact.

Anonymous said...

While I don't agree entirely with your view that homosexuality is not a sin, I agree that the church has blown this thing entirely out of proportion. We are told by Jesus to love our neighbor. We should be accepting homosexuals just like any other sinner that enters our church doors. Not looking at their sin, but looking at a soul that needs a Savior. Let God do the rest. All the breath we spend condemning these people should be spent loving them, just like any other person. In James 2:10 it says: "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."

And I'll be honest. I don't know what do do with the facts that are out there regarding homosexuality not being a choice. But I do know that these bodies and minds of ours are not perfect, no matter what labels are attached to us.

Steve Fuller said...

I must say, I am so happy that everyone has been kind and respectful in their comments. Even when people have disagreed, they have done so intelligently and graciously.

Stevie so happy. Stevie want to cry.

R said...

I once struggled with the gay in church thing. I once thought that my opinion mattered. As I get older I realize that my opinion doesn't matter. That is, that I can spew it around but, it doesn't usually have a useful purpose. Mostly, my need to defend and be right is an ego thing and not very Christ like.

I have come to the conclusion that I am simply called to love people. I can't say what that means till I meet those people, in the now. I learned from a Buddhist that the path to joy is objective reality in the presence of this fleeting moment. I think this seems very Christ-like. So, what I end up with, is simply not caring about the argument and it's merits. Rather, what I care about is being loving and joyful. As my pastor says, "If I am to be convicted of something it will be of loving people".

Jesus always seemed to love people in-spite of the laws, morals, regulations or the maintenance of his reputation. Isn't Christ-likeness what we say we want?

The Reverend said...

Good stuff, Steve, oh stealer-of-my-idea-before-I-had-it-guy!

Homosexuality? That sure is a hot button issue. Why not throw in the death penalty, war in Iraq, and abortion just to top it all off! :)

To toss my 2 cents into the hat, I've come to the conclusion that we don't get to question God's law or His will. I mean, we should explore and find out what it means to our lives but as to the "why", well, cuz God sed so!

A cool example I heard was the OT Law. Sure, some of them "made sense". Don't eat pork because it will kill you if not cooked properly. However, what about not cutting the sides of your hair? Not wearing clothes made of two clothes? I mean, what's the harm in those? And the answer is - nothing. But God said it, He's the Creator, therefor we do what he says. and by doing it we show our obedience. Period. Whether we agree with it or not.

There are a lot of things we might read in the Bible and be like, Oh really? But we have to remember that it's all from God (2 Timothy 3:16), even the stuff we don't like.

I know it sounds somewhat cold and pharisaical, but it's truth (it's from God). And how do we show we love God, we follow his commands (2 John 1:6). Bottom line.

Your fellow wanderer,
Rev.

jayp said...

Fuller, your experiment is intriguing and your blog is superb. I appreciate your fair and open minded approach each week.

This topic breaks my heart like few others do because we are discussing real, valuable, gifted people for whom Christ died. Too often in the church we withhold love in order to demonstrate disapproval for certain types of behavior. Whether or not you see homosexuality as a sin, this is an unacceptable approach which Christ never modeled. As a church we must do better and it begins in the heart of each believer.

I'm encouraged by the responses I've read! Thanks for addressing the topic.

A Modern Ancient said...

"I'll just say to A Modern Ancient, if you believe that the Bible is the word of God than you can't trump it with what you believe to be scientific fact."

So, if something is proved scientific fact yet contradicts what the bible seems to say, we should go with what we believe the bible to say?

So the sun really did stop rotating around the earth in the book of Joshua? Huh, I guess all those people who say the earth revolves around the sun should have read their bible.

Sorry, a bit of sarcasm to prove a point. You say I am trumping the bible because of what I believe science says. I say you are trumping fact with your own interpretation of scripture. There are tons of highly trained, intelligent, and faithful biblical scholars who offer ample biblical support for loving, monogamous homosexual relationships. Sure, their interpretations don't line up with yours, but that doesn't make their views less valid.

This is the same debate many had in regards to slavery and the ordination of women. The bible is pretty clear that slavery is permissible and women should be silent in the church, yet when taking the bible as a whole, understanding the context in which things were written, and believing that God's desire is to bring everyone into his kingdom it becomes clear that slavery is outside of God's plan, women should be in leadership just as much as men, and that the church might possibly be wrong on the homosexual issue.

I am not saying the apostle Paul would agree with many of the interpretations of his writings, but since I believe that God was the ultimate author and not Paul (i.e. God inspired Paul to word things in such a way as to allow for new discoveries to influence our interpretations) then I don't really have to rely on what Paul might think. Though I do think it's always a good idea to consider it.

A Modern Ancient said...

Rev.
The problem is that most Christians don't follow all of the laws. They pick and choose. Sure, the NT seems to abandon the dietary laws, but wait... the Jerusalem council forbids eating meat with the blood still in it. So do Christians still have a dietary law to practice? If so, all those who like rare steaks and sushi are in trouble.

I agree, we must take God at his word, but we must also realize that God's word is not trapped in the time it was written. God was communicating specific things to specific people in specific times AND leaving us timeless lessons that transcend all the specifics. How do we interpret them?

Finally, as ministers (both ordained and lay) we must 'always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in us'... meaning that we must be able to answer the 'whys' of those who approach us. Simply saying, 'because God sed so' is not adequate in my opinion.

A Modern Ancient said...

To reiterate... I am not sure exactly where I stand on this issue as a whole. I do think it is ridiculous for the church to involve itself in secular government matters (i.e. tax breaks and health benefits for same sex partners) and that the government has no legal reasoning to prevent homosexuals get married since America is not a theocracy.

However, I do not believe a minister should ever be forced to go against her/his conscience and marry anyone that they do not believe should be married (this goes for those too young or simply not prepared or compatible as well).

Bottom line is that I do question whether, despite the definitive evidence that homosexuality is not a choice, maybe God does desire those people to live celibate lives. I have to acknowledge that possibility. Ultimately, I agree with biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann who said, "The arc of the gospel bends towards inclusion." (he borrowed from MLK's statement that 'the arc of history bends towards justice'). God wants to include everyone. What that looks like is what I wrestle with. But it frustrates me when people discount the validity of the other side's argument which is why I am strongly taking the other side in these comments.

A Modern Ancient said...

That being said:
jayp said, "Too often in the church we withhold love in order to demonstrate disapproval for certain types of behavior. Whether or not you see homosexuality as a sin, this is an unacceptable approach which Christ never modeled."

I disagree. What about all of the people who wanted to follow Jesus and were turned away because Jesus told them to do something (or not do something) and they failed? The rich young ruler didn't sell all he had and give it to the poor... the 'loving' response would have been to tell him to come along anyway and maybe someday you'll be able to do it. The man who wanted to bury his father and Jesus said, "Let the dead bury the dead," is another example. Not the most loving response from Jesus.

Just some food for thought. Jesus did turn people away based upon behavior.

Rohmeo said...

A Modern Ancient,

As you know context is such an important thing when pulling out verses or passages from Scripture. When you say Jesus' response was not very loving when he said "Let the dead bury their dead" I would argue he was in fact exhibiting the perfect Love and that is Treasuring God above all else. Naturally we default to our emotions/feelings when reading some of these things but I was reminded of John Piper's constant challenge of showing Christ as our Supreme Treasure in all things---even when it may not always look like it makes sense. It doesn't have to. I think when we bathe our souls in the Word and yield to his authority and yearn to put on the mind of Christ maybe some of these questionable passages could pierce our hearts.

I looked up some Piper comments and he reflects on this dilehmma in Luke 9:56-62:

"He raises the question about our family in verse 60: "Let the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." Whom do you cherish more: Spiritually dead relatives, or the giver of life, Jesus Christ? The point is not that it’s never right for a missionary to come home for his dad’s funeral. The point is that it might be right not to, and the issue is how it serves the proclamation of the gospel, and how it reveals your treasures. Who is first, Christ or family? The point here is that Jesus Christ is absolute and all other allegiances are relative. There will be a hundred choices you must make in missions - indeed in life - that have no simple biblical command to settle the issue. The issue will be: Do you want Christ above all? Do you want to follow him more than anything? He was teaching that the Calvary road through Jerusalem will be a very hard road, and will require sacrifices of home and family. And he was testing to see if he himself was the greatest treasure of their lives. They said, "I’ll follow YOU." And Jesus said, "Really? You love me, you treasure me that much? Here’s what it will cost." So he is testing how much they treasure the "you" in "I will follow you," by telling them what the "follow" will cost."

I'm reminded more and more each day it's not about me, what I think, what I want to make sense by man's measure but it really is all about Christ above all else. Frankly it drives me nuts because this goes against my nature every day even though I'm a believer...it's tough to "empty" ourselves but if that's our starting and firm foundation, I have faith the Holy Spirit will guide and direct those in ways that bring him Glory.

So many of us including myself are guilty of answering the question ranking what is most important in your life? Doesn't it usually come out this way?

1.Faith
2.Family
3.Friends etc.....

Is our Faith really first? That's what haunts me about this passage.

A Modern Ancient said...

"As you know context is such an important thing when pulling out verses or passages from Scripture."

EXACTLY! That is my whole point. I can read a passage and interpret it one way while someone else interprets it completely different. So, for people to say the bible is "clear" on something is disingenuous since others may believe the bible says something completely different.

Steve Fuller said...

Rohmeo,

I know you are not saying it's ok to ignore our families, but these are the types of discussions (and uses of the Bible) that frighten me.

We both know that well-meaning pastors (and Christians in general) use those verses to excuse bad parenting, or excuse being a bad spouse.

I can't imagine God would ever be ok with either of those scenarios. From my experience, putting God first helps us become better in our relationships.

If that isn't happening (if our spouses or children are not getting our love), I bet it's a good indication we aren't actually putting God first.

Anonymous said...

Gay? Straight? Who Cares?! Let's all just go get a burger.
www.cirquedusavory.com

Anonymous said...

I don't think marriage is a right, it is a privilege.

Rohmeo said...

Modern Ancient,

Sorry if I wasn't clear when I mentioned that but what I mean is Context is ultra important INSTEAD of pulling out verses or passages that support what we first see or think it means. After studying about it, praying about it, testing it, hearing other sides of it, then it seems the Truth would be better known.

Steve,

I totally agree if we are putting God first then our families would be much better so instead of a seeming contradiction or a choice of one over the other like some may think it actually works. That's what I think a passage like this or other things Christ said to remind us of our priorities. Don't you think that those who recklessly pursue Him as top priority will have more blessed familiy lives than either Satan getting a foothold or God choosing to use anything to "get our attention" back on him. Pastors who may abuse the notion of neglecting your family or justifying being a bad spouse as an excuse that they put God above all else is false teaching as you say. There's your contradiction...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 4:07 p.m.,
Is this some kind of joke to you?? I don't think it's very funny that you come on here in the middle of an intense discussion and try to promote your website: www.cirquedusavory.com
I don't even know what your website is all about. I guessing something hamburger related? Whatever it is, I'm sure this isn't the time or place for you to be doing this shameless advertising of the website: www.cirquedusavory.com
Go somewhere else and talk about your hamburgers and which ones are the very best in the Cincinnati area.

A Modern Ancient said...

Rohmeo,
No, you were perfectly clear, and I agree that prooftexting (pulling a bunch of verses out of their context and marrying them together to prove a single point) is never a good way to make an argument. All must be considered in context. This is not limited to the other verses around them (though very important), but also to the time and place they were written, the overall theme of the book, the overall theme of the bible (debatable but a lot of common ground here in Christianity as well as Judaism), the background of the author, the authenticity of the supposed author, the translation and bias of the translators (all have a bias), etc. All are important and must be considered when interpreting scripture.

A Modern Ancient said...

Anonymous,
Cirque de Savory is promoted on this blog as well since Steve is a part of it. It was not a piece of shameless promotion... I am sure it was a joke to lighten the mood (though I feel the mood is fairly light in here despite the volatile nature of the subject being debated... kudos to all for that).

Incidentally, I was saddened by the reference because I don't eat meat. I was not put off because they do, but because it is a part of this blog to which I cannot relate.

Christine said...

Interesting topic and very well-debated, I must say. I do want to address something you mentioned, though. Just because someone said that God called them, doesn't mean it is an actual call from God. Satan can easily masquerade as God's voice. We need to hold up our "call" to see if it matches up with scripture and God's character. Those who practice radical, fundamental Islam say God has called them to kill, and so do those radical Christians who have bombed abortion clinics. Do we question their "call"? Of course! We have to! Just because a call is more PC doesn't make it a legitimate call. We as the church have to guard against false prophets and doctrines- for ourselves and others.

As for me, I believe that the government is free to do what it will- same privileges for homosexual couples- but that the message of opposite sex union is the standard set forth by scripture. And yes, Jesus did mention lust, outside of marriage, as adultery. That includes men and women. Does this mean He intended to have marriage sanctified regardless of gender? I don't believe so. But in a practical sense in my life, I have homosexual friends and love them as much as my heterosexual friends. Love doesn't know the difference.

A Modern Ancient said...

I never said Jesus didn't mention lust or adultery. I simply pointed out the fact that he never gave any teaching on homosexuality. It is interesting too since they were surrounded by Greek influence which prized homosexual relationships between student and teacher as well as Roman baths notoriously bastions of homosexual behavior.

Christine said...

It's really a tough one. Are we then to disregard Paul's teaching on that subject?

Jesus loved everyone. Period. That is why we as His followers should. He also told those he healed to go and sin no more. He spoke more of greed and pride than sexual sin, but does that mean that we disregard sexual sin? He also didn't explicitly mention incest, but that doesn't mean He accepted it.

First and foremost, however, I believe that Christianity needs to be defined by love. Those who don't act in this way toward individuals they come in contact with are not following Christ.

Steve Fuller said...

Christine,

Concerning what you said about being "called":

Does that mean we can't trust anyone's call from God?

I guess that is my issue. We hear one person say God "called" them to do something, and we accept it. We hear a different person use the same language and we reject it.

Who is to say one is legitimate and one isn't? Just because it doesn't line up with our ideologies? God is bigger than our ideologies, right?

A Modern Ancient said...

Christine,
I don't suggest ignoring any scripture. However, we must interpret it with all of the information we have available to us.

Paul was writing to a specific audience, in a specific time, and he was influenced by his own specific experiences. It is widely agreed by scholars that Paul was a product of two worlds, Greek and Jew. He seemed to have been educated in a Greek gymnasium and later sent to study with a premier Jewish scholar (Gamaliel). His Greek education would have put him in contact with the homosexual student/teacher relationship (though it seems clear he did not engage). This had to have influenced his teaching.

Further, it is necessary to understand the words Paul used. He condemned the effeminate (the 'receiver' if you will) since this was not prized even in Greek culture. Usually, (sorry to be a little graphic) only fondling and oral stimulation took place between student/teacher... penetration was frowned upon even in Greek and Roman circles. The word Paul uses describes that situation.

In other places, Paul condemns child molestation. "Good" we all think. But he not only condemns the molester but the molested as well (similar to OT). Not so good. Again though, he is probably talking about the student/teacher sex and not blanket homosexuality.

Still, Paul's other references that, in English, are translated homosexual is sort of a made up word that Paul uses. I bring that up to show that Paul had no ability to judge monogamous, loving homosexual relationships since they were not really available to discuss at the time. People believed homosexuality was limited to the sexual acts and had nothing to do with the chemistry of the brain. Today, we know that it does. This allows us to interpret Paul differently than perhaps even Paul would.

The reason that is possible is because, though scripture must be read in context, we also believe that it is 'God-breathed'(2Tim 3) as well as 'living and active' (Heb 4) and therefore is able to speak truth to every age. We must be able to incorporate what we know today that is different than the knowledge available to Paul in our interpretation of his writings.

Christine said...

No, Steve, definitely not "line up with my ideologies". I'm speaking of analyzing my own "calls" as well. I would expect a trusted Christian friend to tell me if he/she thought that what I was doing in my life wasn't lining up with scripture. This is what we have pillars of the faith for. I wasn't specifically saying that the woman in your post was not called by God. It's very likely she was called to be a vessel in that particular community. But I take issue with the comment you made about not questioning anybody's call. To the contrary, mature believers should be trusted to question anyone's call. If it doesn't line up with what Jesus taught, what the character of God is, then it may not be legitimate.

I appreciate this discussion and your blog.

Christine said...

Good response, Modern Ancient. Where is the scripture reference about child molestation? I'd like to look that up.

Are we to say, then, that addictive behaviors need to be seen in a different context as well because people are born predisposed to certain temptations? Overspending...gambling...drinking... I could go on. Again, I'm just tossing things out there off the top of my head. Gotta run, though, my four kids are tearing up the house as I'm typing here!

A Modern Ancient said...

Christine,
2 references, neither without disputing interpretations... this simply being one of them (and the most popular one at the moment amongst biblical scholars):

1Cor 6:9-10 lists "male prostitutes"(NRSV) as not going to heaven. However, the word is catamites which is literally translated as 'boy' prostitutes. These were very common. Basically, they were young boys kept as sex slaves (usually they were being educated... part of the whole student/teacher thing) by older men. By our standards today, this is child molestation and the young boy would be considered a victim. The second reference is fairly similar... 1 Tim.1:9-10.

In response to your question about gambling, alcohol, etc. I would have to say that those cannot be put in the same category as a loving, committed relationship. What proponents of gay marriage and the church's acceptance of covenantal homosexual relationships are arguing is that these relationships are never condemned in the bible. Furthermore, the writers did not have the scientific knowledge we do to know that some people are simply wired that way.

One last thing, if I am genetically predisposed to alcoholism, yet I never take a drink... I would never become an alcoholic. Contrarily, if I am predisposed to homosexuality, I would constantly desire a relationship with someone of the same-sex. A mutually committed and beneficial emotional and sexual monogamous relationship is what we are designed for (see the creation account... "it is not good for man to be alone"), whereas we were not designed (originally) as addicts.

Rohmeo said...

I'd be interested to hear how you guys reconcile or interpret the hotly debated passage of Romans 1:16-32 when you mention homosexual acts are not directly addressed in Scripture?

Modern Ancient,

If someone was predisposed to homosexuality, are you saying then desire is excusable and shouldn't be accountable or just the action? Plus, there is a difference between temptation and desire. The heart has many desires and as we know is wicked from birth thanks to the curse. If I'm predisposed being trapped in an broken elevator with 10 bikini-clad models for a week...is it an excuse to turn that temptation into desire either through lust or by action because the flesh would really be working on me brother but I don't think Christ would condone it (let alone my wife).

A Modern Ancient said...

Rhomeo,
There are a couple of interpretations of Romans 1. First, Paul is not condemning those naturally predisposed to homosexuality but those who engage in 'unnatural' sexual behavior... i.e. a heterosexual having same-sex relations as we as a homosexual having heterosexual relations.

Second, Paul's point isn't about the homosexuals, but to show the hypocrisy of those he's writing to. Basically he is saying that if you think those who engage in same-sex relations are bad, you are worse than even them. Granted, Paul was not in favor of homosexuality, but that is not his point.

Lastly, Paul's science is revealed to be faulty for he assumes it is a choice to have same sex attractions and to act on them.

Those are the interpretations (that I've read) from the proponents of the church supporting monogamous, committed same-sex relationships.

A Modern Ancient said...

I do think desire is 100% excusable. However, I think the actions that can grow from those desires are subject to morality/biblical standards/God's desire/etc.

Not one Christian advocate for the acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships thinks that it goes for any sexual act. They only support committed, monogamous relationships. So, if someone is predisposed to desire a committed, monogamous relationship with a person of the same sex, is it sinful for them to enter into the same type of relationship that, if it were a man and a woman, would be considered a sacrament? That is the big question.

samarahuel said...

Modern Ancient, in your last comment you quoted from Genesis, "It is not good for man to be alone," but you didn't finish the sentence, which I believe is very relevant to this discussion. God continues by saying, "I will make a helper suitable for him." He forms all kinds of creatures, but in the end, it is a woman, not a man, who is the suitable helper for the man. If you back up to the first chapter of Genesis, you will read this passage: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." You can argue that passages like those in 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, and the one Rohmeo mentioned in Romans don't apply to loving, committed homosexuals, but there is yet a more fundamental truth that is in danger of being distorted when it comes to homosexuality. Read Ephesians 5:22-33: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." This verse refers back to the Genesis account to explain that marriage is an imitation of the relationship between Christ and his church. God created man and woman to be very different but complementary to one another both sexually and otherwise. Two men or two women, even in a loving, monogamous relationship, cannot accurately represent Christ and the church as God intended. We marry because it is a representation of God himself, and anything that distorts that representation is perversion indeed. A man who submits to another man like a wife or a woman who takes the place of authority like a husband to another woman is like Christ dying for himself or the church taking the place of Christ on the cross. Either one has implications that clearly contradict what we know is indisputable truth from the Bible (Was Christ a sinner that he had to die for himself? Is the Church sinless that it can rule itself without Christ? Certainly not.) In the same way, a man who is unfaithful to his wife distorts that truth (God is not unfaithful), as does a girl who sleeps with many different men to whom she is not married (a Christian cannot run after other gods), as does a woman who simply does not submit to her husband or a husband who does not love his wife. Regardless of what Paul was talking about when he said "homosexuality," I believe all of these are severe and serious sins because they misrepresent and therefore defame the glory of God.

A Modern Ancient said...

samarahuel,
Well, I guess I would have to ask you if a wife should love her husband? It isn't commanded. Sure, the husband is supposed to love his wife, but the wife is only supposed to respect her husband. If we agree that the wife is also called to love her husband, then we can agree that we must look beyond the literal, word for word, interpretations. Paul himself said he was talking about Christ and the Church and was merely using an illustration (marriage) that was familiar to his audience to demonstrate his point.

Also, don't forget verse 21 (you started at 22) where it commands husbands and wives to submit to each other. Does Christ submit himself to the church? Perhaps that can be argued, but it is a very thin argument.

Where I think you and I differ, and probably can't come to terms theologically, is that I do not think the creation accounts are actually supposed to be taken literally. They are figurative/allegorical/parabolic... take your pic. Further, I do agree that men and women have different things to offer, but that does not mean that there aren't men who possess what we would think of as more feminine traits (for example, I am a total weeper... movies, books, McDonald's commercials where the kid takes his dad in for show and tell) as well as women who demonstrate more masculine traits (my wife calls me a big girl when I cry at movies, books, and McDonald's commercials).

To reduce people to roles based upon their gender is to deny the individuality of every believer and the unique call on their lives. It is that type of thinking that kept (and still keeps) women from being ordained.

Again, I am not trying to prove anything to anyone on this issue. I am playing a bit of devil's advocate to show us all that both sides of this issue have legitimate positions, and we must be willing to not only engage in debate but to consider the validity of the opposing argument.

A Modern Ancient said...

One more question,
So are you saying that two men cannot be Christ to each other? Or two women? So, as a man, I must always be the Christ representative and never be allowed to lean on someone else? And women can therefore never be a rock for others since that is a man's position?

I am not trying to sound sarcastic, I am simply trying to understand the implications of your interpretation of Eph 5.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your honesty in this post. I was on the fence on how to deal with this issue as a Christian, and this post is a compelling argument that love is the right way to deal with it. Thanks for that.
Erin

David said...

"So are you saying that two men cannot be Christ to each other? Or two women? So, as a man, I must always be the Christ representative and never be allowed to lean on someone else? And women can therefore never be a rock for others since that is a man's position?"

I think what he is saying is that in that loving committed relationship "marriage" that is how it is supposed to look. Obviously with friends and stuff it is ok to lean on someone else when you need to.

As far as openly interpreting the Bible gos.I get it, but I do not think it is right to just explain away all things in the Bible that make us uncomfortable, or things modern society tells us is ok. If you choose not to believe some of the Bible, why bother to believe any of it?

Steve Fuller said...

David,

My problem is that we already do explain away parts of the Bible while keeping other parts.

The Old Testament is full of "rules" that we no longer follow because modern society has decided they are silly. Yet we argue like hell to keep others. The New Testament is pretty clear that women shouldn't be in church leadership, and yet most churches have realized that makes no sense in today's society, where women are educated, and strong, and just as capable as any man to lead.

I don't believe we have to choose to "believe all of the Bible or none of it." (Paraphrasing you)

I believe we can choose to see the Bible as a list of rules, or as an amazing story that reveals truth. You read the story as a whole and choose to live your life in a way that honors that story, or you pick out specific verses to guide behavior.

It's doesn't say anything about child molestation in the Bible, but the Story leads me to the truth that child molestation is wrong.

There are brief mentions of homosexual behavior in the Bible, but the Story leads me to believe that Jesus wants us to love and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation. And he wants us to fight for the oppressed. And he wants us to stop with all the religious rhetoric that makes no difference in the lives of real people.

David said...

I get what you are saying completely. I just think we need to be very careful about how we interpret what we read.

But in all honesty I don't really care about how people interpret things, as long as you believe Jesus came to earth and died for our sins and the only way to heaven is through him, then everything else is between you and God.

Rohmeo said...

Steve and Modern Ancient,

to me it's either all or nothing on the Bible being totally inerrant. Either the Holy Spirt was on these authors or He wasn't. Sorry Modern Ancient but saying Paul's science proves to be faulty on homosexual behavior is putting "created" Science above "Creator" God and reading more into what is there. If you don't believe the Bible is truth then I totally understand why you would say that...and respectfully disagree.

There are some things that in one hand to me are closed-fisted when it comes to Christianity...that would be one of them because the truth of His Word is at stake and is a non-negotiable. The other hand is an open hand that we can debate about because it's not 100% pertinent to the main tenants of the Gospel--things such as infant baptism, cessation, woman pastors, etc. (some will screem saying those have to matter and I'm not saying they are not important). Sure, not everything is to be taken literally when clearly there are metaphors, parables, etc. but that's why context and seeing how the "story" unfolds is so important.

We have to remember this is a story that points to Jesus from beginning to end and we are either all about Jesus or we're not. Now not everything has to make TOTAL sense...that is a portion of Faith...trust me it drives me crazy sometimes too because I want to reason my way through some issues but you just have to go ok God you know best..I submit to you in all things, even in this.

Steve, no one should explain away any part of the Bible and hold on to others. That probably is due to ignorance mostly. Many people point to things in the OT and say things like see this is crap with some weird events and customs...how can this be a Loving God? I hear some say that Slavery was condoned back then. Slaves were not always the way we filter because of what we think of it in our day. Back then slaves could be a relative working for another family to pay off debt etc. Plus some of the passages in the OT are like a history book in that it's telling what happened...and a lot of crap happened to show how evil mankind is...doesn't mean God was reveling in it...though he was Sovereign over it. It should make us dig in more to understand.

And...the Law became obsolete and was fulfilled when Jesus came as the Messiah so lot's of that stuff hasn't been followed for a couple thousand years. It had a time and a place for a purpose. Also, just because we become more modernized and deem things out-dated and silly doesn't mean we are the authority on it.

A Modern Ancient said...

Rhomeo,
"to me it's either all or nothing on the Bible being totally inerrant."

So the bible is completely without errors? I would have to challenge you on that. Now, I believe everything in the bible is truth, but NOT everything is fact. For example, did Jesus die on Thursday or Friday? Three of the gospels say the latter but one says the former. Did Judas hang himself or did his 'intestines burst open and spill out' thus giving the name for the 'Field of Blood' (however, another gospel says it was named that because it was bought with blood money)? Incidentally, the intestines bursting is a literary trope used often in ancient and medieval writings... very prevalent in early Greek works.

I think there is a difference between truth and fact. The fact that there is no extra biblical evidence for a King David or Solomon is troubling to historians. If Solomon was truly as rich as the Bible makes out, there should be some mention of him in the writings of other cultures. In fact, the first Hebrew king mentioned outside the Bible is Jehu... much later than David and Solomon... and he is portrayed as pretty insignificant among other kings on the obilisk on which he appears. It is fairly clear that creation did not take place in the literal, biblical fashion (even Jews say this), but that does not make the truth of the story worth any less. It simply means the facts aren't there if we choose to read it literally.

Everyone picks and chooses parts of the bible that they adhere to and parts they do not. Every attempt at biblical interpretation is someone's attempt at 'explaining away' (or as I would call it, interpreting it properly) passages as well as arguing the necessity of other passages.

Lastly, the OT laws were not made 'obsolete' by any means. Jesus specifically said that not one of them would pass away. He said they had been fulfilled but not made obsolete. In fact, we still use the law to convict people of sin (as Paul said its purpose was). We have just picked the laws we deem necessary. Interestingly enough, the ones most Christians deem necessary do not include ones that the earliest Christians deemed necessary since most Christians see nothing wrong with eating meat with the blood still in it (a specific command against this was pronounced in Acts 15).

A Modern Ancient said...

David,
"I think what he is saying is that in that loving committed relationship "marriage" that is how it is supposed to look. Obviously with friends and stuff it is ok to lean on someone else when you need to."

But even that model is relatively new. We need to understand that the modern, western definition of marriage is only a few hundred years old (see the Fourth Lateran Council in 1213). Many cultures, including the monotheistic, view marriage as a contractual arrangement rather than a mutually beneficial partnership based in love and respect. Even Europeans took this view and many nobles fought against the church's attempts to sacrilize marriage.

The bible does not suggest Solomon was going against how marriage was 'supposed to look' when it talks of his many wives and concubines. In fact, it is a sign of his great wealth and power.

Really, what it comes down to is what is in a person's pants that allows them to be united emotionally, spiritually, and sexually... which any married person will tell you is a very significant factor in the first two... though admittedly not a necessary one since people unable to perform can still have fulfilling marriages, but I promise you there is a strain. If two women have felt a pull to partner in this way with each other (both having these same-sex attractions since as early as they can remember), and we know that they have no control over their sexual orientation... sexual behavior, yes but not orientation... then what those who oppose gay marriage are suggesting is this:

1) God did not design you to be alone, but instead designed you to be in a committed emotional, spiritual, and sexual partnership with another person for life.

2) God allowed* you to be attracted to members of the same sex.

3) Either God made a mistake (not possible), is cruel (not possible), desires for you to be lonely or frustrated (doesn't seem consistent with God's character), or possibly God delights in any loving and committed relationship.

Remember, just like marriage is often used as a metaphor for Christ and his church, it is also often used as a metaphor for the Trinity in that they are both covenant relationships.

Lastly, To suggest that a man cannot symbolize a bride or that a woman cannot symbolize a groom is, in my opinion, unbiblical. If the church is the bride, and I am a member of the church, then I (as an individual) am also a bride of Christ (see the sermons of St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century). Also, if we are the ambassadors of Christ to the world (in a sense it means we are Jesus in the world... see Galatians 2:20), and women are called to the priesthood of all believers as well, then a woman can represent the groom. This means that perhaps it is because we are not comfortable with an effeminate man or a masculine woman that we reject same-sex marriages and we should challenge ourselves to consider the possibility of being wrong.

I am not sure I can offer much more to this discussion. There are numerous essays, online debates, journal articles, and books that take both sides of this issue... and they are both solidly biblical. That is why I wrestle with this issue... because both sides strive to be biblically accurate and faithful, yet they come to vastly different conclusions.

A Modern Ancient said...

One last thing on inerrancy. I do not think the bible is inerrant because there are numerous historical and scientific 'errors.' I believe the bible to be infallible.

Many Protestants cringe at that word since Catholics profess the doctrine of Papal infallibility. However, most of them don't understand what that doctrine actually says. It does not mean that the Pope never makes a mistake or says something that is factually incorrect. It means that in issues of faith and morals, when the Pope speaks it is infallible.

Now, as a Protestant I don't agree with that doctrine, but I would totally transfer it to the bible. When it the writers attempt to put forth scientific theory or historical fact, they might not be correct. However, the truth about God, humanity, the relationship between the two, and the standards of humans relating to one another which the writers communicate are 100% true... even when we don't fully understand it... that is why even as Christians have wavered and changed their interpretations of these truths, it doesn't make the truths any less true. It just means that we are constantly being challenged and shaped... as individuals and as the church corporately.

I'm out. :-)

David said...

Well modern ancient, like you said there is really not much more to debate. I think your view on the Bible and such are so much different then mine and as it appears rohmeos that all we will do is debate in circles. lol I think we can just chalk this one up to another one of those things we just cant know for sure.

But one thing I know nobody can argue with is that, we need to love everybody the same and NOTHING at all should change how we view person to person.

Rohmeo said...

I just think we can really over-intellectualize things to the point that may hinder the whole point we were made which is to Glorify God...would anyone disagree with that?

The problem I have with everyone staying safe in the end and saying "love wins" is that it does not address that part of loving is being able to rebuke or be called out by your friends and family when you are wrong or in sin...that is what true love does...it's not all fun and games and what's good for you is good with me. I see a lot of Science, History, Feelings, and Experience being thrown out in these discussions but not much ever comes up about the heart problem--Sin. If true believers want what's best for others, at some point in your loving and living in community by word and example..agreeing with everyone to keep peace, gain acceptance an be cool because God will love us all in the end I believe damages the exclusivity of the Gospel which is in Christ alone...that is tragic. It still doesn't solve the Sin issue that we each have. I would think this should devastate believers and be at the forefront of our love for the lost.

David said...

I agree completely with you Rohmeo, but I dont feel im in a position to rebuke anybody in this thread, because I dont know anyone at all, so I dont think I should. But I def agree with you.

A Modern Ancient said...

Rhomeo,
What happens if, on this issue, you are the one who needs rebuking? I am not saying that is true, but shouldn't we be open to that possibility?

As for the 'exclusivity' of the gospel... while I think there can be that element, the point of the gospel is inclusion not exclusion. Every other religion at that time was based in regional, cultural, ethnic, and racial similarities... i.e. the Jews as a nation set apart, the specific religions, gods and goddesses of other regions and people groups, etc. Christianity was the first to shatter that and be united by a common faith rather than a common heritage. There was no longer Jew nor Greek, male nor female, and so on.

Yes, I believe Jesus is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him. However, the victory won through the incarnation, cross and resurrection was not only won for a select few, but for the entire world... all of creation for that matter. Everything is being redeemed and will be redeemed.

Now, I know this flirts with universalism so let me clarify. I believe that everyone's sins have been washed away, the chasm has been bridged, and everyone has been made right with God. However, I believe that many choose to deny this truth in their lives and to live a life which conflicts with their redemption. They choose to not accept who they truly are, and they can choose that reality all the way into an eternal separation from that reality.

My point being, I think Christianity is the most inclusive religion of all time. Unfortunately, many choose to exclude themselves.

Just so you don't think I just pulled this theology out of the sky, there are numerous Pauline passages that point to this type of universalism. So many in fact that a number of the early church fathers actually taught universalism... Origen being the most prominent.

I do agree that we can over-intellectualize all of this. In reality, it is about revealing Christ to others. Jesus described himself as gentle and humble. Rebuke done within a close friendship lines up perfectly with gentleness and humility. Blanket condemnation or the refusal to acknowledge the possibility of error does not. Mind you, I am not accusing anyone here of that. This has been one of the most civil conversations on this topic I have ever engaged in.

Anonymous said...

Steve,
I nearly cried when I read this week's post. I grew up in the Baptist Church, and while I don't currently belong to any church body, I hold my faith very close to my heart. I am also bisexual - a fact that NONE of my family or friends that I grew up with know. I have struggled for so long with the idea that somehow who I am is "wrong" with God, even though He created me. And I honestly didn't believe that there were many Christians out there who didn't feel that way. To see you state so openly that you believe how Christianity treats gays and lesbians is wrong is such a huge breath of fresh air. Thank you so much.

Jeckie said...

This is a great discussion! Kudos to everyone for discussing so rationally.

As a note to those who wonder if homosexuals would be welcome at any church (with lack of bouncers), the question actually came up in the church I grew up in, and the consensus (determined at a church meeting led by the elders) was that if a gay man walked through the door, they would ask him to leave. There are very many churches out there that aren't about ministering to the children of God and giving people a place where they can be closer to Him - they're about making the membership feel "safe" and following a set of rules. They so quickly forget that missions begins at home, not overseas.

Rohmeo said...

Amen to the civility in these converstations!

Modern Ancient, I totally am up for a good rebuking when need be...absolutely...even when I'm not willing. Like Paul reminds so humbly...I am the Chief of sinners!

I do think it's a little misleading to say it's an inclusive religion...number one because it's not a religion...because it's not a set of certain rules...it's about a relationship with Jesus...and we live in response to that...not because we have to but because we want to. Big Difference!

Yes it's inclusive in that anyone can come to Jesus but it's exclusive in that it's only through Jesus. Because of that you have to reject other faiths such as Universalism (in the extreme form), Buddism, Islam, etc. for obvious reasons. Doesn't mean you can't love all peoples but at some point personal accountability will come in...I just don't think genuine believers who truly want what's best for others can shy away from that. Some look at it as "judging" but that's only if it's random condemnation...that's stupid. However, Scripture does say that the Gospel is an offense to many...we'd all love for it to be a uniter and what Christ did he did do for all but only few will accept the gift. So it will divide. Makes sense to me since it's the narrow way. I think Christ did die for all sins but if each does not accept that we remain in our condemnation and under God's wrath. If you think about it those who "reject" Christ are living their own way, the way we want and getting everything we want in our worship of "self" so in the end I think God will say...hey it's not my fault...this is exactly what you wanted. We can even see in our own lives when apart from Christ things may seem great but there's still something there that wants the next best or just doesn't totally bring ultimate satisfaction or supreme joy. That's because we were created orginally for His worship and for his Glory. Scripture says any other way will evenually lead to destruction.

You're not saying that everything will be redeemed in the end as in all peoples do you? Everything will be reconciled but why would there still be a hell then? Then why would you need the cross? I would think that would make God really look like the puppet master and where would the Glory be in it for him since that's who he is?

A Modern Ancient said...

Rhomeo,
I think we have different definitions of religion. I think you are using a very current, evangelistic, and somewhat derogatory to traditional Christianity that defines religion as a set of rules or rituals.

I think this is a better definition:
RELIGION:
–noun
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.

All of these involve faith, a set of beliefs, a corporate worship (usually containing some rituals... even churches who claim to not have rituals have rituals). So, part of our religion (a fundamental part) is that ritual is not a substitute for faith. Rather, faith leads to a full understanding and a proper participation in ritual.

A Modern Ancient said...

continued...
I did not use universalism as a separate faith. That would be Unitarian Universalist. Universalism in the Christian context is extremely Christo-centric. Those who preach it say that all things are have been, are being, and will be redeemed and reconciled to God through Christ.

I do not go that far because I agree that there are a great many who have chosen, choose, and will choose to deny their redemption and refuse reconciliation. However, I do not consider them under the 'wrath of God' since that would suggest that God will punish them for eternity. This would mean that God is actually present in Hell and takes an active role in the torment of unbelievers. I personally think that the torment is the permanent separation and impossibility of reunification with God. God has no hand in the eternal torment other than separating from those who have chosen to separate themselves from him.

Also, there is more than just having faith in Christianity. Faith without works is dead. There are so many passages that explicitly state we will be judged by our works. Jesus even says this in Matthew 25. The book of Revelation says it as well. In fact, Revelation suggests that names can be erased from the Book of Life due to the failure to do works.

We are save by grace, through faith, and not by works. Yet, we are God's workmanship, created to do good works. If we don't do good works, we don't have faith.

But, 1John 3:10 says > The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.

And later 1John 4:7-10 > Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This shows two things (or at least suggests two things):
1) If we are not doing good works (what is right) then we are not of God.

2) Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

It is because of #2 (and many, many other passages in the NT) that many believe that it is very possible... even probably... that those who do not 'know' Jesus (in our westernized sense) but do the work of God (loving their neighbors, serving the poor, etc.) actually do belong to God.

A Modern Ancient said...

continued...
C.S. Lewis (a champion of Protestant Evangelicals) suggests this exact thing at the end of The Chronicles of Narnia in The Last Battle. A Calormene soldier, who worshiped a god names Tash rather than Aslan, ends up in Aslan's country after the final judgment. He is very confused and tells Aslan that he doesn't understand since he had always loved and served Tash and cursed the name of Aslan. The great lion told him that it was impossible to do good in the name of anyone other than Aslan, just as they cannot do evil in the name of Aslan.

Universalism, in some ways, actually puts more power in the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. They believe that when Paul says 'at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,' (Phil 2) and that it is God who saves us and works in us (Phil 2 & Rom 9:16) and not by anything (they even take this to mean our own will in 'choosing' faith) we do.

Again, I can only go so far because I think that God respects our choice to deny him... though I believe it breaks his heart since he 'desires no one to perish, but all to come to repentance' (2Peter 3:9).

I do believe that anyone who spends eternity with God, does so through Jesus. However, I do not think that means they MUST believe in Jesus here on earth; for, there have been billions who have lived and died never knowing the name of Jesus or hearing of his sacrifice and victory over sin and death. I do believe it is easier, and more fulfilling in this life, if people know Jesus before they reach eternity which is why I am pro-missions.

The way is narrow, but not exclusive... in fact, it is open and calling to all, despite themselves since 'God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.' (Rom 5:8) Extremely inclusive.

Kate said...

Steve,

Thank you for your open-mindedness. I'm not gay, but have countless friends that are. I have for years avoided church and what I consider organized religion because I've met too many others that consider themselves "Christian" yet openly discriminate against gays, blacks and others. I've yet to meet a self-described Christian that approaches those that are different from them with an open mind. As a result, I've been completely turned off by Christianity. Your post has caused me to reconsider my perspective. Thank you.

samarahuel said...

Modern Ancient,
It appears I am pretty late with my reply to you, but I did want to clarify a few things.

First, wives are indeed taught to love their husbands in Titus 2:4. The word is there, no need to look beyond the literal, word for word interpretation. This word for love is philandros, meaning, “fond of man,” which means wives are to have affection for their husbands. This differs from the sacrificial love that Christ has for the church.

However, women ARE included in the general instructions to all believers all over Scripture to love everyone the way that Christ loves. This is not a part of the specific husband/wife/Christ/church parallel. Likewise, in verse 21 as you mentioned, all believers are commanded to submit to one another “out of reverence for Christ” (not AS Christ, as you correctly note. I don't think even a thin argument can be made that Christ submits to the church.). This obviously applies to both men and women, but it does not apply specifically to the marriage relationship because it addresses all believers generally rather than saying “Husbands and wives, submit to each other.”

I don't think it matters how literally you take the creation account as much as it matters how literally you take the gospel, which I still believe marriage was intended to portray.

There are men who possess feminine traits and women who are a bit more masculine, and initially I would say that that doesn't mean those traits don't come from our sinful natures that were distorted after creation. I will say that your wife sounds a lot like me; I'm not a weeper myself. I am charmed when my husband shows sensitivity that the world would not call “manly,” and I do think that you, like him, must be a godly man. There is a dangerous line however, when our traits distract from the gospel. A person may be naturally inclined to be outspoken, but when that trait is taken too far or if that person should disregard Ephesians 5:21, they are not living with reverence for Christ and they put their individuality above God's glory. In the same way, a man may have feminine traits, but he sins if he thinks he must be true to his individuality to the extent that he must engage in homosexuality and disregard the gospel. I honestly don't believe God is concerned with “the individuality of every believer and the unique call on their lives” at all. I just don't see that anywhere in Scripture. I do see that from Genesis to Revelation He is passionate about his glory, and that the means by which God is glorified is the gospel. Even passages like Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, which liken believers to various parts of one body, do not advocate the glory of an individual or their uniqueness. Instead, all the parts of the body are to come under the head, which is Christ, and all are to work together for the sake of His gospel and His glory. There is no more heinous sin than getting in the way of God's glory.

(This is beside the point, but since you brought it up, as for women being ordained, see Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:2 and 12. This will sound close-minded and rude, but what keeps women from being ordained is Biblically sound doctrine.)

No, I don't think two men or two women should be Christ to each other. Not in a homosexual, heterosexual, or any other context. 1 Corinthians 11:3 says, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” So, if a woman needs someone to lean on, she should lean on her husband, who should in turn lean on God. You, as a man, should not need a “Christ representative” because you have Christ himself! Neither should you be the Christ representative of any other man, to do so would be wrongly distracting that man from his real Savior. A woman should never look for a “rock” in anyone but her husband, or directly in Christ himself. I do confess this seems a very strict order of things, but I believe that is how God intended it to be, that any other configuration, again, would be a confusing twist of the gospel.

samarahuel said...

“Lastly, to suggest that a man cannot symbolize a bride or that a woman cannot symbolize a groom is, in my opinion, unbiblical.”

This is true, but I think it would be incorrect and simply illogical to mix the symbols. No person, male or female,
can symbolize a bride and a groom at the same time in the same relationship. What I mean is that when speaking of one symbol, the Bible never mixes in another, and neither should we. We must be careful to make the correct distinctions.

splendid said...

Hi everyone,
first time reader of Steve here and what a post to walk in on...
i applaud each and everyone one of you for your thoughts, and i thank you for your civility with each other.
many thoughts touched me but this one from Jayp:
"Too often in the church we withhold love in order to demonstrate disapproval for certain types of behavior. Whether or not you see homosexuality as a sin, this is an unacceptable approach which Christ never modeled. As a church we must do better and it begins in the heart of each believer."
will stay with me forever.

we withhold love in order to demonstrate disapproval

this is such a terrible way to raise human beings...

from now on i will no longer withhold love, i will voice my disapproval with words and move on with love.

thank you all sincerely

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

What interested me was that you find intinction is the normal way of receiving Communion. I wonder if this is American as I (who am British) have never experienced this. When I was Anglican, the wine was served in a communal chalice, out of which all sipped; now that I am Methodist, we have some disgusting fluid that makes me retch served in individual glasses.

Anonymous said...

In response to this:

"Do you believe God would call a lesbian woman to lead a church? If so, ok. If not, then how do you explain her hearing God's call for her life? If you believe she misheard, then how can we trust anyone when they claim to hear God's voice? Do we trust certain people because it fits with what we want to believe, and not trust others because it doesn't fit with our ideology?"

My response would be - at the end of the day - you can't just trust that people who say they have heard from God have actually heard from God. That's why God gave us the Bible - because we can't look inside people's heads and hearts. But the Bible is an external, objective standard that we can all see and read. So, I can tell someone that God told me to shoot my neighbor. But they can look at the Bible and tell me, "No he didn't. I don't know what you think you heard. But it wasn't God" - because of what the Bible says. The same approach can be taken to this woman's claim that God called her, as a lesbian, into ministry. If she takes that as God's endorsement of her lesbianism - what do the Scriptures say about that? Do the Scriptures endorse same sex relationships?

No, they don't. That doesn't mean this woman is an awful person. It means she is wrong on that issue. Just like I'm wrong on issues of my own. We are all out of step with the Scriptures somewhere. We all need to repent and trust God, even more than we trust our own desires, no matter how "natural" or "right" they may feel. I have no doubt that this woman is a caring, sensitive person who likely has a great deal to offer in ministering to and serving others. But none of that changes the fact that God has spoken, and not ambiguously, on this matter.

A Modern Ancient said...

samarahuel,

we just have different ways of interpreting the bible. while i believe that all scripture is inspired and useful (2Tim 3:16), i do not believe it to be the final word. i also do not believe it can be properly interpreted outside of the context in which it was written, nor with disregard of the history behind it.

as for mixing metaphors, your statement that they are never mixed goes against most biblical interpretation throughout history. it was taught almost from the beginning that there were different levels of interpreting scripture... different roles the same scripture can take in the exact same situation. also, many have taught that we can assume multiple roles in the same relationship. i am my wife's husband, but i am also her friend. in the midst of that, i can be her teacher and her student. i am her brother in Christ yet her lover. Christ is both our sibling (for we have been adopted and are co-heirs with him [Rom. 8:14-17]) and our Lord. he is one with the Father yet was begotten (eternally). these seemingly paradoxical relationships are an essential mystery to the Christian faith and the Christian community. therefore, we can be both a follower of Christ and sibling in the Lord to another person as well as the example of Christ (or ambassador [2Cor 5:20]) and the visual image (1Cor 11:1) of Christ to that person.

the greek word for love, as you point out, is not the love that we would associate in our culture with the love required for marriage. it is one of respect which leads to fondness. it is a fondness of necessity since it is associated with familial relations... not sexual or necessarily emotional. so, i still maintain that wives are not commanded to 'love' their husbands as you and i would understand how a spouse should feel towards their partner in life.

your texts to argue against women's ordination are a bit weak in my opinion as they are clearly written to address a specific situation in a specific community. not that they don't have something to teach us today, but we must understand the point of the lesson. it was to ensure order in worship, not to exclude half the human population from a position within the church.

i find it interesting that the instructions given to wives (to submit, obey, etc. their husbands) which many praise are extremely similar to those given to slaves to submit, obey, etc. their masters which most of us would eschew because we find slavery to be repugnant.

A Modern Ancient said...

Anonymous said:
"at the end of the day - you can't just trust that people who say they have heard from God have actually heard from God. That's why God gave us the Bible - because we can't look inside people's heads and hearts. But the Bible is an external, objective standard that we can all see and read."

But Anonymous... you are simply trusting that the writers of the books and letters of the bible, as well as the people who decided which books to include in the canon of scripture, all heard from God. to say that the Bible is the test as to whether someone has heard from God is to use a bit of circular logic... "Well, I believe (without an external source to prove it) that these writers and the church authorities who chose to favor these writings heard from God and gave me a source to tell when someone else hears as well." Simply put, the Bible was never meant to be a litmus test.

Anonymous said...

In reference to your questioning God's calling: It is entirely possible that the woman referenced was in fact called but she has not realized the Lord's reason yet...maybe this is just His way of showing her the truth, but she must be open to it.