Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Jesus and Homosexuality 2

posted by xscot mcknight

This, our second post on Jesus and homosexuality, begins our survey of the central themes of Jesus’ ethical/moral teachings, and asks how such a theme might shed light on our discussion. I think we can agree that there is no need for, to use the words of Charles Dickens when he surveyed London churches in 1860, “the unventilated breath of the powerful Boanerges Boiler.” But, if we can agree on that, can we agree on what Jesus would say? I think we can agree that Jesus would have summoned anyone who cared to sit at table with him to follow him. Here we are in touch with an absolutely central, in fact the central, feature of Jesus’ ethical teaching. What might that mean for how Jesus would address homosexuality?
A couple of passages make what Jesus meant clear. First, let’s look at Mark 1:16-20:

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

To follow Jesus means to drop what you are doing; to suspend a previous activity; and to enter into a life of attachment, adherence, and following of Jesus. It is a shift of allegiance; it is an alteration of priorities; it is a suspension of our will to Jesus’ will. I don’t think anyone can question that these are the implications of answering the call to follow Jesus.
Here are the words from Luke 9:57-62:

Luke 9:57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Once again, the same point: those who follow Jesus are summoned to drop anything, everything, anyone, whatever is in the way, in order to be with Jesus, in order to follow Jesus. Shelter, physical security, sacred duties that may delay the response, even parental affections. These are stiff demands by Jesus who is Lord for his followers.
But, let’s back up one moment to clarify: these comments from Jesus are in the contexts of (1) God’s covenant with Israel, (2) humans as cracked Eikons and who remain so throughout the entire life but who are being transformed by God’s embracing grace, and (3) a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus isn’t giving “laws” for the Land; he is striking up relationships with cracked Eikons in order to invite them, with him, to establish the Kingdom of God. This is the context for what it means to call Jesus “Lord.” It is about being with Jesus, the New Covenant in Person, as cracked Eikons in process of repair.
My friend, the OT scholar at Oxford, Hugh Williamson, has a marvelous little book called The Lord is King (I can’t locate my copy just now) in which he addresses the question of what the NT means when it says “Jesus is Lord.” Does it mean “Lord of all or not Lord at all?” He thinks not. My memory serves me like this: Hugh contends that Lord means more “Lord for” than “Lord over.”
I want to emphasize something here: Jesus’ attitude is not “take me or leave me.” Instead, it is a here-I-am, come follow me. I am with you; will you be with me? The difference is dramatic. It is not an in-your-face or ball-you-out but a gracious embrace of grace that has the power to transform. He is the “Lord for” us because he is the “Lord with” us.
If Jesus is Lord in the sense of “for us” — he rules for us, etc., then to answer the summons to follow Jesus is to give him who we are, what we have done, and to entrust ourselves — our whole selves — to Jesus. Anything less than full surrender is incomplete following. Now, let’s be careful right here: not one of us gives up everything and all we are. We try; we reach out; but we are never fully surrendered. Regardless, Jesus is Lord “for” in helping us — he is there “for us” to give us strength, to empower us, to ennoble us and to direct us. (Of course, he is Lord “over” but that may not be the implication of his Lordship.)
But, the implication of following Jesus and wanting to return home to bury father, or turning back, or saying good-bye, or not dropping our nets, is that Jesus the Lord “us with” and “for” continues to beckon us to follow and to follow more and more. People resist; Jesus doesn’t turn his back on them; his arm is stretched out still.
Here is where a line has to be drawn: if it can be shown, and I think it can and I will try to do that in the posts ahead, that homosexual relations are contrary to God’s will, then when Jesus summons others to follow him, he is the Lord both “with” and “for” them in the sense that he is an adequate, even more than adequate, replacement for the relations they may be drawn to. They are summoned to follow him with everything they have and all they are. This is a love relationship: love takes place in the context of giving who we are to the other person. All of who we are.
Pastorally, I think we can assume that not all will “drop their nets” right now and on the spot; few do. But because some don’t does not mean the summons is altered. The summons of Jesus, plain and simple, and no one can contest it, is this: to follow Jesus. Anything less than that is not following Jesus; it can become a source of what the Bible often calls “idolatry.”
But, following Jesus is a process: it takes time; some surge forward quickly while others hang back and struggle. That’s part of what it means to respond to following Jesus. We do not expect anyone to “get perfected” all at once, so we need to admit right up front in the discipleship summons of Jesus that the call to “go and sin no more” is not followed perfectly by anyone — and Jesus knows this. He offers his hand to help, he offers his hand to point the way, but the hand that guides is next to the hand that helps when we fall. It takes time. The community of faith knows this and permits growth to happen (which means it knows that obedience is long).
We must get this right: Jesus invites us to table. At the table he summons us to follow him. Following Jesus is all that matters. An individual’s conscience or opinion is not the issue with Jesus: following him is the issue, the only issue.
For me, we have to begin with Jesus at table summoning anyone and everyone, whoever they might be and whatever their issues, to follow him. Nothing else.



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Becky

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:55 am


Thank you Scot. Often I feel I don’t have words for ideas I have, or what is going on in my heart. I find the words in what others have written. Your words here, this is the sense I’ve had of God to me and my responding to God. I stand on the shoulders of many others – this is the God I have chosen to believe in, but it is a God who has been shown to me by the words of many others, and the love of many others. I am thankful that I have known that love.
I am into bluegrass music. I got a new CD last week. One of the songs has great harmonies, an awesome bass running a counter melody. The chorus that repeats often is : “Jesus said : come and follow me and I will make you clean.” When I heard that, I thought of some of the discussions I’ve read on this blog. When we surrender to love, and that’s what it is – when I can let down my defenses and be wrapped in God’s love for me, when I can roll around in his love like a hog rolls in mud, revel in it, day to day, he transforms us, we are made cleaner.
Amen.
In his arms,



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rick

posted January 30, 2006 at 9:22 am


Nice post. I am still perplexed why the evangelical church spends so much time and energy on this particular topic. It seems that the exegesis on this topic seems to support either side– it depends on who is doing it.
Culture, once again is passing the church by and I think that this issue is becoming less and less a topic that the world is interested in discussing. It’s mostly white, evangelicals or white evangelical theology that is debating amongst itself.
Divorce and remarriage in the evangelical church is an epidemic. Nearly 53% of the people in the evangelical church are divorced and remarried (even after conversion), something that Jesus clearly spoke against. The poor argument is “they repented and ask for forgiveness” and the church moves on… it’s now CULTURALLY accepted by the church. As a scholar, you could elaborate on the meaning of divorce and why Jesus was against it much better than I can.
Considering how divorce destroys the fabric of a family, it must be destroying the fabric of society and forever changing the lives of countless people- especially children who are deeply impacted by the loss.
I know this sound like I am going off the deep end here, but what about all the white dudes writing about homosexuality who are reading internet porn? Leadership magazine reports that something like 38% of the pastors in the past year have checked out porn.
If we are going to devote time, energy, and scholarship to relevant issues surrounding sex that are negatively impacting society and church in much greater proportions that homosexuality, why not address the issues of divorce and remarrige in the evangelical church? How ’bout a sermon on Sunday morning about how those sitting in the pews are actually living in adultery by being divocred and remarried? If we are going to help people with their struggles, how ’bout calling out those 38% (heterosexual men) who have scanned internet porn in the past year?
Perhaps that may to big of a camel for the church to swallow.
Thanks for allowing me to comment. I appreciate your very well written and scholarly posts.



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Bob

posted January 30, 2006 at 10:40 am


Scot,
Kind of lost me here. I think a component of following this “with/for” Jesus has been left out (maybe you plan to cover it in a future post?). Jesus is more than a really powerful friend who is there to show us the way and give us a helping hand when we need it. He is the conduit of the very power we need. Not a power of strength or energy but the creative (re-creative) and transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
IMHO, without the Holy Spirit and life in Him, the Good News of the Kingdom Among Us turns into the Bad News of trying to be better each day.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted January 30, 2006 at 11:47 am


Scot,
Good foundation. I look forward to where you go from here. I also appreciate that you are not rushing ahead of yourself or the issue. That is an unusual and helpful approach.
Peace,
Jamie



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Ted Gossard

posted January 30, 2006 at 12:00 pm


Scot,
Amen. Certainly God meets us where we’re at. Not where we ought to be. If people don’t meet God in Jesus at that point, than they don’t meet him at all.
Thanks so much for this post and this series.
Ted



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John

posted January 30, 2006 at 12:09 pm


Part of the call of Jesus is not only to follow him, but to repent. Remember what he said to the adulterous woman. Any church that does not urge holiness is not an authentic church.



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Ron McK

posted January 30, 2006 at 1:12 pm


The Hardeness of Heart principle applies to this issue.



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Kevin

posted January 30, 2006 at 1:27 pm


Scot,
Nice post. I’ve struggled in my thoughts on how to handle the “gay” issue. As a straight person I have to admit there is a lot I don’t understand.
Inviting them to the table is a good analogy. If a gay person did come to my church I hope that I could invite him/her to dinner (literally not just figuratively), even though I don’t believe that homosexualality is part of God’s design for us.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2006 at 2:27 pm


Rick,
In many ways, as Christians and as teachers, social demand determines discussion topic, though it is ours also to shape the conversation as much as possible so that a genuine balanced and Christian approach is made. I agree with you that divorce and remarriage and the like are just as pressing. Thanks for this reminder.
Bob,
Jesus is Lord as much as one who is “with us” (as Immanuel) and “for us” (as Savior) as much as he is “over us” (traditional sense of Lord).



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Bob

posted January 30, 2006 at 3:07 pm


But you say: Here is where a line has to be drawn: if it can be shown, and I think it can and I will try to do that in the posts ahead, that homosexual relations are contrary to God’s will, then when Jesus summons others to follow him, he is the Lord both “with” and “for” them in the sense that he is an adequate, even more than adequate, replacement for the relations they may be drawn to.
And then go on to state how few of us actually do this. How we struggle and fail. How obedience is long and we imperfectly follow. The only hope we have is that Jesus will guide and help us in our efforts. Not in a judgemental way (ball-you-out) but in a “C’mon, you can do it way”??? So we continue to struggle and imperfectly follow but at least now we have an all-sufficient cheerleader??? (I’m putting words in your mouth.)
I think we need more–and He offers more: His Holy Spirit. It is only life in the Spirit that will yield the transformation He promises. I couldn’t expect a homosexual to forsake human intimacy without communicating this.



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Bryan Hodge

posted January 30, 2006 at 3:40 pm


Hi Bob. If I hear Scot correctly, I think he is only saying that there is another aspect to Christ’s Lordship, not that this is the only aspect. He stated above that he believes in the other aspects as well.
My issue, Scot, is that I don’t see Christ as always extending His hand to everyone, hoping that they repent. What about the hardening of Pharaoh, or the NT example of the parables, where Christ gives them for the express purpose in order that they might not see, turn and repent “in order that I would heal them?” However, I was unclear on whether you are talking about those who are going to be saved versus talking about all humanity in general. I think the Scripture would indicate what you are saying about the former, but not the latter. Is that what you meant?



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Bob

posted January 30, 2006 at 3:46 pm


Thanks, Bryan. Sorry, Scot. It must be my limited understanding of the terms used. Which does role does the work of the Holy Spirit fall under: “with”, “for” or “over”? I think I’m used to “in” which has different connotations than any of these.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2006 at 4:06 pm


Bob,
The Holy Spirit’s presence is a part of “God with us.” So, the “with us” part.



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Ken

posted January 30, 2006 at 4:54 pm


Hi Rick,
If it were the case that those who used online porn, or were divorced and remarried, or those who were deeply prejudiced against blacks/hispanics/Asians/whoever or abused their spouses or children or committed homosexual acts (because I will go with Scot in the affirmation I think he is making) that committing such acts does not make one ontologically somehting all sought to hide what they did and felt shame over it, that would be one thing. The difference is not that addiction to pornography or adultery are any less offensive to God (I think all people want to grade sin on a curve, but it seems to me that the end of Romans 1, much as I dislike it, asserts that my envy of the success of others is not per se less of a sin than committing murder because God does not rate sin on a curve), but that there are homosexual activists who not only say “we do these things” but that “society must change its entire basis of viewing humans to accomodate our tastes.” The local pastor addicted to online porn is not out marching for his rights. The local parents and relatives who abuse children sexually are not out demanding equal protection under the law for their actions. By contrast, many homosexuals are advocates of their lifestyles. They not only don’t hide it but shove it into your face. This year, there will likely be an academy award for that new new cowboy movie featuring homosexual content. I haven’t seen it but from what I’ve read, it’s not like the most wonderful film made last year. Yet, it willl win awards simply because of its subject matter. That’s the issue for me. I think that pastors addicted to porn need to be dealt with in some way, but they are not standing up in the pulpit promoting what they do.
Now, it may be that people who commit homosexual acts are present in my congregation and they are not promoting their lifestyle. It may bring them anguish. I don’t know. I do know, however, that the reason this issue is so big is because the church is reacting to those who want to shove the issue into the face of the culture and condemn anyone who thinks otherwise with some stupid epithet like homophobic.



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Ken

posted January 30, 2006 at 5:02 pm


Hi Scot,
I have two questions for you. You keep talking about Jesus’ table. Do you mean to extend that to communion? Do we let people who are currently doing abc (not limited to homosexual acts) freely come take communion, or do we reserve this for people who are activley seeking to live lives of repentance? I grant that judging whether someone is seeking to live this way is difficult to know at times. (I’m confident that no one in my church knows during communion whether I yelled at my kids before we left the house on a Sunday morning, yet that is something I seek to repent of).
Second, Jesus does call everyone to give up all and come follow him. Setting aside the specific issue under discussion, how would one know if someone had done this? One could easily interpret Jesus’ call the way Francis does at the start of the movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” and walk out of his father’s house naked. If we say “on no, Jesus does not want us to go that far,” how do we figure out just how far he does want us to go? I remember as a new believer wanting to do this (in my high school days) and trying to give back to my father over fifty dollars’ worth of plastic model building supplies because I was trying to give up all for Jesus. Now I’ve got a whole new set of supplies because it seemed to me that this wasn’t an issue that affected my allegiance to God or the implications of that allegiance. So how do I know “denying myself” and taking up my cross daily? How does one distinguish doing this correctly from overzealous but misplaced legalism?



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Call Me Ishmael

posted January 30, 2006 at 5:05 pm


This post moves the current discussion in a very hopeful direction. I look forward to more.



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Ken

posted January 30, 2006 at 5:32 pm


Hi Scot,
Just a quick book question: would you verify that book title by Hugh Williamson? I can find
H.G.M. Williamson, Variations on a Theme: King, Messiah and Servant in the Book of Isaiah : The Didsbury Lectures 1997 (Didsbury Lectures) but I can’t find The Lord is King by him. Thanks.



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Ken

posted January 30, 2006 at 5:58 pm


Hi Scot,
Sorry, I just tried harder and found the title you mentioned. Feel free to delete this post and the previous one on account of failure on my part to look hard enough.



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Bob

posted January 30, 2006 at 6:01 pm


I think Ken’s second set of questions in #15 highlight the difference between “with” and “in”. This is “with” thinking. “In” thinking questions would be more along the lines of “What is He doing?” “How can I tell?” “How can I foster it?”



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Becky

posted January 30, 2006 at 6:22 pm


Ken, I think a part is to recognize relationship is what Jesus wants with us. We could be like the rich young ruler, having given up all, or thinking we have, yet our heart not bonded with Jesus. I don’t see Jesus in his examples like giving up all, giving us a list of things to do so we can know we’re doing it “right.”- check, did that; check, did that. In all those examples, I think Jesus is trying to nail down the idea that he wants our hearts because in a love relationship my heart responds to his heart. With the rich young ruler, I don’t think Jesus is saying all of us must leave all to follow him. I think Jesus found the one place where the rich young ruler was hindered from trusting Jesus. Where his heart could not yet bond with Jesus’ heart. I see a theme in my life, of Jesus asking me to trust him deeper and deeper in me, pointing out one thing after another of how I can trust him deeper and deeper, and when I do, what I find is more love. Not that he loves me more then, but that my bit of lack of trust kept me from experiencing the fullness of his love. I think it’s about love and trust – our lives are fueled, by our hearts full of our Lover’s love. Trust, love, relationship. Whatever hinders us now for that to go deeper, will be shown to us, one by one.
In his arms,



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Becky

posted January 30, 2006 at 6:34 pm


Rick, it may be anytime we echo the words of Jesus extending his hand, saying “let me love you,” we are addressing all people in the pews (and not in the pews) with sins in their life they have yet been unable to release. We need not a sermon pointing out #’s 1,2,3 sins. We can invite those encumbered by sin to let themselves turn to our Lover God.
in his arms,



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Becky

posted January 30, 2006 at 6:42 pm


John, but when we repent, what do we turn to ? We repent because we have encountered Love. We repent because we want to bond ourselves to that Love. If a church preaches holiness, if christians preach holiness, must we have first shown the fullness of the love to turn to. I heard Schaeffer talk of the design of the temple. There’s the mercy seat. Thing is, the law is in the mercy seat. Interesting connotation there. Law and mercy go together. Schaeffer said that in the Hebrew, mercy and holiness aren’t seperate words, that the english language doesn’t have a word that would be the Hebrew word. The closest we can do is mercylaw as if they are one word. There is not love, over here, or holiness, over there. May we be able to have illustrated the love to turn to when we speak of holiness.
in his arms,



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Becky

posted January 30, 2006 at 6:50 pm


Kevin, may you be in the custom of inviting all people to dinner. And if one of the people be using gay activity, may they be a person invited to dinner too. Not because they do gay activities, but because they are another person and you are in the custom of inviting people to dinner. When you invite people to dinner, you are inviting all sorts of sinners to dinner. (sinner dinner ) And you are a sinner at the dinner. We all have sin in us. I hope a day can come when we don’t have categories – invited the thief to dinner, check; invited the glutton to dinner, check; invited the envier to dinner, check; invited the adulterer to dinner, check. There aren’t categories, once we see we all have sin in us, and it is sin in us that is the problem, and sin in us that God extends help toward, and we experience that solution bit by bit as we bumble along in this life.
in his arms,



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Ken

posted January 30, 2006 at 6:56 pm


Hi Becky,
Does John the Baptist call for repentance to love? No, he calls for repentance as a way to avoid the wrath to come. Does Jesus call for repentance in order to turn instead to love? Not that I can see. I see him calling for repentance with warning. This isn’t the only thing Jesus says on this, but he certainly calls upon people to repent for the kingdom of God is near, and you’d be hard-pressed I think to equate the kingdom of God with God’s love. The kingdo might be offered out of love, but the kigndom itwself is about rulership.



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Ken

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:02 pm


Becky,
I’m not sure that you have the idea of inviting to diner those who sin that I do. Do you think there would have been a difference to Jesus between the sinful woman of Luke 7:36-50 coming to Jesus and washing his feet with her tears and her coming in and protesting to him that prostitutes don’t have equal honor status in Jewish society? Do you see no difference between inviting sinners to come and inviting people who say “Not only do I do this, but you should have to accept that it is great for me to do this”? I don’t think I can see those as equivalent. The gospel writers record that the rich young ruler went away sad because he had great wealth. It does not say that Jesus ran after him and said “come and follow me anyway, even if you aren’t willing to do sell your possessions.” We should not treat one sin as necessarily worse than another, but we should not sit by and say “deliberate sin without any sense of guilt or desire to repent at all? No problem.”



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Ted Gossard,

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:34 pm


I’m surprised that comments here protest the idea that Jesus invites all to his table. Jesus can then change those who come. Is that complicated? Or unscriptural? Is anyone beyond Jesus’ power to make them into his followers? Shouldn’t we extend a hand, in the name of Jesus, to all?
You need to read Scot’s book on conversion. For most people, if not all, this involves a process. God knows when they cross from death to life.
Are you saying that the “sinners” and tax collectors were all immediately repentant when Jesus went to eat with them? I don’t read any messages of repentance in those pericopes. Though I’m sure that Jesus shared the love of the Father with them and that many of them did repent.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:46 pm


Amen to Ted’s comments!
Kris



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rick

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:49 pm


Dear Ken,
It doesn’t sound like you have any folks in your congregation who are “out”. And I am not talking about “shoving it in your face”. I do have gay folks in my congregation and no one has ever attempted to “shove their homosexuality” in my face. I found that it was ME who needed to follow Jesus in the matter. Ken, I encourage to extend yourself to challenge your faith and convictions and accept a few gay folks into your community. You may have a transformation, not in your beliefs, but in your thinking and then your heart. Perhaps these folks are committed Christians who don’t think homosexuality is a sin. Perhaps they understand and intepret scripture differntly than you? Are they welcome at your congregation, honestly? How would you apply 1 Cor. 8:1-13 in treating another brother or sister who you think is “weaker” so that you wouldn’t wound them? Will they be treated with the same respect as a divorced and remarried couple? I bet you a stack of Victoria Secret’s they wouldn’t be.
Scott,
Just curious, did you already believe that homosexuality was a sin prior to your surveying the central themes of Jesus’ teaching.
Thanks guys! As always, a challenging topic.



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rick

posted January 30, 2006 at 8:01 pm


Yes, Jesus invites all people to HIS table. It’s not for US to decide, Jesus already decided.



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Dana Ames

posted January 30, 2006 at 8:03 pm


Hi Ken-
Are you Ken Litwak from the Wrightsaid group? Dana Ames here. Less than six degrees of separation, no? :) I think NTWs take on “repent and believe” is helpful- which is that Jesus’ call is not about “feeling sorry for one’s sin and making an earnest effort to live a more moral life”. That’s the meaning we in the 20th C. give the word repent, and it’s not a bad thing. But in comparing Josephus and other texts contemporary with Jesus, it’s more the idea of “drop your agendas, your covenant path markers (see Scot’s earlier post) and other notions about how God’s going to solve the problem at hand (the Roman occupation, proving that Israel wasn’t really free in the Exodus sense) and trust that Jesus’ way is the way that problem (and so much else) is going to be set right.” This certainly includes personal sin, but is ever so much bigger. It’s about eschewing violence and force of every sort. The wrath to come is likely the Roman army in 70 AD; John may not have been able to see that, but Jesus’ discussion of judgment makes the best sense to me seen in that light. If you haven’t read “Jesus and the Victory of God” yet, I recommend it. And if you’re not Ken Litwak of the Wrightsaid group, I recommend it anyway :)
I’m not happy about the in-your-face nature of some people’s expression re this issue. But Jesus said, “As the Father sends me, so do I send you.” For what purpose did the Father send Jesus? How have we followed him in that regard, particularly in our dealings with people with same sex attraction?
And how did Jesus act toward “tax collectors and sinners”? He went to their homes and ate with them and talked with them and kept his hand open toward them, thus smashing to bits one of the most significant covenant path markers in his day and culture. That’s what is meant by Jesus’ “table fellowship”.
Dana



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Julie

posted January 30, 2006 at 9:20 pm


Wow. I have been following this discussion and can’t say how sad I am that this is the direction you were headed all this time. I thought you were breaking some new ground, but honestly, this smacks of “separate but equal” and idea MLK Jr. exposed as meaning “separate and clearly not equal.”
Homosexuality – why can’t we understand that the taboo for its practice is a part of an outdated worldview, just as slavery was before it?
What two people do in loving commitment between themselves isn’t something for the church to waste time trying to eradicate. (And how many heterosexual couples have similar sex anyway?)
I’ll say this – most homosexuals who are comfortable in their own skin will not join churches whose aim is to help them become celibates any more than heterosexuals would join a monastery if that were the only option available to them to be genuine Christians.
Biblical interpretation that is created by one group (heteros) and interprets the life and experiences of another group (homosexuals) rarely works.
It’s sort of limped along with men telling women what the Bible says about them, but look how much that theology has been transformed in the last 100 years?
I just don’t see this view as being very likely to honor God, Christ or humanity.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2006 at 9:37 pm


Julie,
I’m sorry to hear your response, but I would ask you to consider what I’m doing. I’m trying to figure out how Jesus’ own moral logic works itself out.
So, here is your comment: “why can’t we understand that the taboo for its practice is a part of an outdated worldview, just as slavery was before it?” But I ask this: “Is this the moral logic of Jesus?”
You say: “What two people do in loving commitment between themselves isn’t something for the church to waste time trying to eradicate.” But I ask this: “Is this the moral logic of Jesus?”
Does Jesus anchor moral decisions in “outdated worldviews” or in “loving commitments between themselves?” So that as long as two folks were in consensus they could do what they wanted? Is that how Jesus makes moral decisions?
We could go back and forth on this, but I’m asking you to consider how the moral logic of Jesus works. I think he teaches people that the moral logic begins by engaging him as a person, loving him, and surrendering to him. We can probably agree on this — no? And we eventually get to this: did Jesus himself agree or not agree with Torah? The structural consideration quickly gets to the Anti-theses of Matt 5:21-48. What did Jesus expect of his follower when it came to Torah?



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Scott Morizot

posted January 30, 2006 at 11:01 pm


Ken,
You said:

We should not treat one sin as necessarily worse than another, but we should not sit by and say “deliberate sin without any sense of guilt or desire to repent at all? No problem.”

But it’s a virtual certainty you do that right now! I’ve yet to see any group that isn’t largely unconcerned about some area of sin, or that at least does not confront people on it individually or even collectively very often. Gluttony has been mentioned. And in fact, as often as not, we don’t just accept it, we make jokes and laugh about it even as we stuff our faces. Materialism/consumerism/selfishness/greed is also rampant throughout our culture, including our churches. But we allow the unrepentant “in” — no problem. The list goes on and on. There are a host of sins that are socially and cultural acceptable in the American evangelical church and there are a few that simply are not.
And that distinction is wrong, those making it lack credibility, and it denies Jesus’ table to people. And that looks very little like the actions in the gospel.



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Ken

posted January 30, 2006 at 11:20 pm


Rick (and Scot),
In reverse order of posts, I personally have significant issues with churches that preach God-wants-to-comfort-you sermons, of which I’ve heard plenty, and no Matt 16:24 sermons. I’m distressed that churches have building programs and not save-starving-children programs. I’m distressed that at a recent church we were part of briefly (and left because of loud, contemporary pseudo-worship) that the girls all dressed like Britney, which I’m sure does not help teenage guys focus on God. I’m distressed that sermons read a verse and go off on their own issues instead of focusing upon what the message of Scripture is. I’m distresssed that many churches have traded significant lyrics for feel-good, really loud contemporary 7-11 songs (seven words sung eleven times, usually about me, not about God). I claim no perfection myself, but if anything, I have a Keith Green mentality and find the lukewarm state of much American Evangelicalism distressing, to say nothing of non-Evangelical churches. I find the heresy among American Christians problematic, whether it is treating the Holy Spirit as a thing, or treating God as the ultimate source for the American dream.
None of that is to say that I think I’m sin-free or that I ever expect to be part of a church that is sin-free. Nor is it to say that we dont have our blind spots. Still, I think thre’s a differene between ignoring gluttony and promoting it as “How God made me.” There’s a difference between chickening out on the issue of marital fidelity and promoting adultery as the way to be free of inhibitions, n’est pas?
As for 1 Cor 8, should we not read it after I Cor 5? Paul seemed to have shown little tolerance for the man having sex with his mother-in-law? Paul seemed totally disinterested in having this person among believers at all. After him, Paul sounded pretty intolerant of believers who took other believers to court. I see implicit in his words a rebuke of believers who would do anything worthy of a court case. He seems not ready to have those people over for table fellowship either. Further in the chapter, Paul seems also to reject those who join themselves to a prostitute or commit other sexual acts that are not part of marriage. I won’t prejudice this by calling it what I think it is. Paul does all this before he ever gets to meat offered to idols. What ths says to me is that Paul saw a clear line between unacceptable, immoral behavior and behavior over which there could be legitimate disagreement. What do you think?



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Ken

posted January 30, 2006 at 11:25 pm


Hi Dana,
Whie I find much of value in N. T. Wright, I feel that he has put the message of Jesus too deeply into one specific, Jewish context, so far that it has no meaning for anyone else. If Wright is right about repentance on the lips of Jesus, then what Jesus says on this subject, and on a great many others, ceased to be relevant after 70 A.D. and I simply don’t accept that as valid exegesis. Wright is trying to make apoint, but I think he’s trying too hard. I’m going with the Lukan understanding of what repentane is. It means soldiers don’t extort money. It measn the cief tax collector Zacchaeus restores what he unlawfully took. It means the sinful woman of LUke 7 changes her lifestyle (and I might add, Simon the Pharisee as well). It might also include the larger idea, but I don’t see textual warrant for that, no matter how much Wright may claim it.



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Becky

posted January 31, 2006 at 12:02 am


Ken, Julie, on today’s blog, Monday the 30th, there’s an entry: Becky’s story. That’s me. If you want my story, so far, in my idolatry sin of able to feel attracted to women, you’ll read it there. It does not say the whole story, but it gives a good beginning. You may get a sense of where I’m coming from.
in his arms,



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Becky

posted January 31, 2006 at 12:19 am


Ken, Jesus died out of love.
I think we all have sin we’re unwilling to repent of at this time. I think Jesus still calls us to enter a love relationship with him. I think Jesus desires relationship with us. I think he works in our life by the Holy Spirit, that one by one, we gain a measure of freedom from the expression of sin in us, by various sins. I think those sins are ways we use to turn from the heart of God. When we understand how to let go a bit more of the sin in us, we are able to turn more fully to the heart of God. I think God desires us to turn to his heart.
Jesus makes us worthy, not our degree of repentance or hanging onto sin or not hanging onto sin. If it depends on that we all are doomed, because we are sinners and as such are guilty of doing things that make us unworthy to be with God. The point in Romans 1 is we are them. Not that there are people who are worse than others. I think Jesus extends the same to all – enter my love, enter into a relationship of love with me. That is what heals what ails us that comes out in sins.
I see the harsher words Jesus had was for those who tried to make themselves worthy by what they did. And put those same burdens on others. I think he still desires a love relationship with those.
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Georges Boujakly

posted January 31, 2006 at 12:28 am


Ken,
You said “n’est pas?” but it should be “n’est-ce pas?”
All, I know this: Without a plan to stop sinning, whatever the sin may be, will not honor the Jesus we desire to follow.



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Michael Kruse

posted January 31, 2006 at 12:40 am


Scot, I appreciate your posts and look forward to more of your insights here.
It strikes me how much of the comments are about sin and sin management. Jesus did not come to stop sin. Jesus came to restore relationship. He came to reestablish shalom. We do not change our behvaior (repent)so we can enter God’s grace. Transformation starts when we have a tangible and profound encounter with God’s grace. It is in the experience of that grace that we are drawn to God and hunger to be his children. That is what forms us and leads us away from that which is not of God to that which is of God.
I have several friends who are either ex-gay or have suffered from sexual abuse (sometimes one in the same.) If you have not entered these peoples’ lives you have no idea of the torment, the silent desperation, the self-loathing, and the rage that is an ever present companion. They have often adopted behaviors and lifestyles that are not healthy as a coping mechanism.
My experience has been that these friends need a close encounter with a God who loves them where they are. They need the love of the Father lavished upon them. They need to know that it is not their behavior that defines them. What defines them is that they are sons and daughters of God who wants to lavish his love upon them. When that identity is confirmed, only then can they even begin to contemplate a new creation.
Is it not possible that the strident defiant advocate of something like “homosexuality” is rationaly responding to a life devoid of grace? How does our insistance on bowing to our understandng of sin before we will be in relationship with them transform them?
Love, acceptance, relationship, all precede transformation. The law gives us pointers and insights into the character of God, but the goal is not to obey the law. The goal is to take on the very character of God. The following of the law ceases to be about avoiding retribution. Instead, we become secure children imperfectly and awkwardly trying to imitate Daddy.
I sense you are headed in a similar direction. Thanks for your blogging on this.



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Bryan Hodge

posted January 31, 2006 at 12:53 am


I don’t know why John would be talking about the wrath of God remaining upon a person in AD 85 if already happened 15 years earlier, but such is the selective reasonings of “Tom the Well Intentioned.” He is of course right that repentance is not just feeling bad and trying to be moral, but I agree with Ken that the message is turned from eternal theology to temporary Jewish sociology.
I just want to clarify that I would take issue with Scott Morizot’s logic. If we don’t out everyone, then we should out no one? So your problem is that there are too many acceptable sins, so rather than trying to get rid of any sin as being acceptable, you want to add one more to the list, so we don’t deal with that either? BTW, we do deal with these, so this argument doesn’t hold much weight with me.
The argument made before about 1 Cor 8-9 needs to go. That has nothing to do with how we handle sin in another person’s life. That text, as well as the Romans text, are dealing with cultural preferences, not eternal principles as you see in 5-6. The weaker brother is the one who believes he is doing something wrong because he cannot distinguish between a “thing” and the morally or theologically distorted practice associated with it (in this case, the eating of meat sacrificed to idols). What does that have to do with a discussion concerning morality? Would you make that same argument for something you believe to be horribly wrong? Are you saying that homosexuality is just a preference issue? There are no moral preference issues in the Bible. As I said, the two passages deal with “things” (meat, wine, days, etc.) that are neither good or bad in themselves, not beliefs and actions.
I think the important thing to note here about “outing someone from the table” is that:
1. There is a difference between someone who sees the sinfulness of their acts, heart, lifestyle and STRUGGLES to overcome it and those who justify their sin.
2. There is a difference between one who claims to have a relationship with Christ and yet is not repentant and one who does not have that claim. I think Paul clearly states that we wouldn’t put out a professed unbeliever, but that we would put out a so-called Christian, who knew of their sin and yet did not repent of it (hoping also that everyone remembers what “repent” means as it seems to be thrown around as though it means “get perfect.” I don’t think Ken or I have been saying that as the definition).
A lot of people seem to be throwing around the idea that Jesus holds out his hand continually to everyone, but I have yet to hear an answer to the Scripture indicating that He doesn’t. Maybe we should then say Jesus can and does reject people, but we shouldn’t? I think I would both agree and disagree with this based on what I said above (i.e., what is the claim of the person and the nature of their favor or disfavor upon their sin).



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Dana Ames

posted January 31, 2006 at 12:53 am


Well Ken, it’s ok if you don’t agree with me or NT- plenty of folks don’t. I’d just point out that those Lukan examples you give are all about those people dropping their personal agendas and reorienting their lives around Jesus and what God is up to through him.
George, I’ve had plans to stop sinning and I’ve failed miserably at them nearly every time. It has only been since I have had a new vision of the Goodness of God and how Jesus’ redemption touches All Things that I have been able to drop my own self-protective agenda and trust his love, relaxing in his arms (thanks Becky). I am much less apt to sin in that place, or frankly to even worry about it. When it happens, I’m quicker to know it, own it and make restitution than I’ve ever been before.
Dana



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Ken

posted January 31, 2006 at 1:30 am


Hi Becky,
I’m not rejecting the idea that Jesus loves all of us and calls us to himself. I am rejecting the idea that the fact that he loves us means he ignores everything else. The Jesus of Revelation 2-3 seems rather ready to cut off and destroy those who claim to be his, and who do many of the right things but also do wrong things. One of those wrong things is immorality and another, contra 1 Cor 8-10, is eating food offered to idols. The One ready to remove lampstands is not syaing “I love you. It is irrelevant to me how you live. Stay as you are. Just accept my love.” That is not how I read Jesus in the gospels, letter or the Apocalypse. The very command to love God in Deuteronomy is in the center of commands to abstain from evil and do waht is right. If we separate those two things, and reduce Jesus only to love, then there’s nothing to be saved from because he is just love. Why does affirming the reality of judgment upon sin require excluding Jesus’ love for all? I don’t think it does. I can’t help but think, however, of the phrase “cheap grace” and Bonhoeffer’s call to the true cost of discipleship. If we say “don’t deal with this sin because we are not dealing presenty with another sin,” we are not accepting the cost of discipleship. I would hope that someone committing homosexual acts, like someone committing extramarital heterosexual acts would be loved in a Christian congregation but not accepted to stay as they are. I was part of a church for many years that refused to do weddings for people who were iving together. The pastors could not invite God to witness and bless a relationship that was built upon active, intentional sin. I applaud that approach, but I am guessing that others here would reject it because it is “judgmental.”
Yes, by all means, let’s not say “it’s okay to divorce and remarry because your marriage isn’t fulfilling but don’t commit sodomy.” However, let’s equally not say “we’re going to give this one sin special status and never address it because we fail to address others we ought to address.” I’m for addressing all manner of sin, seeing ever more deeply how idolatrous I am of food. money, Starbucks, TV, you name it, and growing in sanctification. So all things that separate us from God should be addressed. Yet, I sitll maintain that there is a difference between someone who says “I have problems with anger. I’m working on it and by God’s help and a counselor I’m seeing, I hope to get more control” and someone who says “my ange is out of control, I beat my wife and kids often, and I’m happy about that. Not only should you not judge me, but you shouold embrace me as I am and leave me that way because this is how God made me.”
I thought it was n’est pas, but I’m quite prepared to be corrected to n’est-ce pas.



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Becky

posted January 31, 2006 at 4:40 am


Ken, per your post # 41. I haven’t said that God’s love means he/they overlook everything else. Most of what you wrote does not apply to stuff that I think. I’m sorry if you read that into it.
I see John the Baptist’s baptisms to be about repentance. Jesus is the greater One John talks of, and I think Jesus’ baptism was/has been/is one of – come to me, be in relationship with me, and that fixes things.
If you’ve read my story that Scot posted on this days blog, Becky’s story, you will see that in my life I have not experienced God’s love as all things are ok. But that when I give up my idols, one by one, God’s heart is there for me, in which I can be more immersed. I turn to sin to turn from the heart of God. I turn away from sin because Love is there for me to turn to.
Jesus said it’s what’s in us that’s broken, and he’s the solution. In relationship with him, he is the solution. Our heart is changed by him. And Jesus says the problem is that our heart is evil.
Even theology can become a golden calf we dance around to flee from the heart of God. I see God taking care of our idols, our golden calfs, one by one, as much as can be done in this life, and each time we turn from a golden calf, we can turn to His heart which has been there for us all the time.
You write : “I would hope that someone committing homosexual acts, like someone committing extramarital heterosexual acts, would be loved in a Christian congregation but not accepted to stay as they are.” You will find where we agree, but what nuance I add to it, if you read “Becky’s story” on this blog page. I am in a real small church, I think there’s 20 of us now. We found out 2 weeks ago that a woman has been having an affair for 9 months and is leaving her husband and her kids, for them to deal with it on their own. I write about this in the “Becky’s story.” I think it is not enough for me just to tell her what she’s doing is wrong. What she’s doing is being spurred by deep pain. My words to her were for her to get in counseling and deal with her issues (her parents were/are alcoholics), and that her dissatisfaction is with herself and she won’t find satisfaction till she accepts the problem is in her, not those outside of her. I think that points her toward wholeness, there certainly are other things that could be said to her that are helpful, but those words point her toward wholeness, rather than just telling her what she’s doing is wrong and that she should stop it. By the way, a miracle happened in that, because she has stayed with her husband, this is week 3, and they are in counseling. It’s a bloomin miracle ! She can be a part of our church because she is trying to do differently. And he is letting her stay in the same house as him.
Identify idols, but I think it is love, or rather, Love, that transforms us. When I turn from an idol, I turn to Love. I think our idols are ways we use to turn from the heart of God. Give up one idol, as much as can be done in this life, and the heart of God is there for us to turn to. We turn to idols because of Sin in us, and we need to be taught about how to die with Christ in it, and live through the Spirit. When we turn from the heart of God, I think it is because we fear it. We want it but we fear it too. And when we are away from the heart of God, we have a place of dissatisfaction, or pain, and so we turn to things or people to try to fix the dissatisfactin. Then we have our idol. I feel for the person, who, in their pain, turns to idols that don’t fulfill. But my approach is to show them to Love, which is God, which is the cure. My personal story is it took 30 some years to finally find some freedom from a persistent sin. I didn’t need 30 yrs of people telling me I was wrong and exclude me. I needed someone to come beside me, walk with me, and show me the Way.
I’m interested in how you, personally, experience relationship with God.
in His arms,



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Becky

posted January 31, 2006 at 4:43 am


Ken, per post #24. The kingdom of God isn’t about love ? It’s about rulership? Then I guess Jesus was wrong when he said all of it is summed up in : love God with heart, soul, mind, and neighbor as self.
Might it help to define what is meant by love ?
in his arms,



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Becky

posted January 31, 2006 at 4:46 am


P.S. Ken. I think John the Baptist’s baptism was one of repentance, but Jesus’ baptism was of being in relationship with Him. It can be seen that JTB was saying repentance cures what ails you. But Jesus says it’s our hearts that ail us, and He transforms the heart.
in his arms,



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Becky

posted January 31, 2006 at 5:08 am


Per post #25, Ken. You wrote : Do you see no difference between inviting sinners to come and inviting people who say “Not only do I do this, but you should have to accept that it is great for me to do this”?
Right, I see no difference. They just are different ways of expressing the Sin in us. Will I tell the person that what they are doing is right? No. A woman who has been my friend for 21 yrs, has all this time been active in lesbian activities. She is strongly anti christian, or the view of what she has made christian to be. Fortunately, she hasn’t pressed me to the wall to have to say whether what she is doing is right or not, and for me to endorse it or not. She does know it’s a line I won’t cross. She does know that I think it’s wrong for me. She knows how I see it tied to my own pain, a futile way of trying to medicate my pain. I have talked to God lots about it, and what I keep sensing is my job is just to love her. Conviction is God’s job. When she does bring up something about “those” who persecute gays, thankfully, I find something to say that isn’t divisive. Not only do I hear God telling me to just love her, I hear that as being more of what I’m only here to do. Now I’ll admit my perspective is limited. I can only see as far as how I operate. Maybe God has equipped someone else to be able to point out sin in a way that can be redemptive. I have no conception of that. I just hear God saying to me more and more that it’s my job to love, it’s his job to convict.
I am so tickled – her 17 yr old son, when he was 15, became a christian. God works in mysterious ways. God is still at work, extending his hand to her. I see her resistance to christianity as a fear of love. We surrender when we let Love melt our hearts. We give up some control when we let Love melt our heart. One of my strongest sins is wanting to call the shots, whether it’s trying to live the supposed christian life in my own power, cuz then I’m in control, or lack of love. I think there are christians who haven’t got the idea yet that this is about giving up control to God. I know there was a time I didn’t see it. Like the rich young ruler, we can keep all the rules, but still not have surrendered to Love. We both want and fear the heart of God. And in our fear, we run from his heart and when we run from his heart, we make idols to fill the space. And when we dance around our golden calfs, our idols, we are the whores who have turned from our Lover-God.
in his arms,



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Scot McKnight

posted January 31, 2006 at 8:28 am


Ken,
There’s been a lot of response to your comments, but one thing needs to be clear here: no one on this post has been arguing that Jesus looked over sin casually. And so it is unfair to all of us in this conversation to hoist a stereotype (with which none of us would agree). What is being said is that for sin to be dealt with, any kind of sin (this is important here for the conversation is wider now than homosexuality), there needs to be a firm resolve to see something wrong and a pastorally-appropriate (which will differ from person to person, from issue to issue) and loving set of actions to help a person find freedom.
That, so it seems to me, is consistent with Jesus.



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Scott Morizot

posted January 31, 2006 at 8:35 am


Bryan,
You missed my point. I don’t believe sin should be a central or core focus of believers and the church. Christianity is not about managing sin. It’s about the grace and mercy that allows us to join our Lord in his work to redeem creation in spite of the cracks caused by sin. When you instead attempt to turn it into sin management, you must be prepared to respond clearly to the sort of questions I posed. I was attempting to use Jesus’ approach with overstatement in an effort to get people to see past the planks in their eyes. My effort is clumsier because I am, but the principle is the same.
Since our transformation is an ongoing process, we will always have areas of unrepentant sin, largely because we do not recognize it as such. We lie to ourselves. All of us do. We just do it in different areas. A person can recognize that gluttony is a sin, yet live years and possibly their whole lives completely blind to the fact that they are a glutton. I’ve seen it. And I’m sure you have.
“I’m carrying a few extra pounds.”
“I really need to exercise a bit, but haven’t found the time.”
“I really shouldn’t have had so much of the desserts, but they looked so delicious.”
Greed and selfishness are often hidden behind what are in reality excuses. Planning for retirement. Planning for the kids’ college. Not that those are not legitimate, but that we have a tendency to use such things as a justification for doing less than we should.
As the Spirit transforms us, it first reveals to us that an area of sin in our lives actually is sin. And it has been my experience that it will have been something that has been a part of lives and unrecognized for years.
Sin is not all the same save in some abstract, judicial sense. While it all brings death, some brings death faster. Some sin is also more damaging to those around us. Just as you would try to intervene in the lives of those you love to stop them from hurting themselves or those around them, God rushes to address those areas first. We don’t transform in an instant from damaged, cracked Eikons to the perfected image of God. We don’t even see all the cracks at first. It is a process that takes time and I simply believe that God gets to determine the order and manner in which a person is changed, not us.
With that in mind, I have no problem accepting the reality that a person can be an honest, repentant, devoted Christian, yet at the same time have a deep belief that while promiscuous sex is wrong, their committed, monogamous relationship is not. Do I believe that is not God’s design for his creation? By focusing on the picture painted of his stated intent (the positive side we don’t talk about as much) the answer is no. It’s pretty clear that God designed his creation so that the union of one man and one woman would also in some way reveal the mystery of the intimate relationship of God. This is simply another crack in God’s design caused by sin. However, just as I would not feel compelled to confront the overweight pastor unrepentantly and jokingly stuffing himself at the dessert table, I do not feel compelled to confront the individual in my story.
Are there times to intervene? Certainly. The more immediately or widely destructive a sin is, the more it may require our intervention. But I think we have a tendency to rush ahead of God on the handful of pet sins we hold up as ‘the worst’ today. When deciding how to respond, I tend to try to ask myself what I would do if it was someone very close to me exhibiting that behavior. What if it were one of my adult children? My spouse? I take someone whom I love dearly, because my reaction to a brother or sister in Christ should look similar.



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Julie

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:35 am


Hi Scot.
Thanks for your reply. I don’t have much time and don’t want to distract from the dialog here between regulars. I’m a new reader.
I don’t see that the words “moral logic” apply to Jesus or his teachings. His morality derives not from logic (as in reason) but from love (one might even say, the logic of love).
You said: I think he teaches people that the moral logic begins by engaging him as a person, loving him, and surrendering to him. We can probably agree on this — no?
I’ll give you this.
You said:
And we eventually get to this: did Jesus himself agree or not agree with Torah?
Why do we have to “get to this”? Jesus isn’t potrayed as structuring a faith or an argument. We have gospel writers who are crafting the details of the story of Jesus into narratives. And even as they do, we are still left with the sense that Jesus is not starting a religion, but that he is offering an invitation to participate in his life.
It is huge that he doesn’t address homosexuality directly in a single verse of the Gospels.
It is also significant that he repeatedly puts human beings and their needs ahead of the law. If we are trying to determine his position on Torah, I say we are imposing a frame on the texts that is unjustified. Jesus doesn’t offer us a definitive statement about how much of the Torah to keep applying to our lives (particularly in a church community since he never once is a part of one). He is offering principles for life -which we can see acted out again and again…
He embraces the ones that society hates. He puts the practice of love over the practice of law.
What I find fascinating is the need that is expressed by the church to take a position. And it is this that drew me to your site and blog posts. To me, this need is where the church is blind to its own log in its eye. We are not called to drawing fine lines between sin categories and figuring out how to navigate those waters.
We are called to love and trust – to trust radically in the work of the spirit to lead and guide into all truth, and to love those in our paths.
The hair splitting around homosexuality detracts from that mission… it has to and does. Look at your churches? how many gay men or women attend openly out and in dialog with you about what the Spirit is teaching them?
(btw, heterosexual married woman here…)



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Michael Kruse

posted January 31, 2006 at 10:17 am


Julie, your understanding of Jesus seems de-contextualized to me. Jesus was a Jew walking among people for whom the Torah was paramount. How he related to the Torah is essential to understanding the context of his behavior and life.
You mentioned that this debate “detracts from the mission.” I am curious about your understanding of “the mission.” Where does the whole Jesus among us thing end up? Is there an end to the story and what does it look like? It seems to me our assumptions about the end also affect how we live in the now.
Peace.



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rick

posted January 31, 2006 at 10:51 am


Dear Ken,
#34 You said, “I’m distressed that at a recent church we were part of briefly (and left because of loud, contemporary pseudo-worship) that the girls all dressed like Britney, which I’m sure does not help teenage guys focus on God.”
Hmmm. Read what you wrote. Couple of things: 1. You blame the girls for the teenage boys lust. IF the girls would change, then the boys would be okay? It’s always the “other” sinner that screws things up.
2. We cannot fully love Christ until we are willing to love our gay brothers and sisters in Christ. And all the dialogue and rhetoric around this issue doesn’t matter. Until we can love our gay brothers and sisters we cannot love Christ. It really has nothing to do we how we “feel”. It’s how we “LOVE”.
#3. 1 Co 8.1-13 Even if you disagree and KNOW that you are right, you are called to move beyond your knowldege and to love you “weaker” brother and sisiter.



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Dan Reid

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:14 am


For anyone who is interested, the book by Hugh Williamson, The Lord is King: Rediscovering Freedom, was published by Crossway in the U.K. (2nd edition 1997). I don’t think it was published in the U.S., and you are not likely to find it, I would guess. Flipping through the copy that Hugh sent me a couple of years ago, I don’t see him saying in so many words what Scot says, but Scot’s paraphrase seems basically right. The turning point for HW was in understanding that the emphasis is on *Jesus* in “Jesus is Lord”–not on his being Lord in an authoritarian sense (so that our question becomes, “You’ve accepted him as savior, but is he Lord of your life?”). It is Jesus, rather than Death (or idols etc), who is Lord. He is thus on our side (thus Scot’s “for”), and understanding this leads to Christian freedom. But to do it justice, one needs to read the book.



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Julie

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:41 am


Michael, I am fully aware of Jesus’s being a Jew. I know Torah was the guiding force in a jews’ life… which is why I say that Jesus’s life as recorded in the Gospels is a curiosity indeed! He does not expound at length about the proper function of the Torah, but overturns its application when faced with hypocrisy.
Look at the Good Samaritan story.
Look at the healing on the Sabbath passage.
How about the woman caught in adultery?
I don’t have time to make a list right now. My point was that I find it odd that in the emergent church where postmodern thinking is combining with evangelical theology, that there is more of a smoke and mirrors about it – an attempt to woo those who have been traditionally shunned into the church but without a substantial critique of the theology that undergirded the prior shunning.
It is not enough to say you love the sinner and hate the sin.
Jesus’s mission (leaving Paul out of *this* discussion) was a radical reimagining of human relationships at all levels which results in a sacred connection to God. He eschews with the ruts that had become so comfortable to “faithful” jews.
Why aren’t we doing that now? Where is the reimagining going on here? So often I feel like the emergent church is simply trying to preserve doctrine while not looking like fundamentalists rather than soul searching to discover just what it is about their theology that is out of step with the Reign of God. And we all have out of step-ness to examine.
But I don’t feel it is my job to figure out what that is for homosexuals. It is my job to examine the log in my eye and work on yanking it out.



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Bryan Hodge

posted January 31, 2006 at 12:45 pm


It’s so interesting to see how Jesus is seen and interpreted when people either do not allude to Scripture (and reason what they think He would be like), or use selective Scriptures at the expense of others.
I think it would be interesting for everyone to go to the temptations of Christ and see the different ways the devil argues (from circumstance and current human need as well as selectively from Scripture without consideration for what other Scriptures say) versus Christ (from all Scripture). We can reinterpret Christ until the cows come home, but He is both loving AND intolerant of unrepentant sin. That is what the whole of Scripture teaches.
Scott M,
I understand the view that it is a process, but I think you didn’t catch that I said, “when the person is made aware of their sin . . .” I am not talking about having blind spots. We all have them. I am saying that when we obey Jesus, the Lord of the Church, and go to our brother who has sinned (and they don’t repent whether they see it for themselves or not), and then bring along the witnesses (and they don’t repent whether they see they are sinning or not) and then bring it to the Church (and they don’t repent whether they personally see it or not–which is the primary reason people don’t repent–i.e., they don’t believe what they are doing is wrong), we must then put them out of the church and not associate with them AS THE LORD OF THE CHURCH TOLD US TO DO. I find it fascinating that you argue that we are not to do this because we need to let Jesus do what He wants when He told us what He wants and you apparently don’t want to do it. You’re right in saying that Jesus is the one who gets to decide, and He has decided to do it through His Church. I never said my ecclesiology had to do with managing sin, but that is a part of being in the community.
I also find it interesting that you would pick and choose, ONCE AGAIN, what you believe to be REALLY wrong because YOU see it as more destructive than others. But I would convey to you that that is simply subjective and you need to take your own advice and let Jesus decide based on Scripture what is REALLY bad (and that would be all unrepentant sin when one is made aware of it by the Church).
You said, ”
Are there times to intervene? Certainly. The more immediately or widely destructive a sin is, the more it may require our intervention. But I think we have a tendency to rush ahead of God on the handful of pet sins we hold up as ‘the worst’ today. When deciding how to respond, I tend to try to ask myself what I would do if it was someone very close to me exhibiting that behavior. What if it were one of my adult children? My spouse? I take someone whom I love dearly, because my reaction to a brother or sister in Christ should look similar.”
So I’m confused. We rush ahead on what we think is “worse,” and you say that seems to be bad, but you’re advocating that we deal with the really bad stuff? I’m not sure I understand you here. Are you saying we shouldn’t believe that certain sins are really bad enough to deal with, or simply that the ones YOU think are really bad we should deal with? Which are you advocating?
If someone is beating their wife, is that a really bad sin? If someone is setting up a prostitution ring in your church, is that a really bad sin? Incest? Adultery? Promiscuous sex?
I think a major issue for a lot of people here is that they are arguing from an idea of sex and relationship based on a psychological interpretation of relationships (i.e., relationships are PRIMARILY for the well being of the self since they promote intimacy and therefore fulfill a human desire/need and that is why God made them). Scot is going to get to this, but this is a false premise and there is really therefore no basis for the argument being made. There is a point to all these things that attack what God wants for us right in the here and now, not just the future with Him, and ALL sexually immoral sins attack, not only the individual, but the direction of God for the community. If anything is to be considered REALLY DESTRUCTIVE, it is these (although I think we are commanded to deal with all unrepentant sin in this way).
In other words, what if a sin ticks God off because it is against what He commanded (and He therefore sees it as rebellion), and is not simply something God is disappointed about because our sin hurts us (and we therefore grade its severity based on how bad it hurts us or others)? I’ve found this conversation to tend to go where a lot of evangelicals go, which is to argue about sin based on an anthropocentric scale rather than a theocentric one. All sin is rebellion against God. All sin then needs to be dealt with when known rebellion against God is justified instead of betrayed. This rebellion also corrupts the community, which is supposed to be pressing on toward obedience to God, but is being given constant examples of so-called Christians who influence to be disobedient and remain in the community. It also corrupts the individual as it leads them apart from God and to further disobedience and spiritual blindness.
So I don’t really see how some sins (if they’re really “destructive” should be dealt with when others that are not so “destructive” can be let go until some unknown time in the future). I believe the Church is a part of Holy Spirit changing people through real love, which includes confrontation and conviction as well. I don’t believe it’s just me and Holy Spirit and the Church should just sit by and watch what God is doing and if God is going to call me on my sin through a burning bush or something. He works through the Church.
So when we deal with this issue we need to:
1. Ask what makes sin to be REALLY bad (because it is primarily rebellion against God, which challenges His Lordship—equalizing sin—, or based on how badly we can see it hurts us–which will always lead to grading it).
2. Argue from all the Scriptures and not be selective (i.e., talking about love, not defining it in the context of Scripture, but instead in modern notions of love based on personal ideas of it).
I’m sorry if I’ve misunderstood something you were saying, Scott. Let me know if I’ve misconstrued something here. I don’t want to put words in your mouth or mischaracterize your position. thanks for talking.



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Bryan Hodge

posted January 31, 2006 at 12:49 pm


Scott, You said:
“When deciding how to respond, I tend to try to ask myself what I would do if it was someone very close to me exhibiting that behavior. What if it were one of my adult children? My spouse? I take someone whom I love dearly, because my reaction to a brother or sister in Christ should look similar.”
BTW, I agree with this part. I just don’t agree that I would let something go because I loved them (although I don’t think that is what you were saying, is it?).



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Bryan Hodge

posted January 31, 2006 at 1:01 pm


Julie, I think most of us would believe that Christ is not reimagining a relationship with God, but interpreting correctly what He always said and meant to convey to His people from the beginning (hence, Christ alludes to the beginning often as well as the OT Scriptures because He is not just scrapping and redoing things. We believe He is God. God is unchanging. His purposes from the beginning are His same purposes now and He has communicated them to us.
I think the last statement you made sounds very individualistic and takes the negative answer to the question, “Am I my brothers keeper.” To say, “No” here, to me, breaks the two commandments of loving God (dealing with an offense commited against Him and His honor) and loving your fellow member in the covenant community by restoring him or her to God (since the relationship is broken because of rebellion). I think this question is important because when we cease to be concerned about what is offensive to God and destructive to our brother, we cease to love in the way Christ commanded us—we cease to have the right to be called Christians. So we are discussing this issue so that we can honestly do both.



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Michael Kruse

posted January 31, 2006 at 1:02 pm


“Jesus’s mission (leaving Paul out of *this* discussion) was a radical reimagining of human relationships at all levels which results in a sacred connection to God. He eschews with the ruts that had become so comfortable to “faithful” jews.”
I agree with you here (although I reject any dichotomy that Paul was contrary to this and I think he has been frequently misrepresented) What I find peculiar is the manner in which Jesus eschews the ruts. He doesn’t dismiss the law; he supersizes it. Living the Sermon on the Mount (anger = murder, lust = adultery, etc.) is unattainable. He doesn’t say the law is unimportant. He says “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” We are incapable of holiness and therefore any relationship with God.
But then Jesus turns around and gives us good news. He exhibits costly grace, to the point of death. The good news is God hasn’t come to crush with holiness. He has come to restore shalom (authentic relationships, peace, prosperity, health, wholeness.) Luke 15 is the story of Compassionate father that is often called the gospel within the gospel. I did a lengthy blog about it last week and I won’t summarize it all here other than to say that it demonstrates how utterly misguided the law-keepers were.
http://krusekronicle.typepad.com/kruse_kronicle/2006/01/evangelium_in_e.html
One of the defining characteristics of postmodern folks is embracing paradox. It is seems to me that “holiness and grace” are a profound paradox! Both have to be embraced fully. I think I hear you saying that Evangelicals are overly attuned to holiness and nearly blind to Jesus’ mission. I think that is accurate about all too many. But to dismiss conversations about holiness and accountability for the purposes of showing grace is, IMO, reactionary. It is an attempt to be contra-Evangelical instead of being a disciple of the one who lifts up both holiness and grace. The Emergent conversation is never going to re-imagine anything healthy as long as it has being contra-Evangelical as an essential tenet, because not everything Evangelical is wrong (ala Generous Orthodoxy.)
“But I don’t feel it is my job to figure out what that is for homosexuals. It is my job to examine the log in my eye and work on yanking it out.”
I agree it isn’t yours or mine to figure things out for the homosexual. Yet Kingdom ethics are not “everyone for themselves,” as we leave others to figure out their own path because we are no better than they are. It is our call to be in community with each other, embracing fully holiness and grace, sorting these things out as the gathered community.



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Scott Morizot

posted January 31, 2006 at 1:50 pm


Bryan,
Though I’ve certainly heard it before, I still find your interpretation of Matthew 18 … interesting. Since it’s Scot’s specialty, perhaps sometimes he’ll talk about it, but the sense I get from my study of many sources is that its intent and application does not seem to be the one you have ascribed to it. Rather it seems to be addressing how to resolve an issue with someone who has wronged you. And then, if they still don’t respond at any of those levels, you are to go back to your starting point and treat them like those in need of God’s embracing grace. That’s especially true when you see the text is followed by Peter’s concern about how often he has to forgive a brother who has done him wrong.
And in there you see a hint of the sense I get from scripture of the most grievous damage/result of sin. And that’s violence and violation — hurt — in all its expressions intermingled with idolatry. It’s a theme we see from the beginning. The covering of the first sin required slain animals. Violence bloomed in the heart of Cain. And we see it coming to fruition in his line. This is that violence ruled in the pre-flood story. We see extreme violence in Sodom (the whole town gathering to forcibly sexually violate two strangers?). On and on and on.
And what did Jesus focus so much on? Don’t return evil for evil. Accept wrongs. Pray for those who hurt you. Show special care for those who are outcast and victims. And we see those two flipped to their positive in what Scot termed the Jesus Creed. Love God with all we are (abandon all forms of idolatry). Love others. Which goes beyond stop hurting them to affirmatively strive to do good toward them.
So the application you describe of Matthew 18 doesn’t seem to fit. It feels wrong from the context.
I also don’t tend to see a God of wrath and anger. I see one that is infinitely just, but also infinitely good and infinitely love. That does seem to match the things God says about himself. At times he must judge and must act, but he says (and demonstrates) again and again that he is patient. He’s not willing for anyone to perish and extends all the opportunity and forbearance he possibly can. I’m not particularly willing to trade verses back and forth. That activity feels too much like prooftexting to me, and this is not a good forum for an extended discussion. But I’m not talking about some individualistic impression of God. Believe me, I’m intimately aware of the dangers of that path. Rather, this is my sense from reading Scripture again and again. Lots of it I don’t necessarily understand, but I simply let it stand rather than try to force it into a box. And it’s something God keeps telling us about himself. So many of the names he gave dealt with his care and provision. And the new one Jesus gave us for the Father, Abba, is infinitely personal and tender. He’s our Daddy and he wanted us to understand that fact.
What do I think requires intervention? I don’t have a hard, fixed list. I believe it requires discernment and guidance from the Spirit. Certainly anything that constitutes violence or violation against another qualifies. And when it is something that is more personal/individual in its effects, it becomes even more difficult. If it is the sort of thing about which I would try to counsel an adult child or spouse, and I have established a relationship that allows it, I probably would. If it’s something that is so destructive that I would act to intervene in the life of a close family member, then that would probably be the path. At other times, it might be an area in which I would step back and allow them to learn from experience.
Does that mean any of us should lie or change what we read as sin? No. And in the course of close conversation in the context of a Christian community, share that understanding as it becomes appropriate. One of the tools the Spirit absolutely uses to reveal areas of sin are the words of our fellow believers, especially as we interpret scripture together. Do not suppress that. But also recognize that it is not our job to change minds, opinions, or behaviors. It is God’s. We may or may not be participants in that process for any particular individual.



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Ken

posted January 31, 2006 at 2:22 pm


Hi Rick,
Two quick points.
1. You didn’t understand what I was trying to say about clothing. I was not excusing teenaged males for their behavior. I was really saying that a church is failing if it does not take seriously the details of how people live. No, I’m not advocating a list of proper clothing. I am saying that when the effort is to be conformed to the world, rather than the opposite, that we should hear something about that from the pastoral staff.
2. I don’t see homosexual acts as relating to the weaker brother or sister, any more than Paul saw sexual intercouse with a prostitute as a matter of a weaker brother or sister.Look at what Paul says. Idols are nothing. Food offered to idols is therefore just food. However, some Christians are not at that place yet, and for their benefit, we should avoid food offered to idols. Paul takes the same stance on the Sabbath in Romans 14.
However, he never ever says that prostitution is okay, but not all Christians are ready for that. He never reverses Romans 1 and says that same-sex relations are okay, but there are weaker Christians who cannot accept that.
In fact, as I have thought about this overnight, I would propose, and here I’d like Scot’s perspective, that Jesus’ table fellowship is in a separate category from church gatheirngs. When a body of believers gathers, that calls for a different approach than when Jesus went to the homes of tax collectors to eat. Since Jesus did not have a house, he did not invite people over to his house of any religious or theological perspective. He went to them. In a church gathering, believers are intentionally meeting together for worship, instruction and sacraments. That’s a different matter altogether and the “rules of engagement,” as I read 1 Corinthians, 1-2 Timothy and Titus, Revelation 2-3, 2 Peter and Jude, to mention a few, is that idolatry, heresy and sexual immorality are not to be tolerated. Peter does not say that those leading believers astray in should be loved and treated with respect. He speaks of them as dogs returning to their own vomit.
In a couple of churches we’ve been a part of, adults who work with little kids are never allowed to be alone with children for fear of possible molestation. If we are loving, however, we shouldn’t have that concern, should we? Everyone sins, so it’s no big deal. I maintain that drawing the line at adult or consensual is a false move. There’s sex as God designed it and there’s sex as God didn’t design it. End of story.
I guess then that I’m saying that Jesus’ model of table fellowship is not really applicable to a church service. It might be applicable to dinner at my home, but not to a church service.



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Bob

posted January 31, 2006 at 2:28 pm


I guess then that I’m saying that Jesus’ model of table fellowship is not really applicable to a church service.
Yeah, church is no place for Jesus.
I’m joking, please don’t take offense. Thought this needed a little lightening up…



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Scott Morizot

posted January 31, 2006 at 2:46 pm


Something just clicked and fell into place in my head. What I tried to describe as the central themes of sin in my message above is essentially what Scot described in Embracing Grace when he said something like “the cracks in the Eikon are relational in nature.” My copy is out on loan, but I believe he describe sin or the damage of sin as hyperrelational. And I just realized that at its heart, it appears to be the same sense I had gathered throughout scripture.
However, Scot strikes deeply to the underlying nature of the damage, while I had merely observed the recurring theme of the symptoms or outworkings of sin. Damage to our relationship with God most naturally works out in idolatry of all sorts and flavors. And the damage to our relationships with other Eikons is expressed and experienced in many nuanced levels of violence and violation. Some are physical and blatant. Others less so. Slander performs violence on someone’s reputation. Lying violates trust. And finally, the cracks run so deeply they damage our ability to appropriately love or relate to ourselves. And those work out as self-destructive sins. Some cross boundaries. Pride, for instance, can cross all three. We can assert our will over God’s. We can elevate ourselves above others. And pride often damages us. (Pride goes before a fall?)
And then the Jesus Creed takes the approach of applying God’s grace in a positive manner to heal those cracks rather than focusing on trying to stick our fingers in the dike and stop the outworking of that damage. Love God with all that you are. If you do, how can you put anything before him? Love others. Don’t just say it or try to feel it. Take positive actions that demonstrate your love and care for them. And while you are doing that, you’re less likely to fall into the damaging cracks. And do it as you love yourself. Which certainly implies that you must first see yourself as a damaged Eikon of God whom God deeply and personally loves and treasures before you will be able to truly love others. Or perhaps that the process of acting in love for the good of others helps heal the damage to your ability to appropriately love yourself. Or maybe some of both.
Scot will have to say whether or not the direction I took in the above bears any similarity to what he had in mind, but it fits. It was one of those eureka moments. (I’m most naturally a gestalt thinker.)



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Scott Morizot

posted January 31, 2006 at 3:05 pm


Ken,
We don’t really disagree that there is sex (actually a union that goes well beyond the physical act and expresses so much more) as God designed it and sex that is not how God designed it. But what does that really buy us?
For we see examples throughout the Bible of people who were in sexual relationships other than as God originally designed and intended, yet we see God repeatedly accept, embrace, use, and even bless those people. Abram and Sarai were half-brother and half-sister (same mother), clearly an incestuous relationship. Israel (Jacob) had two wives and also used their handmaidens to bear children. Solomon had what? 300 wives and 700 concubines? And David? The list goes on and on. And at the time of Jesus and Paul, it would not have been uncommon for men to have more than one wife. So are you calling God out for failing to conform to the limitations of your box? Because he obviously has not stayed inside it.
And what about today? Those of us who are divorced and remarried are, by any spin I can possibly put on Jesus’ words, living in a continuing state of unrepentant adultery by God’s intent and standards. Yet God somehow embraces us anyway.
Similarly, I can certainly think of gay family situations I have known where it would clearly have been more deeply damaging (and sometimes to innocents) to abruptly end the relationship and break up the family. What message would a child take from that? That this Christian God was responsible for destroying her family, the bedrock of her life? We can tie our lives into knots that are not easily or quickly undone.
And please don’t throw in the strawman of child molestation. The brutality in that often used analogy appalls me. The violation of a child has as much to do with sex as beating one with a 2×4 does. It is one of the most deeply damaging acts of violence and trauma a person can visit on a child. It has no more place in a discussion of this nature than rape or murder. Save it for a discussion of the rampant violence in our nature and culture.



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Bryan Hodge

posted January 31, 2006 at 4:13 pm


Scott M, there is a direction this conversation will go that you should probably wait on. There is the ability of polygamy to fulfill God’s desire and plan for marriage(although without the picture as clear as it should be in its analogy of God and His Church)that homosexuality cannot. So all these analogies of polygamy and prostitution (both of which are not condemned in the OT–except for Priests with the latter) are not parallel to the issue at hand.
The context of Matt 18 is how to deal with a person who has sinned. Please notice the break between the two sections. One deals with how to handle a brother who sins against you and does not repent (which I see as the basis for dealing with sin in general in the church via 1 Cor 5-6, passages in the Pastorals, as well as the Early Church’s teaching concerning it). The second section deals with a brother who does repent, but needs forgiveness (restoration of relationship) and how often we should do that. These are two different people. To take them as the same person is to ignore what Christ says to do with each—to the one, rejection; to the other, acceptance and restoration. The phrase, “He is to be like a Gentile or tax-gatherer” is not saying treat him like somebody who needs grace. It is clearly stating in the context of 1st Cent Judaism (as well as Christ’s teaching in Matt concering the recipients of the Kingdom) that the person is not to be associated with. This is how the apostles interpret it as well (see 1 Cor 5-6; 2 Thes 3:6; 1 Tim 5:20; etc.). Of course, based on what I said, a sin in the community is a sin against the community and each individual member as well, so even if the apostles did not expand it, I would argue for its direct connection.
As to the rest of what you stated, I agree with A LOT of it with the exception of a crucial point. Everything you said about the Fatherhood of God, His eternally loving care, etc. is for His community, not everyone in general. So the question we are dealing with is how one enters that community and if one can be removed from it for any reason and why? I think all that you said went around this issue instead of dealing directly with it.
AND God MUST do nothing. He does what He desires to do, and some of that desire to judge evil comes from His wrath/anger (if you don’t believe in a God of wrath, then you ought to do a word study on the word as it is collocated with God/Yahweh/Lord etc. as its subject or producer—there’s quite a bit there and plenty just in the NT alone).
You still seem to be defining sin based on how bad you subjectively think it is given a particular set of circumstances. I think we’re going to fundamentally disagree on that as you can see in my previous post. I think the damage that sin wreaks on humans is secondary to its greater offense that is toward God. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be considered. I’m just saying that it shouldn’t be our first consideration when dealing with it.



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Bryan Hodge

posted January 31, 2006 at 4:19 pm


Scott M:
“Similarly, I can certainly think of gay family situations I have known where it would clearly have been more deeply damaging (and sometimes to innocents) to abruptly end the relationship and break up the family. What message would a child take from that? That this Christian God was responsible for destroying her family, the bedrock of her life? We can tie our lives into knots that are not easily or quickly undone.”
But Christ calls us to a radical commitment that will cause our lives to flip upside down if we follow Him. If the social effects of following Him are too great a cost, then are you saying we shouldn’t?
Scott M: “And please don’t throw in the strawman of child molestation. The brutality in that often used analogy appalls me. The violation of a child has as much to do with sex as beating one with a 2×4 does. It is one of the most deeply damaging acts of violence and trauma a person can visit on a child. It has no more place in a discussion of this nature than rape or murder. Save it for a discussion of the rampant violence in our nature and culture.”
You would put it into the category of violence, but I think the Scripture would definitely put its PRIMARY evil in the category of sexual immorality. But this once again shows how different our ethics turn out if we view them from the standpoint of how destructive they are psychologically and physically, rather than what kind of offenses they are to God and what He has commanded us to do with our bodies (i.e., submission to or rebellion against Him as Lord and God).



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Scott Morizot

posted January 31, 2006 at 5:46 pm


Bryan,
I understood your interpretation of Matthew 18. I just can’t get from the text to the manner in which you want to apply. You say notice the break in sections. What break? Jesus is talking about what to do when someone wrongs you and then Peter asks how many times we have to forgive a believer who sins against us or wrongs us. Or do you mean those divinely inspired section headers? [g] Jesus then flows directly into the story of the unforgiving servant. Further, I’m hard-pressed to disconnect verse 15 from the preceding verses in chapter 18, which all seem to be part of the same teaching.
And finally, while I am perfectly familiar with first century application of the Torah toward gentiles and tax collectors, I have to ask if that is the correct context for understanding this verse. Is Jesus not talking to his followers who, one supposes, would have been learning the way Jesus interacted with the outcast and the sinner? If so, then would not the understanding of his statement be closer to what I said than what you said? You certainly don’t have to convince me that context (narrative and cultural) is important. I’m just not convinced that you are actually drawing the conclusion Jesus intended.
I also find your assertion that God is OK with some sexual sin, but not other … interesting. Personally, I have a hard time distinguishing that from the typical modern liberal position on the question. I tend to get in trouble with both camps because I not only find many of their presuppositions troubling, but actually think the focus of both is wrong. They aren’t asking the right questions.
Nor do I think the damage sin does to the people with whom we are in relationship can fairly be separated from the damage it does to our relationship with God. Jesus doesn’t. In fact, he combines and intertwines the two. Nor do I get any sense that God doesn’t care about the hurt and pain we feel and inflict. How can you read scripture, especially the NT, and not leave broken by the extent to which he cares? Now that I have read Embracing Grace, I have a better understanding of the aspect of the nature of the cross you appear to give supremacy. And while I don’t think it’s mistaken, I also don’t find it to be sufficient on its own. There’s more to it than that.
I don’t actually sense that our perspective and understanding is radically different. I think it’s pretty similar. But those nuances do push toward a different expression of that understanding.



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Bryan Hodge

posted January 31, 2006 at 7:32 pm


Hi Scott,
Please note that I didn’t say that God didn’t care about the destructiveness of sin in our lives both with Him and with each other. My point is that you are defining sin only to how is effects us (eg. “our relationship with God,” “our relationships with each other,” etc.). I was attempting to point out that sin is PRIMARILY against God. In other words, when David sins against a bunch of people, he states that he has sinned against God and God alone. If he defined sin mainly in how it effected him in his relationships with God and others, that seems a bit self focussed and should have said, “Really, I have sinned against me and me alone.” But sin is offensive to God and who He is and what He has commanded regardless of the effects upon relationships. The horrible effects of sin on relationships is certainly a part of sin and God does indeed care about it; but I was simply stating that it is not the primary reason (theocentric vs anthropocentric).
Matt 18
1. The term eis se (“unto you”) is suspect since it is omitted by some really good mss like Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (so the reading isn’t really a sure thing in the first place), but with or without the phrase (there are good arguments on both sides), I think you have to deal with how it is applied in a general sense in 1 Cor 5-6 by the Apostle Paul (since the Apostles are the authoritative interpreters for Jesus’ words).
2. Two or three witnesses is from the OT context of a trial and judgment upon a sin issue where there is the possibility of death/cutting off from the people and the land. As is the case with the NT, the OT physical blessings and judgments are interpreted in a spiritual fashion. So rather than stone someone (cutting them off from the people that way), the church cuts them off from associations.
3. The terminology in Matt 18 of “binding and loosing” is language of arrest and imprisonment. Where do you get forgiveness out of that? Whatever you imprison on earth, I will imprison in heaven, but don’t do it?
4. The break is made by the phrase Tote proselthwn ho Petros “THEN AFTER Peter CAME and said to Him,” not “Peter answered/replied” or “Peter said.” There is a definite break between the two sections under the same theme (Since God desires that none of His children should perish, what should be done when a brother sins?”). Answer, it depends on whether the brother is repentant or not. Here’s how one deals with the unrepentant (vv 15-20); and here’s what to do when they ask for forgiveness (vv 21-35).
5. The language of forgiveness always deals with one who repents. Forgiveness is never given without repentance (I think that may be an issue for us to discuss). Hence, the parable of the servant shows that each individual forgiven states, even if only outwardly, their asking of mercy for their debt, to which they admit guilt. The main servant in the story is then shown to have not repented really and is subsequently NOT forgiven.
I don’t think we are too different from each other on this. I think we are different in our application/ limitations/extensions of the issue. But I think the whole of Scripture gives us those applications and limitations whereas it seems that you are arguing that it doesn’t and that each circumstance should dictate them. I think, if I can see it right, that that seems to be where our beliefs diverge.
I just want to clarify that I don’t think some sexual sins are OK with God. But I think Scripture classifies polygamy and prostitution in a different category than those that fall under sexual immorality (a different category of why it is wrong, not a different degree of its wrongfulness). The former two deal with adultery, which is an issue of ownership. In the OT, the woman belongs to the man and therefore adultery always involved a married woman. In the NT, Christ conveys that God allowed certain definitions of ownership prevalent in the ancient Near East because of the hardness of their hearts, but now (since Christ is the final interpreter of the Law) it is to be understood that, to God, the woman owns the man as well. However, even with a broken idea of ownership, the main purpose of God making the sexual relationship can be brought about. So I don’t actually believe that David was in sin for his many wives and concubines (the text states that God gave them to him). There was no explicit command in creation or the law that he would be rebelling against God by practicing it (the same goes for anyone else in the OT). This also shows once again that sin is defined as rebellion against God (since God does not condemn it then, there is no rebellion against him, and there is no sin), whereas if you define it the way that you have, they are all guilty of sinning by participating in destructive relationships.
Sexual immorality, however, is NEVER allowed by God because it falls under a completely different category, which does not allow the purpose of God in the sexual act to be accomplished (but I’m trying to wait and let Scot talk about this, so I’ll just say that for now).
thanks again for talking Scott. I’m enjoying the challenging conversation.



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Bryan Hodge

posted January 31, 2006 at 7:37 pm


Oh BTW, Adultery in the Scriptural context that kills the woman for it is also classified then under sexual immorality (whereas in a context where there is no execution for it, it probably would not be). I’m sure that really confusing, but once again I’ll wait for the discussion later.



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Becky

posted January 31, 2006 at 8:11 pm


This talk of sin and what to do with it and about it, in terms of if we are associated with someone who is sinning. But it is not limited to what do we do, what is the Bible’s teaching of what we do when someone else sins. Bring it home : each one of us is in that category now, because each one of us is sinning, and each one of us has a sin we are unwilling to give up now. I would like to see people bringing it home – I am this person, what does Jesus do with me, what does my community of believers do with me. It is not only about some-in the future-possible coming into contact with someone whose sin we might have to confront. I would like to see people bring it home – I am this sinner, how does God treat me, how does God come to me, how is my sin dealt with between God and me. It’s not just “them,” it’s us, and it’s you, right now.
in his arms,



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rick

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:10 pm


$10 to a donut– if you posted about world poverty and AIDS and how Jesus called us to serve the “least of these” and that was really the only place he addresses “who is in and who is out” that you would not get nearly 70 comments. I think most of this conversation has very little to do with truly following Jesus.
I do appreciate the effort. Thanks for allowing us to be here.



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Shawn

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:14 pm


“Perhaps these folks are committed Christians who don’t think homosexuality is a sin.”
Then they are not committed Christians. Committed Christians dont pick and choose the parts they like and reject the parts that are hard or inconveniant.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:18 pm


Rick,
If you’re following, I’d say this: I agree. No one is suggesting that what promotes the most conversation is the most important thing. In fact, some things, like compassion for the poor, don’t need conversation — they need action and exhortation.



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Shawn

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:29 pm


“Jesus’s mission (leaving Paul out of *this* discussion) was a radical reimagining of human relationships at all levels which results in a sacred connection to God.”
I dont see the evidence for this anywhere in the Bible. “re-imagining” is often liberal code for picking and choosing and changing the clear witness of Scripture and the Church.
Jesus placed his teaching firmly and clearly in the Jewish tradition. He did not “re-imagine” it, he deepened it. He did not reject it, he re-affirmed it. His repeatedly said that his teaching was a re-affirmation of the Torah.



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Shawn

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:30 pm


Sorry about the typos on the previous post. “His” should obviously be He.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:39 pm


Shawn,
Re-affirming won’t work in the antitheses of Matt 5:21-48 for there Jesus “re-imagines” the Torah into a new level. To suggest that “re-imagine” is liberal code is a slur absent of documentation and incapable of proof. I’ve heard conservatives speak of “re-imagining” Christian worship, Christian spiritual formation, discipleship, evangelism, and the like.
I see no reason to convert this post into a liberal vs. conservative agenda. We’re trying to converse about moral logic, and I’d appreciate you sticking to that topic. That is, following Jesus.



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Becky

posted January 31, 2006 at 10:56 pm


Shawn, we all justify to ourselves things we do that are wrong. At some time after, the Holy Spirit taps us and we see the wrong for what it is. If you believe none of us are perfect, then all of us justify sin in us to help us get away with doing it. If not, then none of us would sin, or we’d be aware of all the sin we do. When the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and equips us to stop it, then we do. Some might think : it’s not lack of love, I’m defending the purity of the church ! Others might think : it’s not lack of holiness, I’m defending what Jesus said about love. And each have scriptural backing to show, and we can assume both are sincerely trying to do their best to be a follower of God. But, in those 2 examples, we are sinning either with lack of love or lack of holiness, and blind to it until the Holy Spirit opens our eyes.
I was a sincere christian, as much as any other person, fervent about all that’s meant to honor God. I struggled to let go of same sex attraction for 30 yrs. It wasn’t about having proper repentance. God deals with each of us bit by bit, showing us ways out of our sinss. We all are limited in our knowledge, being finite, and on this side of the Fall. Thus the need to throw ourselves on God to help us out of our blindnesses.
in his arms,



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Julie

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:30 pm


I have an idea.
Let’s just not talk about homosexuality in the church for say, oh a generation (forty years). Let’s let gays into our churches at every level and let themget theological training and see how the Holy Spirit speaks through them – see what God reveals to them.
What if we recklessly trusted God for a change rather than our carefully plotted theologies.
I mean this (and just so I don’t get dismissed, I am currently three classes away from an MA in theology… and can read Greek).
My problem with the way we are trying to come at this discussion is the belief that we can know the answers to profound issues such as this one through a conversation that doesn’t include the subjects! What would happen if we included them, fully, suspending judgment while we allowed for God to speak through humans who are interacting with the same Spirit, same Bible… but who are not us!



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rick

posted February 1, 2006 at 12:08 am


Scott,
Thanks. I agree. I just meant most of us our lousy at serving the least and have very little opinions when it comes to reflecting on ourselves.



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Curt

posted February 1, 2006 at 12:10 am


Julie,
Are you suggesting we go to Cornelius’ house?



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Anonymous

posted February 1, 2006 at 12:24 am


Sacred Journey » Blog Archive » McLaren, Driscoll, & McKnight on Homosexuality – Blog of Mark Traphagen

[...] In his second post on the topic, McKnight develops what is to be the result of a sinner welcomed to table fellowship with the Lord: the call to leave the old life behind and follow the Lord. Published in: Theology, Christian Community, Emergent | on February 1st, 2006 | [...]



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 1, 2006 at 12:31 am


Wow, Julie, talk about begging the question . . .



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Becky

posted February 1, 2006 at 3:46 am


Hi Julie. Who says the subjects (homosexual tendencies) aren’t here ? Speaking from my experience, sometimes those who shout the most are struggling with it themselves. I think we are passionate about the topic, because something about it resonates with something in us. Need not mean a person responds sexually to same gender person, though I’ve seen that be a component of those who shout the most. But, something we are currently struggling with, something that niggles us (I think that’s a word) propels us to be fervent about this topic.
Personally, being a “subject,” I’ve found same gender sexual attraction isn’t about a committed, good loving, relationship with another person. I’ve found the dynamic to be of using – using another person to try to fill a void, an itch. We degrade another person by using them, whether same gender sexual attraction, or friend, or hetero etc. In doing so, we avoid the greater wholeness available in the spiritual solution. I’ve found the sin in same gender sexual attraction to be idolatry – trying to get some person or thing to fill my void, instead of turning to the heart of God. This isn’t limited to same gender attraction or sexual relationship, we can do it with many people in many kinds of relationships, we can do it with things. To defend same gender sexual relationships as just 2 people loving each other, is to miss the sin of idolatry that abides deeper. We use another person or another thing, to keep from turning to the heart of God. And that is rebellion against God.
I think I am not perfect in this life, and I depend on all of who God is, to live my life, so I would not harshly confront anyone in rebellion, which is what sin is. I would try to point them to seeing the inability of their sin to fill what they’re trying to fill with it. And try to point them toward the heart of God, which will fill. Freed to more fully imbibe in the love relationship with God.
in his arms,



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Greg Mc

posted February 1, 2006 at 4:35 am


Julie:
Wow is an understatement. Frankly I would never have guessed you were “three classes away from an MA in theology… and can read Greek”. In fact I honestly thought you were a non Christian Homosexual/Lesbian activist when you first posted. I’m simply stunned at what I consider to be a flippant disregard for what God has already revealed in His word on this subject on your part.
If you want to be taken seriously then be serious. Your suggestion is un-biblical. If you want to change the minds of conservative Christians you will have to do it by properly reasoned and biblical arguments, not by calling those who disagree with you bigots, (as you do on your blog) and not by dismissing Paul as some guy with outdated opinions.



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Ted Gossard,

posted February 1, 2006 at 5:13 am


Julie,
Thanks for sharing your perspective. I do look forward to Scot’s completion of this series of postings on homosexuality. It is an awful hot topic among Christians.
I know it seems like there will be disagreement here. But Scot looking at Jesus and his view of the Torah perhaps can help us.
I share your aversion of how gays are slammed by many Christians. I want no part of that. But I have to believe from Scripture that homosexual sex is put in a difficult place. You can call that cultural if you so think. I see it is treated as a departure from God’s original intent in making humans male and female.
blessings, Ted



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Greg Mc

posted February 1, 2006 at 5:41 am


Becky:
I’m up firing the kiln this morning.
I love how the the transforming grace of God is so evident in your posts. God uses the fires of our afflictions to purify and transform us into the person He wants us to be. We can kick and scream and try to resist but He is the Potter and we are the Clay. We all struggle with sin, but “struggle” is the operative word. As such, I am not “comfortable in my skin” I hate it (my sin) and long for the freedom that ultimately will come when we are glorified and made to be like Christ.
Of course it’s always easier to see the other persons sin and it’s not hard to find someone we consider worse than us to make ourselves feel superior but the Spirit will not let us do that for long.
I love this scripture:
Phil 3:7-
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus………..For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”



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Shawn

posted February 1, 2006 at 6:22 am


Scott,
I spent several years in a liberal church. I learnt first hand to identify and recognise liberal arguments and the premises on which such arguments are based. I recognise exactly the same arguments being made by Julie. Therefore my discernment was not a slur but an accurate identification of the worldview that Julie’s arguments are based on.
You dont want to make this into a conservative vs liberal issue, but thats exactly what it is. At its heart the movement to normalise homosexual sex in the church is part of the wider liberal movement within Western society. The very claim that fundamental truths which the church has always taught and been clear on can be changed IS Christian liberalism in a nutshell.
Yes both conservatives and liberals use the term “re-imagining”. But we mean very different things by this. Liberals use it as an excuse to dismantle the Faith to make acceptable to liberals. This is clearly the way Julie is using the term. It is provable Scott, as is the ideological basis of any argument in a debate.
The argument comparing the issue of homosexuality with slavery, apart from the fact that its fraudulent, is an argument I have heard many many times before and always from liberals. So I AM sticking to the point, which is as you say moral logic, by identifying the fact that Julie’s argument is not based on moral logic but on the priorities and demands of modernism and liberalism.
As Christians we must practice discernment. As Christians we must identify those ideologies that are attacking the Faith from within and without and expose them. As Christians we must stand for God’s truth, not the worlds.
Julie,
“My problem with the way we are trying to come at this discussion is the belief that we can know the answers to profound issues such as this one through a conversation that doesn’t include the subjects! What would happen if we included them, fully, suspending judgment while we allowed for God to speak through humans who are interacting with the same Spirit, same Bible… but who are not us!”
So according to this argument we cannot make a clear and final judgement regarding murder, pedophilia, incest, or genocide unless we include in the discussion those that commit such crimes.
This would apply to all moral issues, which means we cannot rely on the Bible for moral truth and guidance.
You also say:
“Let’s just not talk about homosexuality in the church for say, oh a generation (forty years). Let’s let gays into our churches at every level and let themget theological training and see how the Holy Spirit speaks through them – see what God reveals to them.”
lets look at the moral logic of this by applying the statement to other moral issues.
‘Let’s just not talk about pedophilia in the church for say, oh a generation (forty years). Let’s let pedophiles into our churches at every level and let themget theological training and see how the Holy Spirit speaks through them – see what God reveals to them.’
Or…
Let’s just not talk about murder in the church for say, oh a generation (forty years). Let’s let murderers into our churches at every level and let themget theological training and see how the Holy Spirit speaks through them – see what God reveals to them.’
Now I dont have any fancy degrees, I’m purely a self-educated working class guy. But I cannot see the moral logic of this statement at all.
Now before I am dismissed as a bigot or homophobe let me put forth my own credentials. I spent several years under the delusion that I was bisexual. I spent those years socialising in the gay community. I lived for several months with another man. I had and continue to have close and dear gay friends. Most of those friends today are Christians who have accepted God’s truth and who struggle daily with their feelings. So I am not ignorant nor a bigot, and Julies claim that we are having this discussion without the subjects is both wrong and frankly insulting.
It is also conveniant. I wonder if Julies desire to be inclusive of the input of gay people extends to those of us who have struggled with same sex attraction but who firmly believe that homosexual sex is a sin.



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Becky

posted February 1, 2006 at 6:47 am


Shawn, I actually resonate with some of what you say. But I have this to point out – let’s say Julie is a liberal as you define it. It will be very hard to get a dialogue going of knowing each other, by coming out first with the verbal slap across the face of calling her a liberal. If we want to talk theory, then maybe “liberal” can be used, but even then, it is a power word that gets reacted to and complicates communication. In the movie Step-mom Susan Sarandon is dying of cancer and goes to live with her ex hubby and his new family. Her kids spout words like “that was stupid.” And she says “use your words.” So, “that was stupid,” becomes “I didn’t like how he treated me on the playground today.” If you were to stop using the word “liberal,” what words could replace it to fill out the picture of what you are trying to show with the word/label “liberal.”
I’ve thought years about this. Jesus had to do something so people wanted to go with him or have dinner with him. If his first words were these ones that slap, no one would go with him, well, maybe the masochists. Jesus did have sharp words, and some of those people didn’t like him and didn’t go with him. Mostly those were for the pharisees. I expect there were some soft words spoken without selling out and without manipulating. Just not coming out guns blazing with words.
Is this a thing Scot is sayihg ? The thing about Eikons? We are individuals. I do the necessary social things we do to let the other person know I honor them as being created by God and enter into talk with them in a way they can know I’m interested in hearing what they have to say. And because each of us have different histories and respond differently, we do it one by one, not applying a pat theory to each person, but having to come in a way where we honor them as the uniques person they are. That’s the start. Then the dialogue can begin that hopefully will be mutually respectful, at least for us the christians.
in his arms,



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Julie

posted February 1, 2006 at 8:25 am


Becky, I appreciate your comments and struggles and have enjoyed your postings. I should have said so sooner. You have an irenic spirit. :)
Shawn said:
It is also conveniant. I wonder if Julies desire to be inclusive of the input of gay people extends to those of us who have struggled with same sex attraction but who firmly believe that homosexual sex is a sin.
Yep. Would want you there. Of course.
I do recognize that what some of you are saying is that this is a moral issue **on par with adultery, murder, theviery** etc. And therefore deserves some kind of upfront judgment by us – whoever that is – pastors, church members, theologians.
And that is certainly the prerogative of every Christian to determine for him or herself. In fact, that idea, though, just doesn’t strike me as any different than anything we’ve done or I’ve heard for 25 years as an evangelical. I thought this disussion was trying to grapple with homosexuality anew… for what reason? Did it just come up because of Brokeback Mountain? Or is there some sense that we have got it wrong in the past?
I thought the latter. Looks like the former.
Christian ministries to help gays leave their lifestyle (orientation – depending on how you define it) have been around for 20 years. The Vineyard (which was my home church for fifteen years) has a very active ministry that caters to those who are “broken” in their sexuality and is very welcoming to all sorts of people. They do a great job of lowering the bar.
But you won’t see gays who believe their sexuality is their true identity showing up. And I thought that was what we were doing here – trying to understand if in fact the idea that sexual orientation can be understood not as a sin… or perhaps if there is a way for a homosexual Christian to be among us.
If the answer is to simply be celibate, that’s not really anything new either. I mean it’s fine to suggest it, but unliekly to make any difference.
So what is this conversation about then? If people agree that homosexuality is sin, and if they agree that homosexuals need to leave that life behind (though perhaps retaining the identity) to fully enter into the church, then this is the same old, same old. – Just trying to be nicer about it, maybe. Though the Vineyard has been doing it nicely for years.
What I thought I might be picking up in the early part of the conversation was that a rethinking was going on about how we see gays and Christianity. Maybe something similar to how Christians had to rethink race relations in the 60s – could a white marry a black? Is that biblical after all?
Similar to what had to happen for slavery to be overturned.
Similar to what had to happen for women to get the vote or become pastors (I know not all here may be for women pastors, but I’m speaking generally of movement within the Christian world).
So anyway, my comments were aimed at that. If we are reconsidering how we understand homosexuality, then my suggestion might be a good one. If in this discussion the goal is to discuss how to help homosexuals come to our churches and be Christians and leave the lifestyle, then it isn’t that different than what has been going on in evangelical churches for decades.
And feel free to carry on in that vein! I won’t bother you any more. :)



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Scott Morizot

posted February 1, 2006 at 11:08 am


Julie,
I think you might have gathered the wrong impression because those of us who fall into neither “camp” were disinclined to join the exchange. I know I was. But I would not judge too early how this exploration and discussion will progress. I’m unsure myself, but open to thoughts and ideas.
Personally, neither “side” in this evangelical discussion feels right to me as I study Scripture and read about the early church. The “conservative” side on this topic can be harsh, often says things and makes analogies I can’t believe that someone studying Jesus’ words would say, and often presents an impermeable wall. At the same time, the “liberal” side often fails to fully credit God’s own statements of his intent and design in creation. And in so doing, I sense a lack of sacrifice of self to God. The answer is not a compromise. Any compromise would necessarily be less satisfactory than either camp. I’m looking for a different path.
Attempting to enforce moral conformity externally strikes me as counter to the Gospel. God is transforming who are, not engaging in behavior modification. At the same time, though, laissez-faire Christianity is not the answer. That’s our deep cultural bias toward individuality speaking. There clearly are times when, as Christians, we need to intervene and stop behavior that is destructive and harmful.
While I sense that our proper response as Christians, the place from which we should start, is to embrace and bring people to the table, I do not see either side of the divide doing so in a way that also honors God. And I feel that both sides dishonor God and are disrespectful toward the people who are gay by treating them as a category or an issue. We need to describe God’s creation truthfully to the best of our ability, but without an agenda to manipulate or force change. And that begins by focusing on people as people. As Scot paints in an eloquent picture, every time we look at a fellow human being, we need to first see the Eikon of God before we observe the cracks in the Eikon. Becky made the same point, and I strongly agree with it. It’s not about issues or positions, it’s about people, and have we all forgotten what God says people are?
What does that place look like? I’m not sure. I’m hoping to get a better sense through this exploration. I am sure it involves a place where we can all gather at Jesus’ table. I was twice divorced by the time I was 22. I am now currently near my 16th anniversary with my wonderful wife. Though I did struggle with accepting what he said, it’s pretty clear from the words of Jesus (when asked which of two rabbis of his time had the right position on an issue — sound familiar?) that my situation is other than God’s intent from the beginning. And at the same time I am unrepentant. I would not trade my wife and family for anything and I’m certainly not sorry I have them. I consider it the greatest blessing of my life. And I’m at peace with that. God certainly has pursued and embraced me beyond any reasonable expectation. And that leads me to wonder what it is about this particular type of relationship that makes it universally different. Is change sometimes appropriate? Sure. We have testimony to that effect. But might it sometimes not be the course for a person? I’ve certainly known people and relationships that would seem harmful and destructive to break. But at the same time, should we talk and discuss and honor what God clearly says was his design? Somewhere there is a path that honors God, submits to him, and loves and honors people as Eikons of God. I would like to find some structure or guidance for that path.



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Tom

posted February 1, 2006 at 11:11 am


I’m all for conversion being a process that takes time. And I don’t at all want to ‘judge’ others or ‘get in their face’. And I don’t doubt that Jesus patiently waits for people and draws them over time to himself.
But…
I just get the feeling that there’s no longer a place for being clear with people on just what Jesus calls people TO. Bonhoffer keeps ringing in my head, “When Jesus calls someone, he call that one to come a die.” Can we really understand Jesus’ call any differently? “If anyone will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” Everybody knew what that meant. It meant giving up your life to find it. It was a call to die, to crawl up on the cross and embrace it.
Now, I’m all for giving people room and time to come to terms with this, and for lovingly encouraging people with the good news that Jesus is always present, willing to receive, all who come to him. But it’s the CROSS they come to. THEIR cross. THEIR death.
So Scot, how do you DO the cross, making the appeal to people to ‘come and take up their cross’ without ‘getting in people’s face’?
Tom



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Scot McKnight

posted February 1, 2006 at 11:28 am


Tom,
I certainly don’t think “getting in someone’s face” is the solution. But, making the demand of the cross clear is the point, isn’t it? What does it mean to take up the cross? To die to self. How is that measured? Is it a one-time event or a life-time event? Surely the latter. Their cross, their death is to join Jesus in his cross and his death. Process and specific acts.



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Julie

posted February 1, 2006 at 11:57 am


Scott, I really loved your lengthy post. Wish I had time to address its points. You strike me as grasping some of the nuances I would have liked to make more explicit in my own writing. Thank you.
Tom, funny you bring Bonhoeffer into the picture. He’s my man. I am writiing my thesis on his writings.
The verse you refer to comes from The Cost of Discipleship and has been used and abused for many years since first penned. In the context of Letters and Papers from Prison, Bonhoeffer would say that that “dying” has to do with idenitifying fully with the suffering, taking on their suffering as our own.
How do you think it would look for you or me (heterosexual Christians) to come and die – to suffer as the gay community is suffering… taking their crisis seriously and coming alongside in such a way that we are a part of an engaged process, not standing by making decisions or pronouncements (as Brian McLaren would say).
Bonhoeffer chose to align himself with the questionable practice of treason (joining a plot to kill Hitler) in service of suffering alongside the Jews while much of the rest of the church talked theologically about “The Jewish Question.”
He is very relevant to this discussion and I’m glad you brought him up.



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Julie

posted February 1, 2006 at 12:02 pm


P.S. Someone thought I was a radical lesbian. Thought I’d clarify: happily married to great guy, 21 years, love sex.



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Bob

posted February 1, 2006 at 12:03 pm


Tom,
The other thing about dying (it is the perfect analogy) is that you cannot tell people to die. As you say, it has to be THEIR death. It is also supremely individual–each has his own crisis and mine will not be yours. It is also painfully unpleasant and no one embrace the death as it occurs, only afterwards.



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Scot McKnight

posted February 1, 2006 at 12:11 pm


On Bonhoeffer: that’s a flowery translation by RH Fuller and not what Bonhoeffer’s words. Which were more mundane, and less catchy.
Jeder Ruf Christi faehrt in den Tod: “Every call of Christ leads to death.”



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Ken

posted February 1, 2006 at 12:11 pm


Bob,
When you write “The other thing about dying (it is the perfect analogy) is that you cannot tell people to die,” what do you make of Jesus’ repeated calls to people to come and die, e.g., Matt 16:24? That is the point. People who come into a Christian gathering should hear the message “to die to themselves” as part of what it means to become a follower of Jesus. As Jesus’ followers, he gets to set the erms of what it means to follow, and no one else, no matter how they might feel about specific issues. Othewise, we make Jesus a god of clay that we fashion into something convenient (which eveyrone, regardless of their theology, seeks to do to one degree or another, and everyone’s false Jesus needs to be identified and destroyed–heterosexual, homosexual, white, black, rich, poor, whatever).



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Greg Mc

posted February 1, 2006 at 12:27 pm


If telling someone to pick up their cross and die is not “getting in their face” then nothing is. Jesus constantly warned of coming judgment against sin. Granted; Jesus kept His harshest criticism for the self righteous religious people of His day but to say he was all fluff and hugs is a horrible misrepresentation of reality. He came the first time to suffer and die but He will come again as Judge. That has been largely ignored here (at least so far).



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 1, 2006 at 12:28 pm


Julie, you said:
“If the answer is to simply be celibate, that’s not really anything new either. I mean it’s fine to suggest it, but unliekly to make any difference.”
Why? Because our animalistic passions need their fill? I think the call is to deny oneself in order to be transformed (so celibacy may only be temporary). If sexual immorality is a result of the communal absence of God in one’s life, then what can be the result of His communal presence, but sexual purity? I know people who were distorted in their views of sex, who now (through Christ’s daily presence) have had their desires turned toward God’s direction. You would, of course, say that someone who practiced something sexual, but horribly warped should remain celibate until transformed, wouldn’t you? Why is this any different unless you assume that this particular behavior is now OK. Of course, I’ve yet to hear your reasons why it’s now OK other than a rejection of what the Holy Spirit teaches through the Bible.
I only say that this statement (because you’ve said this before) is only consistent with a view that Christ is accomadating, rather than convicting and transforming. If the stakes are too high, and one does not want to follow Christ through them, then the Gospel is clear that one cannot follow Christ. That goes for anyone, regardless of their sin.



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Georges Boujakly

posted February 1, 2006 at 1:05 pm


Dana,
One aspect of the plan to stop sinning is nestling in Jesus’ arms continually not only after I sin. First John 3 warns against sinning in most ominous terms. Protection from sinning and its effects is in the nestling before and after. But when I sin, I have an advocate…



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Bob

posted February 1, 2006 at 1:18 pm


Ken in #94, The analogy is perfect, my description of it is not. ;-) I meant that you can’t say, “ok everyone, let’s die to ourselves” as if it is a step we take together or for another. Probably another imperfect description…



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Julie

posted February 1, 2006 at 2:28 pm


**I only say that this statement (because you’ve said this before) is only consistent with a view that Christ is accomadating, rather than convicting and transforming. If the stakes are too high, and one does not want to follow Christ through them, then the Gospel is clear that one cannot follow Christ. That goes for anyone, regardless of their sin.**
Bryan, I agree that we are to be transformed, not accomodated to in our weaknesses and sins.
What I am less clear about is why it is my role to be that convicter in someone else’s life on an issue that to me is not clearly resolved theologically for many who claim to be Christians and homosexuals.
What do we say to homosexual Christians? Why do we say it? who gives us the right to say it?
How much do we trust that the inward work of God is real and effective?
And what do we do with the evidence of good fruit in the life of someone who is a Christian and homosexual?



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Becky

posted February 1, 2006 at 3:10 pm


Ken #94, one place I disagree with you. You write “everyone’s false Jesus needs to be identified and destroyed…..” I would not say “destroyed.” I would say, transformed. I hear anger, I hear violence with the image of “destroy.” I think Jesus doesn’t destroy our hearts, he changes them, he transforms them. With the commands of what not to do, comes the point in the direction of what To do. We are pointed to a do, not just given a “don’t.”
in his arms,



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 1, 2006 at 3:17 pm


Ah, I see, Julie. You are talking about an issue that I think the modern evangelical church is largely guilty of: “God works apart from means.” I think this is a huge implication of individualism, but is not Biblical Christianity. Biblical Ecclesiology teaches us that we are to rebuke, reprove, correct, etc. WE cannot change anyone, but the Holy Spirit changes people through the means of our rebuking, reproving, correcting, etc. Unless the Spirit works through it, all of our work will come to nothing; but that does not mean we should not work in obedience to create opportunities for Him to use us as means. It might help you to know (since you can read Greek, you can look this up for yourself) that what we are commanded to with each other throughout the NT (elegkw “rebuke, expose, convict, convince of error” 1 Cor 14:24; Eph 5:11-13; 1 Tim 5:20; 2 Tim 4:2; Titu 1:9)is the same work of the Holy Spirit upon the earth through us in John 16:8. So the convicting work of the Holy Spirit upon one’s life is through the means of the Church doing it (not separate from it because its just me and Jesus).
Luke 17:3-4:
3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, REBUKE him; and IF HE REPENTS, forgive him. 4 “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, `I REPENT,’ forgive him.”
The last statement you made once again begs the question. If homosexuality is a bad fruit, then I don’t understand the reasoning. You have to assume that it is OK first. Are you saying what do we do when an unrepentant person in sin produces “good” fruit in other areas of their life? That would have to be answered by what the nature of “good” fruit is in the Sermon on the Mount—and one of the major issues in it (as well as the set up of Matt with John’s confrontation with the Pharisees, who apparently don’t have fruit) is that fruit is that which is consistent with repentance (not just externally or temporally good deeds). But this is kind of getting far from the topic, so I’ll stop here.



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Becky

posted February 1, 2006 at 3:20 pm


Greg McK, #95. Someone says Jesus is all fluff and hugs ? Judgment is painted in Jesus’ words and the epistles, but I like to think that God’s mercy is beyond what I can imagine. I’ve had people in my life who have done great violence and harm against me. In my anger, I would like God to give them what’s coming to them, I like the idea of judgment because of that, and I think it is of sin in me. Then I remind myself that God has mercy to them too, beyond what I can envision. And, thank God, cuz he has it for me too. Judgment is there, but I’m not sure we imagine it as God sees it and does it. For those for which judgment comes, I like to think I weep for it, as Jesus did over those who didn’t come to him.
in his arms,



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Becky

posted February 1, 2006 at 3:24 pm


Georges, per post #97. Thank you for these words and this image.
in his arms,



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Becky

posted February 1, 2006 at 3:26 pm


Bob, post #98 – What comes to my mind of what you are trying to say – you can lead a horse to water …….
in his arms,



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Becky

posted February 1, 2006 at 3:41 pm


Julie, comment #99. The couple places of which I’m aware, who work with people who have attraction to same gender, don’t recruit. They wait for people who are willing and/or ready to want to change. The woman who mentored/counseled me, echoed the same. She said it is futile to approach others. So, what do we do in the meantime ? I hope to find ways to speak truth in a very soft way, that in the least, doesn’t come across as pushing the other person or persons away. It’s something I try to do in all my life, (except for those times when I get p-o’d.) when I have my wits about me. I hope to speak the truth softly, that has overtones at least of : here, come, let’s talk about this. As I put in another post/entry here, at some time, with my friend of 21 yrs who has all the time been involved in lesbian activities, she hasn’t nailed me to the wall per my position in such a way that my response would break off our friendship. May be she hasn’t done it cuz she realizes it would break off our friendship. And in times that came close to nailing me to the wall, thank God, I’ve been able to find words to state my position, but softly, and in words that weren’t pushing her away. She knows it’s a line I feel I can’t cross, she knows I think it’s wrong for me, she knows the psychological underpinnings by which I’ve gone in that direction and why now I feel I can’t do because it is an unhealthy thing for me to indulge in. I’ve imagined if there is a time she nails me to the wall ala christianity and the gay issue and my stand on it. If that day ever comes, I’m just going to say “Judy, all I know is God wants you to revel in his love, he wants a love relationship with you.” I think that is THE issue, the first thing to address. The rest comes after that.
in his arms,



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Ken

posted February 1, 2006 at 3:41 pm


Becky,
Per your comments in 100 (the comments have taken on a life of their own!), I have a comment and some questions. I really hate the use of the word “violence” in many modern contexts. I see it in biblical studies all the time used to “label” something that someone disliikes, much as the media labels things as “Fundamentalist” even though I bet there’s not a single person at the New York Times who has the foggiest idea what this word actually meant in the past or what it means now. Hearing words about me that I don’t like is not “violence.” I won’t presume to speak for you or what has been said to you but I think we need to be careful with our appraisal of someone else’s rhetoric when we start applying physical descriptions to it. Again, I’m not trying to declare your feelings illegitimate but calling for care in using language becusae your post builds upon that _evaluation_.
When Moses destroyed the Golden Calf, and Caleb killed the immoral couple, when Elijah killed the prophets of Ba’al, when Jeus overturned the tables of the money changers (though this, granted may have other synbolic force beyond what it is) and Paul handed a member of the church at Corinth over to Satan for the destruction of the body, it sounds to me like the Bible promotes a decidedly “destructive” response to sin that threatens the people of God. If that means, for example, firing on the spot the youth pastor who is found in his office cruising Internet porn sites and using the church phone for phone sex, then that’s what it means. If that means a pastor stands up and rebukes the congregation for spending money on Starbucks but not Compassion International, then that’s what it means. I will never forget hearing Tony Campolo say in a church service somethin to the effect that “today 20 thousand children will die of starvation and you don’t give a s–t, and what upsets you is not that they will die but that I said s–t.” I think he is totally right and the American church should fix this right now. The current posture that treats Jesus as the person who blesses us so we can have picture phones to use while we sip lattes is a Jesus that needs to be destroyed. Likewise, a Jesus who says “come as you are, and stay as you are,” needs throwing down.
You see, while I find homosexual acts particularly offensive emotionally, I don’t want to put such sinful acts in a separate category as though it’s really bad and other things are okay or at least not worthy of mention. I think that believers need to be continually called on the carpet (because I don’t think we really respond to indirect implications or wooing when it comes to changing deep-seated views or behaviors) for every false image of God we create. We need to affirm God as Love but not God as Comfortable, whether that means he supposedly overlooks homosexual acts or gossiping.



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Dana Ames

posted February 1, 2006 at 5:07 pm


Georges, I think I only have a problem with your term “plan”. What works better for me is “intention”. It seems to me that otherwise we agree.
Blessings-
Dana



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Scot McKnight

posted February 1, 2006 at 6:54 pm


Michael,
Very well said; I don’t need to say it — you have. A nice example of gracious Christianity.
PS: Michael, your comment was blocked in moderation. Just saw it.



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Michael Kruse

posted February 1, 2006 at 11:52 pm


Thanks Scot. (At least I assume this was to me and the John 17 reflection.)
“PS: Michael, your comment was blocked in moderation. Just saw it.”
This part has me confused. I thought I posted under “Jesus and Homosexuality 3″ but I see it did not appear there or here.
Is “moderation” a kind of “blog purgatory?” Is there penance that will set it free?
No big deal. Just trying to a get a grip on what I did. If there was some glitch, you have better uses of your time than blog troubleshooting.



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Ken

posted February 2, 2006 at 2:23 pm


Michael,
Some questions for you:
1. When you talk about what Jesus came to do, what does it mean to be restored? Why would anyone need that? We need to be restored because someting is broken. Yet, we don’t know what’s broken because the church has become confomred to the world and won’t tell us that jealousy, hatred, viewing child pornography, pre-marital/extramarital/homesexual acts are wrong. So we can’t ever be meaningfully restored because when we come to God, we are explicitly living in a way that violates his will and is sin. How are we to be restored in such a situation?
2. Can other situations in life lead to brokenness? Should that brokenness be a license to never be told that we need to repent of sin in our lives?
3. It seems to me that many in this conversation want to give special place to homosexual acts. No one wants to argue that we don’t understand in our setting what the Bible means by murder or rape or adultery or hatred. No one here seems to be saying that we can redefine adultery such that the biblical notion in Paul, Jesus, etc., is irrelevant. It’s one and only one act of all those that I can think of that the church, prompted solely, I believe, by cultural pressure, has decided to revisit and redefine. WHy is this one thing being given special privilete?



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Michael Kruse

posted February 2, 2006 at 11:19 pm


Hi Ken,
Correct me if I am wrong here. I think I read you to say that we agree that each of us is broken (cracked eikons) that need to be restored. You are asking how are we to be restored? That is my question as well.
I have been dwelling in Luke 15 for several months now. This is the passage where Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners. The scribes and Pharisees are critical of him for doing so. Jesus responds with the three part parable of the Good Shepherd, the Good Woman, and the Compassionate Father. The shepherd loses a sheep and searches till he finds it. The woman loses a very valuable coin and searches until she finds it. Not being shepherds in Palestine, we don’t realize how rough the terrain is and how much work it is to find a lost sheep. Furthermore, when sheep are frightened the collapse in a thicket and begin bleating. Once they are found they are too terrified to even walk. The shepherd has to heave the sheep up on his shoulders and carry it back over the rugged terrain.
Similarly, the type of home the hearers would likely have imagined in the story about the coin was constructed of stone slabs about seven feet tall with a six inch window at the top. The floor was a patch work of stones pieced to gather with many cracks and crevasses. The lamp would have given imperfect light and she would have been on her hands and knees on the stone floor. This too was hard work.
What does this have to do with anything? Jesus closes each of these two stories indicating he is talking about repentance and redemption. Where do you see repentance in the story? The sheep just lays there and bleats. The coin just lays there. Repentance does not happen when we come to God. It happens when God comes to us!
Jesus “fleshes out” the story by using human beings in the final story about the Compassionate Father. The son does the unthinkable of asking his father for his inheritance while his father is living. This was unheard of and was the equivalent of wishing his father dead. Instead of striking his son down, the father grants his request! (The older brother, who should have jumped in as mediator also accepts his share without protest, an important hint that something is amiss with him.)
The son runs off, wastes his money and finds himself a Jew wishing he were a pig. At this point many think he repents. He doesn’t. His plan is to apologize to his father and asked to be hired servant. A hired servant is not a slave but is just one step down from being a family member. The son believes that if can get just enough grace from his father he can possibly earn his way back into the family. It is a long shot. He has dissed his father, his brother now controls the estate and the village will be ready to mob him when they see him, realizing he has squandered his Jewish inheritance among gentiles.
We know from the story that the father is a man of wealth and position. The wealthy lived at the center of the village in this time and place. Men like the father wore robes down to their feet and moved with great dignity. To even show your ankles in public was embarrassing. They most certainly did not ever run in public. It would be an act of humiliation.
But what does Jesus tell us about this father? He sees his son approaching the village and knows full well what will happen to him when the people recognize him. He girds up his robes, probably above his knees, and races through the village to meet his son! The appropriate approach of son in good standing would be to kneel and kiss his father’s hand. A son in poor standing should fall to the ground and kiss his father’s feet. However, before the son can do either, the father grabs him and kisses him on the neck, showing full acceptance. This is the moment of repentance!
The son now gets it. There is no earning his way back. It was never about his deeds it was about a broken relationship. But there also is no need to earn his way back. He confesses his offense but he has dropped any pretense of being a hired servant. The father clothes him with his robe, signifying full acceptance, gives him his (likely) signet ring symbolizing the father’s authority, and give him sandals which only free persons wore. Then the father throws a celebration fit for a king because he “got his son back.” This is an important detail. The language indicates that the father was active in getting his son back not passive. His exercise of costly humiliating grace restored a “shalom” with his son. The party is about what the father has done, not the son.
I could go on about the older son and the exhibition of costly grace to him as well, but this is enough to make my point. How was the younger son restored? The younger son was restored when he encountered an unmistakable expression of God’s grace! This changed his very identity. Being restored he could now honestly face what was inside him. He no longer needed as part of his identity.
My understanding is that we are restored when God, through his Spirit and his people, confronts us, not with our sin, but with his unfathomable grace. We are not called to bear witness against other sins but to give witness of the Father who runs to meet us on the road.
Jesus said, “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’” (Matt 15:17-18, NIV) The heart has to be transformed, then what comes out of it will change. Yet it is my experience that what comes from the heart does not switch on a dime, but it does change. As we grow in grace we become more conformed to Christ.
I am not saying that we shouldn’t talk about what things please or displease God. Of course we do. That is part of the ongoing journey of discipleship. I am asking when and to what end? With God’s grace the reason for “following the rules” ceases to be about getting cleaned up so we can come into God’s presence and becomes motivated by an awareness of always being in God’s presence and not wanting to wound him.
My concern is that too much of Evangelicalism has become an exercise in telling people what is wrong with them so they can get right with God. Frankly, I think most people already know their own mess inside. But that mess is part of their identity and with no other identity to claim, we are telling them to cease being who they are. Instead, I think God would have us race down the road and show them the identity they have in God. With a new identity they will hunger to become all God intends for them to be and the behavior issues will be addressed in due course of discipleship.



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Scott Morizot

posted February 3, 2006 at 12:34 am


Thanks Michael. You’ve expressed my own experience with God so beautifully. In many of these discussions, especially when they become ugly, I’m reminded of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” In it, Spencer Tracey’s character is confronted with the suggestion that when men grow old, they forget what it means to love. Or worse, they never really knew it at all. He takes exception to that one statement out of everything that night. But I’m so overwhelmed by the grace and love God has shown me, I often wonder if the ones who sometimes speak so unlovingly have forgotten the grace and love God has shown them.



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Becky

posted February 3, 2006 at 12:37 am


I”m not sure the issue is split either/or, a dichotomy between calling sin, sin, or being soft on sin-not calling sin, sin or making it less than it is. I think the discussion is, how do we approach fellow sinners in a way that leads to restoration, what heart and what words lead to turning more fully to God.
in his arms,



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 3, 2006 at 2:43 am


Michael,
I’m sorry, but I find your analysis to be flawed in two points:
1. You’re reading a bit much into the “hired servant” statement as though the son is looking to work his way back into being the son. The point of repentance is the point of realizing that one has sinned and is now unworthy of God. That is the point the son is in while still sitting with the pigs. The father doesn’t go to the pig pen. The son goes back to him.
However, even having said this, God does initiate repentance, but through conviction of sin, not apart from it. But that is something you would see more from the previous two analogies, not this parable where the Father doesn’t go look for his son and waits for the son to come to him.
BTW, a misthios “hired hand” is worse than a slave, not better. The hired hand can be dismissed. The slave still has, even if only for a few years, the security of the household. And the wages he makes are to live, not to work his way back into the status of son with his father. But this is the problem we have when we argue from descriptive texts apart from prescriptive ones.
2. You are using this parable in a way that it is not really intended to be used. It has more to do (in Luke) with God’s desire for His sheep, coins, sons to repent and be restored to Him than it does in conveying how we should mimic each action or attribute each action to ourselves.
In this then, it is taking the descriptive parable over and above prescriptive statements that would claim the exact opposite of your conclusion. When that occurs, you have the wrong interpretation of what is descriptive (since the same Holy Spirit gives both and would not be contradicting Himself).
This then causes you to have this conclusion:
“With God’s grace the reason for “following the rules” ceases to be about getting cleaned up so we can come into God’s presence and becomes motivated by an awareness of always being in God’s presence and not wanting to wound him.”
This seems to ignore the fact that restoration into God’s presence (which is what forgiveness is) comes only when one repents in Scripture. And that is the main issue I have with what you said. You HAVE TO go to descriptive texts and pour ideas into them because the prescriptive texts all speak against the point you want to make. Please show me from prescriptive texts where repentance is not needed first to enter into God’s forgiveness and then also explain the texts that indicate this as well and how they harmonize or contradict each other.
By this logic as well, Christ should have told the Rich Young Ruler to follow Him, not mention his idolatry and hope that along the way he would see his error; BUT THAT’s NOT WHAT HE DOES. He tells him to forsake his sin first. As in the OT so in the NT, God will not listen to anyone’s prayers unless they are repentant first. By your comments, I think you may be unaware of this teaching. Your paradigm seems to be that one can have a relationship with God first and then repent. That is really reversed. Tell me what you think of this statement, which is based in OT theology of God:
John 9:31 “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.”
This was said in defense of Christ by a blind man in order to argue that Christ could not be a sinner because God does not listen to sinners. By your argument, the blind man’s defense holds no water if in fact God does listen and have a relationship already with sinners before they enter a relationship with Him through repentance.
As for the indictment upon Evangelicalism for pointing out sin, I would just direct you to look up the verses I gave Julie before and tell me if you think we are not to be constantly engaged in this as equally as we should be showing grace and mercy when one repents of an offense.
I look forward to your answer. thanks in advance.



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Becky

posted February 3, 2006 at 5:46 am


Sin, repentance, and God’s love continually drawing us to Him, are seperate ?
I think we could scripture duel till Christ comes again, thinking our interpretation is the right one. May God have mercy on us. There’s scripture that talks of being dependent on God’s love and mercy, there’s scripture that talks of the need to recognize one’s sin and bow to God. I’m not sure they’re opposed to each other. We all are dependent on the Holy Spirit to turn on the light of recognition of truth, and the ability to turn to it. Not only is what’s inside us broken from the Fall, but our minds too. We are lost but for God giving enlightenment to us.
I think one manifestation of love is giving up having to be right. I think that’s an underlay to the weaker bro/sis thing. I can love enough to not insist on imposing my idea of what ought to be.
in his arms, or across his shoulders ,



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Ken

posted February 3, 2006 at 11:46 am


Michael,
Yes, we would agree that we are all broken Eikons in need of restoration. However, our understanding of how to be restored and of hwo to read Luke 15 differ markedly.
Assuming that Luke and Acts both have the same basic perspective, we can go to Luke 4 and see what is up. Jesus comes preaching the kingdom is near. He also proclaims himself to be the one who proclaims release for the captives. Then Jesus does in fact release the captives. In Luke 5, Jesus describes his mission as being sent to call sinners to repentance (5:32).
In Acts 2, 3, 13, and 17, to name a few places, repentance is front and center in terms of what one has to do. Repentance is not the only thing, but it is, it appears to me, indispensable. Bryan has dealt somewhat with your reading of Luke 15. I would add two things. First, it seems to me that people are saying essentially that all, regardless of what they believe or how they live, are God’s children. That’s fundamentally opposed, I believe, to the witness of Scripture. Romans 8 makes clear that some are God’s children and others are not. Furthermore, what I hear being said by you would allow me to rewrite the Prodigal parable in this way:
And as he sat in the pig pen, he said, “It’s much better at my father’s house. I’m going home.” So the younger son goes home. When his father sees him, he runs to him. The son says, “Hey pop, how’s it going?” I decided it was time to come on home. I’m going to my room. How about a party to celebrate my return? Isn’t it great that I’m here now?”
That is, while we don’t want to blunt the message of the parable by telling people they have to completely clean up their act first before God will even consider listening to them, we must not fall in the ditch on the other side of the bridge by saying “come as you are, stay as you are. The mere act of coming to church services means ‘you’re in’.”
Another aspect worthy of mention is this matter of interpretation. Interpretation happens when we read any biblical text. That does not mean that we should fail to speak about the meaning of Scripture because what we have to offer is an interpretation. If that were the case, we could say nothing at all. No, rather, having done the hard work to be responsible interpreters, we then need to speak, whether it is to comfort the afflicted or afflict the comfortable.
Finally, as I’ve read many posts, and this is not per se related to your post, I want to go back to hermeneutics. Certainly the church failed in reading Scripture to allow the persecution of Jews and in allowing slavery, to name two. There’s no question but that cracked Eikons at times use the text rather than respond to the biblical text for their own agendas. COrrecting these false appraoches to the Bible are critical. Alongside of that, however, is a cultural phenomenon. I apologize if what I’m about to say is like dropping a dirt clod into the punch bowl but here goes.
Why are we talking about the issue of homosexual activity? It is certainly not because we just discovered biblical texs on it. It is because the culture is talking about it and there is a concerted effort by some to overthrow the dominant viewpoint. In response to that, it seems to me, some have sought to accomodate the culture by rushing to the Bible and doing their best to make sure that it says nothing about homosexual acts or if it does, it doesn’t mean what acts are done today. This is not, however, a unique situation.
Consider, rather, how other things are redefined. Most would agree that murder is wrong, but if it applies to the unborn or the terminally ill, for example, now it’s not murder. Now it’s the best thing to do for personal autonomy or quality of life or whatever. So the concept of what constitutes human life or murder has been redefined so that forces within the culture can take a position contrary to that dominant within the culture and the effect of this has been that in the church as well, its traditional position of seeing all humans as having dignity by being God’s creation has been eroded, such that many clergy likewise defend the devaluation of some human lives.
Marriage has also suffered as a casualty. Even professing Christians have no decided that they can modify the terms of marriage, such that one can hear that “certainly God would not want me to stay in a loveless marriage.” The culture went thre first, reducing marriage vows to little more than part of a ceremony and now the church has followed suit to some degree.
My point is that the only reason we are talking about homosexuality is because the culture said “change your understanding of homosexuality” and the church is stumbling all over itself to comply, just as it has done on other issues, choosing to be “conformed to the world” instead of “transformed.”
I have just painted with a very broad brush and when you do that, you risk reductionism and generalization. I recognize that and when the shoe doesn’t fit, it shouldn’t be worn, but this is my perception of the general trend. It’s not my goal here to dump on anyone but to make a 10,000 ft. analysis. The society has largely ceased to recognize absolute moral values and the church seems anxious to reflect that.



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Scott Morizot

posted February 3, 2006 at 1:08 pm


Ken,
If you feel abortion is somehow just a modern issue, you should read Tertullian (who also discusses child exposure).
Further, I’m not sure I can find a point in time when any society or expression of the church within that society actually expressed what most people seem to mean when they use the phrase “absolute moral values”. (That is a phrase often loaded with assumptions and variously weighted nuance to the different words, so it tends to be a tricky phrase to interpret.) The church has always struggled imperfectly to reflect the Kingdom in a manner that ends up running counter to the predominant culture, but which also intersects it. Problems with and disrespect for marriage are hardly new, though we are rising to epidemic proportions.
So I guess it’s a broad brush, but it doesn’t seem to paint a picture of anything I actually recognize. We’re exploring the biblical texts because their is a significant group of us who give great weight to Scripture, yet cannot fit our context today in with it in a manner that seems to honor it all. We desire something that provides something recognizably of the Kingdom, that beautifully fits the whole of what we observe. The same old familiar rehashed positions on both sides don’t provide that picture.



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Michael Kruse

posted February 3, 2006 at 1:08 pm


Hi Bryan,
You are right that I am reading that I am reading much into the story. But so are you. We all do. It is unavoidable. These stories can not be read without assumptions about context.
So what assumptions should we bring to a text? These stories were told by a First Century man in Palestine in communities of that region. It is a world far distant in time and place from ours.
One of my favorite theologians is Kenneth E. Bailey. Bailey lived and taught in Lebanon for more than thirty years. He has written books and articles in both English and Arabic. He has spent time in the communities of nomadic Middle Eastern groups. He is part of the translation team that is translating the ancient Arabic texts and commentaries into English for the first time.
Bailey has read an astonishing amount of ancient Arabic materials. He concludes that modern rural and nomadic peoples in areas like Syria are very similar in culture and custom to their ancestors. Using what he knows of contemporary Middle Eastern culture and from what he has learned from ancient manuscripts, he has spent his life reflecting on how Jesus’ stories would have been heard by the people listening to Jesus. These parables contain a wealth of unstated elements that are lost on us. My rendition in my previous post is based squarely (though not exclusively) on Bailey’s research.
Now, does this make Bailey and others like him right? No. But in my book it does give them a very high degree of credibility, especially over scholars who have given little weight to cultural context and unconsciously read there own Western assumptions about context into the story.
You wrote, “The point of repentance is the point of realizing that one has sinned and is now unworthy of God.”
I agree. When the son witnesses the self-emptying love of his father running to meet him, he repents. It is the love of his father that convicts him and at the same time shows him a new identity.
“a misthios “hired hand” is worse than a slave, not better”
So maybe in Philippians 2 Paul should have written, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped , but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a …” hired hand?…instead of slave?
I too have seen commentaries with this claim and all it tells me is that I am reading a commentator who either did not have access to information about Greco-Roman culture or didn’t bother to check. Not only does this not square with what know extra-biblically about the contemporary culture, it doesn’t even square with slave metaphor within the Bible.
The son does not repent of his sin in the pig sty. What he repents from is starving to death and feeding pigs. He concocts a strategy to get him out of the situation. It is not repentance so much as it is self-interest. Only when he is confronted with his father’s astonishing love does he recognize his sin and repent from being who he has been.
“You are using this parable in a way that it is not really intended to be used. It has more to do (in Luke) with God’s desire for His sheep, coins, sons to repent and be restored to Him than it does in conveying how we should mimic each action or attribute each action to ourselves. In this then, it is taking the descriptive parable over and above prescriptive statements that would claim the exact opposite of your conclusion.”
Bryan, back up to the first two verses of the chapter.
“Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this parable…”
Then Jesus tells the three interwoven stories. The scribes and Pharisees are critical of Jesus BECAUSE he won’t get in their face and tell them they are worthless sinners! Instead, he is hanging out with them and establishing relationships. The first story of the good shepherd is unmistakably told with Old Testament passages like Jeremiah 23:1-8 and Ezekiel 34 in mind.
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!….Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done.” Jeremiah 23:1, 5
“Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?…You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.” Ezekiel 33:2b, 4
The parable has as one of its elements God’s love for the lost and desire for restoration. That is true. But the parable is first and foremost a direct and unmistakable challenge to the religious leader’s failure to go after lost sheep! And Jesus is most certainly asking why they are not exhibiting or “mimicking” his behavior in finding lost sheep.
I didn’t go on about the older son in the previous post. He returns from the fields to his father’s house to find the celebration. He is outraged that his father has extended grace and not compelled his brother to grovel and do years of penance. He has been “slaving” for his father never disobeying commands but then his father just welcomes this wayward son. Yet the older never gets to have a party. He, in essence, wishes his father dead so he can do what he wants to do, just like his brother had.
His role as the oldest son should have been to come in and play the gracious host for the event. Instead, he has an outburst at the entrance to the home in full view and hearing of all the guests. This insult was on par with what his younger brother had done but it was, in a sense, much worse because he humiliated his father in public. Hearers would expect a father to strike his son and have him locked away in such a situation. But instead, this father accepts the humiliation and thereby extends costly grace to the older son, hoping he can even yet “get this son back” as well. Jesus does not conclude the story because he is making an open invitation to the scribes and Pharisees as the older brothers.
Jesus is saying to the scribes and Pharisees, “You are the shepherds and you have lost sheep. You refuse to go after them so I went after them. Yet when I recover sheep, instead of celebrating and joining in with me, you stand their muttering and fuming about the grace I am showing. But God’s grace is still extended to you if you will repent from your self-righteous legalism and extend God’s grace to others. Jesus absolutely is telling the Pharisees to mimic him and application is that we are to be doing so as well. “Bryan, it is you have stood this parable on its head.
There is so much more I could go on with here but this is already too long and I don’t have the time to do verse by verse exchange right now.
I am a big believer in talking about sin. I agree that talking about sin in certain situations can bring conviction. But conviction is not repentance. Repentance comes from seeing God’s amazing grace reaching out to us and inviting us into relationship in spite of our brokenness. That grace makes us immediately want to leave our brokenness and be in deeper relationship with God.
I have confidence that as someone comes into God’s presence that the Holy Spirit will begin to prod and expose things in them that are broken. Maybe it will be as they read the Word and get a clearer picture of who God is. Maybe it will be while interacting with more mature people in the faith. Questions will arise within the context of these relationships and the more mature in the faith need to be able to give sound instruction, encouragement and support. There will no doubt be times when people are falling into destructive behaviors and a couple of the more mature folks will need to take a person aside and give instruction. Instruction about sin and welcoming grace are not mutually exclusive options, but everything in its proper season, time and place
It is entirely possible to do all the right things and be distant from God. Look at the church at Ephesus in Revelation. We need to always be returning to our first love. As we experience God’s grace we are drawn into relationship. That relationship exposes to us things need to change in our lives. As we make those changes, we come ever closer to God, which exposes more change. It is the refiner’s fire analogy. The metal is heated and the impurities come to the top and we scrape them off. We heat it more and more impurities come to the top. What I am saying is that it is God’s love and grace (which includes the law within it) that is the transforming heat, not “the law” in and of itself.



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Ken

posted February 3, 2006 at 3:40 pm


Michael,
What do you think the biblical path is for
“someone [to] come[] into God’s presence that the Holy Spirit will begin to prod and expose things in them that are broken.” Do I just say, “Yo God. What’s shakin’” or is there a specific attitude or action I should take in concert with or required to come into God’s presence? As I read Scripture that entry is for someone who is humble and recognizes their poverty. It means renouncing rights to do what we wish. It means something other than saying “I’m here and I’m proud of being abc.”



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 3, 2006 at 3:51 pm


Michael,
Thank you for giving your time for a response. Just a few things:
My point with the word misthios is that it is not a better status in the household than a slave. Christ made Himself a slave in the household, not a hired hand that is disconnected from the continuance of the household, so I’m sorry you feel that somehow the Graeco-Roman context is ignored. Maybe you can provide me with what background sources you are using that would tell us that a misthios is higher than a doulos? The word misthios is only used here in Luke 15, so where are you getting your info, so I can look it up?
You said:
“The scribes and Pharisees are critical of Jesus BECAUSE he won’t get in their face and tell them they are worthless sinners!”
Michael, that is what I mean by pouring too much into it. The texts are all about God being happy about sinners REPENTING, not how God hangs out with unrepentant sinners in the hope that they repent one day. The term “sinners” in the Gospels refers to people who have not previously devoted their lives to God, but instead had reputations of being wayward people. It doesn’t mean people who are still sinning and in unrepentant sin. If you want to explore the context of Jesus’ message in the Gospels to sinners, that is the use of the term.
I missed how the OT passages you quoted had anything to do with this context. I think you might be conflating here to get the text to say what you want it to say. BUT even if they aren’t connected, I agree that we are to look for the lost, care for the sheep (which is terminology for those who belong to God already in the Israelite community—shepherd is ANE terminology for the king and these are spoken against the wicked rulings of the Israelite kings who did not lead their people back to repentance toward God from their idolatry, but instead further into it). I just don’t agree that that has any relevance to what we’re talking about. We’re discussing the way in which we look for the lost and take care of the sheep, not whether or not we should do it. I’m surprised you didn’t pick up from Jer and Ezek the constant command of God to warn the people of their sin:
Ezek 33:7 “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. 8 “When I say to the wicked, `O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. 9 “But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.”
Here’s the thing, Michael. I find in your statements A LOT of midrash. I feel like I’m reading a targum when I read your retelling of the parable, and that’s fine; but you end up making a completely different parable up when you do that (I’m sure the author of Jubilees thought that he was just giving the correct interpretation of Genesis as well, but it’s a bit far from the book’s original purpose). You haven’t really dealt with the parable as to its purpose in the context (which is much more limited in its application than what I think you would like—thus you feel the need to expand it until it says what you think it should). If we are to take it in the context, all Jesus seems to be saying to the Jewish leaders here with the three following analogies is that God looks for people to repent and rejoices when they do. That’s it! Nothing more. I can read into the shepherd and sheep analogy all sorts of “background” stuff about shepherds tricking sheep to get them to come back to the flock (and therefore that’s what we should do in evangelism) or how Jesus uses a woman with money in a parable and thus is hitting against the Jewish leaders patriarchal biases about the kingdom—things that would turn it on its head, but I would be wrong in doing it. Background is important to understand what is being said, but literary context is even more important. When you use background info to interpret things to say more than the context would indicate, I think that is an abuse of it.
Secondly, ancient Arabic materials? What are those? If you want to understand background, you need to go to things like the DSS and Mishna, Josephus, etc. Modern day nomadic tribes and Arabic shepherds may or MAY NOT provide accurate analogies to the ancient world (that’s why–no offense to Matthews–I don’t care for “Manners and Customs of the Bible”). I’m not sure what ancient Arabic material you’re talking about though. I would be more skeptical of those who use those than I would solid commentaries that use the materials that are more parallel to the 1st Cent Jewish mindset. Can you provide the primary Arabic sources you’re talking about?
Either way, I don’t think we disagree that God’s love is involved. God’s grace/communal presence/acceptance of an individual, however, comes through faith and faith presupposes repentance (as the prescriptive texts teach clearly without having to speculate).
Finally, please forgive me if I gave the wrong impression. I don’t believe we approach narrative without presupposed ideas. My point, however, is that the presupposed ideas we approach them with should be from the prescriptive CLEAR and EXPLICIT statements we get from other Scriptures. Even if you feel that we approach the prescriptive texts with presupposed ideas, they are harder to reinterpret in their contexts than narrative, and thus I think they provide a better grid through which we can view the narrative. I feel that those prescriptive texts, that talk about Jesus’ message of repentance and the need for repentance before God will fellowship with an individual, have all been left out in consideration as to whether your analysis of the Prodigal was correct or not. You did not deal with any of them here either. The pattern given to us by those is that God does not give salvific grace to us until we repent. His communal presence is not with us until we repent. The Christian life is a process in learning to do what is good, but it begins by our ceasing to do what is evil (per Isa 1), i.e., that which we know to be an offense to God that we are doing. If you are talking about those sins that we do not know of, that may be a different story. But one cannot come to God in submission if he is in rebellion. That is an absurd contradiction. Do you see what I’m saying. So the pattern I see is repentance, faith, communal presence of God that leads to seeing more things that would lead to a life of more repentance and faith as one learns from God through the Church’s teaching of the Bible.
You said:
“But God’s grace is still extended to you IF YOU WILL REPENT from your self-righteous legalism and extend God’s grace to others.”
I’m amazed that you see this as Christ’s message to the Jewish leaders, but not to the sinners. They have to repent if they want God’s grace and Christ’s acceptance. I see it as the message to both. The thing that separates those who are hanging around Christ are that they are repentant (like the younger son in the parable) and therefore God accepts them joyfully, whereas the Jewish leaders are the older brother and it is left open in a narrative climax as to how they will respond to God’s acceptance of the others. I don’t see how you can say that repentance is not a part of this, since each time their is a statement that heaven rejoices over the REPENTANT sinner.
The reason why I didn’t really want to get into this conversation with narrative texts is because they can be used and abused so much easier than something more didactic or even explicit statements within the narrative. I would encourage you again to look at the issue of God’s acceptance and repentance from these then.
Thanks again, Michael. If I’m unclear on something I said, or have misunderstood something you were saying, please let me know. I don’t want to be setting up strawmen if these things are not what you were meaning to convey.



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Becky

posted February 3, 2006 at 4:16 pm


The sheep wanders off. The shepherd takes off to find the sheep. The shepherd finds the sheep and carries the sheep home. Where does the sheep repent ?
So, we come to God through repentance. How do we come to repentance ? Let’s say it’s through recognizing our sin and the need of justice in it. How do we come to recognize that ? How is that done toward us ? How does God speak to us, harshly? softly ? Firm but with a great love we can sense ? What is God’s posture toward us in all of that ? What is the tone with which God comes to us ? Is it the angry parent who tells us we’ve done wrong ? Is it the parent who shows us what is right to do ?
I think we can have Sin in us, but God accepts us fully. I think sin and acceptance aren’t seperated. We are beloved by God AND he sees our sin.
The picture I get with the prodigal son is the father’s love for the son was always there, so, when the son returned, he returned to love that was there for him. The father didn’t love the son cuz he came home. He didn’t love the son because the son saw what he had done was not the way to do things. He loved the son, and when the son came home, the son was able to participate in the love that was there for him.
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Bryan Hodge

posted February 3, 2006 at 4:44 pm


Becky, I think the issue of love and forgiveness are two different things. God loves. We are to love. But forgiveness mostly in the NT deals with restoration of relationship. I believe God always initiates repentance. I’m a Calvinist, so I believe He gives you your faith as well; but I am simply trying to get us to derive our theology from more explicit texts, not just descriptive narrative that we can read anything into. I think when we do this, we will see that the communal relationship of the Father is extended to us when we repent and come home, not before. I believe that God draws us there through all the things Michael and you have mentioned TOGETHER WITH THE CONVICTION OF SIN via the Biblical community. So God draws us into a relationship with Him where we will come into His communal presence through repentance, not separate from it. I’m not arguing that God doesn’t use love and kindness as well as conviction to draw us in. I’m just saying that He does not extend a relationship to anyone without their repentance being involved.



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Michael Kruse

posted February 3, 2006 at 5:08 pm


Hi Ken,
I think my post to Bryan may have addressed the concerns you mentioned. I’ll just say a couple more things here.
“And as he sat in the pig pen, he said, “It’s much better at my father’s house. I’m going home.” So the younger son goes home. When his father sees him, he runs to him. The son says, “Hey pop, how’s it going?” I decided it was time to come on home. I’m going to my room. How about a party to celebrate my return? Isn’t it great that I’m here now?”
You have missed my point here. The son’s situation is desperate indeed. His motivation for returning is not sorrow for what he has done to his father. His motivation is survival instinct. But he has insurmountable problems.
First, he has a committed an act of the utmost disrespect to his father. This would have quickly come to light in such a village and it would have been grounds for ostracizing the son should he ever return.
Second, he squandered his inheritance among gentiles. That too was grounds for an official ceremony of shunning.
Third, there were occasions when a father who thought his days were few would divide his estate among his sons. (Remember Isaac with Jacob and Esau.) In such a case the sons technically owned the land but the father had rights to any produce or livestock for his own livelihood. This means the older brother now owns what remains of the estate in the story. And as we can see, he has reason to be fearful of his brother.
Bailey writes that to this day in the villages, whenever a stranger appears alone or someone who is deformed and destitute passes, little mobs of children often gather mocking the person, hurling insults and sometimes even throwing pebbles. When this son appears on the scene, he has to get through the village, find his father, fall at his feet, and beg him to give a him chance to earn his way back. If his father sees his sincerity about working hard to make it right, just maybe he can get a second shot.
The son wasn’t cavalier. This is a matter of life and death. My point is that the son is still utterly focused on his survival and what he needs to do to survive. His concern has nothing at all to do with his father and what it means to him. His only motivation for changing his behavior is to avoid death (salvation). His plan is almost delusional. After what he has done he has no hope of getting back into the village. But it is the only plan he has left.
That is what makes the fathers greeting so remarkable. The father knows full well what will happen if his identified by the villagers. He runs through the town showing costly grace to his wayward. It is this grace expressed toward him that instantly recasts everything that has happened. He now realizes how much the father has loved him and how shamefully he has treated his father. He is overwhelmed by the realization of what he has done and brought to repentance, “I am no longer worthy.” Period!
The son would know what he was doing was wrong all along but he would found ways to justify it I’m sure. The missing ingredient was his ignorance of his fathers love. Repentance came not when he realized had done bad things. It came when he realized he had broken the heart of the one who loved him more than he could dare dream to imagine.
I think you have misunderstood me to say there is no need for repentance. I have not. You listed several passages in Acts. Taking Acts 2 as an example, Peter tells about Christ and his mission. He is telling the crowd about Christ’s profound love for them. He concludes by telling them that they crucified this Christ, who exercised costly grace in order to win them. Just like the wayward son, their eyes are opened to see the wrong they have done (and they know what they have done) in the new light of one who loves them deeply. It is then they ask what they must do and Peter tells them to repent and be baptized. Just as when the younger son realized what he had done in the new light of costly love, he repented.
I hope that clarifies a little more.
Peace.



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Michael Kruse

posted February 3, 2006 at 7:45 pm


“You haven’t really dealt with the parable as to its purpose in the context (which is much more limited in its application than what I think you would like—thus you feel the need to expand it until it says what you think it should). If we are to take it in the context, all Jesus seems to be saying to the Jewish leaders here with the three following analogies is that God looks for people to repent and rejoices when they do. That’s it! Nothing more.”
Bryan, you have nailed the issue squarely here. Here is where we part ways.
I think I am reading the “every parable has one point only” interpretive method at work here. Why? Because we have examined First Century culture and determined this to be how these stories were developed and used? No. It is a product of Western reductive thought processes that are foreign to the text.
Scholarship shows metaphorical theology was a staple of theological dialog for the Rabbi’s of Jesus era. They would combine a number of theological and moral issues into a metaphorical construct, thus creating an alternative reality into which the hearer entered. They often used stock images of scripture and everyday life to weave these stories together. This inseparable interplay of the several themes stayed interwoven, unlike our rationalistic dissection into discreet parts for separate analysis. These stories also made it possible for illiterate people to walk away with an entire theological package that could easily be recalled and reflected upon. Jesus was a Rabbi talking to Rabbis and this is exactly the kind of theological discourse you would expect between them based on what we know of the era.
This “one point” interpretative approach is a classic example of reading our culture back into the text rather than letting the text speak to us they way it spoke to those who were the original audience for the story. You say “thus you feel the need to expand it until it says what you think it should.” I would respond to the contrary. I think you are contracting it to say something it does not based on an interpretive principle that is foreign to the text and have therefore missed a marvelously rich and powerful theological construct. So there we stand.
“My point, however, is that the presupposed ideas we approach them with should be from the prescriptive CLEAR and EXPLICIT statements we get from other Scriptures.”
But even these statements have to be processed through a context. What is the relationship of the participants in the dialog? What issues assumptions are being made by the communicators? Imagine if Paul’s letter to the Philippians had mistakenly been delivered to the Thessalonica. They might have gotten some helpful instruction from the letter but they would have read within the context it was written. Yet today there are many who read NT epistles as though they were written directly to us. What I think I have read you to say is that scripture interprets scripture and with that I agree.
The Arabic documents I refer to are those from the Semitic traditions that broke from the larger church in 451 C.E. Some within these traditions spoke Arabic. Others were originally Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic or Greek speaking and eventually became Arabic speaking. Rome became increasingly anti-Semitic after 451 and burned manuscripts that were in the Semitic languages and lost contact with the Jewish roots and culture that influenced the New Testament. Here is a link to an article that will tell you more the texts:
http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2005/771/he1.htm
Their value is not so much in authenticating other manuscripts of the Bible. The value is in who translated them and the languages they used. Arabic is much closer to the Aramaic of Jesus day than either Greek or Latin. There are also Hebrew texts that were translated directly to Arabic. As Bailey notes, there is a much wider gulf between modern East and West today than there is between the modern East and the East of 2,000 years ago. By examining these works a wealth of learning has happened concerning customs and traditions of early Palestine. The assumptions these early Palestinian scribes and teachers made about biblical text are probably closer approximations of what the 1st Century audiences would have heard, than any other source know to exist.
As to “misthos,” Bailey says a better English rendering would be “craftsman.” (If you google misthos + craftsman you will get some articles.) According the early Eleventh Century scholar Ibn al-Tayyib, the three people who served in a household were
1. The son – who served without urging and with no expectation of retur.
2. The craftsman (misthos) – he expected pay for everything he did.
3. The slave (doulos) – who served out of fear of punishment.
Finally, I hope maybe in my most recent posts that you see that I am not saying, and have not said, that there is no need of repentance. My point is that repentance is not equivalent to “ceasing to do bad stuff.” Only with a new identity can I really hope to become the person God call’s me to be. That call begins with an encounter of God’s immeasurable grace that drives me to repentance (not repent so God will come to me.)



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Becky

posted February 3, 2006 at 8:46 pm


I think we’re getting down to where we see things similarly. That helps.
I mentioned it before in this thread – how then, as a fellow sinner, do we approach another person and confront them of their sin, in a way that’s restorative ?
Secondly, how do we decide who needs confronting? – we all have faults, and if it suits you, I will call them sins. How do we decide which fault we see in another person is something that needs addressing ?
Here’s a story from my experience – we are in a house church, been there 28 yrs, it has been there 29 yrs. Somewhere in our early years we decided we needed to have elders. So, those interested in thinking through that stuff met regularly for awhile, discussing. It came to deciding who in our group could be an elder – who met the criteria. It got too picky, since we all have faults, and it ended up being a session of pointing out people’s faults and there was great hurt. I think what we learned from that is no one is perfect enough to meet the criteria perfectly, we need to hold the criteria loosely to an extent. There did come a time when someone spoke up and said the existing elders shouldn’t be doing it because one had lost control of his kids, they were in trouble with the law, another at some point started begrudging doing it, and the other had a wife that was out of control, causing havoc.
So, how do we decide which sins to point out? And once that is decided, how do we approach the person in a way that it might become a restorative exchange ?
And, if I understood correctly, that’s one thing Scot tried to address in this series.
across his shoulders,



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Michael Kruse

posted February 3, 2006 at 11:15 pm


“The picture I get with the prodigal son is the father’s love for the son was always there, so, when the son returned, he returned to love that was there for him. The father didn’t love the son cuz he came home. He didn’t love the son because the son saw what he had done was not the way to do things. He loved the son, and when the son came home, the son was able to participate in the love that was there for him.”
Thanks for the Becky. Well said!



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Ken

posted February 4, 2006 at 1:44 am


I want to offer just one point that I think is important.
God loves us is not equal to God accepts us.
God loves everyone. Yet, as clear from Luke 15, for example, there is a distinction between those who are unrepentant and lost and those who repent and are accepted. Romans 5:1-11 seems to make the point strongly that those who are in Christ have access to GOd, have peace with God and have the love of God pured out in their hearts. Those who are not in Christ do not share these characteristics.
What that means for this discussion is that if someone comes into a church gathering, it is important that they know that they are loved by God. I might add, as a side note, that many believers who are not committing homosexual acts do not really know this. I speak from my own experience. It’s taken a long journey to be able to say “God loves me” and for that to be more than a mostly intellectual statement.
However, we should not tell everyone, simply because they are humans or because they are in the church service, that God accepts them. Let me clarify this to mean that I understand Scripture to teach that God welcome all who come to him on his terms (humility and repentance) but does not count all as partakers of salvation and grace simply because they exist. Receiving grace is acceptance. God doubtless offers this grace and acceptance more readily than some believers would want to offer it, but it is not automatically offered (except in the perspective of universalism).
In response to MIchael, I think it was, Acts 2 says nothing about God’s love. Read the text carefully. What is important for Peter is that people call upon Jesus as Lord and repent. Peter never says in Acts that God loves anyone. In fact, I don’t think you’ll find a statement about God’s love in any sermon in Acts. God’s goodness, yes. God’s love, no.



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Becky

posted February 4, 2006 at 3:43 am


I make the distinction between acceptance and approval. I think God’s acceptance is always there, just like his love is always there. But he does not approve of the sin we do. My kid is always my kid. There are times she’s done wrong things and has needed to be corrected, but I didn’t say “you are no longer my kid.” She never stopped being my kid. I think God’s presence, all of who God is, is always there for us to enter into. I’m not sure he’s the one who rejects. I think we are the ones who walk away. For those who stay away from communing in his presence, he acknowledges that’s where they are.
It’s interesting Ken, because yesterday, thinking about stuff you’ve said, I thought the acceptance thing might come up from you.
Which moves onto : I think there’s a tension in the duality that our choices create effect and God remains sovereign. I think that’s one of those categories that if we try to nail down some of the specifics too much, we either lose that our choices create effect, or we lose God’s sovereignty. I’m willing to accept that both exist but don’t make sense the way I’d like them to.
across his shoulders,



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Scott Morizot

posted February 4, 2006 at 9:36 am


Yeah Becky, I’m with you. God is sovereign and free will is part of his creation, so our choices matter and create effect. It’s not a middle ground. Both are completely true. It doesn’t really matter how. I don’t operate from an assumption that I’m going to understand more than a small part of what God has done.



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Michael Kruse

posted February 4, 2006 at 12:17 pm


“I think there’s a tension in the duality that our choices create effect and God remains sovereign. I think that’s one of those categories that if we try to nail down some of the specifics too much, we either lose that our choices create effect, or we lose God’s sovereignty. I’m willing to accept that both exist but don’t make sense the way I’d like them to.”
Ken, this quote from Becky expresses my sentiments as well. What I am resisting is the reduction of a complex paradox of spiritual formation into a rote formula which is what I believe you want to do and I find that tragic. My conviction is that when people truly encounter the love and grace of God they rarely need to be told they are sinners. They know it! If they don’t come to experience themselves as sinners then they haven’t truly encountered God.
The stories of Acts are helpful but they are descriptive not prescriptive. The gospel never changes but the context does. The postmodern Western context is racially different from Acts. People don’t believe in truth or sin in the way you are describing it. They cannot, and will not, hear your pronouncement of sin and calls to repentance. These are foreign categories to them. You might as well pull out your Greek New Testament and preach from that because it will make just as much sense. All they are going to hear in you is arrogance and venom.
I am making the case, and I think Scot is as well, that we have to introduce people to who God is and let them know that God is for us not against us. As people come to see who God is more fully in us and in scripture the Holy Spirit will convict them of sin and bring them to repentance.
You keep coming back with remarks that indicate you think I am trying to soft peddle sin. What I am saying is that it is not your role or my role to convict people of sin. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. We give witness of Christ to others. My experience has been that most of us know down deep that we are screwed up and we don’t need someone pointing that out to us. We need to know that there is a safe place where we can reveal the mess that is inside us and still be accepted. A gracious community exhibiting Christ’s love creates a safe place for that to happen. Then, and only then, can we began to sort out the mess that is inside us, come to grips with our fallen nature and seek transformation in our lives.
I am on my way out of town next week and need to get ready so I will have to leave the conversation here.
Peace to all!



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 4, 2006 at 3:00 pm


Michael, I don’t know if you’ll get this now, but just a few points:
1. I think you are using the “You’re all just Western and don’t understand the 1st Cent mindset like me” as a trump card when in fact YOU don’t understand the 1st Cent mindset (especially if you are using 5th Cent Arabic materials second hand from Bailey).
2. As someone who actually does study background materials of the 2d Temple Period, you clearly are not being careful with the use of background. And as said before, you didn’t actually use any relevant background material. 5th Cent Arabic material is not background material for the 1st Cent Jew in Palestine (and the article you gave me just referred to some Syriac mss and the earliest Arabic one belonging to the 9th Cent—this was more of an article for Textual Criticism, but had absolutely nothing to do with what you were talking about).
3. The “You’re Western and don’t understand” card doesn’t work with me either because I am not, nor ever have been, comitted to the one interpretation only of a parable. My point about the interpretation of this parable comes from the context. IN order to know what Jesus is talking about, you have to look in the context (otherwise you’re just making it up). What is the unifying teaching between the three analogies given? Is it that God accepts everyone first and then as a result people repent? No. The unifying theme is that the Jewish leaders aren’t happy about Christ hanging around people with a bad reputation. He answers this by saying that God wants the sinner to repent and when he does rejoices. Looking cannot be the unifying theme because the father in the Prodigal doesn’t look for his son. It is the desire and joy of the individuals in all the stories to find/forgive what was lost/wayward. It is clear in all of them, that the finding/forgiving/rejoicing is about a sinner who repents. There is absolutely nothing here about how God accepts people before they repent. You are reading that into it. Using a 20th Cent midrashic expansion based on 5th Cent Arabic documents (which I still don’t know what they are other than translations) you have not proven otherwise.
4. You said to Ken, “What I am saying is that it is not your role or my role to convict people of sin. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. We give witness of Christ to others. My experience has been that most of us know down deep that we are screwed up and we don’t need someone pointing that out to us. We need to know that there is a safe place where we can reveal the mess that is inside us and still be accepted.”
You can believe anything you want to, but all we’re saying is that (if you read the verses I gave to Julie that I asked you to read) it’s not Biblical. Acceptance is terminology for forgiveness, and forgiveness does not occur until repentance occurs. But I realize that you and Ken may be using differently and when he says this, you might be thinking something different. I think that we have lost in this discussion who we’re talking about as well, and that would determine what we do (is the person an unbeliever, a professed believer, repentant, unrepentant, etc.).
I find you trying to play your trump card again, and that is unfortunate. This is just an appeal to “special authority” with you, but isn’t a real argument. The question should not be “do I think that love and grace or acceptance/forgiveness should be divided.” The question is whether Scripture divides these into different categories. It does in fact do this and for a GOOD reason. You will not be able to obey God in doing what He commanded in Church discipline and in preaching the full Gospel if you refuse to distinguish the two.
The question becomes, Michael, that if God does distinguish them, are you better than your Master? God doesn’t forgive everyone, does He? Are you better because you do? Is that what God calls us to do, be better? The Church is the reflection of God, so it communicates to people both in word and action what God communicates in word and action. Love to everyone, yes. Forgiveness/Restoration of Relationship and Acceptance of them where they are in unrepentance, no. If that’s arrogance and venom, then I guess you have to assign those pejoratives to God as well. In any case, I think this statement is slanderous toward Ken at best and blasphemous toward God at worst. If that’s not what you’re saying, please make that clear as I’m stunned that you would say this. Could this be simply an issue of word confusion?
Finally, I’m amazed that your comment back to Ken on Acts was that it’s descriptive, not prescriptive. Wow, and the parable of the Prodigal is . . .? And yet you get your whole theology from it in disregard of both the immediate context and the whole of the Bible. I’ll ask again for the last time, please deal with the prescriptive texts and tell me if your theology holds?
If everyone is so concerned about letting the Holy Spirit work, then let Him do it in the way that He commanded. If we’re all so respectful of what He does, then listen to Him when He commands us through the Scripture and let Him run the Church in the way He wants to. Afterall, it does belong to Him, and He has communicated that it is not simply a spectator sport when it comes to people’s unrepentance. We are the mouths of God. We are to open them and speak what He tells us to speak. I’m not always going to like saying what He wants me to say, but I don’t belong to myself.
In summary Michael, I’ve noticed only this in all of your arguments:
1. Appeal to special authority
2. Ad hominem
3. Use of irrelevant material
4. Expansion of the text to suit your interpretation
Can you tell me if you think this would be the way you want someone to handle something important that you wrote?
I’m really not meaning to pick on you, but you stated these things with such a bold authority that I just had to answer them in a straightforward manner. I think it would really aid others also to know that this is just not the way to argue Biblical theology and get to an accurate conclusion.
P.S. misthios is better translated as “hired hand,” not “craftsman.” The hired hand may or may not be a craftsman, but that would be a referential rendering, not a base lexical meaning. The word’s cognate is misthos “wages.” It is lower than a slave in the household because the slave is protected and provided for by the household. The misthios does not have that protection and provision. The son is therefore saying that he is willing to work for his father, but not be a part of the household or under his care. Along with the statement of unworthiness and admittance of sin against both God and his father and the going back to his father in humility, I don’t know how anyone cannot read this as repentance (unless we read 20th Cent Western religious ideas into it first:)



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 4, 2006 at 3:04 pm


Michael, I don’t know if you’ll get this now, but just a few points:
1. I think you are using the “You’re all just Western and don’t understand the 1st Cent mindset like me” as a trump card when in fact YOU don’t understand the 1st Cent mindset (especially if you are using 5th Cent Arabic materials second hand from Bailey).
2. As someone who actually does study background materials of the 2d Temple Period, you clearly are not being careful with the use of background. And as said before, you didn’t actually use any relevant background material. 5th Cent Arabic material is not background material for the 1st Cent Jew in Palestine (and the article you gave me just referred to some Syriac mss and the earliest Arabic one belonging to the 9th Cent—this was more of an article for Textual Criticism, but had absolutely nothing to do with what you were talking about).
3. The “You’re Western and don’t understand” card doesn’t work with me either because I am not, nor ever have been, comitted to the one interpretation only of a parable. My point about the interpretation of this parable comes from the context. IN order to know what Jesus is talking about, you have to look in the context (otherwise you’re just making it up). What is the unifying teaching between the three analogies given? Is it that God accepts everyone first and then as a result people repent? No. The unifying theme is that the Jewish leaders aren’t happy about Christ hanging around people with a bad reputation. He answers this by saying that God wants the sinner to repent and when he does rejoices. Looking cannot be the unifying theme because the father in the Prodigal doesn’t look for his son. It is the desire and joy of the individuals in all the stories to find/forgive what was lost/wayward. It is clear in all of them, that the finding/forgiving/rejoicing is about a sinner who repents. There is absolutely nothing here about how God accepts people before they repent. You are reading that into it. Using a 20th Cent midrashic expansion based on 5th Cent Arabic documents (which I still don’t know what they are other than translations) you have not proven otherwise.
4. You said to Ken, “What I am saying is that it is not your role or my role to convict people of sin. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. We give witness of Christ to others. My experience has been that most of us know down deep that we are screwed up and we don’t need someone pointing that out to us. We need to know that there is a safe place where we can reveal the mess that is inside us and still be accepted.”
You can believe anything you want to, but all we’re saying is that (if you read the verses I gave to Julie that I asked you to read) it’s not Biblical. Acceptance is terminology for forgiveness, and forgiveness does not occur until repentance occurs. But I realize that you and Ken may be using differently and when he says this, you might be thinking something different. I think that we have lost in this discussion who we’re talking about as well, and that would determine what we do (is the person an unbeliever, a professed believer, repentant, unrepentant, etc.).
I find you trying to play your trump card again, and that is unfortunate. This is just an appeal to “special authority” with you, but isn’t a real argument. The question should not be “do I think that love and grace or acceptance/forgiveness should be divided.” The question is whether Scripture divides these into different categories. It does in fact do this and for a GOOD reason. You will not be able to obey God in doing what He commanded in Church discipline and in preaching the full Gospel if you refuse to distinguish the two.
The question becomes, Michael, that if God does distinguish them, are you better than your Master? God doesn’t forgive everyone, does He? Are you better because you do? Is that what God calls us to do, be better? The Church is the reflection of God, so it communicates to people both in word and action what God communicates in word and action. Love to everyone, yes. Forgiveness/Restoration of Relationship and Acceptance of them where they are in unrepentance, no. If that’s arrogance and venom, then I guess you have to assign those pejoratives to God as well. In any case, I think this statement is slanderous toward Ken at best and blasphemous toward God at worst. If that’s not what you’re saying, please make that clear as I’m stunned that you would say this. Could this be simply an issue of word confusion?
Finally, I’m amazed that your comment back to Ken on Acts was that it’s descriptive, not prescriptive. Wow, and the parable of the Prodigal is . . .? And yet you get your whole theology from it in disregard of both the immediate context and the whole of the Bible. I’ll ask again for the last time, please deal with the prescriptive texts and tell me if your theology holds?
If everyone is so concerned about letting the Holy Spirit work, then let Him do it in the way that He commanded. If we’re all so respectful of what He does, then listen to Him when He commands us through the Scripture and let Him run the Church in the way He wants to. Afterall, it does belong to Him, and He has communicated that it is not simply a spectator sport when it comes to people’s unrepentance. We are the mouths of God. We are to open them and speak what He tells us to speak. I’m not always going to like saying what He wants me to say, but I don’t belong to myself.
In summary Michael, I’ve noticed only this in all of your arguments:
1. Appeal to special authority
2. Ad hominem
3. Use of irrelevant material
4. Expansion of the text to suit your interpretation
Can you tell me if you think this would be the way you want someone to handle something important that you wrote?
I’m really not meaning to pick on you, but you stated these things with such a bold authority that I just had to answer them in a straightforward manner. I think it would really aid others also to know that this is just not the way to argue Biblical theology and get to an accurate conclusion.
P.S. misthios is better translated as “hired hand,” not “craftsman.” The hired hand may or may not be a craftsman, but that would be a referential rendering, not a base lexical meaning. The word’s cognate is misthos “wages.” It is lower than a slave in the household because the slave is protected and provided for by the household. The misthios does not have that protection and provision. The son is therefore saying that he is willing to work for his father, but not be a part of the household or under his care. Along with the statement of unworthiness and admittance of sin against both God and his father and the going back to his father in humility, I don’t know how anyone cannot read this as repentance (unless we read 20th Cent Western religious ideas into it first:)
Thanks for the discussion, Michael. Please take my comments as soft as possible. I know they may sound harsh, but that is not my intention.



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Michael Kruse

posted February 4, 2006 at 3:38 pm


Bryan, we are running in circles here. This conversation has gone as far as it can go in this blog format. I appreciate your passion for God and wanting to do what is right. I regret that something about the way I communicate provokes such visceral responses from you. You wrote “Please take my comments as soft as possible,” yet I don’t feel you have extended that same grace toward me. I hope if we connect on future threads you will consider that possibility as well. I will just say one further thing:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Later!



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Scott Morizot

posted February 4, 2006 at 5:48 pm


Michael,
I just thought I would personally confirm the following statement. Maybe it will help others understand.

People don’t believe in truth or sin in the way you are describing it. They cannot, and will not, hear your pronouncement of sin and calls to repentance. These are foreign categories to them. You might as well pull out your Greek New Testament and preach from that because it will make just as much sense. All they are going to hear in you is arrogance and venom.

While I have a distaste for the label postmodern (or any other label), I speak as one whose experience, perspective, and reality is pretty thoroughly rooted in on the side of that divide that is often termed postmodern in many discussions. It took me years (as a Christian!) to begin to understand that people who spoke the way many speak were not, in fact, being deliberately hateful or dismissive. I finally managed to make that leap, but I still cringe when I hear certain things. Even if I know (at least somewhat) how it is intended, I also know how it will be received. I mark the end of my twenty-three journey of conversion to Christianity about twelve years in the past. And even so, it was not until Embracing Grace that I was offered a gospel I could accept without reservation. And I have not limited myself to things I hear on Sunday morning. I have read people from Polycarp and Justin Martyr to C.S. Lewis and have found many things that connected. Even so, I was unable to build anything that felt like a coherent picture. I haven’t a clue how Scot had the insight to connect it in an open-ended view of the grace and design of God, perhaps the work of the Holy Spirit, but I am certainly grateful for it. (I liked the Jesus Creed and Turning to Jesus as well, but they mostly added depth and better understanding (and words) to things I already knew in part. Embracing Grace helped pull some order out of a muddle for me.)
So Bryan, I guess it really depends to whom you wish to speak. From my perspective, truth is only really truth if the recipient can actually grasp what you are trying to convey. Our culture is intertwined and mixed right now. There are still a lot of people who were raised in a church and have left it (some probably Christian, others not). Many of them have the cultural and family experience to relate to your presentation. But that appears to be a declining number from every study I’ve seen. What will happen in the future? I certainly don’t know.
And with that said, I fully understand the point Michael is making. It is the love, grace, and pursuit of God that covered me and chased me through my long journey of conversion. Anything like the sort of repentance you have in mind came well after the completion of that conversion and only as I began to truly understand how much that overwhelming love had cost God. I have absolutely no problem affirming the order he uses. We certainly must put ourselves in a position to accept that proffered grace and love, but it’s all around us begging us to let go and let God love and rescue us. And people like me need to it’s there. Understanding (often revelation by the Spirit of an area in your life), repentance, and transformation all come after that hurdle has been leaped.



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Scott Morizot

posted February 4, 2006 at 6:46 pm


And I also don’t really care whether a hired hand or slave was considered a higher status. However, I will say that I’ve long had an interest and fascination with ancient cultures that predates any interest in exploring specifically biblical cultures (though I brought that interest with me). And from my understanding of those cultures, Michael’s order seems more likely than yours. One who was hired could be dismissed, but he could also choose to leave. And slaves were certainly not always treated well.



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Ken

posted February 4, 2006 at 7:32 pm


Scott,
With reference to your comments in #134, we’re pretty far form where Scot began this discussion it seems to me, and I’m reticent to say this, lest it seems aimed at your description of your journey, but it isn’t.
The biblical picture of God and his perspective on his creatin includes sin, judgment, mercy, love, grace and justice. The American cultural perspective of 2006 knows little of the fundamental world view elements that run thorughout Scripture. On that point, I’d agree with you.
If the solution to that is to say to everyone “just come in,” because we can’t use biblical concepts to address them, then there’s nothing of consequence to invite them to. If the terms of the biblcal ideas of sin, repentance and jumility before God because we have wronged him are not intelligible, then we have nothng to tell unbelievers that is the turth. If you take all those things out, we cannot speak the truth about God because is not only Love. It sounds like you want a Jesus like that created by liberal Protestantism 100 years ago. He is full of love and not offensive at all. I can’t find that Jesus in the gospels. I can’t find that Jeus in Revelation. I can’t find that God in Isaiah 6.
If your view is correct, however, that those outside the church won’t know what we are talking about if we use biblical concepts, what is there left to tell them that is true and of value to lead them to salvation? I don’t want to make unbelievers feel good. I want them to hear the truth. That this might be done poorly seems like no reason to avoid it. So help me out here. What are you proposing instead? A doctrine-less, content-less, relational church?



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Becky

posted February 4, 2006 at 8:01 pm


Ken wrote : “What are you proposing instead ? A doctrine-less, content-less, relational church?”
Are there only those 2 choices
To speak of sin the way I understand what you propose, is not the only supposed method of using biblical content. We can still utilize biblical concepts, but relate to a person from where they start in their concepts, and move up to the notion of what the Bible says about sin and Jesus dying for them. Schaeffer talked about how it meant something in the 1950′s or before, when we spoke of right and wrong, because even if a person wasn’t a christian, there was a christian concept of right being right and wrong being wrong. That has since been lost, so if we approach someone in today’s mindset/culture and begin with that notion of right is right and wrong is wrong, we speak right past them, they don’t understand. So we take a couple steps back and start laying a foundation to where we can get to right is right and wrong is wrong. So, if we find a person so disenchanted with the church and christianity that they tune us out when we start with “this is wrong and that is wrong” and sin, and repentance, it is a wasted conversation. It could be helpful to start from the point the person is at, and move up.
My friend of 21 yrs who has all the time been passionately anti-christian, it will do no good for me to speak to her of the enforcement of christian morals since that is her place of battle, she turns a deaf ear. From knowing her, I think what counters all the fight she’s ready to battle with, is to tell her God intimately loves her and desires a love relationship with her. For her, that’s the beginning. Rules God has are about being first in this love relationship with him. I don’t see it as understanding the rules part first, and from that, entering into the love relationship. I think some christians mix up rule following to be the love relationship, meanwhile running their own life in the way they enforce rule following in their life, thinking it’s being Godly, but without surrender to God since they are following the rules under their own willpower.
I just can’t see all of this is a matter of being 2 choices.
in his arms, by his mercy,



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Scott Morizot

posted February 4, 2006 at 8:55 pm


Ken,
First, I just want to note as an aside that your characterization of the “modern liberal” perspective is distorted. However, I find their perspective no more compelling or interesting than the “conservative” perspective and possibly a little less so, even though they do have a few good things to say that seem to have otherwise been lost. I certainly don’t buy the ideas that some (not all) of that perspective promote. A rejection of miracles, the virgin birth, and the bodily resurrection (as some in that perspective confess) comes dangerously close to not being Christian at all. I wanted to note this solely because it is an example of how sensitive people more like me tend to be to distortions and overstatements. I’ve come to understand that those are usually just ways to emphasize a point, but when it took a while to get there. Such things are often used in attempts to manipulate, so they tend to ring alarm bells.
What I am suggesting seems simple to me. Do the best you are able to demonstrate Jesus’ love. Be friends with those many in the church tend to avoid. Not with an expectation that you will get to manipulate them and make them more like you, but just because they are people. Try to see them as God does. Out of that friendship and concern, be a friend. Help. And you will certainly have the opportunity to let people know about Christ crucified, and that this is the same love he showed to you. As with Paul in Corinth, there isn’t much else required. It is God that transforms people, not you. Allow him to work. More than any other single thing, it was the evidence of Christians acting toward me in ways that gave the lie to my expectations (which other Christians had personally given me good reason to have) that softened my heart over the years. If you instead present what is perceived as a hateful and rejecting attitude, your message of love and forgiveness will never be heard. And it also strikes me as less than scripturally supported to claim that “repentance” must precede forgiveness. I seem to recall a lame man brought to Jesus for physical healing. Jesus instead told him his sins were forgiven (and then healed him physically). That’s hardly the only such story. The good news is not that we have wronged God or have made our lives a mess or are broken. Does that sound like good news to you? The good news is that there’s a God who desperately loves his creation and acts to redeem it even at the highest cost imaginable. If all the things you list were a necessary precursor, I’m not sure there ever would have been a Christian church. Those are calls to a revival, a deepening of faith in God, a turn back to a God you already know and understand (at least in part). That’s not where we are today, at least in part.
Content-less? Absolutely not! But I’ve found many churches lacking in spiritual disciplines that speak to us today. I know I’ve struggled in that regard. It’s part of the reason my reading has ranged so far. A daily “quiet time”, regular church attendance, and similar things just don’t do much for me. Largely because of my Mom’s exploration of the Carmelite order as she also engaged on a journey (for her) back to Christianity, I happened across The Practice of the Presence of God years ago. Brother Lawrence did more to help me than most of the “content” I was offered in the present-day evangelical church. And that led me to other things as well. For those who choose to explore/join Christianity we need a lot more content than is out there today. We need a gospel with the substance of Scot’s Embracing Grace. We need a call to real action that makes a difference. It’s about the here and now at least as much as it is about some concept of what happens to bodiless spirits after death. The evangelical church today seems to be either all emotion, all intellectual belief, or all social action. (That’s an overstatement. I’m trying to speak more in your language, but I’m not sure I did a good job, thus the parenthetical.) We need some real substance that engages body, emotions, mind, and spirit.
Doctrine-less? I don’t actually know how to approach that question. I don’t know if I understand what you mean. If you mean the statements about what Christianity is or is not that have splintered the church at an ever increasing rate ever since the Reformation and which go well beyond the essential Christian beliefs worked out in Scripture and over the centuries within the church (often captured in the ancient creeds), then … maybe? A whole lot of the disputes and dissensions look pretty empty and meaningless to me. They look more like what Paul wrote Corinth about and less like what Jesus prayed for. If you mean an “anything goes in a Christian” church, then no. That would be silly. But if you have in mind the pages of doctrinal statements people are expected to understand, confirm, and live by the moment they become a Christian then … maybe?
Mostly I want to confirm Michael’s point that you aren’t going to have much, if any, positive impact on the people on my side of the cultural divide by trying to point out all the things you believe are wrong with them. If you don’t know what else to say, if the gulf is too broad, preach nothing but Christ crucified. It apparently worked for Paul. It should work for any of us.



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Scott Morizot

posted February 4, 2006 at 9:02 pm


Thanks Becky. I see you probably did a better job than I did of explaining the concept. I really struggle to find the right words to communicate with those from the traditional background of the American evangelical church. Over the years, I’ve come to understand their heart and I know most of them are great people who really, really want to share the love of Christ and don’t understand why their message isn’t heard. But I’m so far on the other side of that divide, I’ve found my attempts to explain it tend to cause more distress than help. I keep trying, but I don’t think I’ve had much success.



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Ken

posted February 5, 2006 at 2:00 am


Scott,
My only purpose in mentioning Protestant Liberalism from a century ago was in reference to its view of Jesus and the Christian message. The fatherhood of God of all people, the brotherhood of man, and the importance of loving neighbor. We need not talk about sin because God loves and accepts everyone. The other stuff I had no intention of imputing to you.
I don’t think I can go down the road you suggest, however. Early in this conversation I tried to point out the difference between, say, some guy who is addicted to Internet pornography, which I categorize as a sin, and some guy who commits homosexual acts. The first guy is not going out in marches to say “It’s great to be into pornography like I am. I think there needs to be more opportunity for this in society. I want greater rights, like the right to view it at work with no fear of being fired.” He is most likely deeply ashamed of his behavior. I don’t hear that from the people in Act-Up. They are not ashamed. They are proud of what they do and are trying their very best to force it upon all of us. It’s that which I have a problem with. I am not ready to reach out in love to a member of Act-Up who not only will not hear what I say but who is likely to take any step I make towards them as an affirmation of their choices. If the story of the woman taken in adultery actually happened, Jesus said to her “go and sin no more.” If I just try to show love to a militant homosexual, then I am not following Jesus’ example.
Finally, what does it mean to you to preach “Christ crucified”? Paul has a lot to say about Jesus, including the fact that he died for our sins according to the Scriptures. I am guessing from what you have written in your last post that you would consider any view of substitionary atonement as flawed. That would mean then that what you have to say under “Christ crucified” and what I have to say are very far apart. So I won’t try to settle it here. Thanks for the responses. I need to stop my side of it and get to some other things.



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Becky

posted February 5, 2006 at 2:50 am


Scott Mo, I was challenged, about 20 yrs ago that it was my responsibility to love “those” who represented views of christianity that really bug me. At the same time, I was dropping off my kid at a day care run by a church that represented one of the “them’s” to me. It’s like every day I brought her to day care and every day I went to pick her up, I heard God say “so, can you love them yet?” It was “no” for a long time. I don’t do this perfectly – but I hope I’ve learned a bit that if it bugs me, it’s cuz of me, not them – it’s about some part of me I’m still uncomfortable with. Occasionally I catch myself being riled about something and remember it’s about me. These are the kind of things of which I like to be reminded.



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Scott Morizot

posted February 5, 2006 at 9:32 am


Ken,
I know you’re off to other things, but I wanted to add just a bit. First, I apologize for missing your point about the reference to protestant liberalism of a century ago. You’re right. I had completely misunderstood what you were trying to say.
However, what you described about it is not a fair representation of my views. I was trying to speak to the order and manner in which we approach the subject of sin not whether we talk about it at all or not. Obviously I believe the topic is important, that the cracks in us and all creation produced by sin are serious, and that God is striving to redeem us. Even just on this discussion (in all its posts), I’ve spent considerable time exploring the shape, recognition, and response to sin. This is not about whether we discuss it or not, but how and when.
For the rest, it seems you have a concept of speaking about Christ that looks and feels most similar to John the Baptist or the apostles in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost. However, it’s important to keep in mind that they were speaking to Jews, formed by centuries of belief and a deep culturally instilled understanding of God and sin. Though the calls differed before and after the resurrection, the theme was similar. They were calling their fellow Jews to turn back to God in a deepening or completion of their faith. Their audience had a cultural preparation for that call. And there remains an audience in the US today of people who have the cultural underpinnings to hear such a call. So I never said it was entirely wrong. But it is more a call to revival or return to a faith you once knew.
The point I was trying to affirm is that there’s also a very large segment culturally lacking those necessary underpinnings. Whatever you intend, they simply will not hear your call to repent as anything but condemnation and rejection. They will not hear or understand any message of love. And if you do not believe that is at the core of the gospel, we simply aren’t reading the same scripture.
Even your example is revealing. I tried to use examples like gluttony, which in fact is accepted, minimized, and even joked about by people engaged in it in the church today (I’ve been there myself in the past), which I knew many reading would think less serious than homosexuality. You use a comparison you feel is better. However, you then project your perspective (that anyone checking out pornography would be deeply ashamed) onto that other culture. And you’re wrong. The culture in our country with no roots in the American church largely sees nothing in particular wrong with pornography. It’s just another choice like living together, having sex, or other things. My younger son and I have talked about it. Some of his friends on that side of the divide (and some with parents hostile to Christianity) live in households where such magazines are lying around and their parents sometimes don’t much worry about what they see on the Internet, but rather whom they contact. That doesn’t translate into a belief that porn should be OK at work. Sexual harassment and inappropriateness rule. Having sex at work would also be an issue, but one of appropriateness more than morality.
Paul’s approach was to always find the Jewish community first in any town. He felt it was important because it was the Jewish messiah he was declaring. However, that also gave him an audience culturally prepared to hear and understand his message. And though the larger group typically rejected him, he always gained at least a few who believed and around which he could build a community among those who had no understanding at all. It’s telling that in Athens, where there apparently was no Jewish community, his efforts largely fell flat even after a beautifully crafted sermon (which also didn’t focus on sin). He then went on to Corinth, where he says in his first preserved letter to them that he forgot about everything among them except Christ crucified and raised from the dead.
Sometimes the perspective is that we’ll focus on just some good part of the gospel and then when people want to join our church, we’ll hit them up with a long list of the things we think are the worst sins they need to get rid of first. And if they refuse to acknowledge them in their lives, we’ll point them out. And if they won’t listen, they’re outa here! I know that’s a gross overstatement, but sometimes that’s exactly how people perceive it. But it’s not what we see in the NT. Sometimes years later, Paul is still writing to the churches trying to get them to understand why one aspect or another of their behavior is wrong. It was a process that obviously took a lot of time. I think we’ve lost that perspective.
And it’s a needless rejection of people. While there are many areas where the cultures do not line up, there are many places where they do coincide on what’s right and what’s wrong. Some of that is attributable to the moral conscience God has placed in all that C.S. Lewis discussed. Some does appear to be a part of every culture anywhere, anytime. That common ground gives a basis on which we can build. And in the bonds of friendship within the church, share how we understand Scripture. And listen. Action is sometimes required within the body, but I definitely get the sense that we have a tendency to rush ahead of the Spirit and try to do his job for him.
As far as substitutionary atonement goes, I certainly think the perspective has some valid elements. But I also believe it’s an incomplete view of a profound and vast mystery and that it needs to be considered in light of the various perspectives on the atonement throughout the history of the church. Scot actually helped me tremendously to draw some sense out of the muddle that was my understanding (or lack thereof) in Embracing Grace. And if you limit your view of the atonement to nothing but its substitutionary nature, I do feel it can knock the glass through which we see God a little more out of focus.
It’s interesting the different ways people read the story of the woman caught in adultery. Some seem to feel that the imperative of the story is some thundering command to get out of there and stop that sinning. But that doesn’t fit the tone of the encounter. Nor is it the part that would have been shocking to those who were there. The climax of the story is his simple statement, “Neither do I condemn you.” As Paul writes, “in Christ there is now no condemnation.” That is the amazing thing about the grace of the gospel. It really is good news!
Thanks for the conversation. I’ve enjoyed it even as we’ve wandered pretty far afield from Scot’s original post.



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Scott Morizot

posted February 5, 2006 at 9:44 am


Becky,
The completion of my journey of conversion involved returning to a church of the same tradition and denomination as the one that had publicly rejected and hurt me years before. And God has kept me there ever since. However, I tend to get confused and hurt rather than riled, though I have had a few instances where some things have really angered me. I am gradually getting better at understanding the perspective, culture, and language, but it’s been a real struggle. Thanks for all you’ve shared and contributed.



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Ken

posted February 5, 2006 at 7:42 pm


Hi Scott,
I can’t resist. Yes, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Does that mean I can do whatever I want? Paul isn’t saying “do what you want.” Paul is saying that God extends grace and forgiveness in Christ so that if you belong to him, you are completely forgiven. YOu seem to be using this verse to mean that we should never identify something as sin.
I have a more substantive question for you, however. Let us say that you are right in asserting that many/most unbelievers do not understand the remotest bits of biblical word view or terminology. Okay, so what do we do now? Do we have sermons every Sunday and that affirm only God’s love and never call upon believers to do anything at all, os that we do no offend or leave bewildered unbelievers? Or, do we decide that Sunday mornings are not for unbelevers and actually teach the contents of Scripture, offering details explanations as we go so that anything present in the text that is not understood is explicated? My comment earlier about doctrine-less and content-less means that we want to be sure that unbelievers are not bewildered or angered by what we say. Therefore, we cannot talk about sin, judgment, atonement, the cross, the resurrection, the deity of Christ, the Trinity, or a whole host of other things that require explanation. I think the current theological and biblical knowledge of the church is deplorable. To do what you propose seems to me can have only the effect of making this worse.
Finally, if I am going to love the sinner but not talk about sin in a public church service, how do I ever deal with it? I am trying to not offend. So God is only and ever love and asks nothing of us. How do you get the rest of what Scripture teaches communicated?



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Scot McKnight

posted February 5, 2006 at 7:57 pm


There has been lots of discussion on this post, and probably the most comments ever on any of my posts.
We need to jump in here, in spite of all the good conversation, and say that I think there is something being misunderstood:
Namely, that no one is really saying “we can’t call same-sex behaviors sinful.” The issue, as far as I’m concerned, in this lengthy set of comments is “how to” respond to those who are same-sex in sexuality.
A few observations: (1) First, what is said through Moses to Israel is not necessarily the language Israelites are to use of Canaanites. I’d like this to be thought about some.
(2) The issue then becomes how best to work with those who are same-sex in orientation and behaviors. Is the way to pastor such folk by way of up-front denunciation?
(3) Let me offer an example: a couple of you I think are grace-grinding; if I were to say, “You are a grace-grinder,” I’m willing to say that anyone I said that to would immediately defend himself or herself. The issue comes to the head right here: it is not so much the morality of the thing that I’m seeing on this post, but how to approach such issues.
(4) Some are arguing so hard to prove their point that this is sinful that they are not listening to the many voices who are saying, “Yes, but how to speak about it.” Some who are sensitive about the pastoral side are afraid to give in to the other side because they fear that the pastoral approach of coming alongside, loving, and leading into holiness will not happen.
Until we get beyond that point, we’ll not make progress.
Of course, not all of these responses are about this, but you see what I’m getting at.



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Michael Kruse

posted February 5, 2006 at 11:39 pm


I forgot to do one thing earlier. A couple of you e-mailed me about more info on the Luke 15 material I mentioned earlier. I thought I would share this here too.
Two books by Kenneth E. Bailey:
“Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15″ ISBN: 0570045630
“Jacob & the Prodigal: How Jesus Retold Israel’s story” ISBN: 0830827277
Peace!



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