homosexuality hot

I checked out Tim Challies blog today and noticed an entry called “The Osteen Moment”. I had to check it out:

Dr. Mohler: “Osteen’s statements, verbally cushioned in every way he could imagine, fell far short of the full wealth of biblical conviction. Nevertheless, he experienced what might be called the ‘Osteen Moment,’ when his entire ministry, in the public eye, came down to his answer to Piers Morgan’s forced question.”

So I went over to Mohler’s blog. He’s written quite an extensive article commenting on Osteen’s time on Piers Morgan’s recent show.  Morgan challenged Osteen on whether homosexuality is a sin. Now, I think we all can agree that Morgan picked the hottest topic possible for a good show. In any case, it seems that Osteen squirmed until he finally had to admit it was. Morgan challenged him on being judgmental. “Is Elton John a sinner?” and so on.

One of Mohler’s conclusions from this interview is that Osteen’s statements,

verbally cushioned in every way he could imagine, fell far short of the full wealth of biblical conviction.

Mohler continues (and this is the sentence that caught my attention):

To his credit, Osteen did answer his question, and by staking his position on the Bible’s teaching that homosexual acts are sinful, he took the only road available to anyone with any substantial commitment to the truthfulness of the Bible.

The famous biblical scholar N.T. Wright admitted in an interview:

Interviewer: So a Christian morality faithful to scripture cannot approve of homosexual conduct?
Wright: Correct. That is consonant with what I’ve said and written elsewhere.

It is obvious by now that endless exegetical analysis of the scriptures will only take us so far. So many things besides what the text itself is saying, such as the culture, time, the ad hoc nature of the documents, the human aspect of the texts, etc., must be taken into account. We now realize that the biggest problem is our hermeneutic… our own biases, blind-spots, prejudices and ignorance as we approach the texts.

Case in point: In Mohler’s words, I believe I possess a “substantial commitment to the truthfulness of the Bible“, but Mohler and I differ on what that means.

Is it possible that things haven’t changed much since Jesus’ day: we are more concerned with the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it?

In keeping with this blog post, I came across another sad story about gay activist David Kato beaten to death in Uganda. American evangelicals visiting Uganda insist that a “strictly biblical” attitude be taken towards homosexuals. This is the result.

How “strictly biblical” do we want to be?

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107 Responses

  1. DT says:

    You said:
    “In keeping with this blog post, I came across another sad story about gay activist David Kato beaten to death in Uganda. American evangelicals visiting Uganda insist that a “strictly biblical” attitude be taken towards homosexuals. This is the result.”

    That is a completely irresponsible statement. What you’ve done is smear Osteen, Mohler, Wright and anyone else who actually believes Scripture condemns homosexuality as one-of-a-kind with those who perpetrate physical violence against homosexuals.

  2. Ummm… that is not irresponsible. That is brave. Those that believe fear and hatred of homosexuality is biblically warranted are so selective in the texts they ignore… slavery, multiple wives, murder to solve honour problems… this is the world of Biblical Palestine – a world locked in time; and no more….

    Here here, David. Jesus would have said that the Bible is a vehicle, a tool, a path to God… not the word of God.

    We in North America have developed Biblical dependance well beyond common sense.

  3. nakedpastor says:

    DT: Originally when I wrote the post I meant, when I said, “in keeping with this blog post”, that it had to do with the issue of homosexuality generally. I think we can agree that Osteen is not likely to beat a homosexual to death nor condone it.

    However, we must ask such questions as, “What is the connection between insisting on a ‘strictly biblical’ position on homosexuality and the present treatment of homosexuals?”

  4. DT says:

    “fear and hatred of homosexuality” does not equal believing that it is a sin.
    believing that it is a sin does not equal believing that all the OT laws are applicable today.
    far from being arbitrary subjectiveness, theologians have long distinguished by ceremonial/covenant law and moral law.

  5. DT says:

    believing that something is a sin is not the same as having a license to mistreat those who engage in it. Such mistreatment comes from personal insecurity and fear rooted in cultural prejudice, not Biblical teaching. The fact that cultural prejudice sometimes uses Biblical teaching for its own ends does not invalidate the Biblical teaching…

  6. Ransom Backus says:

    One thing I have learned in my walk with God is that I don’t need the Bible to spell anything out for me to know what is sin and what isn’t.
    Muslims call us “People of the book.” Unfortunately, many Christians are people of a book. I am a people of a person, His name is Jesus. His spirit leads me in all truth.
    Take a group of 20 theologians and religious scholars, put them in the same room, give them the same Bible and they won’t agree on things.
    I have asked God many times if homosexuality is a sin. I always get the same answer. Homosexuals and those who support them attack me and accuse me of being judgmental. So I always ask God if I AM being judgmental. I ask Him to search my heart and point out if I am wrong. Again, I always get the same answer. No matter what Godless men want to do with their lives and demand that I accept, I have to hold fast to what the Spirit shows me when I pray. If I don’t, I become a double-minded man, unstable in all of his ways.

  7. Marc says:

    The problem with the phrase “strictly biblical” is that it needs to be qualified.

  8. Barry says:

    @DT: Remind me, what is the biblical penalty for homosexuality, as described in Leviticus?

    It’s inevitable that insisting on a “strictly biblical” attitude towards homosexuality is going to result in violence and deaths if taken literally.

    As far as I’m concerned, any Christian who condemns gays but also wears clothes woven with mixed fibres, or eats shellfish, or picks things up on Saturdays, or doesn’t marry his childless brother’s widow, is a hypocrite. It’s all there in the book, but Christians seem to be very selective about which parts they follow.

    If it’s no longer a sin to eat pork or to shave your beard, why should it be a sin to be gay?

  9. Lydia says:

    Hatred is hot. If the Bible supports that then…well, you probably know what I was going to write. If people want to isolate words written long ago and live by them, if they choose to live according to a doctrine of hatred, then they only prove my skepticism of what Christianity really means in the modern world.

    You are brave to tackle the issue. I wish I had seen that particular Piers Morgan show. Joel Osteen seems similar to other preachers who have been forced out of the closet: not exactly a model of masculinity. Perhaps Piers Morgan was looking to dislodge something even deeper in the man…

  10. Ransom Backus says:

    I see sin, ANY sin, whatever form it takes, as something that destroys perfectly good people. And all people are worth saving FROM those sins.

  11. lisa says:

    i just always think of jesus in these sorts of situations. i think of him standing amongst the people getting ready to stone the woman caught in adultery. how he bent and wrote in the sand. how he said he that is without sin cast ye the first stone. and how one by one all the acusers left until he alone was with the woman. he forgave her. now, he did say to her go and sin no more. perhaps homosexuality is a sin. then i leave it to christ to forgive it and deal with that person. it’s not my place. i don’t have to condone homosexuality, but i sertainly can’t condemn those who are. i feel it’s not my place. and if we are to love one another as God loves us – that leaves no space for hatred. regardless of the person’s flaws. i have a dear friend who i know loves the Lord very much. and he is gay. now, do i judge him? absolutely not. i just love him for what he is, another sinner like me who is trying to serve the Lord as best as possible in this life. this is a tough one. but i just try to think of the example of jesus to help me through.

  12. Tim says:

    The ignorance here is palpable. The suggestion that biblical principles and convictions are causing gays to be victimized by violence is idiotic. The VAST overwhelming majority of Christians love gays and understand that the Levtical law no longer applies. What DOES apply is the unmistakable admonition that in Romans chapter 1:
    24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

    26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

    The wages of ALL sin is death. This doesn’t mean we go execute them. We biblically principled Christians call them to repentance and love them regardless. We don’t, however, tell them that their sin is no sin at all. The delusional apostates are doing their best to make God into their own image.

  13. Maria Risener says:

    David, thank you for offering up yet another post that is just spot on, at least as far as I’m concerned. I am a God Loving, born again, tongue talking long time Christian. Politically, I am much more closely aligned with the Democratic left than the Republican right. My personal conviction has been for years that homosexuals are as human and as much valuable as heterosexuals, that God loves us all equally, gay or straight, and that homosexuality and Christianity are not mutually exclusive.

    I would urge anyone who is certain that they know the Bible, all its meanings and nuances, all its historic context, to view the film “The Bible Tells Me So” and to visit the website soulforce.org and read what they have to say. Do so with an open heart and mind.

    Maybe some day it will turn out that I am completely wrong in what I believe, but I would rather err on the side of love and compassion than on the side of judgmentalism and prejudice.

    Thank you for letting me comment. Keep up the fantastic work, David. You are a blessing to me, and to many.

  14. Nancy T. says:

    I actually happened to catch the interview. I have no idea who Osteen is, but I was actually impressed that he seemed to be trying to stick to his convictions, while trying to keep the door as wide open as possible. Unlike many others, he showed no obvious signs of dislike or disgust, and he was very quick to point out that there is not a hierarchy of sins. He also pointed out quite rightly that the church has over focused on this, and he was very adamant that hatred was not the issue. Maybe it was all a lie, as I’ve never heard of him and don’t know what he says in other contexts.

    I soooo wanted to have Piers point out the same items that Barry has raised. I was rather suprised he didn’t because I think it gets to the crux of some of the issues with the Bible. Unless people are ultra-orthodox, then going by Old Testament laws is problematic. Either you believe they apply, and therefor all/most apply, or you end up picking and choosing on a subjective law-by-law bases…. Or, you go with a new covenant replaces the law model.

    Unfortunately, one of the problems with Christianity, is that unless you go with a fairly liberal/progressive theology, there are a lot of problems with what the bible says and how one is supposed to interpret it.

    Unfortunately, a lot of churches either go fundamental, so that they don’t have to concede ground on any of it… or, a lot of middle of the road churches become all wishy-washy, where they want to keep to an older framework of ‘christian values’ but at the same time, try to cherry pick what to be liberal about. A lot of platitudes, like ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’ or, I don’t know the all the answers, but I’m sure God knows (which when given as a response to logical questions that are challenging theology, isn’t really an answer at all).

    I also think some of you missed David saying that it was evangelicals VISITING Uganda insisting on a strictly biblical view… and hence it isn’t wrong for him to tie that to violence that happened IN Uganda.

    There are a lot of other things other than homosexuality. Living together, ‘open’ relationships, divorce, material belongings, wealth, church structure and hierarchy, what the ‘true’ church is, the role of women in the church… the New Testament has some pretty challenging, and at times conflicting, views on these and other issues.

    So where does a ‘strictly biblical’ view come in?

    For that matter, Christianity is hardly the oldest kid on the block. A number of religious/philosophical beliefs precede it, and a number of them began after it. Whose ‘god/dess/es’? Whose religion? Are Canada and the United States really to be considered to be founded on Christian principles as Christian nations? How is that determined? If it is so, does that mean that it doesn’t change?

    What is the cost of multiculturalism and freedom of religion as it plays out in society?

    I don’t think that ‘strictly biblical’ belongs anywhere but in what one can practice within the laws of our socialist democracy. I firmly believe in the seperation of church and state, and that our human rights legislation is what rules the day. NO religion should be able to express itself to the point of infringing on the rights of others.

    As ever, Christianity in the majority of its forms continues the subtle and overt repression and oppression of women, GLBT (gay/lesbian/bi/transexual), peoples, indigenous and first nations people anywhere in the world, black north americans, Africans, Mexicans, any one that isn’t white/caucasion, and most political groups that roam anywhere close to socialism/marxism/communism. Oh, and generally to anyone that is not part of the normative social community.

  15. Nancy T. says:

    Apologies for the long post, but it strikes a nerve. I went through a lot of confusion and searching and fear and worry, as did any other number of young people I knew… trying to come to terms with what the bible says, what we were taught/told in church, and what we believed personally… and trying to square it all up and keep our integrity and still be a christian.

    I kept my integrity, not my christianity.

  16. Ransom – how do you know your own expectations are not shaping what you feel you are hearing from God. What you are doing is claiming to be above reproach – even above scripture – which is a fairly heterodox and dangerous claim. Just curious how you justify that. If you told me I was a sinner based on that I’d pretty much call you judgmental too, that is if I were feeling nice. Just saying.

    I like the connection, intentional or not, between the travesty in Uganda and the state of the debate. A big problem I see is the way we construct notions of biblical authority. What I think this shows is that when we test the limits of our theories of authority we end up in unjust places – therefore we need to think deeply about how we construct those theories in our cultural context. I’m not saying we cannot ever affirm an action as sinful – but it is more when we insist on giving authority to carefully selected proof texts. Personally I don’t agree with Wright on this – but I think better theories of authority will allow us to have a high view of scripture and allow a diversity of interpretations. But I think the current forms of biblical authority, at least in North American, do not serve well.

  17. Kamber says:

    Interesting article. I’m so saddened by the stories lately of homosexuals being beaten up and harrassed. It makes me so sad and angry. Fear of punishment and love of the law, I think, makes Christians show prejudice and hate towards people that practice homosexuality. Religion separates us from people. It’s hard, on a personal level, because when you’re constantly talking about these different issues, it puts so much

  18. Kirsten Mebust says:

    Since it is also “sinful” according to certain texts for women to ask questions in church, appear in public with uncovered heads, and a few other things that keep us from being whole persons, I am prohibited by conscience and a living God from interpreting the Bible as a book of unquestionable rules laid down once for all time. Otherwise I could not be beckoned by the Holy Spirit into religious life and leadership.
    Whatever opens the gates of God’s reign to women and calls one people enslaving another sin also welcomes GLBT people to God’s embrace. Luther taught that we must read the bible as a book that conveys Christ to us. I think that means “The one who loves is born of God and knows God, since God is love.” There are plenty of heterosexual “Bible-believers” who aren’t yet born of God, and quite a few GLBT Christians who are.

  19. Ransom Backus says:

    Frank…I am always open to God correcting me. So far He hasn’t about this topic. I am always open to reevaluating ongoingly always open to being wrong. When God corrects me then I will of course state that I am wrong.
    Am I above scripture? no. I see myself as equal to it as I have the same Holy Spirit in me as that which inspired it.
    If we depend on the bible to direct us, that is a dangerous ground as there are very many convincing arguments and ongoing debates about the Bible. All it takes is an educated scholar to say something about the Bible and it becomes accepted by the masses, whether they are right or wrong. Muslims use the Bible constantly to argue for their religion and against ours. So the Bible is only as good as the reader and the teacher. We cannot do it without the Holy Spirit teaching us about it.

  20. Ransom Backus says:

    Sin is the target of God’s wrath, never the person. Sin is condemned, not a person. However if a person chooses to cling so tightly to that sin and refuse to separate, they end up getting hurt in the process.

  21. nakedpastor says:

    “sin is the target of God’s wrath” sounds army to me. ransom: how does God speak to you? obviously not through other people. directly? just curious?

  22. Is it sin or what sin does to people that is the object of God’s wrath? The problem with your abstraction is that sin is not a technicality is is always an enacted reality. And as such it is what sin does, especially to the least in society, that seems to invoke the wrath of God most. Jesus didn’t drive out the tax collectors – but they were essentially doing a similar thing to the merchants in the temple. But the merchants in the temple were misrepresenting God and putting burdens on the poor – manipulating the law and tradition to their advantage (financially) and missing the heart of the matter. The temple wasn’t there to make them rich – it was there to provide access to God.

    When folks say God hates the sin but loves the sinner it is really just a cop out. It is trying to abstract something so that they can miss the human aspect of it – who does it hurt? This is why I think we need to rethink homosexuality, because what we have today is not at all represented in any Biblical texts. So when we turn those few texts that mention same gender sexual acts to hurt people we have become the Pharisees who use the law and tradition to make their own comfort at the expense of the very ones God’s heart is turned towards.

  23. In terms of your critique of my comments on your communication with God, I think you are right about the problems with Scripture (at least to a degree). But what you’ve replace it with is personal direct access which is what I find dangerous. And not that I doubt that you hear God – I would say that is a reality in my life too. But the idea that this access is unmediated is what I contest. To think that you, maybe the first person in history??, have the direct infallible line to the Big Guy, even if you feel like you are open to correction, is a bit arrogant and ludicrous. But rather than seeing scripture as the only alternative might I suggest another – the Church. Not that the Church is infallible either – but in full recognition of that reality the Church tries to faithfully live out what they collectively feel God would will for us/them. It isn’t perfect – but it has a lot more checks and bounds than the lone ranger Christianity that plagues the North American churches today.

    BTW when I say Church, I am not thinking of any one denomination or body and that they get it right – rather I’m evoking all of the bodies, traditions and denominations and holding onto the tension of our differences. It is a little something I take away from my Eastern sisters and brothers. They appeal to the Fathers, so you ask them which ones because if you read the early Church Fathers you quickly realize they all do not say the same things. Their answer is all of them. They live that tension as part of the mystery of the faith. Anyway, maybe you’ll just write me off here – but I do think that it is worth thinking about how we filter and modify what we hear. It makes more sense for God to call a community than individuals if the reality is we need not only God, but each other to walk out this thing we call Christianity.

    blessings,
    Frank

  24. Mark says:

    An interesting post that is obviously a hot issue that gets people going. I would take a different view in that I see one perspective that sees the judgement of people that brings a lot of pain and damage to another group of people, to even tragic ends. And the other perspective sees things that are described as ‘wrong’ according to what you would conclude is God’s opinion about things, that are treated as though they are simply misinterpreted, misguided and completely unnecessary in any way. The perspective that seems to always get lost, to me, is the one that is completely different than either of these. The Gospel and Jesus both places wrong completely on us all while at the same time placing complete grace and acceptance on all of those who fix their attention upon Jesus. I see this in the many people I listen to who have rejected Jesus because of judgement and treat his value to them as that of a graham cracker because they have been trampled by judgement to the point that they reject any idea of wrong completely. On the other hand, I listen to those who treat the bible as a manual for correcting everybody else’s failures (from homosexuality to white lies) and de-emphasize Christ to the point that he is passe. I would say that Christ is the answer to both of these perspectives, providing both a sense of our failures and need for help, and the actual help, love and acceptance by grace that makes us all equal in our need for him. Just my opinion.

  25. Jane says:

    I really appreciate what Maria had to say.

    This is a hot topic. Hot enough to keep in the closet! Thanks for airing it out David! Lord knows we could all put our freaking stones down!

  26. Botticelliwoman says:

    I was amazed to see this post as this subject has been at the forefront of my mind for the past week. In a conversation recently with two friends (non-christians, if that matters) we were discussing homosexuality and I found myself saying – to my utter horror – that I felt a little uncomfortable about homosexuality. It was presumed that I felt that way due to my faith (one of the friends also admitted to discomfort).
    I’ve been all week thinking on this…what is at the root of my discomfort?
    I can never walk a mile in their shoes, any more than I can walk a mile in my paranoid schizophrenic brother’s shoes; or in black skin. It doesn’t mean that I fear that which I can never truly understand, but it makes me feel inadequate and that causes my discomfort.
    Fear and lack of understanding taken to extremes cause prejudice, far more than a true belief that God says it it so.
    It’s been a difficult week and I have had to come to a personal conclusion that I am unable to truly empathise with each and every human on the planet and that’s ok….the control freak in me has been subdued.

  27. Barry says:

    The way I see it, what people do in private is nobody else’s business. As long as nobody is hurt, what does it matter if two gay people have sex?

    Why are Christians so obsessed with where people put their genitals anyway?

    Of course you’re entitled to your own belief that homosexuality is wrong, much though I would disagree with you. However, the world would be a much better place if religious people of all stripes would keep that opinion to themselves and not use it as a stick to beat gay people with.

  28. Fred says:

    It seems that you’re saying that your hermeneutic is suspect if you conclude that homosexuality is a sin.

    Is that what you’re saying?

    It seems that you’re saying that your hermeneutic is suspect if you conclude that “sinners exist.”

    If you are saying that, then what are the foundational criteria for determining whether or not someone’s hermeneutic is sound?

  29. Terry says:

    For every one of these stories — An Osteen, a Wright, –we can match them with a Jack Rogers or a Paul Achtemeier — New Testament scholars with conservative street cred who once thought one way, but have changed their minds.

    I believe some day we’ll look back on this moment in Christian history and recognize the movement of the Spirit. It has happened before. Slavery defenders thought they had scripture on their side.

  30. Kamber says:

    Interesting article. I’m so saddened by the stories lately of homosexuals being beaten up and harrassed. It makes me so sad and angry. Fear of punishment and love of the law, I think, makes Christians show prejudice and hate towards people that practice homosexuality. Religion separates us from people. It’s hard, on a personal level, because when you’re constantly talking about these different issues, it puts so much fear of doing that sin in your heart. I think that’s where all the judging comes in. That’s why the law excites sin! Personally, I don’t think that homosexuality is the way to go, I really don’t. However, if a Christian is telling a non-believer-“thats wrong, thats wrong”…what’s that going to do? We are called to Love God and Love People.

    (Sorry I didn’t finish the comment earlier-don’t know why that happened).

  31. To any who might care to answer:
    How do you (as Christians) determine which Biblical laws to dismiss and which to embrace?

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheThinkingAtheist#p/u/5/hCovYF51qHE

  32. feetxxxl says:

    im amazed that wright clings so tightly to genesis that he dismisses romans and galatians. these say the godlove(love one another as i have love you) of the 2nd commandment (love neighbor as oneself) is the summation of all…..all…..all….all new covenant law. that anything that is not of this love is not law of the new covenant. the standard of the new covenant is love not law………. again the standard of the new covenant is love not law.
    “god’s best” is christ’s love.

    if our righteousness is christ and his love, and this is apart from the law, how can god’s best be anything that has to do with the law? christ’s love which scripture says transcends all knowledge(law) and says that “the law is only a shadow of things to come and not the realities themselves”. christ’s love are the realities themselves. how can the shadow of the light be the light? are we our shadows? how can even if we follow it, we receive no righteousness…………. be” god’s best”?
    that which is apart from the law fullfils(completes its purpose) the law, because the law is not the spirit(love) of god but only points to it. therefore it is christ’s love that determines what the law is and what it says.

    being gay we have lived the fullness of this love in our lives, whoever embraces this fullness is of this fulness, therefore we are of god’s best as well.

  33. Ransom Backus says:

    @Frank No man is an island unto himself. I agree. The Church is the body with many parts and we are there for each other to challenge error. The problem is, this day and age, we, especially in the West have been caught up in the mush of a heavy slough of relativism. Because of this, the church is so divided that my biggest question is WHO do I believe? I find that the Bible is kind of like the internet, you can find whatever you want to find to support your agenda. Some keep studying it until they find a way to make it say what they want it to say. (refer to my recent post concerning the malady of 20 theologians.)
    I still discuss what God shares with me with other members of the Church. Sometimes they challenge me and I find that I am wrong. Sometimes not. My point is, Christians have much more access to God directly than many would believe. It is this reason that Christ gave us the Holy Spirit who “teaches us and guides us in all truth.” John, in his first letter states “You have no need that any man should teach you for the annointing that is in you.” I don’t have an easy answer for this one. I have to believe that if I keep myself thoroughly honest and sincere, God will make sure I hear what He wants me to know. If He doesn’t, my faith is that of Muslims, based solely on a book and I am at the mercy of those who are schooled at interpreting it, assuming those scholars and interpreters have pure hearts and minds, and only God can know that. I guess you could say that either scenario has its dangers.I always opt to lean on the Holy Spirit over man, so if I fall, that is God’s responsibility.
    @nakedpastor. I never thought of it as an army. LOL. I simply said that to say that people, God’s prized creation are not the focus of His wrath, He loves us, hence He sent His son to die for us.

  34. feetxxxl says:

    ransom backus

    wherever you seek out christ’s love you will find it, whether in scripture or in what has been made, because all were created by and thru his love.

  35. feetxxxl says:

    godless monster

    believers and atheists are one in the love that lives within both, which does not require belief because it is about what is. just because someone denies their essence doesnt mean that it no longer exists, only that they have distanced themselves from it.
    its the love that lives within that vaidates what needs to be embraced and what needs to be let go.

    1thess5:21 test everything, keep the good.

    we test it with the love that lives within us, which is the same love that lives in you.

  36. @feetxxxl,
    How you could not be overwhelmed by cognitive dissonance is beyond me.

  37. Actually, let my last comment stand for quite a few of the commenters in this thread. It’s not a judgement on others, as I was once a believer.
    I remember quite clearly what mental gymnastics, semantic acrobatics and moral contortions I had to go through as a Christian to reconcile what I read in the Bible with what I knew to be good and right.
    It’s amazing that it took me years to question why all of this had to be so complicated in the first place. Once I understood the Bible was not a good guide for morality, all of the arguments that were offered up as explanations or excuses for a book that is certainly evil by modern, civilized standards no longer held water.

  38. Ransom Backus says:

    I know that I very well could be wrong. I know that it implies high stakes. Faith is stepping out with that knowledge, knowing that God is faithful enough to still make good on it. It means I can take a stance on truth with full conviction, and if I am wrong, if it all blows up in my face, the Father is still there to make things right.
    I don’t care what happens to me, but I pray for grace and mercy on those who might suffer if I am wrong….or if I am right. I would rather have this kind of faith in God, than placing my faith in educated scholars who claim superior, accurate Bible knowledge, since only God CAN know their hearts and true intentions.

  39. Masturbation is a sin thus you are all going to hell! (snicker, snicker!)

  40. Ransom said: “I know that I very well could be wrong. I know that it implies high stakes. Faith is stepping out with that knowledge, knowing that God is faithful enough to still make good on it. It means I can take a stance on truth with full conviction, and if I am wrong, if it all blows up in my face, the Father is still there to make things right.”

    This is exactly what faith is not, at least not how it is defined in scripture which is where you are making your claims from. This is where I find the problem lies too – North Americans, in particular, have an obsession with certainty. Certainty isn’t what makes faith – hope does. Certainty only creates certainty – i.e. a guaranteed causal relationship. Much of our strategies of evangelism are based around this fallacy. But I think it is worse when applied to our political engagement – such as how we develop a response to contemporary homosexuality.

    Here is the inconsistency: If you know very well you could be wrong then you have capitulated to the relativism you stated before is a problem. However you go on to defend your stance as if you willfully ignore the first fact you stated. The first claim should lead to a more humble approach than making a certain stance on “conviction” or “truth”. A more honest way of expressing it is to admit you interpret it in a specific way and that you will live out of that in openness to being affirmed or corrected as your understanding and experience grows. I’m all for living out what we believe, but when we miss that we go back on our words like this then it becomes harder to take that conviction seriously.

  41. Godless Monster: So you’ve replaced one set of presuppositions for another. It doesn’t really get you any further ahead – it just means you start with different assumptions. For people embedded in a religious context it is hard (as you probably experienced in your journey) to shift those presuppositions – especially about things like scripture or tradition. And even when they do shift, often the way we navigate the questions do not necessarily follow – we construct our answers in the same way but just from a new starting point.

    World views, religious and otherwise, are often self-contained tautological constructs, and as such capable of supporting a lot of cognitive dissonance. This doesn’t go away until it the individual becomes conscientized to the dissonance and has a desire to do something about it. The process is a lot like a fish jumping out of water – you see a bigger world but it is hard to transition from the world that supports and sustains you so completely. After enough of these horizon expanding experiences we can become dissatisfied with the world view that we swim in – enough that we make the transition. And one other point – it is fishbowls all the way up!

  42. Seriously who is this Joel Osteen anyway? What makes him more important than me? Why should I care what the heck he believes? Does he fashion his life after my beliefs? Since when do we need opinion-based faith? The good thing about television preachers is you can turn them off!!! There are no super “leaders”. Those who claim to understand the bible better than you are full of themselves and have no humility. The true sin is lying to ourselves, trying to convince others we know all the answers, especially concerning the correct and incorrect manner in which to rub skin. We are all equal before G-d – we the blind vagabonds treading desperately on the narrow path besides the precipice of eternity.

  43. @Frank Emanuel,
    “So you’ve replaced one set of presuppositions for another.”
    Explain in detail exactly what my presuppositions are.

  44. Finally, I would love to see an interview asking Joel Osteen details on his sex life to see whether it is strictly biblical! (there’s an idea for SML – Sunday Morning Live, the evangelical equivalent to SNL!)

  45. Monster: The one you spelled out is this “Once I understood the Bible was not a good guide for morality, all of the arguments that were offered up as explanations or excuses for a book that is certainly evil by modern, civilized standards no longer held water.” That is a presupposition about the bible, yet you are using it like a truth claim in about the same way that Ransom constructs his truth claims. It is an ideological starting point that colours your view of the content and use of the Christian Bible.

  46. @Frank Emanuel,
    As far as understanding cognitive dissonance and how we deal with it, I get it. What I find troublesome is not necessarily what some people do when they realize that they hold conflicting ideas simultaneously, but that so many do not admit to dissonance in the first place. I did this myself for years. This isn’t an issue of intelligence, but comfort level as you so aptly put it.

  47. @Frank E,
    Yes, that came out completely backwards. You are correct and think you for pointing out my error.

  48. “think you”? ugh…
    Man, I’m on a roll today…
    THANK you Frank!!! :-)

  49. Godless Monster… I hear you and am glad that God is not Monsterless!

    500 years ago we had not seen quarks or gluons… but they were still there (Polkinghore – Quantum Physics and Theology). With our limited ability to interpret the universe it can’t hurt to have the possibility to be surprised by what time, scientific, philosophical and theological scrutiny can reveal to our species before its extinction. God exists, as a concept or theory, in the very least. The fact that we can imagine a lifeform other than ourselves can stimulate us towards enquiry and evolution. Perhaps “God” has another name outside human language. Perhaps there is no God, I have no definite proof. Therefore because I doubt the inexistence of God, I remain open instead of closed to the idea that some heavenly Dr. Frankenstein created a beautiful monster called humanity.

  50. feetxxxl says:

    its isnt who he is but who he speaks for………………tens of millions of believers because of his media exposure. i have met a number of people who have gone to his church…..the subject is non discussable.

    back when there were castles if you were a serf and your master was a christian you considered yourself a christian. today there appears to be the same dynanmic. if one of these media leaders all of a sudden embraced homosexuality, over night there would be such a change that it would appear as if there had never been a problem about someone being gay.

    my concern is not so about homosexuality per se, than that the gospel itself is embraced, the gospel that has been saying for 2000 years that being gay is of god.

    in other words that believers will take their foot out of the old covenant and put it alongside the other foot that is in the new.

  51. feetxxxl says:

    godless monster

    what “cognitive dissonance”?

  52. Barry says:

    To reiterate a point I made earlier, why are Christians so obsessed with what other people do with their genitals anyway? Isn’t there some more pressing issue you could focus on, such as starvation, child poverty, homelessness or nuclear disarmament? You know, things that actually *do* affect the rest of us?

  53. nakedpastor says:

    Barry: i hear ya.

  54. Barry – perhaps the church’s depth is only skin deep!

  55. Lynn says:

    Barry and Louise,

    Great points! Read The God Virus. Religions always give you sex rules to go by.

  56. Nancy T. says:

    @Godless, thanks for the link and for providing even better terms for what I had posted earlier, “mental gymnastics” and “cognitive dissonance”.

    I stopped doing mental gymnastics, and just stopped calling myself a christian, because there were so many things I didn’t believe, that I wasn’t at all mainstream/orthodox, and so far from it, it seemed unfair to use a term that had meaning for people.

    If we actually believe in the New Testament, and the teaching of the church fathers, from the writers of the apostles, of Paul, and onwards… then, ‘sin’ exists, and there is a lot said about the very topics I mentioned before homosexuality (thanks Tim, I had never realized that there was any direct NT teaching on it), living together, divorce, women’s role in the church, etc.

    I fully appreciate that many loving Christians are still practicing a form of Christianity, and living/believing the ‘spirit of the law’/’new covenant’/’Freedom in Christ’ etc. I just don’t understand how they square it with pick/choose from the bible, and a rejection of the tenets that have made up the church since the first decades after Jesus’ death and onwards. Let alone how they square it with ‘God’ being the Christian God (which is the Jewish God) and which the link Godless Monster linked us to shows as being… um… horrible?

    One of the biggest problems is the Bible in the first place. A bunch of writings over a bunch of time were then grouped together in various collections, and after a few hundred years the chuch fathers agreed on what was ‘cannonical’.

    If one divorces Christianity from “believing” the bible, then a lot of problems get solved. I don’t even mean rejecting it’s inerrancy… but rejecting that the cannonical Bible is THE only Holy Text, and is not to be detracted from (I’d presonally get rid of Revelations first) or added to (gnostic gospels… more people should read them). I think that a bible with only stories of what Jesus actually said and did, with a big foreword saying “here is the stuff that people wrote down, years after he died, about what Jesus said and did… would be a lot more meaningful and accurate than what we have now. All the other books, non-cannonical as well, could be gathered together as “everything said before Jesus, by the Jewish writers, and everything post Jesus that was written about the early church, or early writings that were not specifically what Jesus said and did.

    *shrugs*… I have a suspicion that god/dess/es don’t exist, but, I’m kind of fond of the idea of a ‘one god’ in a somewhat weird ‘emmanent/transcendent’ way (yah, I know, they don’t really go together, but that is kind of what I ses as… miraculous… in my little paradigm) that is not personal, but is intimate (I know, I know, another paradox)…and that most religions are some attempt at people trying to get their head around expressing that ‘one god’…

    …of course, I CHOOSE to believe it, because I think its a nice and useful way to look at the world… but, I can as easily choose (and on some days do) to believe that there is no god or spiritual realm.

    I think my preference for believing, is that I know that the Universe exists, and that matter can neither be created or destroyed by humans, and that energy exists. Sooooo… I can either go with ‘um, we dont’ know, its just there’, or a world relion, including ‘turtles all the way down’, or our own belief. My own belief gives me an explanation (sort of) for stuff existing, but it really isn’t any more provable/likely than “um, we don’t know” and any religion’s ‘genesis myth’ has pros and cons. *shrugs*… ‘turtles all the way down’ works as well for me as anything else.

    /climbs down off of soap box, *clears throat*… I sometimes wonder why it even matters to me to share stuff. I figure that somehow explaining my thoughts or questions or whatever, to an audience of others, somehow helps me figure it out. That and/or I’m just needy and/or an attention whore. I truly haven’t figured out which (or blend of which) applies.

  57. Nancy T. says:

    @ Louise… wouldn’t we all be going blind first?

  58. nakedpastor says:

    Thanks Nancy. Great contribution.

  59. MarkOttawa says:

    Tim said: What DOES apply is the unmistakable admonition that in Romans chapter 1:

    Mark says: Time, you skipped the first part of the passage:

    “21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

    When one takes into account Romans 1: 23 and Romans 1:25, the context for Romans 1:26-31 become clear. Paul is condemning idolatry. In fact, he even goes to the trouble of describing what the idols looked like in verse 23. Roman pagan idolatry is transforming people who can know god into people who do crazy things.

    When one reads about Roman pagan religion, particularly the Cybele/Attis cult, one of Rome’s most prominent religions and Christianity’s biggest competitor, then it’s hard to extrapolate what seems to be a condemnation of paganism and apply it to gay people who are Christians. Gay people don’t worship “images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles” at all. Gay Christians worship God. They just happen to be gay.

  60. nakedpastor says:

    Thanks Mark. Widening the context always is useful. Thanks.

  61. feetxxxl says:

    barry

    king henry the 8th, head of church/state in the 1500’s made homosexuality a hanging offense in the 1500’s. it stayed on the books for 300 years. apparently, for what ever reason society found it necessary to make homosexuality an evil, the church became a willing tool. the same way that for a milleium they found it necessary to subjugate women and the church reenforced this by making women responsible for the fall in eden.

    consequently for 600 years homosexuality was made illegal, and the church reenforced it by making it a sin……………….one hand washes another. the church is the culture, the culture is the church………600 years of cultural influence handed down generationally.

    so now this understanding has become society’s cultural identity. believing in christ means believing homosexuality is a sin.

    the only problem with this is, that this belief violates the principles of the new covenant of christ, as layed down by scripture.

    romans 9, 10, 11 also spoke out against antisemetism, but that didnt stop the church for a millenium from being antisemetic.

    the halocaust was conducted by a christian country, the national religion 50% lutheran and 50% catholic, when a millenium of worldwide antisemetism was reaching its height in the 40’s and 50’s.

    bottom line: it was christians who were responsible for the halocaust.

  62. feetxxxl says:

    reedit

    bottom line: WE christians were responsible for the halocaust.

  63. Barry says:

    You mean YOU Christians. I’m an atheist.

  64. Maria says:

    Nancy, well said. I refer to myself as “post-evangelical”. I’d love to be part of a church family again, but I can’t be part of any church where my brothers and sisters who are gay are condemned as sinners because of who they love.

    As some have pointed out, how can we possibly take such an immovable stand on the issue of homosexuality, but we allow women to speak in church, to go about with their heads uncovered, we no longer stone people caught in adultery, we don’t crucify thieves… it’s just astonishing to think people pick and choose verses and chapters from the Bible to cling to.

    I once thought that I believed that the Bible was the literal, infallible Word of God. Although it’s certainly the most important book to me, and to many others, I now see that it was written by human, fallible people. It was inspired, God breathed, but humans have a way of mucking things up, no matter how God Inspired those things are.

    The letter of the law kills… the Spirit brings LIFE.

    In the most challenging, daunting, frightening times in my life, even when I was a pastor’s wife (my ex husband was an Assemblies of God minister), my “church family” were the first people to abandon me. It was the people who were truly spiritual, truly connected to God, without pronouncing damnation on everyone else, who ministered to me and loved me through those dark days.

    My current husband attends church and enjoys it, and I respect that, and he respects my choice not to go. He agrees with me as far as the issue of homosexuality (really, why is it even an issue??) but needs the fellowship of others in church. That’s fine. Live and let live.

    Once upon an ugly time, slavery was considered to be approved of by God. Once upon an ugly time, women were considered less valuable than men. And once upon an ugly time, biracial marriage was taboo in the church. Those days are behind us, for the most part, and I believe one day, the prejudice and misguided judgment toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people will be just one more once upon an ugly time.

  65. Lynn says:

    Doesn’t the church thrive by adapting to the culture? It has to, or eventually nobody will come. And bring their money.

    Like divorce. If divorcee’s were shunned, that would be suicidal for the church. Maybe Joel Osteen has it figured out. You don’t get a huge following by insulting large groups of people. That’s why he waters down that ancient book and avoids the controversial parts. It’s like politics, right?

    Of course you have the other types who major on the differences in people, so that they can create an in-group and an out-group. That can also make the church strong. But as huge as that audience is, I don’t think it’s as huge as it once was.

    For example, imagine a preacher getting up there and telling you it’s an awful sin to marry someone of another race, or for a woman to work outside the home, or that slavery is Biblical. Those things simply won’t fly these days. It wouldn’t work. People start to think. They know what they’ve experienced, etc. So they reinterpret the Bible accordingly.

    I like it that although Osteen had to come out and agree with his understanding of the Bible on gays, he also said he doesn’t fully understand it. That right there is a clue that to me says, “You know, maybe we can allow in a little biology, etc. on this issue. We can stop pretending that what the Bible says really lines up with reality.”

    Just like he hinted that prayer doesn’t work recently. He basically said if you have a problem, don’t pray, go do something about it.

    He’s dropping hints at the truth, which to me is that the idea of being gay being a sin is ridiculous, and that prayer is not effective for solving problems-something we all already know in the back of our mind. He’s slowly giving people permission to maybe accept those things more consciously.

    I’ve only heard him a couple times, so maybe my impressions are incorrect. What do you think?

  66. feetxxl: I wouldn’t be so quick to own the holocaust as a Christian construct. It was formidably shaped by the Masters of Suspicion (Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Hegel, etc.) to whom intellectual atheism owe their roots. Sorry Barry you are complicit too. The issue I have is not with what ideology created it, but with how various ideologies failed to respond to it. It is well known that antisemitism was alive in the cultural Christianity (as well as the written theology of Luther and others), I’m not debating that. But it took social Darwinainism to turn this racism into a project of genocide. It also took particular views of history that conflated our actions with Gods, but that is a more complicated connection for a blog response. So many groups of humans should own the genesis of these horrible events in history. My concerns are the churches that were complicit, even by non-action. The holocaust was a wake-up slap for the Church in Europe, and many gave up hope in the Church. But many didn’t and it changed the shape of European theology forever.

    Here in our protected North American context we do not seem to have learned the lessons that Europe did. Saying we are responsible for the holocaust is an incredulous claim here. And if we relegate it to a particular religious tradition (or in this case a cluster of traditions) then we miss the point. The holocaust was the worst of humanity – and we are all capable of it. Worse we are all capable of the inaction that allows such things to thrive – and there are plenty examples in our own context such as our record with the first nations peoples. Like I tell my kids – it doesn’t matter who started it or who did it first, what matters is how we are going to resolve it. And that takes all of us regardless of our beliefs.

  67. Barry says:

    @Frank Emanuel: How exactly do you figure that I am complicit in the holocaust? That’s badly-worded at best, and offensive at worst. I have family members who would have been killed if they had been in 1940s Europe, and my grandfather fought against the Nazis in North Africa and in Europe.

    If you mean that atheism is complicit in the holocaust, again you have a problem. Atheism is not an all-embracing philosophy. It’s just an expression of one thing that we don’t believe. Certainly atheism itself inspires nothing, whether good or bad.

    Sure, some of the perpetrators of the holocausts may have been atheists, but the overwhelming majority were Christians. I’m sure they were strongly influenced by the writings of Martin Luther, who instructed that Jews should be put to death and their synagogues burned, far more than by the writings of Darwin, who never advocated the twisted ideas of eugenics and survival of the “fittest”.

  68. Drew Costen says:

    Considering the fact that Hitler was a Christian, I don’t think we can blame the holocaust on atheists.

  69. Barry: You are quite wrong that atheism inspires nothing, it is an ideology same as any religion, it just launches out from a different set of assumptions. And I’m not attacking Darwin – but social Darwinianism which was an aberration that we should all lament – and still has sway today in how we see the least of the least in, at least, North American Society.

    But your first reaction needs some qualification. Part of the problem with things like the holocaust is our reaction to them. I was referring to your denial of complicity due to your atheism – and if you think Christianity without Nietzsche and company (really Hegel and his young interpreters) would have stepped over that leap into the abyss then you are mistaken. It wasn’t the individuals with their nationalistic forms of faith that gave rise to the holocaust – it was how this was shaped by ideologues who were undeniably influenced by the Masters of Suspicion.

    But I would expand it further. I think that it is a human problem. So we are all complicit. That is the ugly truth of the matter. The more we deny that we are both victim and perpetrator the more we foster the problem. We can’t fix a problem we pretend isn’t ours to fix. And we can’t see the depths of it as long as we pretend if doesn’t affect us. So Barry I stand by my statement – but not to single you out or suggest you had a formative hand in it. But we all participate in ideologies that can be brought to bear on the problems that plague our species – evils of war, poverty, racism, hatred, genocide, marginalization, consumerism, the systematic rape of our planet to support extractive economies, etc. Whether you want to use the language of sin (such as some religious traditions do) or a more inclusive language of injustice, it matters not. The problem is we are all complicit in these things. And we pretend that they are not as bad as the holocaust – yet I think the poorest of the poor in the so-called Third World countries might beg to differ. I’m not trying to belittle anything – but bring the full weight of its gravity to my argument. We must do better. Pretending we are doing better makes it worse. Not standing up when we see the roots of it (including I would urge homophobia which is a modern antisemitism in Christianity) also makes us complicit.

    Just let me close by saying that we are also all victims. I think we can miss that too. It isn’t like we are all bastards trying to screw everything up. Most people are quite well intentioned. But most of us also pretend that all of this has no bearing or relevance to our little existences – and I run into atheists like that just as often as Christians. This coping mechanism must stop. We are all hurt and we are all doing the hurting. So lets find a way forward.

  70. Drew, Hitler was a lot of things. I’m not blaming the holocaust on any single ideology – but that it was a collection of ideologies that made the holocaust a possibility under the catalyst of a terribly charismatic leader.

    Also many people claim to be Christians, does that mean we should simply blame Christianity for the Jonestown massacre? Auschwitz? Apartheid? the Violence in Uganda? Certainly we need to be critical of the ways that Christianity is evoked in these contexts – but we can’t assume any religion is monolithic and responsible for the actions of people who claim to be part of that religion. This is why I want to insist it is a human problem, not necessarily a religious problem (except in so far as our species has an incredible propensity for mythic navigation of its existential questions).

  71. Drew Costen says:

    Frank, atheism is no more an ideology than asantaism is an ideology (I’m sure you lack a belief in Santa Claus and his Christmas Eve antics every year, yet I doubt you’d consider that lack of belief an ideology). Atheism is nothing more than a lack of belief in any particular deity (it technically doesn’t even deny the existence of a deity, it just doesn’t actively believe one exists, though I suppose we could get into the whole “weak atheism vs strong atheism” thing if we wanted to).

    I should also point out that I’m not blaming Christianity for the holocaust. I am a Christian after all (even if only a religionless Christian). That said, the members of the Christian religion (along with members of most other religions) are a HUGE cause of trouble for the world. Not the only cause of trouble, but a large cause regardless.

  72. Ransom Backus says:

    @Barry. God deeply values us. EVERY part of us, even what we do with our genitals. He protects that part of us highly in the Bible. He cares more about us than we do.

  73. Drew: Your assumption is that non-belief is actually a neutral concept. It is not. It is a presupposition about the nature of reality that has far reaching ethical implications. I’m not trying to defend theism or atheism – but simply point out the bullshit claim that atheism somehow has the moral high ground because it dispenses with God. It is yet another ideology that humans use to navigate their worlds. Ideologies are not necessarily wrong – in fact I would insist that the strongest ones are based in what is true – but they do shape the ethical orientation of individuals (and communities) in measurable ways.

    About the problem with religions, Thomas Berry once said that religions cannot solve the worlds problems, but we cannot solve the worlds problems without religions. Atheism functions as a religion – not believing is a belief – and therefore should be a welcome partner in the conversations and actions that can change the world for the better.

  74. feetxxxl says:

    drew

    “I should also point out that I’m not blaming Christianity for the holocaust.”

    a millenium of inquisitions, the church playing a major role(at least 7, the person who conducted the last one was made pope), containment centers( this same pope set up a containment center, which lasted 300 years, for the jews 300 yards from the vatican………..this same place which later became an all jewish ghetto is where the trucks came to take the jews to the death camps…….a containment center very similar in some ways to what the nazis set up in poland), a millenium of deportations, disinfrancisements, genicides, by christian countries, condoned by the church.

    germany the first country(1500), to receive the bible in their own language, translated by their national hero martin luther. martin luther who in his late writings left a 400 year antisemetic legacy that was so severe that the 3rd reich used it to validate their treatment of the jews. “in dealing with the jews, no treatment is too severe”

  75. titfortat says:

    @ Louise la Francofun

    Definition of Rejection:

    You go to masturbate and your hand falls asleep. ;)

  76. feetxxxl says:

    Also many people claim to be Christians, does that mean we should simply blame Christianity for the Jonestown massacre? Auschwitz? Apartheid? the Violence in Uganda? Certainly we need to be critical of the ways that Christianity is evoked in these contexts – but we can’t assume any religion is monolithic and responsible for the actions of people who claim to be part of that religion. This is why I want to insist it is a human problem, not necessarily a religious problem (except in so far as our species has an incredible propensity for mythic navigation of its existential questions).

    i agree with you. the point is that christians as well as non christians were equally involved with what was antisemetic. the church was as much a willing participant as those powers that were secular.

    the church is the culture. the culture is the church. no one lives in a purely religous bubble, or a purely secular one.

    in using jonestown as an example, you are attempting to compare an occult mentality with main stream religious doctrine.

  77. No, I’m illustrating a point that claiming to be Christian doesn’t defacto make one so. These claims are always contested – even when they come from established state churches. There have been many cases of anti-Catholicism, turning violent even!, in Protestant history that claimed Catholics were not “real” Christians. I threw Rev. Jim in there because he would be bound to evoke the sort of reaction that you gave it. This is the problem I wanted to illustrate – as long as it is them and not us that is their problem and not of our concern. German cultural guilt over Hitler drove some very creative and appropriate responses. But they come out of ownership and a realization that this must never happen again and if it does the Church, especially for the folks I’m familiar with, must never again stand by while injustice rears its ugly face.

  78. Barry says:

    @Frank: “Barry: You are quite wrong that atheism inspires nothing, it is an ideology same as any religion, it just launches out from a different set of assumptions.”

    That is completely incorrect. Atheism is not an ideology. It is simply a lack of belief in any gods. There are as many different kinds of atheists as there are theists.

    The only thing all atheists have in common is one thing we don’t believe in. You might as well call a lack of belief in the Easter Bunny an ideology. Abunnyism, perhaps?

  79. Barry says:

    @Ransom Backus: “God deeply values us. EVERY part of us, even what we do with our genitals. He protects that part of us highly in the Bible. He cares more about us than we do.”

    If you believe that, fine. However, the problem comes when people try to impose their beliefs on those who don’t share them. Why should the fact that most Christians believe homosexuality is wrong be allowed to influence those of us who believe it’s natural and normal?

    Plus, of course, it is clear to see that a great many Christians put far too much emphasis on what people do with their genitals, to the exclusion of much else. I don’t happen to be gay, but if I was I’d take exception to religious people trying to legislate how I live my life. Why shouldn’t gay people be treated without discrimination? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to marry?

  80. feetxxxl says:

    frank emanuel

    yes it is human issue in that it is about human evolvement. again the church is the culture. the culture is the church. it is about the evolvement we have progessed to since our caveman existence. scientifically it is called the “spiral dynamic”

    for instance at the turn of the century, worldwide culture historicaly was unable to embrace that our neighbor was everybody else. that was true of the church as well.

    yet today, this “everyone else” being our neighbor understanding is embraced culturally worldwide as well as by the church.

    and this could only have been possible because of a century of the cultural revolutions about human rights, sexuality(individual expression), religion, etc.

  81. Ransom Backus says:

    Barry…I am fine with everything you have just stated. I just wish that homosexuals wouldn’t demand that the Church accept it. Unfortunately, imposing beliefs in this battle is a two way street. Personally I don’t tell homosexuals what to do. And I don’t think they should demand that the Church accept their sin as a good thing. They have heard our message before. If they reject it, that is on their heads. As for the emphasis? I don’t agree with you. I hear Christians discussing a wide variety of sins. I hear homosexuality mentioned maybe once or twice in a given year as I attend a church service.
    Now if you are referring to the political battles and the media, that is a different story. AS for me, I have decided to let America have the sin they wish to indulge in. Currently I have a hands off policy when it comes to American politics. I have washed my hands of the system and I am letting the chips fall where they may. But other Christians insist on politicizing everything. Christ never told us to legislate the Bible. And personally I don’t think it is a good idea.

  82. Barry says:

    @Ransom Backus: I’m glad we’re on the same page with that. One thing I strongly disagree on, however, is your statement that homosexuality is a sin. I do not believe for a moment that there is anything sinful about the natural sexual orientation someone was born with. To a gay person, heterosexual sex is unnatural.

    Until the churches accept homosexuals and stop calling them sinners, they are always going to be victimised and discriminated against in practice by Christians, even if in theory Christians say they love them. “Love the sin, hate the sinner” doesn’t work with gay people. To get an idea of how that works, can you imagine someone telling you that they love you as a person, but hate the fact that you are a heterosexual because it’s sinful and ugly? That’s what it’s like for gay people.

  83. feetxxxl says:

    frank emmanuel

    “if it does the Church, especially for the folks I’m familiar with, must never again stand by while injustice rears its ugly face.”

    50,000 germans, out of a country of 30 million, who were christians, jews, atheists etc did speak out when they put their lives on the line to hide jews.

    fact is that is that if one single credible person had spoken out worldwide, the death camps would have been closed down.

    but worldwide antisemetism, the powers that were, could not even allow that, that was how entrenched it was.

  84. feetxxxl says:

    and the reason the antisemetism ended was not out of some religous epiphany, but instead it was the day that the trade center was attacked and everyone realized that isreal and the rest of the world had a common enemy.

  85. feet says:

    frank emanuel

    consider that at the time of luther, there was not freedom of speech, everything was tightly theocractially controlled(responses to galileo’s theories). that luther was allowed to write what was antisemetic reflects the main stream doctrine of the times and what was cultural of those times.

    the point of this whole discussion is, that yes, the church, believers got things seriously wrong. but that in no way takes away from what christ did on the cross, instead it affirms its importance.

    that the church has been wrong about homosexuality for 2000 years is just one of a number of things it has gotten wrong throughout its history. being in christ is not about getting things right but about faith and redemption in and thru him.

    John 8:36
    So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

  86. That’s a pretty romantic understanding FeetXXL. North Americans seem to over inflate the importance of 911. Antisemitism is alive and well, unfortunately. And Muslims are not our common enemy, or even any enemy. And before you jump to the terrorist conclusion – Christians have long mastered fundamentalist forms of religion that foster systemic hatred.

    The situation we find ourselves in is far more complex than an us versus them analysis will ever grasp.

  87. Feet: your last post came in after my last one, at least for me. Although I’m not convinced that the censorship was as effective as you propose you are right that Luther was reflecting what were fairly normative views at his time. But IIRC the regrettable document of his came later in his ministry and he would have been a bit beyond censorship at that point.

    I hope I didn’t come across as detracting from Jesus’ incarnation, death, or resurrection. Those are pivotal for me and my faith as well. But I think that this conversation was opening up the possibility of understanding that even people of faith, who mean well, allow their unexamined presuppositions to cause their participation in injustice. I personally think there is something that needs to be addressed in this – something that the platitude of “God will work it out” just doesn’t cut it for. I hope I am making myself clear that I don’t think this is only a Christian problem – but a human problem (and I think you get that). In Christian theology we use the language of sin to understand this – but too often sin is just a way of whining about things that make us uncomfortable instead of naming injustice and evil. But that’s the problem – we need to think deeply about what it is we say we believe and why we think we believe it.

  88. feetxxxl says:

    frank emanuel

    “he would have been a bit beyond censorship at that point”
    that he would have this status, makes what he wrote all the more impacting.

    i know of no common understanding in the next 400 years that luther writings were in anyway in the extreme.

  89. feetxxxl says:

    in the south, post civil war, hangings of blacks by radical elements were commonplace. in fact justice black, in his early years in alabama was a member of the kkk, because membership was mandatory for political success. i know of no common understanding that alabamans were less christian than any other state.

  90. Ransom Backus says:

    @Barry…and I will never convince you otherwise. This is something God Himself showed me as I prayed. I have given up trying to do the job of the Holy Spirit which is convicting people of sin. If you disagree that this is a sin, then my job is done and it is then between you and God.

  91. Ransom Backus says:

    Barry…as for hating me for “being heterosexual.” I don’t consider myself heterosexual. Sexual desire is not what I am. I am simply a man, I have chosen to take a female wife in line with God’s plan for me. And if people think I am ugly and sinful for that reason, they would have a hard time showing me in the Bible how that is a sin as the Bible shows nothing but support for a male/female marriage. however I don’t see a single instance in the Bible where a homosexual relationship was encouraged, blessed, or endorsed by God.

  92. Barry says:

    @Ransom Backus: If God is that clear when you pray, ask him how to bring about world peace, how to cure AIDS and why so many priests are paedophiles, would you?

    In my experience, people who think they hear the voice of God tend to find that God agrees with every one of their own beliefs. Funny, that. And yet there are so many different denominations. Anyone would think God was saying different things to different people.

    As an atheist I don’t believe in God anyway, but if there was a God he would have to be sadistic kind of monster to create people with a naturally homosexual orientation and then condemn them for it. Then again, as this is the same God who supposedly created people knowing they would sin, and then condemned billions to hell because of his own mistake, that does kind of seem in character.

  93. Ransom Backus says:

    Barry….I have thought through all of the arguments you raise. I have had long discussions with atheists before about those very things. It always ends the same way, neither convinces the other. So I will just leave it at that. Be well.

  94. Lynn says:

    Barry,
    Your post above made me think of something I’d never thought of. The people who do hear from God could ask for some really useful information, like a cure for all cancers or something. How come he never tells them something like that? Or why do they never ask for something like that? We have to wait for some brainy science guy to figure out cures. It sure would make things better if God just told us.

    Oh, and per one Calvinist I was reading, God made the non-elect and will punish them in hell for the purpose of demonstrating his love for the elect and for his glory. Yep. Unless I misunderstood, that’s what he said.

  95. feetxxxl says:

    barry

    you left out the most important part. every transgression has been done out of human choice. its not about what he created but what man out of free choice has chosen to do with it, because they have chosen ally themselves with something other than christ’s love……………… their own flesh, or powers and principalities(world and satan). christ came to freely deliver believers from these transgressions. you keep talking the cultural concept of condemantion, because the culture says that law is the standard of what is of god, when instead it is love, christ’s love……………love your enemy, do good to those who curse you, do not return evil for evil but return instead good.

  96. feetxxxl says:

    barry

    where do you see in that love regardless of their beliefs, friends and family abandoning homosexuals, society including the church rejecting them,subjecting them to assault, murder and incarceration, and even execution……………..yet believers as well as non believers have done this.

  97. feetxxxl says:

    frank emmanuel
    church is the culture and the culture is the church. the culture is a general consensus of what has been made as in romans1:20.

    the church is the struggle of dealing with this consensus within as well as without in regards as to what is of christ.

  98. Feet: You keep chanting that same mantra about church and culture – what does it even mean?

  99. Barry says:

    @feetxxl: I didn’t leave anything out. As an atheist, I don’t believe in sin. As long as what someone is doing harms nobody, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business.

  100. feetxxxl says:

    barry

    i dont know anyone who holds christs love as the standard who would disagree with you.

    the standard is loving oneself as well as his neighbor

  101. Drew Costen says:

    First of all, free will is an illusion. Sure, we can choose our actions, but those choices are always predetermined by our nurture and nature. Ultimately, what we chose to do was what we were always going to choose.

    Barry is right that it would be unfair for God to punish us for being who He created us to be. Fortunately, He doesn’t. Considering the fact that the idea of everlasting torment in hell for non-Christians is completely unscriptural, which anyone who has actually studied soteriology in any depth already knows (see http://www.ChristianHeretic.com/hell if you haven’t studied it), that isn’t something we have to worry about.

  102. Ransom Backus says:

    @Lynn…I find that the most useful requests I make to God involves knowing the cause of the woes of mankind, not putting a bandaid on things. My requests usually aren’t so much WHAT as they are WHY. Knowing the why’s is far more valuable than knowing the whats. I have gained a lot of wisdom and deeper insight into things with this mentality. Do I have the cure for cancer? Sure, but I doubt people want to do what is required to cure it. We make decisions, that, unbeknownst to us destroy us in the long run. The problem is, we fail to see the connections between the decision and the destruction. I refer to that incredible novel “The Shack” In there the author points out that this world was meant to be lived in out of relationship with the Father. Without that relationship with Him, certain death and sufferings await. But people just don’t want to do that now do they? No. They would have to give up more than they are willing to. So instead we suffer these things that plague humanity, and really it IS our responsibility (collectively) as we, throughout history have made decisions that brought us to this point. But people don’t want to hear that. It is much easier to be the victim.

  103. Ransom Backus says:

    Drew…personally I ascribe to the annihilation theory. Most grace-believers don’t agree with me, but this is based on my own observations and experiences with God.

  104. Drew Costen says:

    Fair enough Ransom. I’m one of those grace-believers who also disagrees since I just don’t see it in Scripture (see my above link as to why), but we’re all allowed our own views. :)

  105. feetxxxl says:

    drew costen

    thank you, thank you so much for absolute assurance by slagle. there is no them or us, there is only us.

    i remember reading writings about a believer speaking of how some people have more disguised the christ(the spirit of christ lives in all because thru him all was created) in them than others, now i more clearly understand.
    in him there is no darkness, what looks like darkness to us is filled with light.

  106. Ransom Backus says:

    Drew…I never read anywhere in the Bible that says you have to believe in any form of hell for salvation, so you’re good in my book, all that is needed is Christ ;)

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