Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Difference is Evident

I know that those remaining in the PCUSA are probably tired of me making comparisons between the EOP and the EPC presbyteries. I do so not to frustrate anyone, but because there really is a difference.

Let me contrast my experiences being received in the various presbyteries of which I have been a part:

I was ordained into the UPCUSA through the Presbytery of San Gabriel in California. My examination—both before the candidates’ committee and on the floor of presbytery—was thorough. I was asked questions on theological subjects, polity, and the Bible. The examinations may have been more thorough because so many seminary professors were in the presbytery, including Jack Rogers (Fuller), Paul Jewett (Fuller), and Burton Mack (Claremont).

We moved to Scotland where I had to go through a complete ordination examination again. I was told that they weren’t simply accepting American ordination certificates because of problems they had recently had. It turned out that those problems were a result of their confusion over the difference between Methodist candidates ordained to the deaconate rather than the pastorate.

Anyway, I had to stand (sit?) oral exams on theology, polity, Bible, and church history. I was also required to translate significant passages of Scripture from the Hebrew and Greek, something I might have trouble doing today!

When I came to Oklahoma in 1982 I was twice interviewed. There were two consistent sets of questions: “Did I support the ordination of women?” I confidently answered “yes,” but was suspect because I was a Fuller grad (this was said by the committee up-front). The other question was about prayer. At my first meeting with the committee one pastor asked me if I really believed that God answered prayer. I answered “yes,” as I still would.

They were not satisfied with my answers, so I had to return from California to Tulsa for a second examination. Again I was asked if I would support the ordination of women. Between the first and second meeting there had been the crash of an airliner in Louisiana, and the same pastor asked me “do you think that the people in that plane’s prayers weren’t answered?” This, to me, demonstrated a naive understanding of prayer and a complete misunderstanding of Reformed theology.

Before the presbytery I gave my testimony and (wouldn’t you know it) was asked by someone on the floor if I supported women’s ordination. My answer must have been satisfactory, because I was admitted without a negative vote.

Today, Wayne and I were examined over the phone by two teaching elders (pastors) of the EPC presbytery. This was a preliminary examination, since both the Kirk and the EPC are at the inquiry stage. The examiners asked us to describe the Kirk. They then wanted to know our basis for the interpretation of Scripture, as well as our acceptance of the theological essentials of the EPC and the Westminster Confession. This presbytery has not ordained women to the office of teaching elder although women are ordained as deacons and elders, according to individual churches beliefs. The fact that we would prefer that the presbytery ordain women as pastors was not received with hostility or incredulity, but grace.

Following the time together, the lead examiner emailed Wayne and me, thanking us for our time and interest, and even suggested further reading for us better to understand them.

I don’t know what the future holds. We may be admitted into the EPC. We or they may decide that we will do something different. But what we have experienced so far indicates a commitment to Scripture, Reformed faith, and Truth that I have not experienced in a long, long time.

Keep praying—keep the faith,
Tom

33 comments:

Jodie said...

Tom,

You said:

“I am not intolerant of differing views, so long as they do not threaten the foundation of faith.”

This is the basic problem I have with your point of view: If the foundation of your faith can be threatened by someone else’s differing views, then there must be something wrong with the foundations of your faith. What exactly are they, that you feel so strongly the need to shield them from differing views? How can differing views poison your faith?

I don’t mean the question in a rhetorical sense. I really would like to know, because >my< faith is absolutely impervious to other people’s point of view. What poisons my soul, but not my faith, are other peoples actions, not their views. Until I understand this fundamental piece of the puzzle, I will never understand why it is that leaving the PCUSA solves your problem.

You have given many reasons for leaving, but none of them address the foundations of your faith and how they are made vulnerable. Can you help me understand?

Jodie

Cameron Mott said...

Tom,

How many ordained teaching elders in the EPC are women?

Toby Brown said...

Thanks for this account!

It is really helpful, so I encourage you to keep writing...if only for the few of us who have forgotten (or never knew) what it could be like to be with a group of disciples who take theology and Christian living under the authority of the Word as seriously as the EPC obviously does!

I long for a day where we all can be in a covenant relationship with other Reformed brothers and sisters around the globe who are both wholeheartedly committed to the historic faith AND making that faith the sole governing principle of our lives.

That kind of community might just change the world!

Do you think the New Wineskins Association could become just this sort of community for us?

PS--these posts about real theological conversations are also making me jealous. :)

TomGray said...

Jodie,
Threatening the foundation is threatening the faith. If there is no foundation there can be no structure above it. If a denomination denies the foundation, it has made the move out of the faith.

The PCUSA has openly affirmed re-reading Scripture through a modernist lens, denying its sole authority.

Orthodox Christianity (formerly including the PCUSA and others) teaches that Scripture is THE Word of God, not just words from God. The difference between the two is astronomical.

Tom

I hope that this is clear enough.
Tom

TomGray said...

Cameron,
I don't know the total. I do know that there are women teaching elders in the Presbytery of the West (I may have the presbytery name wrong, but the location is right).
Tom

Paul said...

Jodie commented, "If the foundation of your faith can be threatened by someone else’s differing views, then there must be something wrong with the foundations of your faith."

May I reply with a story? Something about your comment reminded me of one of my son's silly story videos, one about a "yodeling veterinarian of the alps." Seems this doctor went a little loopy, and decided he could cure sick animals simply by yodeling a comforting song to them.

That's a differing view of veterinary medicine, but what should the traditional doctors do when this different one applies for a licence? Is the best approach to say "can't approve you because your differing views attack the very fundamentals of veterinary medicine"? Or is the best approach to say "well, your different views don't threaten me, because >my< commitment to proper veterinary medicine is absolutely impervious to other people’s point of view"?

It makes no eternal difference whether someone roots for the longhorns or the aggies. But it is eternally decicive whether or not one relies on Jesus Christ as the unique Son of God, our singular saving Lord. And I could no more affirm the ministry of one who denied that than a responsible veterinarian could affirm the practice of a doctor who tried to heal by yodeling.

The foundation of faith is not just something I happen to believe. They are not just beliefs that I hold. They are truths that hold me.

Andrew Strong said...

Jodie,

Perhaps the correct use of the article "the" may speed the illumination process. From the quote which you provided, Tom states that differing views are OK so long as they do not threaten THE foundation of faith. There is no indication that his faith individually has been shaken, nor that it could be shaken.

Thanks for updating us out-of-towners consistently, Tom!

Blessings

Mr. E said...

Pastor Gray,
Thanks for sharing your story on your ordination experiences. I read your response to Jodie and some differences on scripture and pastoral perspective to it comes to mind. The difference in presenting scripture reading says alot. Some proclaim "Listen TO the Word of the Lord". In comparison there are others who say "Listen FOR the Word of the Lord". The minor change in wording can speak volumes on one's position on scripture. Just some food for thought...

In Peace,
Mr. E

Cameron Mott said...

Tom,

It seems I missed where it has already been answered in the "Joining the EPC" response by Carolyn Nystrom, RE; Immanuel Presbyterian (EPC); Warrenville, IL:


“EPC currently has 2 women ordained as Teaching Elders--one a pastor and the other a retired hospital chaplain. Presbytery of the West currently has several women in the candidate process.”

Thanks.

The Silver Fox said...

Tom,

I clicked the link to 'Affirming Laudianism' on your blog spot. It's encouraging to know that you are keeping your sense of humor through all of this!! :o)

Jodie said...

Dear Tom,

Thank you for your response. It seems to point to a paradox.

If you accept the authority of scripture, then you do not accept the authority of the PCUSA or even of Orthodox Christianity. If they say something you disagree with, why should you care? They are not the authority. Not even if they are right.

If on the other hand you do accept their authority and you do not agree with them, you indeed have a problem. You do not really accept the scripture as authority as you say you do, and you have to find a way to submit to them in the matters you disagree with.

Such cognitive dissonance must be intolerable.

The closest thing to harmony you will experience in life will be to submit to the authority of an institution that most closely appears (at least in your way of thinking) to submit to the authority of scripture.

So I guess it all makes sense. I see why you want to leave, and I see why the EPC appears to be a good choice. It may even buy you some peace, but does it really address the root cause of your concern? Maybe it's close enough, but for me it would be unsatisfying.

As far as reading the scriptures through a modernist lens, what lens do you prefer instead?

Jodie

Stephen said...

Tom,

I'm not on top of absolutely every single thing the PCUSA GA did this summer, but I've followed the PUP and Trinity issues closely. Please cite exactly the words the GA used that have "openly affirmed re-reading Scripture through a modernist lens, denying its sole authority."

I can't find the words, or actions that suggest them, anywhere.

And by exact, I don't mean your "illustrations", paraphrases of opinions, or references to The Layman. Please cite the exact words of the GA.

Keeping the faith,
Stephen

Ted Rossier said...

Stephen,

I have a question for you. Do you, or do you not, support the ordination of openly practicing homosexuals to the Gospel ministry?

If so, on what basis do you support it?

If not, are you willing to remain in a church or denomination that authorizes it, if not explicitly, then implicitly by failure to act against such ordination?

Ted

TomGray said...

Stephen
"If an ordaining or installing body determines that an officer-elect has departed from G-6.0106b, a manner-of-life standard, the ordaining/installing body must then determine whether this departure violates essentials of faith or polity."

G-6.0106b is a "shall" section of the constitution, therefore an essential. How can a violation of an essential not violate that essential?
Tom

Cameron Mott said...

Tom,

Isn't that part of the rationale to an AI that didn't pass, as the AI for which that rationale was written was replaced by an amended AI?

Also, could anyone explain to me how an AI of a section about freedom of conscience in interpreting Scripture [G-6.0108], within in bounds of the Constitution, applies to the fidelity/chastity ordination standard [G-6.0106]?

Thanks in advance.

Jodie said...

Tom,

Are you kidding about G6.0106b being an essential? Have you read it lately? Not even Tom Gray of the Kirk can satisfy its requirements!

Jodie

TomGray said...

Cameron,
I took the quote from the final document, as approved by the GA.
Tom

TomGray said...

Jodie,
It's not hard to abide by G6-0106b. All of us sin. We agree to repent of our sin. This is all that the paragraph requires. What it targets is officers who willfully commit a sin, acknowledge it, and do not repent.
Tom

Jim Loughlin said...

For those of you unfamiliar with the Book of Order, G-6.0106b states:

"b. Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament."

Pretty straightforward and not difficult to meet - unless you are an unrepentant sinner.

Cameron Mott said...

Tom,

Isn't that final report what was proposed by the Task Force but includes the passed-over version of Rec. 5 not the amended and passed version of Rec.5.

You are quoting the rationale to the out-dated Rec.5 [if I have it straight] but in LES I only see where the amended Rec. 5 was passed and the rationale is not part of the motion passed.

Who's on first?

Can someone explain what is up with rationales, especially rationales that are written for legislation which is subsequently amended?

Thanks.

Stephen said...

Tom and Ted (we'll kill two birds with one stone, if you'll pardon the "illustration"),

Thank you. You have revealed the weakness of G-6.0106b, which states "Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament".

There are many practices which the CONFESSIONS call sin but which the Church, after careful study of scripture as led by the Holy Spirit, now no longer call sin. I didn't have all day to address every single reference to sin in the confessions (the word itself appears in the Book of Confessions [BC] many hundreds of times), but I will lift out a few examples and comment on them. The majority of the examples are from the Larger Catechism (LC), which is a companion document to the Westminster Confession and should thrill the "WC only" crowd. I begin, though, with one of my favorite "sins" from the older Scots Confession (SC).

--"This is why we abandon the teaching of the Roman Church and withdraw from its sacraments; firstly, because their ministers are not true ministers of Christ Jesus (indeed they even allow women, whom the Holy Ghost will not permit to preach in the congregation to baptize)" (SC, Ch. XXII; BC 3.22).

My wife is an ordained (and self-acknowledged practicing) minister of the Word and Sacrament. I have voted many times for the ordination of women to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament, and I will do so in the future, if I believe them to be called by God and faithful to that call. Both of our children were baptized by a female minister. The SC clearly views this as a sin. I heartily refuse to repent of this practice which the confession calls sin.

--"Q. 109. What are the sins forbidden in the Second Commandment?
A. ...the making any representation of God, of all, or of any of the three Persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever" (LC; BC 7.219).

The LC clearly views every church parlor, Sunday School classroom, pastor's study, or believer's home that has a picture of Jesus on the wall or desk (as my study at church does) to be a den of perdition. I have had mental images of Jesus while studying scripture, praying, meditating, providing pastoral care, teaching, and preaching. I heartily refuse to repent of this practice which the confession calls sin.

--"Q. 113. What are the sins forbidden in the Third Commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the Third Commandment are: the not using of God’s name as is required" (LC; BC 7.223).

College and seminary professors taught me the name Yahweh, and spoke it aloud in class. I have taught the name Yahweh to my congregations in the midst of classes and worship. We have called upon Yahweh together aloud in prayer. There are extended dialogues in the Bible where persons refer to Yahweh by name out loud. I heartily refuse to repent of this practice which the confession calls sin.

--"Q. 128. What are the sins of inferiors against their superiors?
A. The sins of inferiors against their superiors are: ...rebellion against their persons...as proves a shame and dishonor to them and their government" (LC; BC 7.238).

The scriptural proof provided by the LC for this sin is 2 Samuel 15:1-12: Absalom's rebellion against his father, King David. Interestingly enough, Absalom did not rebel until after his sister Tamar was raped by their half-brother Amnon. David did nothing to bring Amnon to justice, or to console his daughter Tamar. Granted, Absalom's solution was not only extreme, it was sinful. How might he have responded if David had fulfilled his duties as a father (see LC, questions 129 and 130)?

I have had parishioners who were sexually abused by parents, as I was by my father. Their healing, and mine, required breaking the silence and seeking professional help such as that offered by Christian counselors. This is enormously shaming to parents who refuse to enter into healing. In fact, it requires children to rebel against their parents' "government" in order to be faithful to God. I heartily refuse to repent of this practice which the confession calls sin.

--"Q. 142. What are the sins forbidden in the Eighth Commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the Eighth Commandment besides the neglect of duties required are: ...injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust" (LC; BC 7.238).

Setting aside all issues related to property, the Kirk and its session entered into covenant (contract) with the PCUSA when it became a congregation of the PCUSA. Its officers vowed to conform to the constitution, which included a specific process for leaving the denomination. While the Kirk might claim that the PCUSA fell away from scripture and did not hold faithful to that covenant, that does not release the Kirk from remaining faithful to its part of the covenant. Where would we sinners be if God did not remain true to God's covenant? Though we are not God, we are called to be like God by keeping our promises. Of this sin, every session elder and member of the Kirk who voted to disaffiliate from the PCUSA is guilty. You may still repent, if you choose to be faithful, and follow the process to which you originally covenanted. Ironically, only Tom and Wayne were faithful in the way they renounced the jurisdiction of the PCUSA.

If you disagree with the LC Q&A 142, then you must acknowledge that it was not a sin for you to break your contract with the PCUSA, and you must recognize that the Westminster standards are fallible.

With all that stated, the confessions are not scripture, nor are they deutero-canon. They are repositories of the Church's historical INTERPRETATIONS of scripture. They are also chronicles of the Church's faithful CHANGES in interpretation. The Bible does not change, but the confessions may, and frankly do, as we grow in faith. Thus, from the same Bible as before, the Spirit has led the Church to grow beyond the prison of that statement in the Scots Confession (that women may not baptize). We have been freed to embrace the realization that "The same Spirit who inspired the prophets and apostles...calls women and men to all ministries of the Church" (A Brief Statement of Faith, lines 58-59, 64; BC 10.4).

In similar fashion (from the same Bible as before), the Spirit has led the Church to change its understanding with regards to its oppression of children and slaves, its abuse of nature, and its idolatry of nationalism, to name but three of its many historic sins.

For that reason, each governing body, when presented with a scruple, must prayerfully study scripture and ask itself, "Is this practice, which the confessions call sin, truly a sin within the context of God's will as expressed in scripture and illuminated for us by the Spirit this very day?"

For today, the only answer we have for whether or not the Church may ordain persons in monogamous, covenanted, adult same-sex relationships is, "No." The majority still interpret scripture that way. As an ordained officer of the PCUSA, I must and do abide by the current standard.

At the same time, it is my right to claim my scruple and say I disagree. It is also my right to work to change the denomination's interpretation of scripture. Dissent does not mean disobedience. Stop equating the two. I obey the majority while I work to help the majority see how we all must obey God instead. I am not alone in that work. Each day a growing number of dissidents are adding their voices to those of the Spirit and calling the Church to end its heterosexist sin.

Ted, As a sexual abuse survivor, a monogamous husband, and a father, I am keen on the Church standing firm in the scriptural ground of sexual purity. I know first hand what happens when God's good gift of sexuality is perverted. With that desire of purity in mind and heart, I have studied scripture and found that monogamous, covenanted, adult relationships are the biblical norm for mutual sexual expression, regardless of sexual orientation.

On what basis to I support my view? Read back over the months of this blog and listen to the voices of those who support LGBT ordination. I will not waste time retyping their words knowing full well you will dismiss them out of hand, as you did before.

For now, Tom has yet to answer my question satisfactorily. I asked for the exact words used by the GA to support his bold claim that it had "openly affirmed re-reading Scripture through a modernist lens, denying its sole authority". He gave nothing, except to quote an untenable provision in G-6.0106b that places the authority of the confessions over the authority of scripture. I have answered his provision with concrete examples of the fallibility of the confessions. More knowledgeable (and more patient) persons than I could do far better, and they have.

But we know how Tom and those of like mind have dismissed the faithful, competent scholarship of the evangelical Jack Rogers simply because it is a different interpretation of the same Bible.

Keeping the faith,
Stephen

Andrew Strong said...

stephen

Your words are so well-written, I wish they were correct.

"different interpretations of the Bible" in other circles already include "Another Testament of Jesus Christ" and the Koran. The main disagreement that you may have found in this discussion will not be rectified by citing the "faithful, competent" scholarship of Jack Rogers. It may be faithful and competent, sir, but certainly not to the objective truth of God's word.

Respectfully,

Andrew Strong

Ted Rossier said...

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.


--Romans 1:18-32

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

--2 Timothy 3:1-9


Make no mistake, Stephen. You will be held accountable.

I will leave your twisting and misinterpretation of the Westminster Standards to others.

Jodie said...

Stephen,

You stole the words right out of my keyboard.

Good thing, because Tom and Jim Laughlin’s response had left me speechless.

Are we to challenge their ability to pass the bar? If they say it is easy for them, then I guess it must be so. It sure is not easy for me. I would have to take the path you chose. To rename the sin as non-sin, or to sin boldly. That is the question. If a sin is no longer a sin, or if what one generation was absolutely sure was a sin, and the next generation is equally sure it is not, then what is sin? But if I choose rather to sin boldly, then perhaps I will know the true meaning of grace even if the true meaning of sin remains illusive. Which is better, to truly know the meaning of sin, or to truly know the meaning of grace? For I am becoming increasingly convinced we cannot know them both.

Perhaps the confessions of the church and the conservative Evangelicals are like Job’s friends before them and just plain wrong. Maybe it is they who are not saying things about God that are true. Maybe the rest of us will eventually be asked to pray for them, for their forgiveness, in order for them to be saved.

Now wouldn’t >that< be an ironic (and scriptural) twist of fate?

Jodie

Ted Rossier said...

Oops, I forgot one. There are so many.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

--2 Timothy 4:3-4

I was also going to post 2 Peter 2, but I will encourage everyone to read it instead.

liberty4u said...

Stephen: You have a very well written and detailed argument. As I have pointed out to Mark Smith, your argument sounds like the logical fallacy of the Ad Hominem Tu quoque (you-too) argument. You may not be making this logical fallacy, it just appears that way to me, and maybe other readers.

Here is what I hear you saying: Because conservatives are hypocrites, then it is okay for liberals to be hypocrites also. You probably aren't saying this, but I would recommend that when you or Mark try to use this argument, spend some time for readers like me explaining why it is not a logical fallacy.

Wikipedia has some great stuff on the fallacy:

Tu quoque (Latin for "You, too" or "You, also") is a line of one's defensive argument based on the concept that the adversary party also engages (or has engaged in the past) in the act for which one is accused by that party. This argumentative move works by showing that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it. It can be considered an ad hominem argument, since it focuses on the opposite party itself, rather than its positions.

An example of its use in court was in the Nuremberg Trials, where the defendants attempted to introduce a tu quoque argument, in claiming that the Allies too had committed crimes similar to those of which the Nazi regime was accused. (This line of defense was eventually not allowed by the court's judges.)

Jim Loughlin said...

Jodie -

I am not trying to be flippant or "holier than thou" on ordination standards. When I read G-6.0106b it states that I should be faithful to Scripture and repent of my sins. Jesus calls us to repent of our sins. Repentance is not unattainable - being sinless is (except for Jesus). I don't know what I said that leaves you speechless. It is my opinion that this section of the BOO is pretty straightforward and unambiguous. The confessions certainly complicate things, because we have so many of them. But the confessions are not Scripture (as Stephen pointed out).

Ted Rossier said...

Jodie,

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.


--Romans 6:1-4,12-18

Eww, man! There's that pesky Bible again.

What do you think is the "standard of teaching" to which Paul is referring? And notice that he says "obedient from the heart". That is precisely the issue. None of us can be obedient perfectly, but we can have a heart's desire for truth and righteousness. Paul goes on to describe the believer's spiritual struggle and eventual victory in chapters 7-8.

The standard: the righteousness of God revealed in the Scriptures. The response of the believer: repentance of sin (that is to say, falling short, Rom. 3:23) and a desire for righteousness, and a realization that Christ is "God our righteousness" but that nevertheless we must live to our fullest ability and understanding in accordance with what the Scriptures teach us. That is sanctification.

Ted

Stephen said...

Dear liberty4u,

I didn't suggest, nor do I believe, that because conservatives are hypocrites, liberals may be hypocrites also. In fact, I didn't say, nor do I believe, that conservatives categorically are hypocrites. Frankly, I don't care for hypocrisy from any quarter, including myself, though I've seen it in equal amounts from conservaties and liberals alike.

My point, to quote the Book of Order (G-2.0200), is that "These confessional statements are subordinate standards in the church, subject to the authority of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, as the Scriptures bear witness to him". Short of Jesus making a personal end-time appearance, scripture, not the confessions, must be the final authority in all matters. How we interpret scripture, therefore, will be crucial in current debates.

Just as the Church's interpretation of scripture changed with regard to ordination of women, it may well change with regard to ordination of LGBT persons. Personally, I believe not only that it will change, but that the change is being led by the Holy Spirit.

Keeping the faith,
Stephen

Stephen said...

Ted,

Thank God for those words of Paul that you quoted from Romans 6: "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?"

We (Jodie and several of us) are not saying that the passage has no authority, only that it is not relevant in the case of homosexuality because homosexuality per se is not a sin.

I say this, not as a difference of opinion, but as a difference of interpretation of scripture.

What scriptures, you ask? As I said in my earlier comments, go back and reread the posts by progressives over the last few months. It's all listed there.

Keeping the faith,
Stephen

Matt Ferguson said...

Stephen,
I think the EPC has done better at heading off such arguments as yours by holding to one confession only and updating it, not only in language but also to reflect current beliefs. (I am still in the PCUSA so any of you EPC folks jump right in and correct me.)
They also have position papers on various controversial topics to add greater clarity.
The PCUSA, with its poor decision to expand to a Book of Confessions and with the confessions not updated, opens itself up to such a line of attack as you present. We have had overtures defeated in this presbytery that were trying to call our denomination to update our confessions so that there wouldn’t be this childish sort of attack. I say childish because I believe you know what you are trying to do is simply confuse, that you don’t really have a problem understanding how we go to the Book of Confessions for help in understanding scripture. In the end, your type of argument doesn't stand (hasn't stood up in church court), though it does add confusion and helps to mislead some into error. Neither is something our Lord will approve so I would recommend you to move away from it lest you be held accountable for a grave sin.
Deacon Matt

Ted Rossier said...

Stephen,

You said:

"homosexuality per se is not a sin"

and God says:

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." (Leviticus 18:22)

Now in the same passage of Leviticus, incest and bestiality are condemned. As an officer in the church, you are apt to teach. So teach me. I want you to tell me plainly how you can read that passage as permitting homosexuality. And if you do, you must also approve of incest and bestiality.

Where do you draw the line, and on what basis do you draw it? How about polygamy? What if 2 men want to marry 3 women? How about group homes with 20 people who are all married to each other and have nightly orgies? Do you approve of that? That is the logic, or lack thereof, of your position. You are seriously, sadly misled.

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!


--Isaiah 5:20-21

trumpet worship said...

Tom

This response is going to be a bit random. If you wish to respond, please do.

I've heard the terms Evangelical and Progressive used so I'll adopt them for this discussion.

I had a visit from a friend from another state this weekend. He dropped by during the service at our church. During the service, an update on our request to be dismissed from PCUSA was presented. That seeded some of the discussion for the afternoon. My friend considers himself a liberal, and after our discussion I would agree with him.

What the discussion highlighted for me was why progressives and evangelicals cannot come to common ground, and why they are incompatible. My friend is willing to compromise. He feels that his sins are no worse or better than anyone else's sins. And that we should not be judging others sins. I was agreeing to the 1st and disagreeing to the second. I was trying to explain non-repentant sin, but I don't think it was his time to be receptive. I was also trying to explain holding those in your faith group (congregation, small group, etc) accountable. Again I don't think I made progress.

Anyway the difference - progressives want to compromise, we all need to get along, evangelicals cannot compromise - scripture is God's will and commands for us.

I find that I would now identify myself as evangelical, and several years ago I would have identified myself as progressive - thinking those "Jesus freaks" are too far out. Time and study changed that.

Obviously I think that I'm correct. And I imagine that the progressives think that they are correct. I know I did when I had that view on life.

I have hope for my friend. He probably has hope for me. If it takes him 20 years to make the same transition - there could be a problem. Not sure either of us will last that long.

Like I said - it would be random.