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Topic: COMMENTARIES by S. Michael Craven

Confusion & Compromise: Restoring the Next Generation

November 17, 2008
S. Michael Craven
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I received many responses to last week’s article, Marriage Survives! Can it Endure? Some revealed the very problem I was addressing: the next generation, including many Christians, are either confused or compromised on the issue of homosexuality and, by implication, biblical authority.

One young college student wrote:

I have been a Christian all my life. I am ashamed at the way you put down homosexuals. You should educate yourself about the culture you are attacking. If Jesus was as exclusive as you how would the Gospel message have been spread? Love all God's children and learn something about a social group before you attack all of them as immoral sex freaks. Closed minded Christians like yourself are what is pushing us youth away from the church in the first place. Shame on you!

After several lengthy e-mails back and forth, this central theme emerged:

I think a lot of what this argument boils down to is our interpretations of Scripture. It seems to me that you are arguing that homosexuality is a sin because the Bible says so. Now I am no minister, and I’m sure you could provide more examples, but as far as I know the only book in the entire Bible that EXPLICITLY describes homosexuality as a sin is the Book of Leviticus. It seems that all your other scriptural evidence comes from verses concerning heterosexual marriage, to which you are reading in condemnations of homosexuality. The point here is that you seem to interpret the Bible very literally. But if you adhere to the Law as defined in the Old Testament then shouldn’t all Christians be kosher? Should we all stop eating pork, wearing clothes with more than one fabric, etc.? So if Christians can in fact break the Law of Moses then by what authority do you condemn homosexuality? Isn’t it the Law of Moses that gives you your position on homosexuality?

He continues:

Finally, here is my biggest problem with your position. You act as though your opinion of scripture is God’s. … Is your notion of truth not based on your own interpretation of scripture? And aren’t you a human? And if those two things are true, then isn’t your interpretation of scripture subject to the flaw that marks all humans? … A certain aspect of Christianity is left to mystery because none of us can ever fully understand God. Thus we are left to make the best decisions with what information we have. We are all unique so our decisions will be different, that doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. ONLY GOD gets to decide that. And you sir, are not God.

The following is a portion of my response:

I really appreciate the thoughtfulness with which you have responded (despite your occasional jabs). You have obviously thought deeply about this and I think we, as Christians, should consider these matters carefully. Also, Christian love compels us to reason together when we disagree in a way that does not undermine the unity we share in Christ. Clearly we are dealing with a complex issue that ultimately involves people who are precious to God. So I am in no way offering a reproach to those people living the homosexual lifestyle; I am instead addressing the behavior and testing—against Scripture—the proposition: is it morally right or wrong? This is, after all, our final authority for such determinations.

That being the case, it is not fair to simply reduce our disagreement to the matter of interpretation. To do so, comes perilously close to the deconstructive approach to reading put forth by Jacques Derrida. While there is some truth to the postmodern claim that interpretations necessarily vary, it is incorrect to assume that because of this condition there is no possibility for ever discovering the truth. The truth is not found in interpretation but rather in the meaning of the text itself as established by the author. The proper approach to biblical interpretation is one in which the whole of Scripture is considered and what the Scriptures reveal to us about God and his moral character. In this way we are given a clearer picture. Certainly not complete in some cases, but neither incomplete in every instance.

We may, for example, deduce different interpretations of the Bible’s intent regarding baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or eschatology, but this is only because the Scriptures are not exhaustive on these subjects. Good Christians can disagree on these matters and remain within orthodoxy.

Furthermore, you are correct in asserting that we are “flawed” human beings and thus limited in our understanding. Our mind, along with every other aspect of our nature, is adversely affected by sin. This certainly hinders our ability to perfectly interpret God’s revelation. As the apostle Paul said, “We see through a glass darkly.” However, this is not true of everything in Scripture and it does not mean that we cannot know the truth about anything. This is where tradition and the collective wisdom of the Christian community are invaluable.

For example, are the commandments against murder, adultery, and lying subject to interpretation beyond their implicit intent? Is the divinity of Jesus subject to interpretation? What about salvation through Christ alone? Certainly not, and I think you would likely agree. We understand these as absolutes. To venture beyond what are the accepted dogma, creeds, and doctrine of the church based solely on one’s own interpretation is to regard yourself as the ultimate and final authority. Suffice it to say that such an approach is fraught with peril and often leads to error.

Suffice it to say, I went on to share numerous arguments that most of you have read before, including the New Testament passages (Romans 1: 24–28, 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 and 1 Timothy 1:8–11) that directly condemn homosexual acts. This dialogue clearly illustrates the problem within the church. However, as you can see here, the real problem is not rooted in the issue of same-sex marriage but biblical knowledge and authority. This young believer, like so many of his peers, has suffered far greater influence from the culture than discipleship from the church. It is in the church first that we must begin to create culture.

Thankfully, this young man responded with grace and humility, writing, “I must first apologize … clearly I’ve over-estimated my own knowledge …” demonstrating that being prepared with an answer given with gentleness in love can persuade or at least encourage someone to reconsider his position, which is often a starting point.

© 2008 by S. Michael Craven

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Responses
Response from : Ronald A. Newcomb  

November 17, 2008 11:49 AM
 

There are many different ways we can view God and his activities. By this I mean we can look at him from his biological designs and conclude he is the master of biological design. We can look at his creation of the universe and say he is the only astrological designer or creator. We can look at him as the Great Physician and say he can heal whomever he chooses and he did this when Jesus healed, then the Apostles were given the same power, and so forth. He is also the great jurist, the final judge, and so we can see him as being just. Of course he gave his life for our redemption, so the greatest lover.
One thing I have noticed in scripture is that he is also the greatest engineer and seems to get us to conform to his designs. Having done engineering I can attest to the fact that if people tried to plug a telephone jack into our high speed RF coaxial switch, it simply doesn’t work.
Now imagine if the people using it kept pushing the wrong type of plugs together, claimed that was acceptable, then ignored the failure of the device, rather just kept replacing it. Imagine the engineer, in this case, me, having to deal with people telling me how it should work or how they wanted to abuse my work over and over again even in light of the overt failure. It would make me mad. It makes God mad also when we abuse the engineered device he created. It makes him very angry.
He gave us this beautiful gift called sex that, then properly used is a wonderful device for communicating between two beings that normally have different modes of communication, but in the act of love communicate intimately and deeply lining lives together, and even reproducing that life in others, but also draw them closer together.
But now start to abuse that and all sorts of things start to go wrong. The engineer becomes upset at the abuse, the jurist sees abuse and injustice, the biologist sees many biological problems the master psychologist sees something is wrong, but the great communicator and lover of mankind already gave us the rulebook and not for his fulfillment, but for ours. The chief engineer gave us the directions that we are ignoring and continuing to abuse the device he created for a proper purpose but is now being used improperly.
So, from the engineers viewpoint, we have used the device wrongly and ought not be surprised when the device fails (the average homosexual lives only into his early 60’s, many die of gruesome diseases such as aids but also cancers caused by other STD’s, or hepatitis A and B, gonorrhea,). From the master psychologists view the thinking is awry with depression and anxiety anger and violence as illustrated by the response of the men of Sodom when the angels were protected by Lot, and by the beatings of people who supported Prop 8 here in California and our lesbian D.A. who refuses to prosecute or even discuss this as a hate crime. So people with no morals in sexuality have no morals in other things. Go figure. They reduce the beautiful act of love to a mere physical act with no communication between partners, with almost unspeakable acts in bath houses, not to be discussed here, but anonymous acts with people you don’t even see and check out a gay health clinic where you can get medications that prevent your HIV from being “detectable” so you can continue to spread the disease. Of course from the biologist’s viewpoint, his creation is misusing the organism and suffering direct consequence for it.
From the sociologist’s viewpoint, the people calling Christians “intolerant” then beat people who disagree, so where is the intolerance? And, when the 2% claim to be more than 10% or 15% or 40%, all numbers I have heard from the gay community, who are the liars then? When the head of education for the State of California claims that schools will not be taught about gay marriage because schools don’t teach about marriage but his website contradicts this as every parent knows, who is lying to whom?
From a moralists viewpoint, should we be surprised when someone who commits sexual immorality are immoral in other areas, willing to kill other for pleasure, which is what the spreading of HIV is, or the felony violence against moral people, or the lies they directly and willingly participate in on public advertisements?
From the jurists viewpoint, when the law giver is also the judge, he has given fair warning of how to behave and what to do as well as what not to do in moral laws written on our hearts, is it any surprise that when significant violation of the moral rules are experienced, the law giver/jurist judges the offender?
Judgment is his to give out. That is, he is the one to condemn in the final judgment day (“condemnation”), however, using discretion and good judgment to understand that the rules are there for a purpose and ought to be followed is indeed our job to rightly discern right and wrong behavior. To call sin, sin, for to do otherwise is to be deceived and lie to ourselves and others about truth. And, yes, legislation is the method we use in civics to describe the kinds of behaviors we want to see in our culture (the acting out of the belief system (“cult”) which dominates a society) and which we do not want to see in our culture. Yes, you do indeed dictate morality by legislation, that is what legislation is, what is why it says, do not rape, murder, steal, abuse, and so on. These are moral rules written into laws to preserve our culture and prevent anarchy.


 
Response from : jonathan blake  

November 18, 2008 5:49 PM
 

i appreciate your appraoch in response to the topic. your right the culture should be created by the churchand sustained by the love of christ,not provoking meen to anger,but able to receive through a soft answer.


 
Response from : jonathan blake  

November 19, 2008 8:43 AM
 

i appreciate your appraoch in response to the topic. your right the culture should be created by the churchand sustained by the love of christ,not provoking meen to anger,but able to receive through a soft answer.


 

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