Time For Truth

A place to grow in the Grace & Knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ

Equality?

One of the major arguments for “gay marriage” is equality.  Proponents both inside and outside of “church” organizations often claim that they are fighting for equality.  When they encounter failure in secular or religious political fights, they claim that the decisions went against equality.  When they encounter political victories, they claim that equality has won out.

Let us for a moment examine the argument for equality.

Question 1:

Do self-identified homosexuals have fewer political/church rights than those who do not identify themselves as gay?  Do they have the same marriage rights?

The answer of course is a resounding yes.  They have exactly the same rights as all others.  They have the right to marry someone of the opposite sex, just as anyone else does.  They do not have the right to marry someone of the same sex, like all others.  What is actually being attempted is a redefinition of marriage, not a rights issue.  This has nothing to do with equality or fairness.

Within my own PCUSA there are several groups who exist for the sole purpose of the promotion of full acceptance of homosex behavior, often using the argument of equality.  The argument is made that active self-affirming unrepentant homosexuals are banned from leadership positions within the church, and are therefore “unequal”.  They therefore fight for the equality of homosexuals, including the arena of marriage.

In fact, the term equality is often used to frame the debate.  This is completely dishonest.  For one must first provide sufficient proof within a Christian context that God recognizes homosexuality as a personhood identifier.  There is no definitive scientific/biological or even psychological evidence for this, let alone a shred of biblical evidence.  Until enough such evidence can be provided which leads to concession from the opposing side, then this argument is fallacious to the extreme.

The fact is that all those who have a sinful homosex bent, are called to repent and turn to God for forgiveness.  They are then called to live in obedience to Christ and his infallible word, making them eligible for positions of spiritual leadership.  It is the same for those who have a bent for gossiping, or lying, or stealing.  All of us are equal, and have the same rights and responsibilities before God.  All are sinners, called to repent of our sins and live lives that please God.  But those who defiantly reject God’s word, embrace their sinful behaviors, and continue stealing, cannot and should not be eligible for ordination into a leadership position.  We are all equal in this.

It is morally irresponsible to frame the issue as one based on equality without bringing sufficient biblical evidence to bear that would show that God recognizes “homosexuality” as a personhood category.

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May 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

A non-essential church: a very brief blog discussion with the moderator

A short while ago I wrote a blog post commenting on Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow’s letter published on Presbyweb.  Rev. Reyes-Chow then graciously commented on my blog and I responded again, mostly asking questions.  I am including the full texts of our discussion with my further reflection below.  Here is my original post:

As St. Augustine put it 1500 years ago, “when regard for truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful.”

I was fascinated to read the Moderator of the PCUSA, Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow’s comments today posted on Presbyweb, following the vote of the Presbyteries not to ratify the changes pushed forward by the General Assembly, which would have made it even easier for this once great, soon to be obscure denomination, to ignore clear unambiguous biblical ethics and ordain openly unrepentant homosexuals to the offices of elders and deacons. Instead of affirming the decision of the Presbyteries and appealing to progressive congregations not to continuously put forth divisive, unbiblical and clearly heretical overtures, he instead makes this statement:

I think about our hopes for humanity – for those close to us, those who oppose us, those we love, those we call stranger, and those we may never meet face-to-face. Do we really want them to grow into who God intends, or do we want them to grow into who we think they should be? Too often, we want to strictly define and control God for the other, rather than trust that we can each listen to God well enough to be guided and molded into God’s vision and reality here on Earth.

Sometimes, to allow others to grow into whom God intends, we have to allow room for them to discover God on their own – even at the risk of them making choices we would not make. As a parent and pastor, I find this difficult because I want to guide my children and the community I serve in a particular direction.

His statement has a certain pious sound. But what precisely might be meant by, “…too often, we want to strictly define and control God for the other, rather than trust that we can each listen to God well enough to be guided and molded into God’s vision and reality here on earth”? So let me see if I understand things. The Presbyteries have once again affirmed as essential that those ordained to ministry must abide by the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage of a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. In response to this, the moderator calls for us not to “define & control God for the other”. In essence he is affirming that fidelity in marriage as defined between one man and one woman or chastity in singleness is not an essential, and by defining it as such, we are defining and controlling God for the other.

There are few ethical positions in scripture that are more clear than these basic truths on marriage. Yet, moderator Reyes-Chow reveals his bias on the issue by dishonoring the re-affirmation of the Presbyteries. His statement is even more troubling than this. What other essential of the faith might Rev. Reyes-Chow view as strictly defining and controlling God for the other? By definition an essential of the faith is strictly defining what we believe to be true about God and reality. To say that we believe that Jesus rose physically and bodily from the dead and that the tomb was empty is an essential of the faith and is strictly defining what we believe to be an absolute historically verifiable objective fact. I know that even this is much too narrow for many ordained leaders in this denomination, but to deny this is to deny the faith and to deny Jesus Christ. The moderators statement, which is made with no caveats, clearly indicates that to state something as essential is to strictly define and control God for others. It might be best to think of the PCUSA now as the church of the non-essential middle-way.

Then Rev. Reyes-Chow responded in this way:

Adel – While I do most often try to avoid actually commenting on posts that are dealing with me, felt moved this AM to do so.

I will certainly be coming out with a statement at the end of the month after the vote deadline has passed. While I did participate in a joint statement with Gradye, you have got to give me a LITTLE credit that I do NOT hide my opinions about such things. It is well documented on my blog, in publications and during the question and answer time at General Assembly about where I have stood on these issues in the past. I do hold my commitment to being honest and transparent in high regard. And REALLY, this was written before the threshold had been reached and was wholeheartedly generated by my father’s heart on my daughter’s birthday and my tiring body as I turned 40.

Still . . . as I have said in some responses to your post on FB, it is my job to listen to the WHOLE church and as I have done, I continue to lift up the great breadth of what the church is feeling and experiences disagreements, pain, anger, righteous indignation, despair, death, hope, new life, joy, excitement, etc. And while some may disagree with any of the reasons behind these feelings, as moderator, much of my job is to speak back to the church what I am hearing.

Again, I usually refrain from commenting on posts such as this, but for some reason have felt called to do so this time as I have seen your name pop up on other blogs that I frequent. I have no expectations from this comment, only felt called to respond in this particular case.

Blessings,
Bruce

I then responded to Rev. Reyes-Chow this way:

Bruce,

Welcome and thank you for your comment.

I do appreciate the balance that one must walk as leader in such a diverse denomination. I also understand that you have been open about being on the more progressive end of this issue.

I do not believe I have mis-represented your position, and you have not attempted to deny what I have said.

If I have misconstrued something that you have written, I would be happy to receive correction.

I have simply pointed out that your statement coming right at the end of the voting, carries a certain weight.

Your statement written to the whole church, admittedly prefaced with some comments about your daughter, carries weight among those who have little real understanding of the issues at stake.

The statement of not defining God for the other, without any qualifications is completely offensive to me, especially when discussing parenting and raising our children within our churches.

Do we not define God regularly for our children when we talk about God being Triune? Do we not define God when we speak of God’s love? Do we not define God when we speak of sin and being born in sin? Do we not define God when we speak of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross? Do we not define God when we urge our children to trust Jesus, his cross, and his physical bodily resurrection for salvation? Are we not called to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord? Are we not to train our children in the essentials of the gospel?

Whether or not we like it, we define God for our children and for our church all the time, in both word and deeds.

Your statement at best is an urging to hold all belief statement lightly, and to consider no belief as essential. Your statement at worst can easily be understood as universalist/pluralist in nature. I preferred to give the benefit of the doubt.

If I have somehow misunderstood, you are welcome to clarify, retract, or correct the record in whatever way you see fit.

Thank you for your comments, and you are welcome any time.

I want to first of all extend my gratitude to moderator Reyes-Chow for discovering and commenting on my blog post.  I am grateful for the discussion, though I would like further discussion and I am extending him an invitation for further dialogue on this vital issue.  First let me make an observation about how the moderator did not respond.  He did not say that I misunderstood him, and he never intended to say what I observed in my initial blog posting.  He also did not say that he wanted to correct me, because I took him out of context.  He did not say, Adel, my brother, you got it all wrong, I do believe we must teach our children the essentials of the faith and define those essentials for our people.  In fact, in my follow-up to him, I asked him to correct me if I misunderstood or misinterpreted him.  I do not know if he received that message, but I do know that he did not correct any of my initial statements.

What I do know is that every belief that was once considered essential to being Presbyterian has been questioned and even rejected by many many ordained leaders in the PCUSA. 

  1. The inerrancy of scripture is rejected by the “what we believe” statements on the official PCUSA web site.
  2. Pluralism and Inclusivism are looked on approvingly, while exclusivism is regularly demeaned as narrow-minded and foolhardy.
  3. The substitutionary atonement of Christ is regularly attacked with pride and impunity.
  4. Faith is looked on as being completely subjective, with little or no objective truth involved.
  5. The physical bodily resurrection of Jesus is often either openly rejected, or so redefined as to be objectively meaningless.

We must now face the reality that many ordained leaders of our churches hold belief systems that are much closer to Universalist Unitarian (with some reformed language), than to historic orthodox Presbyterianism.

Rev. Reyes-Chow’s original statement that I quoted in my original posting, clearly indicates a desire to move the denomination further in the direction of total subjectivism in the arena of essentials.  His statement that “…too often, we want to strictly define and control God for the other, rather than trust that we can each listen to God well enough to be guided and molded into God’s vision and reality here on earth…” clearly indicates a rejection of divine special revelation through the prophets and Christ, written infallibly in the pages of the Bible.  To say that God clearly reveals in scripture that he is Triune in being, is to say that God plainly and clearly strictly defines himself.  To say that we believe that Jesus Christ rose physically, bodily, objectively in a historically verifiable way is to strictly define God as God has strictly revealed and defined himself.  These are only two of the many essentials that God has strictly defined reality and himself.    

The other aspect that is a major problem with Rev. Reyes-Chow’s comments is that it is self-refuting.

To say that we should not strictly define God for others either…

  1. says that we know God would not want us to define him for others, therefore…
    1. …we strictly define God as one who does not want people or the Bible to strictly define him for others.
  2. or says that God does not reveal himself objectively to prophets or in Christ, so..
    1. …we strictly define God as one who does not reveal himself objectively…
    2. …or we strictly define God as a non-revelatory being (or ground of being).

Either way, the statement strictly defines God, therefore is self-refuting.  His statements are more at home with forms of pluralism than with historic orthodoxy.  He states in his response to my blog entry that “…much of my job is to speak back to the church what I am hearing.”  He must therefore believe that much of what he is “hearing” is a desire for greater pluralism and openness to nearly all beliefs, or no beliefs at all to be accepted within the “big tent” of Presbyteriansm.  But once again, if I am misunderstanding things, I am always open to correction.

May 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Planned means planned – do not be deceived

“Planned” parenthood wants you to plan your parenthood. This is the idea. So how far does this go? Well, if a human fetus has no rights, other than that which the “mother” would like to bestow, then all “planning” is possible. There is this news, which is coming out of Sweden:

Sweden, which legalized abortion in 1938, has taken its abortion extremism one step further by legalizing “gender based” abortion which allows a mother to decide to abort her baby solely due to his or her sex. The Local reported that a pregnant woman in South Sweden, who already has two girls, arrived at Mälaren Hospital and inquired whether or not she would be giving birth to another girl.   She went on to tell her doctors that her previous two pregnancies ended in abortion because she did not want to have another girl – and if this child was another girl, she would have it aborted as well. Doctors expressed concern over this and brought it to the attention of Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare. They asked how to handle requests where doctors felt “pressured to examine the [fetus’s] gender” without a medical rationale. The Board came back and said that requests to for abortions based on a child’s gender cannot be refused.

This is the logical conclusion of abortion on demand and abortion for the purpose of “planning” one’s parenthood. If a pre-born human can be aborted by a woman because she does not want to give birth to a baby at the moment, why shouldn’t she be allowed to abort for a sex preference? When we so de-value life, then this is the logical next step.

It is currently happening in Canada and the U.S. as well, though still undercover:

This country has likely lost thousands of girls to sex-selection abortion, but hard data is difficult to compile. Alternative explanations, such as increased viral infection among Indian women, simply do not account for the large variations between communities. Anecdotal and statistical evidence shows that sex-selection abortion is the best explanation for the distortion.

Mainline “Christian” denominations that still actively advocate for nearly unlimited abortion rights have much to answer for.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Consider Life

A good and thoughtful ad…what a concept!

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

True Reformation part 5a: Christ Crucified – deeply rooted in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus

We sing the praise of Him who died,
Of Him who died upon the cross,
The sinner’s hope let all deride.
For this we count the world but loss.

Inscribed upon the cross we see
In shining letters “God is love.”
He bears our sins upon the tree,
He brings us mercy from above.

The cross! It takes our guilt away;
It holds the fainting spirit up;
It cheers with hope the gloomy day
And sweetens ev’ry bitter cup.

It makes the coward spirit brave
And nerves the feeble arm for fight;
It takes the terror from the grave
And gilds the bed of death with light;

The balm of life, the cure of woe,
The measure and the pledge of love,
The sinner’s refuge here below,
The angels’ theme in heav’n above.

To Christ, who won for sinners grace
By bitter grief and anguish sore,
Be praise from all the ransomed race
Forever and forevermore

The final point I would like to highlight on the elements of true reformation is a deep and abiding passion for the Cross of Christ. I will look at this central aspect of reformation more thoroughly in the next several entries.

In recent decades it has become quite fashionable by evangelicals to ignore the substitutionary atonement of Jesus (focusing on more pragmatic applicable thoughts), while many mainline progressive theologians and many Emergents openly mock the belief as “child abuse”.

At the heart of true reformation is an abiding and deeply growing understanding, appreciation, and even passion for the Cross of Christ. Reformation requires a surrender to the full meaning of the cross of Christ—to know Christ and him crucified. In the gospel of Mark, at the pinnacle of his earthly ministry, having withdrawn with his apostles to the northern district around Caesarea Philippi, he asked them who they thought he was. After Peter said that he was God’s Messiah, immediately Jesus “…began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this” (Mark 8:31-32) and later he said, “45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Myth: It has been stated by many progressives that the theme of substitutionary atonement was minor or even non-existent until St. Anselm (A.D. 1000), but this is a misrepresentation of the truth. The substitutionary atonement can be seen throughout the writings of the early church. Here is a tiny sampling: Clement of Rome wrote, “Because of the love which he felt for us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave his blood for us by the will of God, his body for our bodies, and his soul for our souls.” Ignatius wrote, “All these sufferings, assuredly, he underwent for our sake, that we might be saved.” In the Epistle to Diognetus we read, “God gave up his own Son as a ransom for us—the holy one for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty, the righteous one for the unrighteous, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else could cover our sins except his righteousness? …O sweet exchange!” Augustine later wrote, “Christ bore for our sakes sin in the sense of death as brought on human nature by sin. This is what hung on the tree… Thus was death condemned that its reign might cease, and accursed that it might be destroyed…When the Father was angry with us, he looked upon the death of his Son for us and was propitiated toward us.” In much of the writings of the early centuries of the church the substitutionary atonement is often assumed as a foundational identifier for believers.

The substitutionary atonement of Christ is clearly and deeply foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament, and was at the heart of God’s covenant with his people. I will look at that in my next posting.

  1. When I survey the wondrous cross
    On which the Prince of glory died,
    My richest gain I count but loss,
    And pour contempt on all my pride.
  2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    Save in the death of Christ my God!
    All the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them to His blood.
  3. See from His head, His hands, His feet,
    Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
    Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
    Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
  4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were a present far too small;
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.

May 10, 2009 Posted by | Mainline Heresy, Presbyterian, Theology | 2 Comments

Wisdom: Skill in the art of godly living

There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge
That is curiosity.

There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others
That is vanity.

There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve
That is love.

 

            Bernard of Clairvaux

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Important Quotes | 3 Comments

Presbyterian Church USA: The Church of non-essentials

As St. Augustine put it 1500 years ago, “when regard for truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful.”

I was fascinated to read the Moderator of the PCUSA, Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow’s comments today posted on Presbyweb, following the vote of the Presbyteries not to ratify the changes pushed forward by the General Assembly, which would have made it even easier for this once great, soon to be obscure denomination, to ignore clear unambiguous biblical ethics and ordain openly unrepentant homosexuals to the offices of elders and deacons. Instead of affirming the decision of the Presbyteries and appealing to progressive congregations not to continuously put forth divisive, unbiblical and clearly heretical overtures, he instead makes this statement:

I think about our hopes for humanity – for those close to us, those who oppose us, those we love, those we call stranger, and those we may never meet face-to-face. Do we really want them to grow into who God intends, or do we want them to grow into who we think they should be? Too often, we want to strictly define and control God for the other, rather than trust that we can each listen to God well enough to be guided and molded into God’s vision and reality here on Earth.

Sometimes, to allow others to grow into whom God intends, we have to allow room for them to discover God on their own – even at the risk of them making choices we would not make. As a parent and pastor, I find this difficult because I want to guide my children and the community I serve in a particular direction.

His statement has a certain pious sound. But what precisely might be meant by, “…too often, we want to strictly define and control God for the other, rather than trust that we can each listen to God well enough to be guided and molded into God’s vision and reality here on earth”? So let me see if I understand things. The Presbyteries have once again affirmed as essential that those ordained to ministry must abide by the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage of a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. In response to this, the moderator calls for us not to “define & control God for the other”. In essence he is affirming that fidelity in marriage as defined between one man and one woman or chastity in singleness is not an essential, and by defining it as such, we are defining and controlling God for the other.

There are few ethical positions in scripture that are more clear than these basic truths on marriage. Yet, moderator Reyes-Chow reveals his bias on the issue by dishonoring the re-affirmation of the Presbyteries. His statement is even more troubling than this. What other essential of the faith might Rev. Reyes-Chow view as strictly defining and controlling God for the other? By definition an essential of the faith is strictly defining what we believe to be true about God and reality. To say that we believe that Jesus rose physically and bodily from the dead and that the tomb was empty is an essential of the faith and is strictly defining what we believe to be an absolute historically verifiable objective fact. I know that even this is much too narrow for many ordained leaders in this denomination, but to deny this is to deny the faith and to deny Jesus Christ. The moderators statement, which is made with no caveats, clearly indicates that to state something as essential is to strictly define and control God for others. It might be best to think of the PCUSA now as the church of the non-essential middle-way.

May 8, 2009 Posted by | Mainline Heresy, Presbyterian, Theology | 10 Comments