May 20th, 2011 | 2 Comments
This is a post in response to a blog that does not allow comments. I’d have preferred to have this discussion over there, but here we are.
A growing number of Christians are finding it harder and harder to believe that God has a fundamental problem with homosexuality, even when they do not accept it as ideal.
He proffers these substitutions to show why I’m wrong:
A growing number of Christians are finding it harder and harder to believe that God has a fundamental problem with cohabiting before marriage, even when they do not accept it as ideal.
A growing number of Christians are finding it harder and harder to believe that God has a fundamental problem with divorcing your spouse to marry your true love, even when they do not accept it as ideal.
A growing number of Christians are finding it harder and harder to believe that God has a fundamental problem with not believing in the Virgin Birth, even when they do not accept it as ideal.
Note the implication that no one may begin to disbelieve anything that he accepts as axiomatic without the whole thing going to hell (literally).
He seems to infer from my statement that I think we should believe whatever it is a growing number of Christians believe. To this I say, You may be in a tavern, but get your face out of the mug, sir! Even a cursory glance through my post shows that I do not argue this or anything like it. He mistakes his own error for my own: unlike he apparently does, I do not assume that acceptance by “the right” people (be they “a growing number of Christians”, an historic council, or whomever) is determinative of the truth itself.
The following statement from his post illustrates what I mean, indicating that he digested very little of the rest of my post:
If the teachings of Christ and the commands of God don’t matter for church fellowship, then nothing does.
It appears he decided not to take me up on my suggestion to step and back and at least pretend that he could be wrong in his interpretations. The entire point of my post was that what precisely constitutes “the teachings of Christ and the commands of God” is not something we can blithely assume to be settled, indisputable, and equivalent to what we already happen to believe. This is not to say that we can’t be confident of our current beliefs but that a truly humble spirit will keep the hair-trigger heresy gun in the holster.
At one point he does indicate that he heard my point about being patient with people who have other interpretations of Scripture; it seems he just decides he’s not too keen on the idea. He sarcastically remarks that those of us who recognize that the Bible isn’t crystal clear on every important point “have decided that God didn’t really teach much we could understand, and so most of what what we believe and practice is just stuff we made up.” The reason he disagrees with this is not stated, but the thing that’s so irksome about this sort of objection is the myopic logic, “God teaches things clearly; therefore, whatever I think is clear is what God teaches.” That logic, and the assumption that “perspicuity” is a right for all believers guaranteed by God, reminds me of a statement I’ve quoted on this blog before. Ironically it comes from the very man the Boar’s Head Tavern claims as its “patron saint”: C. S. Lewis.
To a human mind this working-up (in a sense imperfectly), this sublimation (incomplete) of human material, seems, no doubt, an untidy and leaky vehicle. We might have expected, we may think we should have preferred, an unrefracted light giving us ultimate truth in systematic form–something we could have tabulated and memorised and relied on like the multiplication table. One can respect, and at moments envy, both the Fundamentalists’ view of the Bible and the Roman Catholics view of the Church. But there is one argument which we should beware of using for either position: God must have done what is best, this is best, therefore God has done this. For we are mortals and do not know what is best for us, and it is dangerous to prescribe what God must have done-especially when we cannot, for the life of us, see that He has after all done it.
We may observe that the teaching of Our Lord Himself, in which there is no imperfection, is not given us in that cut-and-dried, fool-proof, systematic fashion we might have expected or desired. He wrote no book. We have only reported sayings, most of them uttered in answer to questions, shaped in some degree by their context. And when we have collected them all we cannot reduce them to a system. He preaches but He does not lecture. He uses paradox, proverb, exaggeration, parable, irony; even (I mean no irreverence) the “wise-crack”. He utters maxims which, like popular proverbs, if rigorously taken, may seem to contradict one another. His teaching therefore cannot be grasped by the intellect alone, cannot be “got up” as if it were a “subject”. If we try to do that with it, we shall find Him the most elusive of teachers. He hardly ever gave a straight answer to a straight question. He will not be, in the way we want, “pinned down”. The attempt is (again, I mean no irreverence) like trying to bottle a sunbeam.
Lack of certainty can be a real pain, but I’d rather put up with less certainty about even things that are absolutely true than blow full-steam ahead into a presumption of the correctness of my tradition’s interpretations without the humility that God expects.
Two misconceptions I’d like to clear up. First, I was not personally arguing that capitalism was equivalent to the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, just as I was not campaigning against women in ministry or charging interest: I was playing devil’s advocate, and I’m sure I didn’t make the best biblical case against capitalism. My point remains: there are those who find ample biblical grounds for condemning capitalism.
Next, it was stated that my argument “basically boils down to, ‘If you’re born that way, we can’t possibly tell you not to have sex.’ ” I never mentioned celibacy or not: saying that someone can be a homosexual and a Christian doesn’t itself argue (and at very least, my post never even insinuated) that “free love” or cohabitation is acceptable. An acknowledgment of the fact that some homosexuals are participants in the Christian faith is no more an “argument” against celibacy than acknowledging the fact that some heterosexuals are participants in the Christian faith.
But because the Fearsome Tycoon does not suffer from uncertainty about his doctrines, he proclaims that he’d have no trouble ruling out fellowship with anyone who disagrees with him on the subject of when the Sabbath should be observed, whether charging interest is an acceptable practice, whether socialism or capitalism is preferable, or whether women can be in ministry. Still, I extend the right hand of Christian fellowship to the Fearsome Tycoon, even though he’s given every indication that he’ll consider reciprocation tantamount to accepting sexual promiscuity, divorce, and a denial of the Virgin Birth.
Sheesh. Maybe there’s a reason he hangs out at a tavern with that particular name.