Saturday, March 29, 2014

It was the dog that died

I have had a superb couple of days away at the Maadi Cup regatta (rowing). Never having been to this annual secondary school sporting event I have come away much impressed and reinforced in my theory that NZ's sporting greatness is due to the way its secondary school sports competitions are run. If you can win at these then you can win in the heat of competition of the most intense sort. It was a very proud moment for Teresa and I to be with the even prouder parents of our nephew as he and his rowing partner won the U18 Double Sculls.

Meantime internet connection was somewhat intermittent so I avoided posting. Now back in town there are potentially many things to post on, but here is just one, a link to a fine article on Evangelical Identity by Andrew Walker. I think Andrew makes a fine point. Despite difficulties in nailing down what evangelicalism is and is not, there is a phenomenon and a movement which represents some things and does not represent other things.

"World Vision’s decision to reverse course from a patently unbiblical and patently unhistorical position, demonstrates that evangelicalism has boundary markers. We have core beliefs about authority. We may not always agree on what the precise boundaries are, but the World Vision event this week helps us identify the approximate boundaries, and when it has been crossed. Evangelicalism did triage this week, and did it well. We saw through the malaise of theological indifferentism and insisted that while evangelicalism remains a big tent, at some point, the canopy ends. 
In American evangelicalism, you can’t believe in anything you want and call yourself an evangelical. That what Mainline Protestantism is for. That’s the route that “professional dissidents ” like Rachel Held Evans want evangelicalism to become, but that only leads to eternal pottage."

(My point in drawing attention to this is not to enter once more into the merry go round re homosexuality but to highlight that 'while evangelicalism remains a big tent, at some point the canopy ends.')

Nevertheless Andrew Walker's argument is susceptible to critique - some fine points are made in the comments below the post.


Anonymous said...

So, without stepping onto that merry go round, from a purely sociological perspective if many young people in the evangelical church are choosing to support gay marriage and the like then what does this mean for evangelicalism? I know many of my friends who do and could loosely be called evangelical (though it looks different in New Zealand than America!). I think especially if these questions are being asked within evangelicalism, like Rachel Held Evans, et al!, then I would say that we're still deciding where to put the pegs. And the ecumenical nature of the Internet itself means that denominational lines and the closedness of evangelicalism will continue to be renavigated to a greater extent than what had previously been usual.

Peter Carrell said...

That could be so, camostar, and one of the comments to the Walker post makes a point along similar lines: evangelicalism's bottom lines are determined by majority voting.

However it may not be as straightforward as that. Consider baptism: evangelicals support infant baptism and evangelicals do not support it. That state of affairs has prevailed now for (arguably) 500 odd years. Might a similar state of affairs come to prevail for a long time to come re marriage/gay marriage?

Anonymous said...

Yes! In the same way that evangelicals can either support or not support infant baptism, I think it would be true of gay marriage in the future. My beef was more so with Walker's contention that those who supported gay marriage and the like were stepping outside of evangelicalism. (So: They may have been stepping outside of historical evangelicalism but evangelicalism is not a snapshot of a particular historical period).

carl jacobs said...


There is no possible analogy between disagreement over infant baptism and disagreement over homosexuality. Scripture doesn't directly address the difference between credobaptism and paedobaptism. The battle is closely fought and both sides make legitimate arguments from Scripture. I can disagree with someone about baptism and still agree that he is not challenging the authority of Scripture.

That is not true regarding homosexuality. Scripture does directly address homosexuality in both the old and new testament and its position is universal condemnation. The alleged Scriptural arguments to the contrary are (to put it bluntly) tripe.

So the homosexual apologist can claim unity with me. But I will reject unity with him. He is not an evangelical according to my definition. If he insists on using the word, then the word becomes meaningless and we have to invent new words to represent the essential difference.

An essential boundary for evangelicals is Scripture as the Norm of Norms. Despite his claims to the contrary, the homosexual apologists must reject this understanding of Scripture to arrive at his conclusions. That is why he is not and never can be properly described as an Evangelical.


MichaelA said...

What is the point of the heading to the article? I recall it as a line from 'our man in Havana', but can't see the connection...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
From Andrew Walker's article:

"The faith persists. As G. K. Chesterton said that bears repeating: “Time and again, the Faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs. But each time, it was the dog that died.”"

Jean said...

Are we viewing theological positioning from the right angle?
In very simplified language (I know):
I am evangelical - I believe in saving faith and the atonement of Christ.
I am a charasmatic - I believe in the Holy Spirit and the use of spiritual gifts
I am Orthodox - I believe in the historical church (based on the original christian church) and the importance of doctrine.
I am protestant I believe in the priesthood of all believers.

I also believe it is not a net and we do not need boundaries, it's a building with a rock and living stones. The faith, is belief in the cornerstone, it is written on human hearts. "For a Jew is not a Jew who is one outwardly but circumscision is circumscision of the heart by the spirit, not by the written code".

How can an organisation World Vision or the Church 'make rules' such as you are not to have an affair? In all conscience I could never sign up to this, not because I intend having an affair but because I am human, so I do and can make mistakes. And I want a church where people can make mistakes, repent, and still be loved and accepted. Rules make the temptation of hiding sins far too strong.

I used to see nothing wrong with sex before marriage before I came to know Christ. But the change happened in my heart not from an external line or rules, it came from knowing Him. The church I came to belong to taught celebacy before marriage but I was not barred from entering the doors before I too came to hold this position.

Yes teaching must be truthful to the scriptures and being held to hold to that truth in teaching is good. Here to me is where the place of theology comes in; is our teaching faithful to the scriptures and done in grace and truth? And, therefore, do we agree on what that truth is?

So the debate about homosexuality and whether or not it is a behaviour is a sin in God's eyes I believe also fits here. At the pulpit of the church not the door.

And just what does our theological alignment have to do with that - beats me!

Anonymous said...

Hey carl, I think originally the homosexual debate was taking place apart from Scripture but increasingly people are reading Scripture closely and understanding the hermeneutics with which they do so, and in so doing coming to the conclusion to support gay marriage. I think it is analogous to the two baptisms in the sense that historically some people have thought they've been arguing from Scripture and the other side has ignored that but when they've had proper dialogue they've been able to see the Scriptural interests of the other side. More recently, reading Scripture without interpretation and context I would have found it hard to accept women in church leadership on a biblical basis. But when getting into the texts I can see the basis is there. In short, if you might want to exclude some from evangelicalism if they don't line up with what you understand to be biblical but they will in fact remain evangelical as they both claim that title and the value placed on Scripture they bring from that background in fact informs their position on gay marriage.

Bryden Black said...

Camostar, Michael A and Jean - et al.

Notwithstanding M’s previous comment on the related thread (with which I am mostly in agreement), I do sense the western Church has mostly been lead - by Screwtape and Wormwood, most likely - into a delightful cul-de-sac on these matters. And Rachel Held Evans illustrates this quite brilliantly - though not quite in the way she intends.

Rather, the brilliance emerges in her showing how we (well; many westerners) seem to be forced upon the horns of a false dilemma: to pursue either the contemporary tolerant, equality agenda, or the corralling of the wagons into a tight, circular laager. Neither adequately addresses the need to foster a deep Christian anthropology, derived from Scripture and Tradition, one that incorporates also a profound ontology with which to combat our contemporary shallow grasp upon reality. Even as science seems to be able to probe ever more deeply into the origins of the universe, all the while ‘contemporary western culture’ becomes ever more gnostic - or plain superstitious - in its search for ‘re-enchantment’.

Only these sorts of considerations, I wager, will see the dog die satisfactorily - even if we have to endure quite a few more flea bites along the way, as we practise adequately a Church life of both love and truth.

carl jacobs said...


Well sure. If you start applying external authorities ... ummm, "interpretation and context" I think you said ... to norm the Scripture, you can reach any conclusion you may desire. That's the whole point. To reach the conclusions you reach, you must apply a completely different and distinct non-Evangelical hermeneutic. I don't recognize that treatment of Scripture as within the bounds of Evangelicalism and no amount of "It is so!" foot-stomping is going to change my mind. But as I said. If the word gets co-opted, then we have to invent another word to describe the difference. I am not wedded to the word. I am wedded to the doctrine that defines the essential difference.

You can't force unity on me. I will effect separation and differentiation so that people under the difference. I will not support the purveyors of this new theology. I will not share the sacraments with them. I will not extend to them the cover of legitimate Christianity. I will make it known that whatever they might be, they are not of the House to which I belong. They are of a foreign house that burns strange fire.


Jean said...

Bryden your post is well put.

I did not intend by putting an emphasis of the 'conviction of the heart' to purvey a sense of shallowness. For that which I have experienced personally is most profound and undergirded by scripture. This to me is not the same as love all seve all prevalent in secular culture (see below).

I was attemptingt to disperse the "coralling of the wagons into a tight circular laager." Primarily because if I do not believe Jesus had a laager. He seemed to be always meeting and welcoming people beyond the bounds of what the disciples viewed acceptable. And yet from posts referred to in this blog it appears the entry point into the laager of the church appears more and more to be based on already meeting certain criteria (before entering, before hearing the gospel).

However, as I have said on a previous post neither did Jesus compromise what He held as truth. And here I agree with you, our contemporary world is very good at emphasising superficial tolerance - love all, serve all so long as you agree with me. I have received little tolerance from homosexuals who do not allow me the grace to disagree with their behaviour and still be their friend, yet I have had longstanding friendships with people who know my perspective on them sleeping around. "The falsehood that exalts, we cheerish more than meaner truths a thousand strong."

It would be good if we had a few minds of equal ability as those of C.S.Lewis to delve into the apologetics of homosexuality - perhaps there are! For although my opinion is that the behaviour is not condoned biblically, I am always wanting to be clear and confident in my own convictions on matters so I seek and pray for wisdom and clarity on this issue which seems to be taking up far too much of the churches focus.

Carl, I hear your stance. You do not want the legitamacy of the gospel undermined by false theology, and could not agree to condoning same sex marriage. Fair enough. However, if a person who was a homosexual without any church background came to you or your church would you welcome them to hear the gospel? Can the individuals and the church say we disagree with your behaviour but we still love you?

MichaelA said...

“Hey carl, I think originally the homosexual debate was taking place apart from Scripture but increasingly people are reading Scripture closely and understanding the hermeneutics with which they do so, and in so doing coming to the conclusion to support gay marriage.”

It certainly was taking place apart from scripture! And I agree that now proponents of gay “marriage” are trying to twist scripture any way they can in order to try to convince Christians that it is actually okay. Its not the first time that has happened:

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’”[Matt 4:5-6]

“I think it is analogous to the two baptisms…”

The problem with that analogy is that scripture does permit some latitude in regard to how baptism is practiced. It doesn’t allow any latitude about marriage being only between a man and a woman.

“More recently, reading Scripture without interpretation and context I would have found it hard to accept women in church leadership on a biblical basis.”

How is this relevant? Women in church leadership has some sort of biblical basis, however sparse. The idea of marriage being between two men or two women has no biblical basis.

“In short, if you might want to exclude some from evangelicalism if they don't line up with what you understand to be biblical but they will in fact remain evangelical as they both claim that title and the value placed on Scripture they bring from that background in fact informs their position on gay marriage.”

No, they will just be pretending to be evangelical and hoping that other people are silly enough to fall for the lie.

MichaelA said...

"However, if a person who was a homosexual without any church background came to you or your church would you welcome them to hear the gospel? Can the individuals and the church say we disagree with your behaviour but we still love you?"

Jean, please show me one single thing in Carl's posts (or mine for that matter) which would give you a basis to write that.

It is a very serious matter to accuse other Christians of excluding people from the gospel and from church, when
that is the opposite of what we have said.

Jean said...

Hi Michael. No need to be too defensive here. If you read my post you will hear I agree with some of what you and Carl say.

I ask two questions, no accusation intended. It really interests me. You will see the first question is directed at Carl, and the the next question is in generic terms to us all.

The first question is meant to lead onto the second (I ask it directly of Carl because his opinion of those who differ theologically is quite strongly worded so a yes is needed before the second question can be pondered), if yes to sharing the gospel with homosexuals and welcoming them to church, then are we up to the challenge of showing we disagree with their behaviour but still love them. Literally as a church can we do it? Are we doing it now? If so how?

The basis Michael is simply a consideration of how do we respond to the people who will be affected if homosexuality is not considered an acceptable practice under evangelical theology or in any church for that matter.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Jean for your comments. From the brief description of your own spiritual pilgrimage I took the view that your particular church was pretty open with its reception of any who wanted to discover who Jesus Christ is. Bless them for that!

carl jacobs said...


A wise man once taught me this.

Theology matters. What you win them with is what you win them to.

So (before I answer your question directly) I want to address what I think is the actual crux of the problem. Suppose a homosexual with no church background comes into the church. Suppose further that the morning Bible class is studying Romans 1 and that our visitor attends. Suppose finally that in the middle if the class, he offers up the following in response to Paul.

"I'm Gay and that offends me."

What you don't do at this moment is shade the truth for his benefit in order to keep him from walking out the door. You don't suggest that maybe Paul was referring only to temple cultic prostitution or that Paul was speaking only of those who were by nature heterosexual. There are many gentle and loving and proper way to handle this situation. Absolutely none of them involve compromising the Truth. I would never withold the 'hard parts' to placate an Unbeliever's sense of being offended by the Truth.

I believe that the church does a terrible job helping people cope with homosexual desire. The reason I am sure is the 'ick factor.' We don't want to get too close and we don't want to hear about it. It disfigures the definition of masculine and feminine that is so central to human identity. We can deal with lust and avarice and selfishness and other 'natural' sins, but the unnatural makes us want to flee. It also allows us to judge. As in "I'm just an ordinary sinner. You' of those." When I hear people say the church must repent for its treatment of homosexuals, that is my understanding of the church's offense.

So to your question. If a homosexual came into church, he should be received like any other guest. But if he stays then eventually that confrontation over sin must happen. Where and when and how might be a pastoral judgment or it might be forced by circumstance. But it must eventually happen. He cannot participate fully in the life of the church until it does.

Now what if Bob showed up at church one morning with his brand new trophy wife Trixie while his previous wife and kids sat humiliated and abandoned in his previous church down the street. Bob is going back out the front door. With great dispatch. Preferably face first. And possibly even with the door open. That's called church discipline. I include this only to show that not everyone should be welcome.


Anonymous said...

'are we up to the challenge of showing we disagree with their behaviour but still love them?'

Take it from me, from long experience dialoguing with gay and lesbian friends and family members: they will not buy all that 'hate the sin but love the sinner' stuff. They just won't. We may be sincere in saying it, but they will not hear it as sincere. They will hear it as code-language for hatred and contempt. Because, of course, what they have received from the church usually has been hatred and contempt. There's no point us putting any further hope in that line. It's time to move on.

Tim C.

Jean said...

Hi Carl thanks for replying.

Your reply explains well how you would respond and is filled with both understanding and truth. Thank you. I think this type of explaination, how now do we act? - will help many deal with the practical real life situations as they are encountered. As well acknowledgement that parts of the church have responded inappropriately aka your comment that "the church does a terrible job helping people cope with homosexual desire."

As for Trixie well that gave me a laugh! I have too much of an imagination...

As for me, well I probably couldn't help myself, I would let them in, but I would have a few probing questions requiring answers!


Bryden Black said...

Thanks Tim for your thoughts and conclusions. I am aware of what you have previously shared on ADU.

I too have met with the very response you speak of: what we mean as genuine sincerity is received as veiled hatred. And yet, and yet ... I have also encountered quite a few people who respond rather differently again.

I have met both men and women who have consciously and deliberately given up their gay and lesbian ‘life-styles’.

I know well gay and lesbian Christians who simply will not countenance any form of sexual intimacy that expresses what they deem to be a disordered orientation. Some of these are single, others are married. Do they struggle? Yes; to a degree. I am a spiritual director of such dear people. But then I too struggle in my pilgrimage of Christ-like (trans)formation. Yet grace and mercy are Present, for Jesus Christ IS in me - and in my brothers and sisters who accompany me on all our pilgrimages.

So; where exactly might we be moving on to ...?! Is it the case that ‘Evangelicals’ - and the Church writ large for that matter - will simply have to live with the ‘diversity’ that somehow embraces (for simplicity’s sake) both same-sex marriage and heterosexual marriage? And how long might this ‘truce’ actually endure? 2-4 generations? Or will there rather be lines carefully and firmly drawn in the sand? As per Albert Mohler? Or in our AC case, between the more ‘liberal west’ and GSA, who are even now creating a form of distance which is more embracing than just GAFCON.

So; as we all watch this space, the actual spaces that are beginning to emerge might surprise us ...

MichaelA said...

Hi Jean, my apologies, I see where you are coming from. I prepared an answer and then Carl came in with a better one, but I will put mine up also for what it is worth:

I see the issue you are raising as being the same for every sin, and the church's answer should be the same in each case. I don't see homosexuality as any different to other sins – its become a particular issue now because certain activists are hell-bent (pun-intended) on getting the church to call something righteous which is actually sinful. I think there is probably also a wider issue with the church's attitude towards sexual issues in general.

But if people come into our church who hold anger in their heart, that is a sin (1 John 3:15). The church should not be telling them that it isn't a sin. But neither should the church be excluding them, because the whole point of the gospel is that it is meant for sinners. The righteous don't need it (Mark 2:17).

The applies to a person who has lust in their heart, or envy, or laziness, or self-centredness, or greed, or slander, or whatever. The church should (a) be telling them that these things are sin; and (b) encouraging them to come to church. [I don’t know about you, or others on this blog, but I am caught by all of these]

In my view, homosexuality is no different – the same principles (a) and (b) apply.

Now that doesn't mean that we shouldn't give special consideration to those who face something that is particularly difficult in their lives. I think the church has always done this, for many different issues, but we could still do far more. Not just homosexuality, but post-natal depression, gambling addiction, gossip, quite a list of things.

MichaelA said...

Tim, they may or may not embrace it, but if we are sincere then that is their problem.

I am not going to "move on" from something which Christ requires us to do.

The boot fits on either foot: As with Bryden, I have seen some of the most vicious verbal attacks made by homosexuals on other homosexual people who simply want to live a chaste lifestyle because they believe that is what the Bible requires them to do.

Anonymous said...

Michael, Bryden, you misunderstand me. When I said 'we need to move on', I wasn't automatically implying acceptance; I was meaning 'move on from this language of hate the sin and love the sinner'. Because most gay and lesbian people don't hear us saying what we think we're saying when we use that language. And I'm sorry, but if the language I'm using isn't saying what I think it's saying, then it is definitely my problem.

Tim C.

Jean said...

Hey Tim, I do empathise and can see why people may not see what is sincere given their past experiences with the 'church'. No doubt this extends to many people, such as those who have been abused by priests.

I do think though there is still hope in the line love the person, disagree with the behaviour. Particularly if it becomes less a line and more a lived out behaviour. As Michael points out we all struggle in someway with something albeit drinking, lying etc. And Bryden points out the practice of walking humbly alongside others in their struggles.

I also think the media has exacerbated the emphasis on homosexuality and the extreme examples of churches or christians reactions to this topic; which doesn't help the way the secular and homosexual population view the church. You will find little or no media people questioning Buddhists whether they would accept a married homosexual monk.

It is good I believe to hear so many here place the issue of homosexuality into a more real perspective with other issues christians deal with. May we as a church stand firm in our faith and seek to agree on where we stand on topics relevant to society at large, but let us not be driven to division or diverted from our core calling by one issue.

Caleb said...

Some sanity from Rachel Held Evans and Tony Campolo (who, please note, take different views on same-sex marriage).

I'm disappointed Evans' and Campolo's (and Camo's and Jean's) consensus on the World Vision kerfuffle isn't the consensus of all those commenting here. I expect it will be eventually though; whether it takes five years, ten years, a generation, or two generations. I think it would be pretty much consensus among NZ evangelicals from Generation Y and whatever generation comes next.

MichaelA said...

Tim, I think your language is saying what you think its saying but if I think its saying something different to what you think its saying, then I do apologise!

Same to Jean... :)

Jean said...

Confession time Caleb, I am generation young at heart X. I do think it is harder for Generation Y and beyond because their peer group has grown up seeing homosexuality as genetic make up and taught this accordingly. Yet this is still contentious, it may be genetic or acquired. Just as they are taught evolution is scientific truth yet it is actually a theory. It is hard to distance oneself emotionally from things we have grown up taking or absorbing as truth.

And at this point I will say Michael I imagine you may have seen my use of "not being diverted or divided by a single issue" as meaning taking no stance on homosexual marriage. However my words "seek to understand where we stand on issues" implies a stance, but lets not make the reaching of it so large or extremist it starts to take precedence to other aspects of christian life. Did I assume right?

I definitely agree with Tony and Rachel at my abhorrence at christians using the removal of financial support as a ransom tool in the us world vision debacle. I also agree Wv chose at first to remain neutral on theological positions surrounding homosexual marriage hardly warranting such a response.

I do not support the use of any conditions for employment based on beliefs on personal sexuality albeit homosexuality or celibacy before marriage. Why? It's full of holes. I can say I am a 20 year old celibate christian to get a job or avoid losing one.

I do support an organisation saying openly to all employees they are christian with certain principles they uphold and apply in their work, therefore in kiwi language those seeking employment should be sympathetic towards the organisations nature.

Anonymous said...

Hey Peter, you don't have to post this because I'm not really engaging with the comments (there are too many and too much said haha). But I just read this guest post on Scot McKnight's blog and thought it could add some perspective:

Caleb said...

"Camo’s ref to Rom 1 is simply pathetic." - Are you allowing abusive language now Peter? Inaccurate abusive language too, from what I can see; where does Camo refer to Rom 1?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb /Bryden / Camostar

Fair point, Caleb, re that comment which does not refer to anything on this thread. I have removed the comment and now offer it without the inaccurate words:

Originally posted by Bryden at April 3, 2014 at 7:18 PM

"I fully expect Caleb you are correct: the cultural shift, eventuating in ‘normalizing’ gay marriage in western societies, will be just that; and I do not expect it to take that long at all ...!

That said, whether that “consensus” is a ‘good thing’ or a ‘bad thing’ is something utterly different however. Nor do I expect the sudden emergence in the West of the moral and intellectual and spiritual means to even begin to tackle that question, let alone to answer it definitively. For it is predicated upon far more than just reading a few scattered texts here and there in the Christian canonical Scriptures. (E.g. [If one were to refer to Romans1] Rom 1, on its own, is far from convincing either way, given the strange hermeneutical games being played nowadays by most sides ...)

If we have any grasp at all of the huge cultural shifts involved in the eventual compilation of the Nicene Creed (325/381), and what it took to tackle the notions of deity present in the ancient Graeco-Roman cultures, then the “consensus” you speak of is actually neither here nor there. Whether and when of course the Lord God of the Church sees fit to ‘rescue’ our own deemed plausibility structures from our present perils, in similar ways to the profound transformation of those of the 4th and 5th Cs, is also something utterly different - and entirely up to his own gracious sovereign providence. Kyrie eleison ...

April 3, 2014 at 7:18 PM"

Bryden Black said...

OK Caleb; so you object to forthright comment. Let's look at the original then, obtained from your own link:

"My wife and I, over the years, have interpreted Saint Paul’s words in Romans, chapter one, concerning same gender erotic behavior differently, but I never once doubted her Christian commitment, nor do I think that she ever doubted mine. As Red Letter Christians, Peggy and I, despite our differences, are agreed as to the core of our beliefs as embodied in the Apostles’ Creed."

A passing reference to one text, however important, and however present day hermeneutical games seek to avoid whatever meanings are presently posited by all sides, really does not count as a litmus text for adiaphora. Even if he does go on to affirm collective adherence to the Apostles Creed. The interplay between core belief and adiaphora is much more complex.

So; either explain adequately - or not at all. Stet!

Caleb said...

Bryden: I object to inconsistent blog moderation, and to inaccurate comment - including your newest one about me (re: the last one; I suppose Campolo is similar enough to Camo that a typo is understandable). Unlike you, I don't object to summaries; in some contexts they're appropriate.

Peter Carrell said...

Correspondence on moderation of this thread is now closed. The moderator is now very confused about who has or has not said what.