Sunday, 9/27/15

  1. Little pitcher, big ears, broken heart
  2. Atheist Morality
  3. Theology worth smuggling
  4. Slacktivist blows it on inerrancy
  5. Consuming addictions
  6. Ideological Colonialism

1

Heartbreaking:

Many years ago I attended a conference in which one of the speakers presented a hate filled lecture on the subject of homosexuality. Among the people attending the conference was the gay son of this priest. The young man had been receiving counseling from me, trying as he was to find hope for his future. He was lonely and fearful, afraid he would one day succumb to the strong sexual desires that were rising up within him, as he struggled with one of the strongest of human urges. The young man loved his faith and loved his father, but was filled with self loathing and afraid his family would one day disown him, should they find out about his sexual proclivity. Sitting on the platform I had a clear view of him and could see the pain in his face upon hearing his fathers words. Sad to say, this young man did not remain in the Church, and eventually give in to defeat and despair.

(Abbot Tryphon)

Do not mistake the Abbot’s story for approval of unchastity:

Had his father known of his son’s struggles, I have no doubt he’d have given his son the loving assurance that he would always be his son and would never be rejected by his family. I am convinced this young man, had he stayed in the Church, would have received the support and love that was necessary to live a chaste life.

The answer to ALL passions of the flesh can be found within the walls of the Church. Just as Her founder, the Church is the fountain of compassion and mercy. It is not Christ’s Church that fails people, but sometimes the very therapists (clergy) who can get caught up in the letter of the law rather than being grounded in the mercy and compassion and love that is the foundation of the Church.

I don’t believe that Abbot Trypon is exaggerating, as do those who so readily sling the charge of “bigot” against anyone who dares oppose complete normalization of homosexuality. I don’t know what would possess a conscientious Priest or pastor to preach a hateful sermon on homosexuality or any sin. Is it a cheap and easy way to win approval?

On homosexuality as on abortion, a preacher should assume that where 20 or 30 are gathered together, there is a post-abortive woman and someone with same-sex attraction in the midst of them. Heck, you might even make that “two or three” — you just never know. You’re always playing spiritual roulette to assume that there’s nobody here but Us Righteous Ones.

2

Atheist meme #1: It is offensive to imply that being an atheist is in any way detrimental to being a moral person. Atheists can be just as moral as religious people.

Atheist meme #2: The idea that man is in any way special is speciesism derived from religious ideas like the image of God. Once we get rid of those religious concepts we can see that man is just another animal, though a highly evolved one. Man’s continuity with the animals means that abortion, euthanasia, killing those in “vegetative states,” and even infanticide are all “on the table” for ethical debate. The decision in specific cases should be made on the basis of utilitarian considerations without any notion that human life per se is valuable.

I have sometimes wondered, when atheists complain (a la meme #1) that others think they are less moral than theists, what they would say if asked, “What do you think of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia? Is your position on these matters at all influenced by your atheism? If yes, and if I consider your position grossly immoral, then why should you be offended to learn that I consider that your atheism makes you less moral?”

(Lydia McGrew) I don’t give McGrew’s blog theme many style points, but sometimes she makes some awfully good points.

3

When Harvey Cox was a student minister in Berlin in 1962, one year after the erection of the Wall, he was able to travel back and forth between East and West because he held an American passport. He thus became a courier for pastors and Christian laypeople on both sides of that divide and was sometimes able to smuggle theological books into the East. What the people wanted most were copies of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. “To carry in something by Bultmann would have been a wasted risk,” Cox said. “Let the bourgeois preachers in West Germany agonize about the disappearance of the three-decker universe and existentialism. We had weightier matters to confront.”

(Timothy George, “Theology Worth Smuggling“)

4

Having come from an inerrantist millieu, I too quickly endorsed the Slactivist’s lead-in to a Thursday blog, with the exception of the seemingly gratuitous “white”:

The modern assertion of “biblical inerrancy” basically boils down to the claim by certain white Christians that “The Bible says what we say it says, and nothing else, and so you must listen to us as though we were God.”

The claim “the Bible is inerrant” can never be separated from the claim “I can read the Bible perfectly.” It’s not primarily about error or errors at all, but about authority. The Bible is the ultimate arbiter of authority. My reading of the Bible is the ultimate arbiter of what the Bible means. Therefore, I am the ultimate arbiter of authority.

But “white” wasn’t gratuitous after all. Slacktivist tried to turn inerrantism into “a blunt and blatant grab for god-like power” via a “’doctrine’ that was designed to defend and sanctify the practice of white supremacy, slavery, colonialism and the slaughter of indigenous people.” That was an unexpected twist, which twist would be fun were it not spiritually misguided, absurd and anachronistic.

“You must listen to us as though we were God” also rings false. In my experience, the real problem with inerrantism isn’t people trying to lord it over others (though perhaps thats the tip of an iceberg I never sailed near enough for familiarity), but the license to combine doctrines of inerrancy, perspicuity, sola scriptura and the priesthood of all believers into a solipsistic refusal to recognize any authority beyond one’s own interpretations. It produces atomistic individuals, spiritual Lone Rangers, who recapitulate every known heresy and simply will not endure sound doctrine. They may try to persuade you with a barrage of proof-texts, but they’re pathetic, not powerful.

I know: I was one of them. Let’s leave it at that, at least for now.

So when I got the epiphany that Slacktivist describes in the block-quote, I took it personally, and left Protestantism. Maybe there’s a firm place to stand in Protestantism without inerrancy, some reliability short of perfect clarity, but I didn’t see it.*

It never occurred to me to excoriate sola scriptura inerrantists as white supremacists and blah blah blah rather than apply the epiphany to myself, and to my unreliability as an interpreter of scripture for my own edification, not as an instrument of power over anyone else.

Slacktivist links to the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy with Exposition. I could quibble with the Articles that come closest to saying something intelligible, but I’m not going to let them define the terms of debate. Perhaps “the absence of the autographs” does not “render[] the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant” (Article X), but the absence of inerrant interpreters would seem to.

_   _   _

* (Ironically, I find in Orthodoxy relatively few dogmas, definitions and “firm places to stand” to pontificate about things. Instead I find healing, and surprising comfort with some ambiguity about precisely how the world and everyone else has gone wrong. But it took a while for me to see what was happening and to appreciate it as a healthier way.)

5

We of the twenty-first century have given ourselves over to consuming addictions more than any time in history. Even a casual look at how we live our lives makes it abundantly clear that we are so caught up in our addictions that we can’t even begin to notice that our world is on the brink of disaster. Scientists have been telling us for years that our over use of fossil fuels has been having a negative effect on our planet. Climate change is a fact, yet we’re so addicted to over consumption that we even look at the scientific facts in a selective way, finding ways to deny the inevitable. We’ve managed to politicize an issue that should have united us, all because we want to continue to our foolish abandonment.

(Not Pope Francis)

6

Friday, I heard an NPR Story about the visit of Pope Francis that mentioned as background that UN agencies sometimes impose “progressive” sexuality policies as a price for getting foreign aid.

MCEVERS: Liberals must have been pretty heartened by this talk that climate change is due to human activity. Did the pope have any comments that conservatives could hold onto?

POGGIOLI: Oh, yes, he did. He spoke about what he called false rights. Now, the Vatican has clashed many times over the years with the United Nations and some of its agencies for their promotion of abortion rights, population control, issues like that in some developing countries, often as a condition for development grants. This is part of what Pope Francis calls ideological colonization. Let’s listen to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POPE FRANCIS: (Through interpreter) By the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, are irresponsible.

POGGIOLI: That was a veiled reference to same-sex marriage and the theory that gender is flexible.

(Emphasis added)

So how does the third world react to our ideological colonialism? An African pastor powerfully states his view:

To affirm that the Bible condemns homosexual practice as sinful is neither a uniquely African literalist reading of Scripture nor the view of right-wing Evangelical homophobes. It is a view shared by some liberal, pro-gay, Western biblical scholars. Dan O. Via, a pro-gay New Testament scholar, in Homosexuality and the Bible: TwoViews, allows that “the biblical texts that deal specifically with homosexual practice condemn it unconditionally.” Walter Wink, a well-known liberal New Testament professor, is equally clear in his review of Robert Gagnon’s important work The Bible and Homosexual Practice: “Efforts to twist the text to mean what it clearly does not say are deplorable. Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behavior, and there is no getting around it.”

The fact that the views of the vast majority of African society on issues of sex and marriage align with those of American Evangelicals does not mean Africans are mimicking or acting as proxies of American anti-gay groups. African views, which are shared by the overwhelming majority of non-Western societies, are based on sound biblical interpretation that reinforces and is reinforced by the traditional African view of life, family, community, and sexual ethics.

African societies also have a strong communal dimension. Sin is not an individual, private, or merely interior reality. Life is communal and holistic, natural and supernatural, and so sin has social, political, environmental, and even cosmic consequences. This sense of the wholeness and interconnectedness of life means individuals are accountable to one another, for, as St. Paul writes, “if one member suffers, all suffer together, and if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” Liberal American theologians may regard the redefinition of marriage as a limited, contained adjustment of doctrine. For Africans, to revise a part is to disrupt the whole.

This integral, communal view is not superstition. In 2014, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, was asked whether the Church of England would accept gay marriage after it was allowed in law in Britain. He responded: “The impact of that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan, like Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic.” He went on to say that he recently visited the grave of 369 people in Africa where it was believed “if we leave a Christian community here we will all be made to become homosexual and so we will kill all the Christians.” The Archbishop added, “I’ve stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of Christians who’d been attacked because of something that had happened far, far away in America.” Of course, the comments were roundly attacked and ridiculed by the media and gay rights groups, arguing that the killers and not gay people are responsible for the deaths. But to African ears, the backlash to Archbishop Welby’s concern came across as the West saying their right to have sex the way they wanted to and with whom they chose to is more important to them than African lives.

A female African scholar sharply reminded her colleagues at the July 2013 consultation that “Africans don’t talk about sex, they just do sex!” Americans talk about it, commercialize it, cheapen and distort sex. The normalization of homosexual practice and the redefinition of marriage strike me as part of a determined process of over-sexualizing human affairs. Given the content of America’s entertainment exports, Africans can be excused for developing the wrong impression that a high percentage of people in America are homosexual!

(John Azumah in First Things, emphasis and hyperlinks added) The whole Azumah article powerfully evokes the predominant African outlook on homosexuality and the bizarre phenomenon of Christian seminarians who are lax on doctrine but dogmatic about sub-Christian views of sexuality.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.