He sees that there are two lines going in. One has a sign that reads “predestined,” and the other, “free will”. He naturally heads to the predestined line.
While waiting, an angel comes and asks him “Why are you in this line?”
He replies, “Because I chose it.”
The angel looks surprised, “Well, if you ‘chose’ it, then you should be in the free will line.”
So our Calvinist, now slightly miffed, obediently wanders over to the free will line.
Again, after a few minutes, another angel asks him, “Why are you in this line?”
He sullenly replies, “Someone made me come here.”
“The history of man can be written as an effort by one group of men after another trying to gain power over the life and death of his fellow man, to gain control over the actions and thoughts of his peers, to claim ownership over the fruits of the labors, wealth, and property of his neighbor. And it has worked… for a time… for so many of history’s tyrants… benevolent or otherwise.
Conquest, however, is destined to fail each and every time… because conquest never comes alone.”
I was discussing with some friends that the Supreme Court taking up constitutionality of same-sex marriage this last week has been challenging because it has been a distraction from Holy Week and Easter. However, my opinion is that there may be no better time than now to proclaim what Christ died for on the cross, all of our sins.
Intent of Marriage
One of the more challenging issues, in my opinion, is addressing what God’s intent of marriage is versus what actually happens in the world (i.e. “the social construct”). As the LCMS resolution affirms and which I affirm as well, “marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:2–24; Matt. 19:5–6)”. I think it is important to note that in this affirmation there is no mention of being Christian to be married. Just a man and a woman, together, forever.
If we look around though, that is unfortunately not what happens most of the time. For example, the world is filled with divorce, and indeed even people who identify themselves as Christians divorce at disturbingly high rates. Society may be okay with that, but I am not. I don’t condone it, I’m not in favor of it.
Divorce, destructive of what God has joined together, is always contrary to God’s intention for marriage … A person who divorces his/her spouse for any other cause than sexual unfaithfulness and marries another commits adultery. Anyone who marries a person so discarding his or her spouse commits adultery.1
The Bible is also rife with examples of people engaging in unholy things, including polygamy, but that does not make that okay:
Polygamy certainly was not part of God’s original design. After the Fall it was an innovation by Lamech (Gen. 4:19), a descendant of Cain, the first fratricide (Gen. 4:8). Lamech, the first bigamist, bragged to his wives about his prowess at murder (Gen. 4:23–24). The Old Testament recognized the existence of polygyny among some of God’s chosen people. It could be the result of a lack of faith that God would fulfill His promises (Abraham and Hagar in Genesis 16). In the case of Jacob (Genesis 29–30), it was the result of trickery and a human solution for infertility. Although it caused family conflicts, God used it to multiply His people, including the family line of the promised Messiah. However, no Old Testament passage requires it or commends it as God-pleasing. Many passages advocate monogamy as the normal and ideal form of marriage.
I’m not sure if same-sex marriage is a greater or lessor sin than adultery; at the very least they are both sinful and I’m not okay with either. I don’t condone them, I’m not in favor of them.
Reading and understanding Old Testament books is a tricky thing because they have to be read with context. It’s inappropriate to cherry pick a passage and use it to justify anything without understanding it. For example, Leviticus 19:28 says, “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.”
Prima facie, it appears that Christians should not get a tattoo.
Leviticus is wrongly used to argue many things. …[T]he prohibition of tattoos as well as other prohibitions and admonitions in Leviticus were due to cultic practices. The whole point of the Levitical law was to make a way for the people of Israel to be set apart from the nations and made holy so that Yahweh might make his dwelling among them. In order to set them apart, certain laws were given to keep them from falling prey to the pagan religions of their neighbors. Also in Leviticus we see the sacrificial system established via the Tabernacle. All of this was provided for the purpose of cleansing Israel of their iniquity and making them holy before God that He could dwell with them. But today, Jesus has come! And in his coming into our flesh, and taking on our sin, and dying on the Cross, he has fulfilled the law in full. Therefore, it is no longer adherence to Levitical law that sets God’s people apart. It is no longer the blood of tabernacle/temple sacrifices that makes them Holy. We are set apart and made holy before God by the blood of Jesus poured out for us on the cross. We are set apart in Him.
It’s at this point where I get in a bit in over my head since I don’t know the specific contexts for the Old Testament, so I’m relegated to using examples from sources that I trust. Regardless, I think we can get hung up too much on the law.
Indeed, it is precisely our inability to keep the law for which Christ died. He kept the law perfectly for us and he died for us thus taking the penalty for breaking the law upon himself. However, it is true that the law still does exist. Jesus Christ said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Christ’s death did not take the law away; it satisfied it for us. Now for us in Christ, the law serves a number of purposes; chief among them being to show us our sinfulness that we would turn to God in repentance and receive forgiveness in Christ. The law also serves to curb us from sin and to guide us in living the Christian life. We should indeed strive to keep the law, for in so doing we generally live better lives and are better able to love and serve others. However, the law cannot save us; it only condemns us. Our salvation is found only in the Gospel which delivers Christ crucified for our sins.
The teaching of Luther and the reformers can be summarized in three phrases: Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone.
Grace Alone (Sola Gratia):
God loves the people of the world, even though they are sinful, rebel against Him and do not deserve His love. He sent Jesus, His Son, to love the unlovable and save the ungodly.
Faith Alone (Sola Fide):
By His suffering and death as the substitute for all people of all time, Jesus purchased and won forgiveness and eternal life for them. Those who hear this Good News and believe it have the eternal life that it offers. God creates faith in Christ and gives people forgiveness through Him.
Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura):
The Bible is God’s inerrant and infallible Word, in which He reveals His Law and His Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is the sole rule and norm for Christian doctrine.”
The Lutheran Church expanded on this in “The Inspiration of Scripture, A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, March 1975″:
Even though there are differences and variety in the Sacred Writings which sometimes perplex us because we can find no harmonization for them that satisfies human reason, faith confesses the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. Since the inerrancy of the Scriptures is a matter of faith, it is by definition a doctrine which is believed solely on the basis of the witness of the Scriptures concerning themselves and not on the basis of empirical verification.
This is nor to say that in no case is the inerrancy of the Scriptures demonstrable by extra-Biblical evidence. The Scriptures, for instance, report historical events through which God worked out His saving purposes. Since these events occurred on the plane of human history, they are to that extent susceptible of investigation and even of verification by historical research. The Christian faith does not relegate the acts of God for man’s redemption to the arena of super-history so as to detach them from the realm of reality open to examination by the historian. While the Biblical witness to what God was doing in history is not verifiable or unverifiable by the techniques of historical research, Christians gladly submit the Scriptures to investigation with the full confidence that whenever the extra-Biblical evidence is correctly read and understood it will vindicate the complete reliability of the Biblical records relative to that dimension of the events which is subject to human examination.
This is to say that faith in the inerrancy of the Scriptures does not rely on corroboration of Biblical truth by empirical evidence — faith holds to the inerrancy of the Scriptures even when there is no extra-Biblical substantiation and even when other sources appear to be in conflict with the Scriptures. Luther explained that he used writers of history in such a way that while he did not disregard them, he did not permit them to induce him to contradict the Scriptures. In the Scriptures God speaks. Historians make mistakes.2
Faith affirms that God could speak His Word of Truth even through men whose knowledge of nature and history apart from direct revelation was partial and limited. Faith affirms that even in the presence of difficulties which human reason may regard as deficiencies, we have, nevertheless, in the Scriptures God’s totally reliable Word which cannot mislead and deceive us.
“None of the natural limitations which belong to the human mind even when under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost can impair the authority of the Bible or the inerrancy of the Word of God; for Holy Scripture is the book of divine truth which
transcends everything called truth by the wise men of this world (1 Cor. 1:17 ff., 27; Col. 2:8) and is therefore able to make us ‘wise unto salvation’ (2 Tim. 3:15).”3
Inspiration was not mechanical dictation but rather an operation of the Holy Spirit that allowed a function to each author’s individuality in writing the Scriptures. Therefore the predication of inerrancy to the Bible does not imply that when the New Testament reproduces and applies Old Testament statements this must always occur by means of verbatim quotations, or that there must be verbal correspondence between parallel accounts of the same event wherever they are found either in the Old or the New Testament.
Each writer inerrantly imparted God’s truth as the Holy Spirit moved him to do so in his own way, from his own perspective, and for his own purposes. Far from impugning the veracity of the Scriptures this multidimensional application of whatsoever was spoken aforetime and this multidimensional view of events reported serves to impart more fully the truth which God reveals for the edification of His people. The Biblical conception of inspiration does not see these differences as errors, but as inspired variety which we should recognize with thanksgiving and study prayerfully imploring the Spirit’s help so that we may receive all the instruction He wishes to imparts.
Love is a Verb
In my opinion, love is not just what we say, but what we do as well. I can say “I love you” to Rachel as much as I want — and it is important to do so. Yet if my actions do not reflect what I say…have I really loved her?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7:”4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
I would argue that as a Christian, I am not loving if I don’t say anything about homosexuality (or adultery, murder, etc). Since I believe that those who do not follow Christ are condemned, I should speak out when I see wrong doings, not because I am judging, but because I care and I do not want anyone to be condemned to Hell.
And honestly, when it comes down to it, we are all sinners.
I rebel against Him, you rebel against him, Pastor rebels against him. None of us deserve His love. But He sent Jesus, His Son, to love the unlovable and save the ungodly. That’s you, me, and everyone else on this planet.
Secular Legal Implications
Where the United States is now, legally speaking, with regard to marriage is what I would call an “undefined state” in engineering, and a state that should not have been allowed to occur but for some reason has.
Legally speaking, I would suspect all marriage laws enacted by the state that provide benefits run afoul of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (emphasis added)
However, this argument against state laws providing equal protection immediately breaks down at the Federal level (i.e. Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)) since it only applies to the states, and not the Federal government. The question of the validity of DOMA will be likely one of federalism. I am not a huge fan of federalism to begin with, but I’m honestly not sure on what legal grounds DOMA could be overturned.
My opinion is the best thing to do would be to remove the concept of marriage from the law completely. No tax benefits, no legal entitlements, nothing. I think one could make a good case that such benefits (when the combined collective benefits outweigh the individual component of such benefits) for any two people, regardless of sexual orientation, would also be a violation of the equal protection clause for those that are single. I won’t hide the fact this also plays into my libertarian ideals, but I think that this is also a legally cohesive stance.
Render unto Caesar
Let’s get one thing clear, in the United States Constitution: there is no separation of church and state.
There is the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
From a legal perspective, I do not read this to mean my theological views cannot or should not inform my political decisions (i.e. how I voting).
However, there is no denying that a “culture war” does exist, as address in Render unto Caesar…and unto God: A Lutheran View of Church and State, A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, September 1995:
The evidence of serious problems in the relationship between Americans and their government is all around us. In fact, sociologist James Davison Hunter has argued that these problems reflect an underlying “culture war”:
America is in the midst of a culture war that has had and will continue to have reverberations not only within public policy but within the lives of ordinary Americans everywhere.
I define cultural conflict very simply as political and social hostility rooted in different systems of moral understanding. The end to which these hostilities tend is the domination of one cultural and moral ethos over all others. Let it be clear, the principles and ideals that mark these competing systems of moral understanding are by no means trifling but always have a character of ultimacy to them. They are not merely attitudes that can change on a whim but basic commitments and beliefs that provide a source of identity, purpose, and togetherness for the people who live by them. It is for precisely this reason that political action rooted in these principles and ideals tends to be so passionate.4
What is new about this, argues Hunter, is that in the past American politics took place within a generally biblical framework while today that framework is selfconsciously secular. As a result, according to Hunter, “the older agreements have unraveled. The divisions of political consequence today are … the result of differing worldviews.” What is at stake, he concludes, are “our most fundamental and cherished assumptions about how to order our lives–our own lives and our lives together in this society. Our most fundamental ideas about who we are as Americans are now at odds.” (James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (New York: Basic Books, 1991), 34; 42.))5
What The Bible Says
The problems of church and state are relatively recent. Through most of recorded history they were problems of church and empire or kingdom. In contrast to modern states, where power is quite abstract and bureaucratic, the governments of ancient empires were personal and often authoritarian. The emperor (such as the Roman Caesar) or king was in direct personal control of the government and, as the absolute authority in many societies, the royal word was law. Indeed, the kings and queens frequently exercised such tremendous powers of life and death that they often were considered gods.6
It is important to begin our study, therefore, by observing that the Bible makes a fundamental distinction between divine and human authority. While from the beginning humans have wanted to be like God and to play god, the Bible persistently proclaims only one God who is sovereign over everything and everyone:
Remember this and consider, recall it to mind, you transgressors … for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” (Is. 46:8–10)
For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”–yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Cor. 8:5–6)
Above the empires and states of history stands one everlasting divine authority to whom all are accountable–even kings and queens, presidents and dictators. And so, while kings and empires pass from the scene, the church continues to proclaim God’s divine authority. As Arthur Cleveland Coxe once penned it:
O where are kings and empires now Of old that went and came?
But, Lord, thy Church is praying yet, A thousand years the same.7
Is There Really a Lutheran Perspective?
The Lutheran perspective is grounded finally in that radical distinction between Law and Gospel that both establishes and affirms the distinction between church and state. While there is unity in the Lutheran view — since God rules in both kingdoms, both church and state — it is also true that this unity is and always will be visible only to the eyes of faith. Christians cannot, and must not attempt to, force this world to become what it can never be, since force will only create the appearance of Christ’s kingdom and never the substance.
The Lutheran model is, admittedly, complex. Thus, even Lutherans have often succumbed to the simplicity of other models–models that resolve the tension either by pursuing a more this-worldly kingdom of Christ or by ignoring this world’s problems. Yet, the difficulty with which Lutherans hold to their perspective does not invalidate it. Indeed, the Scripture provides ample support for the contention that authentic Christianity is a hard teaching, difficult to bear (John 6:60). The issue is not whether Lutheran teaching is easy to understand; the issue is whether it properly reflects what the Bible says.
The Lutheran perspective is also, admittedly, difficult to apply. Even when agreeing, for instance, that the church does not have a Gospel-based responsibility to promote the transformation of the civil realm, Lutheran theologians and church bodies have disagreed about whether the corporate church (and not just the individual Christian) has a Law-based duty to teach the state ethical principles. Theologians and church bodies have also disagreed about the most prudent and effective means by which the church might actually teach those ethical principles in a pluralistic and democratic society. The paradoxical tensions of the Lutheran perspective, ï¿¼therefore, make its practical application in diverse cultural and political systems a challenging task.
I will admit I have not had the chance to read all 96 pages of the report, however I am in the middle of it. The take away I have as of now and subject to change is that how my faith informs my political actions will never be a simple matter that can be distilled down to a list of policies that should or should not have Biblical influences.
Whether I’ve actually been able to satisfactorily address the prominent and important issues will remain to be seen (in the comments). Part of the problem of social media, including blogging, is the lack of ability to gauge in real-time if I’m addressing the issue appropriately or not.
Regardless of my abilities to communicate, the important fact still remains:
The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world8, and that Christ, who knew no sin, was made to be our sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God9. It is the church’s proper evangelical work to proclaim the reconciliation of the sinner to God in the death of Jesus Christ10 in a spirit of compassion and humility, recognizing that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus11.
Theses of agreement, “Theses on Scripture and Inspiration,” adopted by the conventions of the merging churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia in 1956 and 1959. The “Theses on Scripture and Inspiration” were reprinted and distributed by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations in “Statements From The Lutheran Church of Australia,” 1973, pp. 6-7. ↩
James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (New York: Basic Books, 1991), 34; 42. ↩
Richard John Neuhaus agrees: “Our present moment and the decades ahead, it is reasonable to think, may best be described as a Kulturkampf over the defining of the American experiment.” “From Providence to Privacy: Religion and the Redefinition of America,” in Unsecular America, ed. Richard John Neuhaus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 60. ↩
See, e.g., Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars, trans. K. and R. Gregor Smith (London: SCM Press LTD, 1955); Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (New York: The Modern Library, n.d.), 1:61. ↩
In Excelsis: Hymns with Tunes for Christian Worship (New York: The Century Co., 1897), hymn 637:1. ↩
There has been a large contingent of people whom I am friends with on Facebook who have changed their profile picture to an image of an equals sign. Based on the context of my friend’s status updates and in light of the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments this week regarding same-sex marriage, I surmised that displaying such an image implies such friends endorsement of same-sex marriage.
Partly because I was feeling a bit antagonistic1, but mostly because it’s what I believe, and I’ve found it important to speak up for what I believe. I changed my profile to an image of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod logo…a cross. I didn’t pick it because of the color, I literally just did a Google Image search for LCMS and picked the first one. It was later pointed out that I had used the older version of the LCMS logo, the new one is nice shade of blue. I used the LCMS logo because I am confirmed in the LCMS.
Several people have left some very pointed questions and comments, and at least one person has unfriended me. To be honest, it does cause a bit of a gut wrench because I’m selfish want to be thought of as a “good guy” and if people are unfriending me…well, it’s easy to for me not to feel like a “good guy” if I’m going against the tide. But I am also steadfast in what I believe, which in turn gives me peace in my actions.
You will just have to believe me when I say that I have talked with many people and pastors over many years about the issue of same-sex marriage, always seeking to understand more. Even still I seek to understand more so that I can get to the point of being able to teach effectively.
The challenge I have in attempting to answer questions surrounding same-sex marriage is that A) these are not easy questions to answer; and B) I am not a teacher of theology, I am an engineer2. I have internalized many elements of my belief system (just as I internalize many elements of my engineering knowledge), but I have not yet gotten to the point where I can adequately explain them. Some may point to this as an “Aha!” and claim that perhaps by faith is flawed. I disagree.
At this point in time, my opinion is that my inability to effectively teach, combined with arguments having generally become too polarizing, cause this to be an issue not worth arguing about. The arguments quickly devolve into shouting matches and escalate in intensity with no real or meaning outcome. So, I typically just make my stance clear and leave it at that.
However, there have been some requests for clarification on Facebook, and I feel like that is a worthwhile endeavor. I’m not going to address every issue point by point, but give a general summary of where I stand:
I believe “on the basis of Scripture, marriage [is] the lifelong union of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:2–24; Matt. 19:5–6).” That is the relevant-to-this-conversation conclusion from the 2004 LCMS Convention Proceedings, RESOLUTION 3-05A, “To Affirm Marriage as Union of One Man and One Woman”, which I also agree with: From www.lcms.org:
WHEREAS, The LCMS, in convention, in 1973, stated in Res. 2-04 (Proceedings, p. 110): “That the Synod recognize homophile behavior as intrinsically sinful” (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom.1:24– 27); and
WHEREAS, The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2) and that Christ, who knew no sin, was made to be our sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21); and
WHEREAS, The church’s proper evangelical work is to proclaim the reconciliation of the sinner to God in the death of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18–19); and
WHEREAS, The Synod, in convention (2001 Res. 2-08A), encouraged its congregations “to minister to homosexuals and their families in a spirit of compassion and humility, recognizing that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23–24)”; and
WHEREAS, Many in American society are demanding legal recognition of same-sex unions as “marriages” by appeals to “equality under the law” (e.g., the Supreme Court of the State of Massachusetts, Feb. 4, 2004); and
WHEREAS, God gave marriage as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride the Church (Eph. 5:32); and
WHEREAS, Homosexual behavior is prohibited in the Old and New Testaments (Lev. 18:22, 24; 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9–20; 1 Tim. 1:10) as contrary to the Creator’s design (Rom. 1:26–27); and WHEREAS, For our Synod to be silent, especially in the present context, could be viewed as acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle; therefore be it
Resolved, That the Synod urge its members to give a public witness from Scripture against the social acceptance and legal recognition of homosexual “marriage”; and be it further
Resolved, That in ministering to homosexuals, “A Plan for Ministry to Homosexuals and Their Families,” prepared by the President’s Task Force, be commended as a resource for study and a guide for pastoral care; and be it further
Resolved, That the members of the Synod deal with sexual sins with the same love and concern as all other sins, calling for repentance and offering forgiveness in the Good News of Jesus Christ when there is repentance; and be it further
Resolved, That husbands and wives give thanks to God for the blessings of marriage, lead a chaste and decent life, and each love and honor one’s spouse; and be it finally
Resolved, That the LCMS, in convention, affirm, on the basis of Scripture, marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:2–24; Matt. 19:5–6).
To be perfectly clear about this, mostly because I feel like this point is missed and then people end up calling me a bigot: I do not hate, have contempt for, or am intolerant of people who identify as homosexual. If you catch me doing this, call me out on it.
As Tad pointed out, “There’s a difference between affirming one’s behavior and affirming one’s dignity as a human being … A good and reasonable person can disapprove strongly of what another does and still strongly affirm the person as a human being.”
I absolutely agree with and do affirm one’s dignity as a human being.
I do not affirm homosexual behavior.
I do not believe this is an issue of equality, or “loving your neighbor as yourself” as some have put it. Matthew 22:35-39 (NIV) is very clear: From www.biblegateway.com:
35 One of them [a Pharisee], an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’338 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’4
Love the Lord your God first. Then your neighbor.
I will say I think there are some other interesting constitutional arguments to be made, both for and against, if I was to ignore the theological implications. Maybe I’ll write about them another day.
The Thread that Started it All:
O.Q.: Is this to “boycott” the ridiculous red equal sign going around?! …because it should be… March 26, 2013 at 2:25pm (Like: 1)
E.S.: I’m so changing mine. Genius! March 26, 2013 at 2:31pm
Andrew Ferguson: @O.Q. yes it is. March 26, 2013 at 3:50pm (Like: 2)
O.Q.: You are a good man. lol March 26, 2013 at 4:28pm
C.F.: Really? Why is it ridiculous? I think it’s pretty great. March 26, 2013 at 5:00pm (Like: 1)
G.F.: Did you pick this particular pic because it’s red or because it’s the MO Synod emblem? March 26, 2013 at 5:01pm
Y.Z.: Andrew, you’re no stranger to posting your opinions on facebook, and that’s a good thing; it encourages hearty debate on important issues. Frankly, I probably post more than my fair share of political opinions.
But the thing is, when you make a political post on facebook, what you’re really doing is tacitly agreeing to engage with anyone who might want to discuss/challenge your opinion. This is a standard I try to live by when posting, because otherwise there’s no point in broadcasting your opinion to the public.
Why do I bring this up? During the November elections, you posted a link to your blog in which you argue against approving Referendum 74. I applauded you for making your opinion known and inviting debate on the issue. If you remember, I posted a challenge to your argument. I wish I could reproduce the argument I made, but I can’t find the original post or my response anymore. However, I remember that the only response I got from you is that you had to put my argument through your “mental matrix” or something of that sort. That was the end of the debate.
Now here we are, I with a marriage equality profile photo, and you with a rebuttal to the argument implicit in my photo. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with making political posts on facebook, but you should realize, when you make an argument, but don’t address its critiques, and then continue to make the same argument, the integrity of your argument invariably suffers.
Maybe this doesn’t matter to you; I have my argument and you have yours. What I do know is that I presented you with an argument that you were either unable, unwilling or simply forgot to respond to. If the first is the case, I can respect that; maybe we have value systems which are simply incompatible, in which case we can leave it at that. If the second is the case, I would suggest you think twice before posting political opinions to facebook if you don’t care to engage with critics. If the third is the case, I’ll remind you:
If your conception of marriage is a man and a woman united in matrimony within Christ, as stated in the New Testament, it would seem that, not even considering same sex marriage, a non-Christian heterosexual couple would be unable to get married. If this is an outcome you are comfortable with, well, I think you’d be hard pressed to justify how such a conception fits within a liberal democracy. If this not an outcome you are comfortable with, I urge you to think whether there is any better solution than to allow you to have your definition and religious meaning of marriage, non-Christians to have their definition and religious meaning of marriage (including same sex marriages), and accommodating these diverse viewpoints by legislating simply that marriage is the legal union between two people.
One of these days, I may get married. What being married means to me might not be what it means to you, but I certainly hope my future marriage will be valid in your eyes despite the fact that I don’t subscribe to the same religion as you. I can assure you, this will be my opinion when you marry. March 26, 2013 at 5:06pm (Like: 6)
D.Z.: Yeah, I want to know the reason behind the choice of that cross in particular.. March 26, 2013 at 6:31pm
D.Z.: Also, I don’t think the New Testament teaches that marriages between non-Christians are invalid. The Bible presents marriage as a union between a man and a woman, regardless of their religion..people are married before the call of Abraham. March 26, 2013 at 6:41pm (Like: 2)
Sorry but I don’t see what equality has to do as an attack on Christian values. Jesus said love thy neighbor without asterisks. I really have zero reason to be friend with bigots and those who will be on the wrong side of history. In 20 years when you look back I hope you and those sharig your virw realize how homophobic and bigoted this statement you made was. Until then I wish you the best and will be unfriending you. Once you reach the point where you realize God is love and Jesus’ teachings extend to EVERYONE feel free to send me a friend request. March 26, 2013 at 6:56pm (Like: 1)
G.F.: I’m not a fan of the Missouri Synod, as they don’t support women in ministry. I’m using this cross instead. March 26, 2013 at 6:57pm
D.Z.: This is why people have a hard time successfully marshalling Jesus to their side in arguments. Jesus was far more conservative with regard to what counts as ethical living than any “tolerant” person would want. He was also far more accepting of those who failed to live up to those standards than any hard-hearted conservative would want. March 26, 2013 at 7:07pm (Like: 2)
E.S.: Division, everywhere! March 26, 2013 at 7:25pm
E.S.: Quinn- I feel an important part of the acceptance statement was that the sinner recognized their depraved state, repented and turned to Christ, they didn’t flaunt their sin as if it was something to have pride in. March 26, 2013 at 7:29pm (Like: 1)
G.F.: There’s a difference between affirming one’s behavior and affirming one’s dignity as a human being. Unfortunately, people on both sides have equated behavior with identity. It’s not so black and white. A good and reasonable person can disapprove strong…See More March 26, 2013 at 7:29pm (Like: 4)
N.Z.: Personally, the pride I take in celebrating the LGBTQ community is in who God created them to be–not their sin. They don’t have to repent of who they are. They’re children of God, just like me. March 26, 2013 at 8:15pm
E.S.: Annie, I feel your point is biblically uninformed as God (via his word=bible) states that homosexuality is a sin just like premarital sex is a sin, adultery is a sin, idolatry is a sin, etc, etc. Love the sinner, not the sin March 26, 2013 at 8:23pm (Like: 1)
N.Z.: Rachel, we all choose to interpret the Bible in different ways. There are two basic camps on this issue–you and I fall into these two camps. I’ve chosen the one that fits with my understanding of God’s character and who God calls me to be in my church, my family, and my community. It’s a view that’s held by many, many, many churches and dedicated followers of Christ like myself. March 26, 2013 at 8:28pm
Andrew Ferguson: @Everyone: Here are my thoughts: https://andrewferguson.net/…/marriage-as-the-lifelong…/ March 26, 2013 at 11:20pm (Like: 1)
People frustrate me1, it’s hard for me to even find a word that appropriately reflects my sentiment. It feels like mass ignorance.
I see so many things wrong with the world, religion included — there are so many people who do things in the name of Christ that are downright unchristian and not supported by scripture.
When I come across someone who is spewing mass ignorance, I feel vehemently obligated to correct their erroneous ways. I felt like that is my only response: tell that person they are incorrect and, if needed, show that person why they were wrong, even if doing so required excruciating proof.
Chauncey linked to post talking about 1 Peter 2:15 (ESV): “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
If atheism, unreasonableness and bitterness stem from ignorance, that ignorance is as a fury, which can quickly be restrained by good works. If you argue with an atheist in his own rabid manner, you strengthen the fury of atheism. If you converse with the unreasonable by derision, the darkness of unreasonableness is increased. If you think you will overcome the embittered man with anger, you will stir up a greater fire of bitterness. A meek and good deed is like water over a fire.
The problem for me with telling people why they are wrong is that I end up getting all worked up as well. I may have won the battle, but I’m losing the war. This is why I like what Peter is saying, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”2
However, the flip side of this is that it often takes people a lot longer to recognize good deeds than to hear my technically correct but probably ungracious argument. I hate waiting. It’s probably one of the things I’ve had to practice the most in the last few years: being okay with waiting3.
When I wake up in the morning, I can jump in the shower, grab a cup of coffee, and rush off to work to be productive. Inevitably that will destine me to a day of running. Like Jacob, I will either be running to make something happen, or running away because it didn’t happen as it was supposed to. But if sometime in the morning I become still with prayer and the words of God, then it will occur to me that all of the important things have already been accomplished today. The sun came up and the earth stayed on its axis without any help from me. The Psalms remind me of that. I have awakened to a world I did not create to receive a salvation I did not earn. The Gospels make that clear every time I read them. And I need that reminder, because there are so many temptations in the course of the day to be my own savior, which is always, always, a temptation to hurry in the wrong direction.
For me, it still really is about learning to slow down.
Since I graduated from college, I’ve been trying to use my time for good, being involved in things that I think are important and extending my network of connections. Over the last year though, I’ve had to trim this back as I’ve simply got too many things going on. I even had to come up with form letter to send out because of all the awesome opportunities I got:
Unfortunately I’m at capacity (actually probably a bit over capacity) for doing things right now and I’m going to have to decline your invitation to help with the INSERT_EVENT_NAME_HERE. This year I’ve had a lot to manage and be involved in, which is a good sign: I’m gaining responsibility and learning a lot! But when push comes to shove, I tend to eliminate the “me time” first because that’s, unfortunately, the easiest thing to eliminate. I’ve slowly but surely been pushing back on that, reclaiming the time I need in order to function in the rest of the areas of my life.
Ultimately, that results in me having to say no to a lot of great opportunities. At some point in the future I may be at a point where my other responsibilities have dropped to a point where I can take on new projects. The time isn’t now though.
This has been a season of saying “no” for me and it’s been heart breaking. You haven’t been the first person or group that I’ve had to say no to and you won’t be the last. The thing that gives me hope is that it means that I’m on to something. It means that I’m cultivating a “thing” that is valuable and people want. I just need to figure out how to clone myself now.
Until we get the cloning thing perfected, I respectfully must decline your invitation to be involved with the INSERT_EVENT_NAME_HERE. Thank you for the consideration though, it does mean a lot that you thought of me.
I was talking with some friends a few nights ago and got some solid honest feedback about what I do really well that I may not know about. A lot it seemed to revolve around this “thing” I’ve been spending my time cultivating: being honest, willing to tackle tough questions, childlike curiosity.
I’ve also had some really awesome comments from friends over the last few months about my passion for engineering, technology, and even my job.
I feel like I’m brewing something amazing, but I don’t know what it is yet. And yet I’m afraid that this thing I’m brewing won’t come and one day I’ll wake up and find that I’ve stopped dreaming, in part because I’ve tried to slow down and all the time I’ve put into it will have been wasted.
I’ve been following Neil deGrasse Tyson for about a year now — ever since I saw him give a lecture, Adventures of an Astrophysicist, at the University of Washington. I may not agree with everything Neil says, but I have the utmost respect and admiration for him. In my books, he is a champion of honesty, curiosity, and willingness. He has spent time enlightening everyone from Congress2 to the Internet at large by doing a questions and answers session on Reddit.
When asked what he would do if he were President by the New York Times, Neil answered:
The question, “If I were President I’d…” implies that if you swap out one leader, put in another, then all will be well with America – as though our leaders are the cause of all ailments.
That must be why we’ve created a tradition of rampant attacks on our politicians. Are they too conservative for you? Too liberal? Too religious? Too atheist? Too gay? Too anti-gay? Too rich? Too dumb? Too smart? Too ethnic? Too philanderous? Curious behavior, given that we elect 88% of Congress every two years.
A second tradition-in-progress is the expectation that everyone else in our culturally pluralistic land should hold exactly your own outlook, on all issues.
When you’re scientifically literate, the world looks different to you. It’s a particular way of questioning what you see and hear. When empowered by this state of mind, objective realities matter. These are the truths of the world that exist outside of whatever your belief system tells you.
One objective reality is that our government doesn’t work, not because we have dysfunctional politicians, but because we have dysfunctional voters. As a scientist and educator, my goal, then, is not to become President and lead a dysfunctional electorate, but to enlighten the electorate so they might choose the right leaders in the first place.
Neil gets it, he rejects the status quo as insufficient. Neil dreams and he doesn’t get sucked in to Shinny Object Syndrome. Neil has a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).
Sometimes I worry that I don’t have a long-term BHAG. I worry that I’m not ultimately working towards something that is clear to me.
Short term dreams — zero to two years — I love. I can manipulate those short-term dreams in my mind and they feel tangible (which is not necessarily the same as feeling achievable), but how do they link up? How do I take my somewhat disparate dreams and make them into something worthwhile and awesome? I worry that when I dream about my future in the long-term, my dreams are fuzzy; and it’s not because I don’t have ideas — I do. Still, I wonder what is it that I’m ultimately working toward? Am I spending my time wisely?
Exploring the Solution Space (Source: http://blog.intercom.io/criticism-and-two-way-streets/)
I’ve been spending a lot of time doing Exploration, and I love it. But what about Refinement? Sometimes I feel like I’m not spending enough time on the refinement aspects because of Shinny Object Syndrome. At what point do I decide to switch from Exploration to Refinement?
So that’s some of the things I’ve been thinking about lately: How do I spend my time? What is my BHAG? How do I do all of this in as a Christian? How do I know if I’m doing God’s plan?
“The sex affirming Hebraic roots of Western civilization has been masked by Augustine’s legacy of eroticism-hating sexual dualism, perpetuated by authoritarian-rooted Christian dogma, which negated the basic worthiness of human beings. The evolution of Western culture is a history of theologically based sexual oppression.”5
“Traditional Christian sexual ethics is not only inadequate in that it fails to reflect God’s reign of justice and love which Jesus died announcing, but its legalistic, apologetic approach is also incompatible with central Judaic and Christian affirmations of creation, life, and an incarnate messiah. Because the Christian sexual tradition has diverged from this its life-affirming source, it has become responsible for innumerable deaths, the stunting of souls, the destruction of relationships, and the distortion of human communities. The Christian sexual tradition uses scripture and theological traditions as supports for a code of behavior which developed out of mistaken, pre-scientific understanding of man, anatomy, physiology and reproduction, as well as out of now abandoned and discredited models of the human person and human relationships.”7
After church today, several people asked me if it was my blog that Pastor George Hinman had referenced in receiving over 13,000 hits in matter of days. Unfortunately, my blog only gets around 600 hits a day.
However, I have noticed that my blog does get a fair amount of hits from people searching for things related to UPC, Jason Santos, and YMM. So I figure that I should also share the love and point you guys to what your are probably looking for, which is the place where you can “[Continue] the conversation about Jason Brian Santos, the June 12 vote, and the health of UPC.”
I will probably have more to say at a later date, but for now, I’m just really exhausted. In the meantime, please continue to pray for the Church, Jason and his family, the students, parents, and staff of YMM, and for the long journey all of us have ahead.
Events of the last few weeks, and in fact, the last few months have left me feeling uncertain at best about the church I grew up in as a kid and decided to return to as an adult after college. While I can see the path that has been laid out before us, I am not completely sure how I got on it or why it looks so strange to me. Today1, we, the congregation, will vote on the following motion2:
That the congregation of University Presbyterian Church approve the request of Rev. Jason Santos and the Session to dissolve the Associate Pastor relationship with the church.
Jason himself has noted, “I am, therefore, submitting my resignation and would ask that you would honor this decision.”
This leaves me at a divergence of two roads in a yellow wood, with both paths sucking hard-core. On the one hand, I want to honor Jason’s decision. However, I also do not believe that I can, in good conscience, vote to accept the recommendation of Session to dissolve the pastoral relationship.
In many ways, I feel like I can sympathize with how Pontius Pilate3 must have felt:
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
I so very much want to be able to wash my hands of this situation — and of this vote. Things have been done that I’m not happy with and that I don’t agree with. I want to be able to distance myself from this so I can say, “Ah ha! See! I told you so.”
But that would be the easy way out, and Christ never promised me an easy life.
Sometimes I wish Pilate would have done more. And yes, I know that Pilate plays a critical role in Christianity in this regard, he’s even mentioned by name in the Apostles’ Creed, which is significant. But I still imagine Pilate feeling helpless, and frustrated, and sad, and maybe even a little bit sick to his stomach — as I am now, because I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to vote.
But I can’t simply sit on the couch and let the vote pass me by. Instead, this is where I take the road less traveled, the road that Pilate chose not to take. I’m choosing not to wash my hands of this.
If I could be awesome, like Paul was4, I would have written a letter like this to the congregation of UPC:
12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26 Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
I know this letter doesn’t say anything about how to vote. That would be easy. Instead, I see this letter as a reminder of how we are to act. We are to be supportive and patient, thankful and prayerful. We are to check out everything and not be gullible5. We are to remember that our God is faithful and he will do what he said he will do.
Tomorrow’s vote isn’t going to be easy. It’s going be hard. The next several months, and probably even years, are going to be hard and they’re going to require hupomeno — perseverance under misfortunes and trials while holding fast to one’s faith in Christ.
Maybe it’s for the best that I’m not Pilate. My hope is that if I don’t wash my hands of this, I can somehow do something good in the long run. My hope is that I can be part of the healing process, even if I was part of the problem.
Hope is a pretty powerful thing. I know God has a plan; and I know it wasn’t his first plan because we screwed that one up a long time ago, but I choose to believe that this plan will still be awesome.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a Planning Meeting for YMM:
UPC Senior Staff have asked a team from the Human Resources Committee to look at the current situation in the YMM Department from an HR perspective and make recommendations for a framework to move toward near-term resolution of key issues so that YMM can focus on effectively moving forward in its ministry.
The process will include a Planning Meeting facilitated by Jeff Trautman to identify compatible action steps that could be taken to meet the goals of faith development and outreach for YMM.
My desire to participate in this meeting was not to have a say about what we should be doing (e.g. planning day-to-day, month-to-month, etc), but to be present as a reflection of what is going on (i.e. the process) as I see it.
This reflection includes my experience as a former student and as a current sponsor and member of UPC. I also believe I bring a unique view to the situation, in part because of how I experience and analyze things with an engineering mindset.
The mission of this Planning Meeting was to “explore and seek our shared voice regarding the framework of YMM.”
Our process was to “consider 5 questions1 as catalysts for achieving this mission this evening”:
What relationship or experience was formative in your pursing a relationship with Christ?
Who do you believe YMM is called to serve, primarily?
Where along the faith discovery/discipleship journey do you think YMM should be most intention in its efforts?
What is a fundamental strategy YMM should embrace to fulfill its calling and reflect the overall ministry of UPC?
How will the vitality of this ministry be sensed by those who are not directly involved with it on a week-to-week basis?
A “summary of our findings will be submitted to the YMM elders and staff for consideration in their discernment and development of the ministry going forward.”
We answered the questions in diverse (parents, sponsors, staff, students) groups of about five people. Each group then presented a summary of their discussion, to which the group responded and debated as a whole.
I would like to take a sentence or two to note that of the roughly 40 people present, there were ~5 elders (not all attached to YMM), ~4 students, ~4 sponsors, ~2 staff, and zero interns. It’s also worth noting that all sponsors and students present were male, and all students were either Juniors or Seniors in high school2.
On the whole, I felt the discussion was good when compared to many of the other “events” I have been to before. In comparison, I felt like people were finally norming, instead of storming. To me, that’s positive progress. For the first time that I have been able to directly observe, people weren’t visibly agitated and while emotions were definitely present, they were also appropriately in check.
However, I still feel like something is missing. We, as a church, seem adamant on addressing a perceived fault or failure of man who was called by the Holy Spirit, presented by the Pastor Nominating Committee, and unanimously3 selected by the Congregation.
Why do we find ourselves in this position? Why do we find ourselves in such a polarizing and divisive place? I think it’s easy to point to the top of the local food chain and say things to the effect of, “Why haven’t you lead us? Why are we still in disarray? Why does the philosophy of YMM seemingly keep changing? Do you even have a philosophy?”
These are all good questions to be asking, however I do not believe that they are the appropriate questions to ask at this time from this local person.
In engineering, we generally look at failures from at least two points: what is the immediate failure noticed (e.g., the display has funky characters) and what is the root cause of the failure (e.g., poor workmanship, incorrect documentation, etc). Often times, we can fix the immediate failure without having to understand the root cause, knowing that the root cause will be addressed by the established process.
That is to say, how you fix something doesn’t affect why it happened and why it happened usually doesn’t affect how you fix it. Because at the end of the day, the problem will be fixed and we will know why it happened.
This is a great method for solving issues that involve inanimate objects without feelings or memories. So when it comes to dealing with people, I think we need to take a different tack; we need to be asking ourselves is this a locally isolated issues, or is this a systems issue?
My biggest concern — and one that I’ve heard a few other people share as well, but not a lot — is that what we are observing with YMM is indicative of a much larger and systemic problem with UPC, one that I believe ultimately leads us to a lack (or an abundance) of je ne sais quoi in the upper echelons of the pastorships. This is not something that all of a sudden happened when the change in YMM leadership occurred, this is something that has been brewing and building for years. In fact, the issue may even predate the presence of some of the current pastors. This is a culture problem and it points to a gross procedural failure that is preventing us from accurately and effectively evaluating anything substantive.
And the thing is, I’m scared. I’m scared because we seem to only be focusing on what is right in front of us and not what is ahead of us. I’m scared because we have a seemingly lack of trust and faith in a system that demands4 we have both trust and faith. I’m scared because while we might “solve” this problem, that doesn’t guarantee that we won’t have this problem again in YMM or elsewhere.
I’m hurt because there has been a lack of genuine conversation and there has been little or no explanation of what is going on (at both the local and the system level), and that leaves me feeling alone and left out of a group I care deeply about.
Whatever this je ne sais quoi is — it could be lack of leadership, it could be lack of communication, it could be lack of council…these are all guesses — we need to understand the root cause and we need to do it in a way that is loving and gratifying to the Lord.