Monday, June 09, 2008

One Lord One Faith

Recently I have been engaged on a blogging discussion on the Gay Marriage debate in California. you can view it at
if you so desire.

toward the end you will see a posting by 'Walter' who suggests that those on opposing sides of the 'Gay' issue should just admit that we are not 'in communion,' a very Anglican type view. He even suggests that we are not practicing the same religion.

Baptists historically have not based their 'communion' with one another based on creedal affirmations as would Anglicans or Presbyterians. We associate with each other practically for education and mission. And historically we allow each other 'Soul Freedom.' This is interesting. I have no problem considering myself in 'communion' with Walter because I both expect and respect the exercise of Soul Freedom. God has given both Walter and I a brain to use in discerning and applying the scriptures. Diversity should not frighten a Baptist, we should expect it. I can still be in communion with someone who disagrees with me about one issue or another. Apparently for Walter we must agree to be in communion.

Paul addresses this idea in Romans 14. The Roman church(es) are in disagreement about dietary restrictions (staying kosher or eating meat sacrificed to idols) and about the correct day to worship (saturday sabbath or sunday sabbath). Paul expect diversity and instructs the church to allow each to do as s/he feels lead as long as they do so 'for the Lord.' Paul expects and respects a diversity of understandings of the scripture and instructs the church to be open to such a thing.

so I consider myself to be in communion with walter, even though we disagree. It seems to me that we as a world-wide church would be making a much more effective witness to the world if we would value communion over agreement, engage in spirited debate and then affirm each other as sister and brother in Christ.

'You may say that I'm a dreamer...'


VanceH said...

Hi Darin, It appears that we are walking very similar paths these days--including using Rom 14 as the "proof text" of our posts. (Truth in the Church) While I definitely prefer communion over controversy I still think there are the issues of belief / non-belief in community, and sin / not sin in our personal walks. But for me it has been a relief to remove the church as the diviner of these things...

darin said...

I agree vance, that there are issues of belief/non-belief. perhaps I am just plain uninformed, but I fail to see why the 'gay' issue seems for many to be THE issue of belief/non-belief.
and I think it is a matter of perspective. For instance, Jesus was quite certain that wealth was likely to be an obstacle to the Kingdom. But you hear little talk about breaking communion with the wealthy. Some say this is dodging the issue. To me it is the issue.
thanks for checking in vance
always value your thoughts

VanceH said...

Hi Darin, I have also thinking about the prohibitions against homosexuality in the Bible. Although the case is stronger than some other areas (e.g. abortion) it is not an overpowering number of verses (maybe 6-7) that condemn it. In the bible I see exceptions to almost every rule (e.g. Moses--murder, David--adultery, Rahab--the honored hooker). But we are missing the gay guy that saves the Israelites in some dicey situation. Perhaps something that did not make the canon...

I have been impressed with the energy of the gay Christians. In spite of the vitriol they endure from most Evangelicals they are outspoken in their love of Christ. They know what persecution is and they don’t run away.

darin said...

I love the thought of the gay hero for Israel. Some have suggested that David was that guy regarding his relationship with Jonathan, but I think thats a stretch.
In regards to making a case, I think its a matter of how you build your case really.
I think that a strong case can be made against abortion, not built on proof-texting, but on theology.
What do we believe about God?
that God is the creator of life who can and will enter situation of death and destruction and bring about new and unexpected life (the Exodus Story)
What do we believe about Jesus?
that he created a community during his ministry that cared for the most oppressed and vulnerable people in his society.
If we believe that God is the giver of Life and the Christ created the Kingdom for the vulnerable, it seems we have a duty as Christians to create a community where abortion is not an option because of the love, support and encouragement we will give to both the vulnerable unborn child and the vulnerable mother of that child so as to create life where it did not seem possible or viable.
The same case might be made of homosexuality. many of those whom Jesus welcomed into his family and whom he called into the Kingdom were social and religious outcasts who were considered unclean.
If we believe that Jesus went and sought out not only the sick and poor, but the sinful, (actually sin and disease were basically viewed as the same thing) and in direct subversion of the popular religious discourse, said the kingdom belonged to them, might this apply to homosexuality?
The Pharisees wanted a pure Israel so as to entice the return of God. Jesus preached justice moreso than purity.
That is why these homosexuality debates rarely go anywhere... those who are accepting are talking 'justice' language while those who cannot accept are talking 'purity.' I like Deuteronomy, they like Leviticus.
There is no easy answer. I personally wish we could agree to disagree and get on with other things like poverty, homelessness, health care, war, etc, etc...

VanceH said...

Hi Darin, I have been thinking about your "agree to disagree" wish in your last comment.

One of the implications that presented inself to me as part of my "Truth in the Church" post was that God has intentionally put members of His chruch in tension with each other. For example, without the "day" terminology in Genesis 1 there would be no young earth / old earth debate, without a few passages from Paul there would be no debates about women pastors or elders. Since God apparently created these tensions it seems to me that He wants at least some of the members of His church to engage in resolving them--in a peaceful and upbuilding fashion. So perhaps agreeing to disagree is not God's general wish or pattern. Instead it appears to me that controversy, paradox, and mystery may be essential to the health of the Church.

darin said...

You and I may some different views of these issues. for instance, I think you have a bit 'higher' theological view of the Bible than I do. I do believe the Bible to be inspired by God, but still containing elements of the cultural expectations and societal influences of the social location and context of the human recorder, that would not be authoritative as Revelation; such as women in leadership roles, the 'days' of creation, and yes homosexuality. this view for many, and perhaps for you, might open up the Bible to 'parsing' or 'cherry-picking' as some others have said and I understand that concern.
So my point of view, I can't affirm that these 'controversies' were created by God. I generally tend to view them as fallen humanities limited perspective bleeding into revelation.

Having said that I agree with your perspective on the place of controvery and mystery in the churches life and interpretation of scripture. From an historical point of view, the early church, as best as it can be reconstructed, is best described as 'Christianities' as opposed to 'Christianity'. There has always been a wide range in interpretations of scripture, even in what particular scriptures are authoritative, so I do believe that God created, expected, and even wanted diversity in the church and the Christian community. isn't this why Paul utilized the metaphor of the human body with many different 'members' for the church?
I guess what I am pushing at with my simplistic 'agree to disagree' idea isn't that we simply don't talk about our differences, but instead that we better learn to listen to divergent perspectives. In many debates on the issue of homosexuality, those who disagree with me quote the Bible, but so do I. they bring theology to the discussion and so do I. But we often talk past each other because although we are talking Bible and Theology, we are referencing different scrpitures and utilizing different theological constructs. By agree to disagree, I mean that on both sides of this debate (or others) we should at least honor the fact that those who disagree, do some from a biblical perspective and not sink into language of breaking fellowship, ending communion, or even calling the other 'Un-Christian.'
I think you and I are doing that to a certain extent. I think we disagree on the nature of the authority of the Bible. But I respect your position and learn from you in our 'conversations' even when I disagree, and I hope you have the same experience. In this instance, the diversity between us, and the respect we have (agree to disagree) enriches our faith (at least mine)
We don't need to break our on-line fellowship because we disagree sometimes.
that is what I think I am working for and hoping for with 'agree to disagree.'
and i appreciate your thoughts
blessings on you and your family

VanceH said...

Hi Darin,

Regarding my higher view of scripture, I think you are correct in describing that as my position, but it is the subject of active mind wrestling on my part.

I obviously believe in the inspiration of scripture, but I am comfortable with the possibilities that the Bible contains myth, material borrowed/modified from extant literature, is not a science textbook, has gaps (e.g. I Samuel 13:1),inconsistencies, cultural rules that are no longer relevant, and even outright fabrications.

However, I want to believe the Bible is authoritative in the sense that it is exactly as God intended. Perhaps an analogy would be Jesus selecting Judas as one of the twelve–a devil. (John 6:70) The membership of the initial group of 12 had a serious problem–but it was as Jesus intended. One other analogy I have been thinking about is a techie one. Engineers deliberately introduce defects into semiconductors in order to turn them into useful devices (e.g. transistors)--a transistor made of perfectly pure silicon doesn't work at all. Perhaps God has introduced defects into His word so that it can work in its demanding environment (over time, cultural, range of literacy, scientific sophistication, etc.).

I think your position that some elements of the Bible are not authoritative is reasonable, but I really do balk at the problem of sorting out the eternal stuff from the human contamination. Pragmatically I think our two positions are pretty close--both avoid the traps of literalism, anti-science, and tortured harmonization, and both require navigating a slippery slope that has the quagmire of "anything goes" at the bottom.