Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pigs, Pearls, Dogs and Calvin










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----------I Thought of calling this posting,

"The Day No Pigs Would Die, Re-told," or "Animal Farm: Pigs preach cheap grace," or even, "Charlotte's Web: Pig refuses design," but the one above is right.

I am fascinated with Matthew 7:6. “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” A friend brought that verse to my attention and I began a process of studying it, wondering about its exact meaning.

And first a thought which has almost nothing to do with the verse. Have you ever noticed how when somebody makes reference to the verse they always focus on the pigs but never the dogs. My friend did that. I think this must be for two reasons. Americans are really into pet dogs but not usually pigs. Also, I think we are more fascinated with the picture, in our minds, of someone throwing a beautiful necklace of pearls at a herd of dirty pigs.

Well to begin with some thoughts about pigs. Pigs are only dirty because they roll around in dirt to keep cool. And actually if pigs were given the proper housing they would remain clean. Also, pigs are as intelligent as dogs. And there is another common trait that both dogs and pigs possess. They both can become terribly mean.

When I was a small child on a Missouri farm, I still remember farmers talking about some old sow that was so mean they had trouble getting near her to care for her babies. On the farm we had a slop bucket where we put all of our leftovers for the pigs. We even put in the water we washed our feet in at night. (We did not have indoor plumbing) But one thing we did not put into the bucket was meat. If you feed pigs meat they will insist on eating meat and they become even more dangerous.

I read several commentaries on the verse including Calvin’s. One interesting point in R.T. France’s Tyndale commentary is that this verse, while separate from the first two verses, nonetheless speaks to them. The first two verses insist that the Christian must not judge a brother or sister in the Lord. But still in matters of the proclamation of the gospel a call for discernment is necessary. How does one know who is a dog or a pig unless discernment (judging) is used.

France writes, “God’s gifts are not to be laid open to abuse, or his truth to mockery. There is a right discrimination which is different from the censorious judging of vv. 1-2.” So how does one proclaim the gospel without laying it open to abuse and mockery because certainly there are those who do just that and in very public places.

Calvin also separates this verse from the others and although agreeing with France that this implies that the gospel should not be open to mockery and abuse, still asks the same question I have. But he does answer it. Calvin writes:

“But here a question arises: for he [Jesus] afterwards commanded to preach the Gospel to every creature, (Mark 16:15;) and Paul says, that the preaching of it is a deadly savor to wicked men, (2 Corinthians 2:16;) and nothing is more certain than that it is every day held out to unbelievers, by the command of God, for a testimony, that they may be rendered the more inexcusable. I reply: As the ministers of the Gospel, and those who are called to the office of teaching, cannot distinguish between the children of God and swine, it is their duty to present the doctrine of salvation indiscriminately to all. Though many may appear to them, at first, to be hardened and unyielding, yet charity forbids that such persons should be immediately pronounced to be desperate."

Calvin then goes on to describe who the dogs and swine are. He writes:

“It ought to be understood, that dogs and swine are names given not to every kind of debauched men, or to those who are destitute of the fear of God and of true godliness, but to those who, by clear evidences, have manifested a hardened contempt of God, so that their disease appears to be incurable. …But by dogs and swine he means here those who are so thoroughly imbued with a wicked contempt of God, that they refuse to accept any remedy.”

And Calvin does make a difference between the pigs and the dogs. He explains that the pigs in the face of hearing of ‘the corrupt nature of man, free justification, and eternal election,’ turn it, “into an encouragement to sloth and to carnal indulgence.” And as for the dogs, when the Gospel is preached to them, they “tear the pure doctrine, and its ministers, with sacrilegious reproaches, as if they threw away all desire to do well, all fear of God, and all care for their salvation.”

So several points arise from this. We are required to give out the gospel to all. But eventually those who have a “wicked contempt of God,” will make themselves known.

Some will only see the grace of God as a means of continuing in their sin. Some will be so angered with the proclamation of the gospel that they will attempt to discredit and shame those who bring good news. Also God’s word is worth much more than pearls, his doctrine of free grace priceless. Allow no one to make a mockery of his word or his gift of savation. Have discernment

And finally as Calvin puts it, “remedy of salvation must be refused to none, till they have rejected it so basely when offered to them, as to make it evident that they are reprobate and self-condemned, ... as Paul says of heretics, (Titus 3:11.)”

"For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life." (2 Cor. 2:15-16a)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Could walking humbly with our God really be homophobic?


Michael Adee, of More Light Presbyterians, in his article Going for More Light and O8-B in 2009: Will our Church be friend or foe?, uses the controversy surrounding Pastor Rick Warren’s invitation to give the inaugural invocation to focus on the word homophobic. He, now, is using that hate word, aimed at Warren, to also characterize those in the Presbyterian Church who are standing against sexual sin.

Writing of Warren, the passage of Proposition 8 in California, and those who are working (and praying) to defeat Amendment 08-B in their Presbyteries, he writes “There is no moral fence to sit on in the face of such blatant and harmful homophobia and discrimination in our society and sadly, even in the Church.

But the question must be asked, “is it homophobic to believe that homosex is sin. Or to put it differently do Christians who believe homosex is sin hate LGBT people? Can those two things even be equated? Well, first of all there are people, like Fred Phelps, who do hate. But he is hardly a Christian. He, in fact, has made his family into an abusive sociological cult.

But what about those in the Presbyterian Church (USA), who call themselves traditionalist, or orthodox or evangelical and believe that homosex is sin, are they hate filled? Or, instead, are they attempting to emulate the good Shepherd who goes out looking for the lost sheep with the desire to carry them home on their shoulders if necessary?

Adee asks the questions, “Imagine our Church being known by feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, taking care of orphans and sharing the Good News of God's Love for all persons as reflected in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ? Imagine our Church being known for loving God, neighbor and self; by doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God? Passing 08-B paves the way for that kind of Church."

Strange that Adee should ask us to imagine what is already being done. Yes, we could feed the hungry, care for the sick, take care of orphans more than we have. We could do more in all of those areas but we are doing what he wishes us to imagine.

But if we vote in Amendment 08-B we will not be walking humbly with our God nor will we be sharing the good news of God’s love for all people.

To share the good news of God’s love for all people is to proclaim the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To proclaim that Jesus died and rose again that we might die with him to our sin and be transformed by his great gift of salvation. If we vote in 08-B we will instead proclaim that there are some people who are outside of God’s transforming love. That somehow they cannot be enfolded into the life changing grace of God but must live in their habitual sin. That would be unloving and untrue.

To walk humbly with our God means to be obedient to our Lord. To listen to his word and obey him. To trust that his will and word is greater than all of our worldly, human, desires.

In great love, and with humbleness, we are called, as a people, to “have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Jude (22b-23)

Michael Green in his commentary on 2 Peter and Jude, writes about the garments polluted by the flesh. He states, “The Christian worker has the wonderful offer of a change of raiment for the defiled, a robe of righteousness for the man clothed in filthy rags (cf. Is. 61.) and he must proffer it in love and mercy.”

Green continues with his clarification:

“For Jude insists, as strongly as John in the Apocalypse, that the man accepted before God is he who has not soiled his garments (Rev. 3:4); and these garments are looked upon both as the standing which God confers on the penitent sinners who ‘have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’ (7:14) and also as that character which follows in the lives of those who have truly been justified (19:8).”


To be humble in the presence of God as well as loving to sisters and brothers, is to lead others away from a sinful, broken life and into the safe arms of a Savior who will not leave them in unrepentant sin. Who, praise God, will not leave any of us in unrepentant sin.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Generation We, Eric Greenberg and the Church's survival



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Picture by Stephen Larson

"For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of my people, and my chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands. They will not labour in vain or bear children for calamity; for they are the offspring of those blessed by the Lord, and their descendants with them." (Isaiah 65:22b-23)

Watching the video that Moderator, Bruce Reyes-Chow, placed with his recent posting, Moderator Monday: Are our days numbered?, I had several thoughts--all at once. The faces and voices of the young people, were mostly soft, thoughtful and bright with hope and concern. But the actual words, the script so to speak, undoubtedly facilitated or probably written by author Eric H. Greenberg, was arrogant. That led me on a reading excursion into his book, Generation We, written with Karl Weber. (See video at bottom.)

Not only did I download the book file, http://gen-we.com/sites/default/files/GenWe_EntireBook3.pdf, but I also found someone else, Bill Kinnon, who had written on the book. The first part of his post is un-related to my thoughts, but his up-dates were important before I downloaded the book and read it. I will put a small part of his post, Millenials - Generation We - a Movement for Change here: (Its actually his up-date.)

"In further scanning Generation We, whilst still seeing much good in it, I feel it's important to recognize that there is a level of anti-Christian sentiment in the book. Christians (specifically evangelicals) are seen as part of the problem. (Greenberg surveyed evangelical Christians in Denver, CO and Birmingham, AB. Those particular locations would tend to skew results, methinks.) See the comments and quotes on pages 110, 114, 142 and 167. And though he is quoted extensively, from Greenberg's perspective, Dr. Martin Luther King's strong Christian faith appears to have had no bearing on his actions. The book is significantly more pro Alternate Spirituality - reflecting Greenberg's own spiritual journey - Page 186 pdf document.

As he writes on page 196, Greenberg was influenced by Dr. Paul Ray who helped him "craft the thesis of the book." Ray, co-author of Cultural Creatives (described by one wag as the New Age version of Richard Florida's Cultural Class), is the Director of the Institute for Emerging Wisdom Culture at Wisdom University - a school founded by Matthew Fox,1 a defrocked Dominican Priest and panenthesist - Fox is best known for his Creation Spirituality."

Reyes-Chow, in his posting, asked some important questions as they related to this video, and he made a very discerning statement. He wrote, "If we are not careful, we will embrace that which should be rejected and/or reject that which should be embraced." That is what concerns me about this video as it is a link to the book and supposedly a movement.

Greenberg quoting from people as diverse as Naomi Wolf and Ronald Reagan, has his own ideology and it is intolerant as far as traditionalists and Evangelical Christians are concerned. Although I have to admit that he writes as though he does not understand orthodox Christians that much.

While I see important issues addressed in the book, I am concerned with several areas, mostlyGreenberg's politics and his religious attitude. I am also interested in answering the question above, "Are our days numbered?"

Greenberg is attempting to form and inspire a movement. He is not thinking in terms of a third political party; an idea he rejects in his book. Instead he writes:

"A more plausible idea is a new social and political movement based on honesty, responsibility, and innovative thinking—a movement with the potential to influence, infiltrate, and take over one of the existing parties, or to form a grand alliance of shared goals that changes the agenda of both parties and uses the existing system to produce a positive revolution" (114)

The worrisome idea here is that some kind of a grand conspiracy has kept Generation We from uniting into a movement. He writes: "Here, if anywhere, is the real conspiracy—collusion among business and governmental leaders, media moguls, educators,and religious leaders who have contrived national and international systems that serve to keep the people weak, fearful, helpless, and under control. The goal of this conspiracy is not to impose ideological or political doctrine but simply to control the world’s power and wealth. These systems keep people sick. (99) Any movement based on even a hint of conspiracy has a very poor if not dangerous foundation.

The Western media, in Generation We, comes in for constant criticism. The Internet is seen as a better source of information.

Greenberg writes about the religious attitude needed if one is to embrace his dreams for the Millennials. He writes of the "Cultural Creatives" and how they will connect with this new generation and their beliefs. Greenburg describes them: "Cultural Creatives are Americans who have already moved beyond old divisions of “traditionalist” versus “modernist” to embrace new forms of spirituality, social experimentation, and personal growth. These are the people who are ready to respond to the new vision of the Millennials."

Greenberg attributes the term Cultural Creatives to "sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson." For information on Ray see above in the material by Bill Kinnon.

Energy is the area Greenberg is most in anguish about and here he pushes what he considers the most important effort for Generation We. He calls it Project Free, and writes, "Inventing the next source of energy is the single greatest thing we can do to change the world for the better. There is nothing more important to our society. It is the call and legacy of Generation We and will be the greatest achievement in the history of mankind." (145) In another place referring to those who believe in end times prophecy, Greenberg writes, "Inventing the next source of energy is the single greatest thing that changes the world for the better. There is nothing more." (188)

Greenberg insists Project Free must be headed by a cabinet post under the President and be a project free from any kind of interference.

Returning to the religious side of Greenberg's issues; he is very clear. He describes the outlook and hopes of such young people.

"They see those far-right dogmatists espousing “traditional” rhetoric today as a cog in the machine that created the mess they are in. When it comes to lifestyle choices whether we’re talking about sexual orientation, abortion, divorce, or gay marriage, or about gambling, drinking, drug use, and church attendance—their all-but-explicit motto is 'Live and let live.'

Having grown up in a world where religious dialogue is dominated by headlines about evangelical preachers threatening nonbelievers with fire and brimstone, about blaming 9/11 on homosexuality, and about Islamic fundamentalists employing terrorism against “infidels” who don’t share their exact beliefs, Millennials have come to associate piety with hateful, us-against-them attitudes." (142)

On another page Greenberg states that Generation We do not hold to moral absolutes." (160)

While I do not agree that everyone connected to Generation We holds the values or concerns that Greenberg places on their shoulders, and I believe that those who are true models of his Millennials will in the end find themselves as troubled and broken as the rest of humanity, my concern is with the question "Are our days numbered?"

And the answer depends of course on the Church's relationship to culture, and here I am thinking of that part of the Church that exists in the West. If we conform, because of pressure, to the post-modern culture we live in, including the amoral side of Generation We, the answer is clear. No we will not survive! The Church will either wither away or be so changed that she is not the Church.

But if the Church in the West holds true to the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, the living word, and holds true to the Holy Scriptures, the written Word, our days will extend, with earthly suffering, into eternity and the end of the chapter in Isaiah I began this posting with will be ours.

"'It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer them; and that while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpents food. They will do no harm or evil in all my holy mountain,' says the Lord." (Isaiah 65:24-25)

1 For a good article on Matthew Fox see "Matthew Fox and Creation-Centered Spiruality"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Martin Niemoller and Christmas in Moabit Prison

This is the last posting I will place here until several days after Christmas.

Just last night I was reading a book that contains letters Martin Niemoller sent to others, mostly his wife, while in Moabit Prison. The book is entitled, Exile in the Fatherland: Martin Niemoller's Letters from Moabit Prison.

Christmas Eve and Christmas day of 1937, in his letter to his wife he outlines the steps of his days by what he understands his wife, children and Church are doing during the holy days. For instance he writes on Christmas Eve:

"The Christmas bells were ringing outside a half hour ago as I wanted to begin this letter. In the meantime they have become silent and I have had another lovely visit from Rev. Klett, who has difficult duties today. Now it is five o'clock and all of you will be coming home from Christmas vespers, preparing yourselves for the celebration."

His concern for wife and children as well as the Church are intertwined as he writes:

"The bells are beginning to ring outside now again (it is 5:30) and you will be proceeding to opening the 'gifts.' ...Who will recite the Christmas gospel? 'But there happened at the time ...' Thank God that Rosenberg has not been able to undo this and that these tidings will still live on when no one knows the 'general's' name anymore. 'The eternal light goes in here to us.' He comes to the troubled, the poor, the oppressed, to those who know 'no other gods,' - let us believe. He comes for our sake ..."

And so the promise of safety in Christ in the midst of oppression (though cloaked in careful language) is there to read. Christmas, the Incarnation the birth of the baby, the Lord of heaven and earth is that safety. Niemoller at one point writes about a Christmas newspaper; it is a very telling part of the letter. And for all historians and theologians interested in that era it confirms the paganism then mixed with Christianity.

Niemoller writes:

"Just now I was handed the Christmas newspaper. My eyes fell on the caption 'Sons of God.' I begin to read and am informed that the Galatians are supposed to have been Teutons. Up until now science said they were 'Celts.' But perhaps both or neither, so what! I am reading the close of the two columns.'That is ... the historical foundation for the exalted song that begins with Thor's hammer and sings the praise of an eternal life in this world by a child, that extends beyond the life in this world, and into which German man has has joined in from the first sound on.'

What did Jesus say to John 5:44: 'How can you believe, you that take honor from one another? And the honor that comes from God alone, you do not seek.' And Paul writes to the Romans in 1:24-26: 'Thus they have forsaken God, ... they who transform God's truth into lies and have honored and served the creature more than the creator who is praised in eternity.'

So we need not be surprised at this 'forsaking.' When God is robbed of the honor that belongs to to him, big words come of their own accord, masking naked fear and cowardice!"

Niemoller goes on to encourage his wife and all other Christians not to have a Pharisaical attitude when others are forsaking Christ and his honor. He writes:

"The great temptation for us Christians now is the Pharisee: I thank you, God, that I am not like ..." So may the child in the manger preach to us about the simplicity befitting those who receive peace from God purely through mercy. ...

Because we have not freed ourselves from fear and judgement through our faith, but instead have been taken with him 'out of fear and judgement' (Isaiah 53: 8) through the suffering of God's servant so 'that saved I can glorify joyously' (Psalm 32). and this glorifying of God should preach to those who have heard nothing thus far."

"By oppression and judgement He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due."




May you all have a merry and Holy Christmas

Some Clarification ....!

John Erthein commented late on my posting about the film "For the Bible tells me so." He was praising the Outlook because they posted Executive Director of One-by-One , Kristin Tremba's article, What Would Jesus Do with Amendment 08-B? An Answer . It is an excellent small opinion piece. Here is part of what she said:

"Janet Edwards, co-moderator of the Covenant Network, asked in her online article on December 7, 2008 the question: “What would Jesus do with Amendment 08-B? The answer to that question does not take 40 years of discernment or four years of dialogue to answer. It takes picking up a Bible and looking at Jesus’ words and actions. Jesus would vote an emphatic “no” on Amendment B.

Am I biased? Sure, I am. We all are. But my assertion is not predicated on my personal bias or experience; it is predicated on the Word of God, rightly understood. In fact, there was a time in my life that I would have done anything for God to approve of Amendment 08-B and my living in a lesbian relationship. At the time, I had read Mel White’s book Stranger at the Gate: Being Gay and Christian in America. I was thrilled to get my hands on a book written by a fellow-Christian that said that being gay and Christian was okay. However, when I got to the end of the book where White presented the pro-gay interpretation of Scripture, I was sick at heart because my green light had just turned to red. " You can read the whole article
here.

At the same time I discovered that Rick Warren has posted several videos at his Church, Saddleback, clarifying his stand on gay marriage and how he perceives gay relationships. I believe it is very helpful.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Hail Him the Lord of Years, and Lord of many revivals 3

Every so often I pepper my blog with stories about the years my husband, Brad, and I experienced the Jesus Movement at a church called Warehouse Ministries. But the movement was all around us not just at our church. The Holy Spirit was simply moving in so many lives all at once bringing them to Jesus Christ. That is the truest sense of revival.

As I worked in Apologetics at the church I was joined by several interesting people. One woman I worked with had come to Christ from witchcraft. She told us how she had been taught that when you cast a circle if anything bad happens in the circle to call on the name of Jesus. A few explanations are in order.

First casting a circle is what most witches do in order to perform their rituals. They almost always work in a circle. If you want to read about those who practice witchcraft or worship a goddess go here
Wicca: Searching For Identity, Meaning and Community In The Lonely Shadows of Witchcraft and Goddess Spirituality.

Secondly I have never heard of a witch being told to call on Jesus in a time of trouble. However, Witches often practice syncretism with their rites and beliefs. That is they tend to incorporate different gods and goddesses into their belief system.

But this was what my friend had been told and one day she cast a circle and a demon appeared. Now this also needs an explanation; Witches do not believe there are demons or that Satan exists. They simply believe in a nature goddess and sometimes a god. Often all of creation is the goddess so it is a form of pantheism. Nonetheless a demon made an appearance in her circle and she called on Jesus. The demon left and slowly with other events she became a Christian, God works in wondrous ways.

Her sister was a prostitute who Jesus also drew into his safe keeping. And as I have said the Holy Spirit was working everywhere.

One young woman who eventually made her way to our church was a Jehovah Witness. She managed to do something a Witness is not suppose to do, she kept going from house to house after her companion had gone home. The last door she knocked on was that of four Christian young men. They laid out their various Bible translations and showed her that her New World Translation was faulty, to say the least.

They concentrated on John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Jehovah Witness translation, which was not done by a Greek scholar, states “the Word was a God,”rather than was God. With that small beginning, by the help of the Holy Spirit, the young woman became a Christian.

It is extremely important when talking with a Jehovah Witness to insist on talking about who Jesus Christ is and what grace is. They, the Jehovah Witnesses would rather talk about who the 144,000 people are in the book of Revelation.

I have stated that we had Saturday night rock and folk concerts. Among those musicians who came were two from England, Malcolm & Alwyn. The pictures that have been put with the music are a little dated but they do fit very well. So here is “The World Needs Jesus.”


Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Prose Poem: Beloved Enemies



I’ve watched you out of the corner of my eye for so long. I see you walking there where your way is hard and full of trembling. You keep reaching out to help but your hand is full of sootiness from some still burning fire you haven’t offered over to His cross

You’ve lined them up, sorted them out, the ones you hate, the ones you love. Does target practice come next or just spitting on the ground, cursing toward an eternity you don’t believe exists? He offered a new name. Instead, ‘Beloved Enemy,’ your choice, hangs about the neck without a cross.

Doomed to carry burning embers upon your head, the ashes keep drifting... in the house of friends and enemies… grey like dirty snow, a graceless windy force keeps blowing them hard sleeting against the cross.

Beloved enemies, He was bloodied... yet the cross emptied in resurrection. For you...the cross

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Slur on Rick Warren by John Shuck: enough is enough

Enough is enough. Over at Shuck & Jive, John Shuck, a Presbyterian Pastor PCUSA), for those who don't know, has a posting entitled, Obama Picks Warren for Invocation. In the posting he is deriding Obama for picking Rick Warren, the pastor from Saddleback Church, to give the invocation during his inaugural.

John is giving Warren the extreme put down, as he so likes to do with Evangelicals. He writes:

"Obama is making one dubious choice after another. His latest? Selecting fundamentalist celebrity Rick Warren to invoke his homophobic, war-mongering, narrow-minded god at the inauguration."

When Shuck writes like this he incites others to vile conversation including a person who often goes by the name Captain Kona. Captain Kona likes to use rabid and violent language, such as this remark toward Rick Warren:

"When you "throw a bone" to vermin like Warren, you aim for the face."

This is my plea that Shuck's presbytery, the PCUSA, the Presbyterian Bloggers, etc. will do the faithful thing and speak out against this as well as speak to Shuck. What I am asking for is for leadership to stand up and say this is not right, it is unacceptable. And do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Half a Story: a Review of "For the Bible tells me so"

A half story is a story that only tells one half of the plot and therefore there is no proper ending. Daniel Karslake, producer and director of “For the Bible tells me so,” is telling such a story with his film.

The movie is praised as a film which reconciles homosexual practice and the Bible. And in an extra feature, Karslake interviewing Gene Robinson, the first Episcopal gay bishop, states that the film was intended to, “elevate the conversation about homosexuality and religion to a higher level.” He concludes that it simply “comes down to love.”

Part of the film is about five families who have gay children, including the families of former House Majority, Richard Gephardt, as well as Bishop Gene Robinson. A great deal of the focus is on how the families reconcile their Christianity with their children’s homosexuality.

There are a couple of important truthful points in this film.

1. Parents should love their children unconditionally.

2.Abusive name calling, picketing with signs that say such things as “God hates faggots,” hate mail and death threats are terribly wrong. Some of such actions are criminal and all of it is sin.

But there is so much in this film that is wrong including the way Karslake explains the only two real truths he offers. Indeed, my main focus in this review will be explaining how the film tears apart real Christian love and makes it at best a sentimental human trait unconnected to the love of Jesus Christ.

There are at least three ways the parents in this film react when they find out their children have a homosexual orientation. Most, after the initial shock, accept both the children and their sexuality. They even go so far as to believe God is using their child to further the rights of homosexuals.

One mother is extremely judgmental of her child and believes that is the reason her daughter committed suicide. One couple, Brenda and David Poteat, keep loving their child, yet because of their belief in the authority of the Bible do not agree with the child’s sexual lifestyle.

The Poteats, who disapprove of homosex on the basis of Scripture, are made to seem backward and uninformed. This is done by jumping immediately to a scene of progressive biblical scholars refuting what the Poteats have just said about the Bible’s views on gay sex. It is also done by zooming in on a booklet in the Poteat's home, entitled “Why you should speak in tongues,” as though believing in the gift of tongues could somehow be a sign that anything you believed about the Bible was wrong.

In fact, throughout the film, there is a constant use of progressive scholars and pastors, between each story, as a means of clarifying, affirming or denying each person’s beliefs. The scholars and pastors include Reverend Mel White, Reverend Peter Gomes and Reverend Dr. Laurence C. Keene. All who disagree with their progressive interpretations of the Bible texts are put into a category titled fundamentalist.

In truth, all Christians who hold to the authority of Scripture are lumped with the most outrageous religious bigots and notorious tyrants of the last few centuries. For instance there is a constant interweaving of pictures of the notorious Phelps’ family with other Christians such as Billy Graham.

Even the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, Richard Mouw, is treated atrociously, in that his explanations about the biblical text and homosexuality are corrected by progressive scholars’ viewpoints. Yet the progressive speakers, in other places in the film, are allowed to speak without evangelical interference.

So, now here are the basic false perspectives in this film, which in many cases are stated not by words but by the interweaving of images of hate with other parts of the film:

1.Parents can only show unconditional love to their children by accepting, as righteous, their children’s participation in homosex.

2.Most Christians who believe that the Bible teaches that homosex is sinful are fundamentalists who are hate filled and bigots. Their beliefs are equivalent to those of the Ku Klux Klan, Hitler and Fred Phelps and his cultish family.

3.The Bible does not teach that homosex is sin.

4.Although this film is about Christians and the Bible, the gift of Jesus Christ, his life, death, resurrection and his transforming grace are totally missing. The distortion in this part is that Jesus’ gift of salvation has nothing to do with the issue of homosexuality.

Of course, the second and third false suppositions are the cause of the first untruth. If the authority of the Bible can be explained away, or it can be reinterpreted within a cultural context then what it states about homosex does not matter.

The fourth false supposition, that the transforming power of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection has nothing to do with a Christian’s view of homosexuality,” is the distortion that caps all others. Looking at the Scriptures from a Christian point of view, the Bible’s most basic story is that the Father promised and gave his Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross as a ransom for our sins. The Hebrew Bible holds the promise; the New Testament is the fulfillment. That promise and fulfillment entails all other details of our walk with Christ.

One of the ‘big’ ideas, stressed several times, in this film is that the statement in Leviticus 20:13, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them,” is no different then the food laws in chapter eleven where such food as shrimp is considered “abhorrent,” (NAS) or “detestable” (NRSV) Another text referred to is Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

Beyond the fact that the food laws of the Bible are different than the biblical laws dealing with immorality which include such immoral acts as bestiality, incest, homosex and burning children before false gods, when the work of Christ is applied to this problem there is more clarity.

Turning to the N.T., Acts 10: 9-16, a different understanding emerges. This is the story of Peter’s vision of the unclean animals being lowered in a sheet from heaven for him to eat. When Peter is troubled about God’s command to eat, he answers, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” But a voice from heaven tells Peter, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” Notice the emphasis here is on what God has cleansed.

The work of proclaiming clean and cleansing belongs to the Lord. God uses his own analogy of unclean food to call Peter to Cornelius house where he would make clean the Gentiles who trusted in Jesus Christ.

Both creatures and humanity are made clean by God, but the cleansing of humanity required the blood of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, this does not mean that sins, like homosex, are turned into something good but instead, the person is cleansed and transformed. The call to discipleship is open to the new Christians in Cornelius house. They are called to a new life which includes striving to live holy lives.

In another text Paul reminds Christians that although they had practiced all kinds of sin including homosex, they were now”washed,” “sanctified” and “justified.” He tells them to “flee immorality.” (1 Cor 6:11, 18)

The real plot of the story of sinful humanity is God’s call to love, suffering and redemption. Just as we were chosen in love to be redeemed by the blood of Christ, just as we were bought with great pain because of our Father’s love, we can also choose to love in just that way.

When one chooses to love a child who is living in rebellion against God’s authority it is painful. The future may be filled with sorrow, uncertainty and suffering. But that is God’s call. He calls us to embrace with love the child while suffering the painful awareness of their sinful lifestyle. That is a deeper love than a love which merely enfolds the sin of the child thus avoiding the pain. It is a love that must be drawn from Christ

The theme of the story is that a God who suffered on the cross will stand with those whose children and family members are caught in the bondage of a homosexual lifestyle. The end of the story is that Christ will forgive and transform the sinner no matter what the sin. The glory of the story is a future with Jesus Christ where there is no longer any sin.

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I am placing the trailer of "For the Bible tells me so" here to give the reader an understanding of how this movie is put together. Most of the scenes featured here are spread out more throughout the movie but the effect is the same.

Remembering past Christmas Eves


Several months ago, when my granddaughter found an arrowhead in my garden, and I, a week later, found a small bright blue Indian bead, I thought of them. He always liked collecting arrowheads and showing them. They were a couple I knew in the church I have been writing about in my postings on revival and the Jesus Movement.

The first building Warehouse Ministries occupied was, you guessed, a warehouse. Across from, on the same side of the street ,was a restaurant. We, people from the church, would all pile into the restaurant after services or Saturday night concerts. Our table was always full. My husband, myself, our six children and many friends around one large table.

Our waitress was often a young, beautiful woman who it turned out was supporting two small children by herself. We always talked together and finally began exchanging visits in each others homes. Around Christmas we invited her for a meal and gave her a Bible as a present. And then she disappeared.

When she finally contacted us, she had met and fallen in love with him, the arrowhead collector. They came to church, received Jesus as Lord and Savior and continue on there today. I still remember some Christmas Eves we spent together, mostly the fun and laughter, the food and lights on the tree, and the good Christian fellowship.

During those years, another Christmas Eve I remember we attended a Catholic midnight mass. A group of young people from our church, who had been nominal Catholics but had recently come to Christ, asked us to go with them to Christmas Eve mass. I only remember a few things about that night. The church, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, now restored, was huge and dark. We all set together filling a whole pew. When we were to ‘pass the peace’ it was with exuberant hugs. I remember the quiet Delta tule fog after service and the man under the streetlight asking for a little change.

But what I remember most clearly was the woman sitting behind me who whispered to the person next to her, “My dear, I only came to see the baby Jesus.”

Her statement and attitude projected not amazement that the Christ child was very God and very human, but that Christianity and Christmas were only about a good child and a fuzzy warmth. I wrote a small poem about this later, the next week. (And it is important to know that this was the years that a doll named ‘baby alive’ was marketed.)

“My Dear, I only came to see the baby Jesus!"

Release the babe!
The imaged doll,
Congregator of chained smiling humanity.
Oh Holy child, break out into the Man.


We worship before the gilded crib.
A pink and pampered god,
Baby Alive;
Never dead and never resurrected


Obeisance made a dreamy, diapered child;
A blood soaked God rejected in his cries and tears.
Preferable to hold our god
then a Lord to hold us, enfolding our fears

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The meaning of life and music


John Shuck at Shuck & Jive has some music on his blog that I watched on Bill Moyer's Journal . I really liked the music especially the saxophone. John has made this another one of his The Meaning of Life, Part 11 postings. While I would only categorize the meaning of life under our relationship with Jesus Christ, still the music is great.

And this got me to thinking about music and Jesus and the meaning of life. I also found a couple of videos that I think speaks (sings) strongly to our life in Christ.

One is an African children's choir, the Watoto Children's Choir. They are from Uganda and as you may have already guessed they are AIDs orphans. But they found a home in an Assemblies of God
ministry that set up homes with mothers in each house for the children.

They have so much energy:



My friend,
Debbie Berkley, told me about this song, "How Deep The Father's Love." There are a lot of U-tube renditions of this song, but I wanted it sung by the the author, Stuart Townend. I also wanted the lyrics to appear, so this is the video I picked. It so very clearly in all the words explains what Jesus Christ means to the children of his Father. Children because he bought us at such a high price.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Presbytery meeting last Saturday and some questions


Sacramento Presbytery met last Saturday, December the 6th. We voted to allow Sierra Presbyterian Church of Nevada City to leave with their property. To the presbytery they are giving $75, 000. Thankfully this is not being called a gift. The agreement stipulates "In consideration for the promises and covenants contained in this Agreement, SPC agrees to pay to the Presbytery the amount of Seventy Five Thousand dollars ($75,000) on the Effective Date of Dismissal."

I had just began to get to know Pastor Scott Dickson and the commissioners from his church. I am very sad to see them go. This is the fourth Church to leave our Presbytery.

One of the motions that came before our Presbytery this past meeting came as a result of a task force originally set up to answer the question, "Why are so many Church's in our Presbytery leaving?" The question got turned into two parts, that is not only the first question but "Why are others staying? From there the elephant that sets in our room was mostly ignored and we are working on not having strife in our meetings.

One of the motions that grew out of the task force's work I believe is very helpful. That is to hold a solemn assembly. The other I have some problems with. That is:

"To direct the coordinating Council to select a task force to study and recommend the advisability of moving presbytery business to a commission model rather than a committee model."

It was passed minus the words 'and recommend.'

The Book of Order defines a committee as, "A committee is appointed either to study and recommend appropriate action or to carry out directions or decisions already made by a governing body. It shall make a full report to the governing body that created it, and its recommendations shall require actions by the governing body."

The Book of Order defines Commissions as "A commission is empowered to consider and conclude matters referred to it by a governing body. The appointing body shall state specifically the scope of power given to a commission. A commission shall keep a full record of its proceedings, which shall be submitted to its governing body to be incorporated in its minutes and to be regarded as the actions of the governing body itself."

So my first question is: Has anyone had experience with commissions instead of committees, and what do you think of this idea?

Another thing that happened at Presbytery meeting, and this is the second time, is that the statements of faith for those seeking ordination or for those ministers entering our presbytery were given out just as the candidates came to the floor. Some of the statements were excellent but there was no time to read them. The PUP report insisted presbytery is suppose to ask real questions, not just on sexual themes, but the authority of the word, the sacraments etc. It seems to me that not allowing commissioners to read the statements ahead of time is against the clear mandate of PUP.

So my second question is: When does your Presbytery receive their statements of faith and how do you feel about questioning the candidates on the floor of Presbytery? And also what kinds of questions get asked?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thinking about tomorrow: thinking about the fellowship of the saints UPDATE on Freedom


Up-date beginning here: Presbyweb today has linked to Our freedom of religion at risk – A Presbyterian crisis, a Pittsburgh Presbytery convocation apparently concerned with the loss of religious freedom in the United States. One of the speakers is Mark Tammen, Associate Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, along side Jeff Tindall.

Some of the concern is over the Churches who are attempting to leave with their church property, and the civil law suits involving some.

The Letter of Invitation sent out by the Moderator of Pittsburgh Presbytery states that:

"The current activities of some congregations and ministers encouraging division within the Church can lead to subordination of the Church to the state particularly when congregational sessions/trustees file civil suits against Presbyteries. The religious practices of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are specifically threatened when court orders are sought to prevent Presbyteries from exercising their ecclesiastical obligations pursuant to the book of order as they relate to dealing with division, disorder, dismissal, determination of the true church and Christian support of remnant congregational minorities."

Please note that one of the speakers above, Mark Tammen, is both the Associated Stated Clerk of the General Assembly and the same person who in the report below found that "the viability of incorporating same-sex marriages into our repertoire of celebrations," was a valid opinion.

I am aware it is a long posting but please read my opinion on who is making common cause with the State and preparing to move against their brothers and sisters with the state behind them.

In a recent posting I pointed out this information placed in the Church newsletter of Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco.

“Discussion of recent California Supreme Court decision declaring prohibition of same-sex marriages to be unconstitutional. Steve Taber presented a lengthy and technically researched opinion as to the viability of incorporating same-sex marriages into our repertoire of celebrations. Both the Associate Stated Clerk of the General Assembly [Mark Tammen] and the Stated Clerk of San Francisco Presbytery have found his conclusions valid. Pastor Maggi stated that this is a way for us to show love and support for members who are making a serious commitment, and all her usual pre-marital procedures would remain in place – counseling, etc. We thoroughly discussed this concept and then Pam Byers presented the following motion:

The Session authorizes Pastor Maggi Henderson to officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies, and will consider requests for use of the sanctuary for these ceremonies, under the California Supreme Court ruling of May 15, 2008. These services will include pastoral and congregational celebrations and blessings following guidelines in the July 3, 2008 letter from Stephen Taber, Esq.”

In an even earlier posting, Davis Community Church, in Sacramento Presbytery & Covenant Network lawyers make plans for pastors to officiate at gay and lesbian civil marriages, I placed somewhat the same information from the November newsletter of Davis Community Church.

In their newsletter, The Courier, is information about their decision to allow their ministers to officiate as “duly authorized official [s] of the State of California.” They “may officiate at a civil same-gender marriage, with no reference during this legal event to the Presbyterian Church or any official action on behalf of that Church or DCC.”

While all of this is somewhat moot until the California Supreme Court rules on the legality of Proposition 8, it does bring up some troubling thoughts that have similarities to other times in Church history.

I have often blogged about the Confessing Churches of Germany, the Declaration of Barmen and how the theological aspects of those times were similar to the situation in the mainline churches today. My emphasis was always theological. It centered on the German Christian's insistence that there is other revelation besides that found in Jesus the Living Word and the Bible the written word. The political circumstances were certainly not the same as today's. They still are not; yet the similarities are deepening and growing stronger.

The German Christians had a connection to the state through their sense of new revelation. They accepted Hitler and his ideology as important revelations for their times. They endorsed his policies and made connections with them. They did this on the basis of a liberal theology which had connected with the romantic philosophical view that the Holy Spirit or God was moving progressively through history bringing new truth with each historical event.

The point is the German Christians became a movement in opposition to what would become the Confessing Churches. They preferred embracing a government willing to feed their own revelatory aspirations rather then biblical truths and brothers and sisters who held on to those truths.
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Contemporary similarities as they deepen have to do with mainline churches using the State’s ruling on gay marriage to align with the culture and the laws of a postmodern society while ignoring biblical revelation about the holiness of God and his transforming grace.
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Among theologians in the gay community there is a growing emphasis on new revelation. In a book published in 2003, Body and Soul: Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-Love, many contributors emphasize sex as a new way of understanding God.
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Rebecca Todd Peters sees the life changes that women experience reshaping the Christian view of God. she writes, "If we start with women's bodily experience of sexuality as a window into the divine, its very mutability can offer insight into redefining the way we think about God/ess." Scott Haldeman uses the male gay sex act as a revelation of who God is. And here it is difficult to quote without being explicit, so I will not.

Seemingly, the two Churches I have written about, and I am certain there are others, are quite willing to use the turn of postmodern culture toward sexual immorality and ignore the moral dictates of the Bible. They are willing, because of a different revelation, to let the State give them sanction even when the Church does not.

Does this mean that those of us who hold a biblical view of sexuality must become tough, hard, fearful or uncaring. Hardly.

This means we must, in humility, draw very close to Jesus Christ and to each other. We must learn what it means to love Jesus Christ at all costs, and what it means to love the habitual sinner who so desperately needs Jesus Christ forgiveness and transformation.
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So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard him and have been taught in him, just as truth is in Jesus, that in reference to your former manner of life you lay aside the old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of the deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph 4:17-24)







Friday, December 5, 2008

Be Thou My Vision, High King of Heaven and the San Francisco Bay



I could have called this posting "When Worlds Collide" or
"Meanderings of my mind."

Several days ago Voices of Orthodox Women published Debbie Berkley's great article, Changing The Language Of Our Hymns. It is about the way revisionists have changed the words of hymns in the Presbyterian hymnal. This is the cause of the loss of important theological meaning in our official hymn book. One of the songs Berkley focused on was "Be Thou My Vision." She pointed out that in their maneuvering to avoid masculine terms they omitted these lines from the hymn.

"Thou my great Father, I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
and
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Son!"

Berkley's article was linked to by Presbyweb and thus criticized by someone the following day.

And, of course, yet the next day several people, rightly so, defended the article. I was particularly taken with one letter which also looked at "Be Thou My Vision." Of it Nancy DuPree wrote:

"The wonderful cultural references in this hymn are priceless. The reference to "High King of Heaven," for example, is based on the Celtic feudal system. The person who wrote this hymn and the people who preserved it knew what A "high king" was. The governmental system of the Celts made it possible for them to practice and pass down Christianity. If they hadn't the whole history of the church might be different. And the play on "son/sun" is important to the history of the church as well; The Celtic cross that is widely used in Presbyterian circles is a graphic representation of the "son" emblazoned over the "sun" – that is, a symbol of the victory of Christ over the worship of the sun, which was common in Celtic areas in ancient times."

This all stuck in my mind and meshed with memories. For one thing I have a wonderful book about early English Christianity entitled, High King of Heaven," by Bennedicta Ward, a sister of the Community of the Sisters of the Love of God. She combines the Christian history of both the Irish and the English. (The Welsh as she shows are another story altogether.) This is about spirituality but it is not a sloppy kind of theology that some produce when writing about Celtic spirituality.

The other memory is of a friend who once roomed in our home. Miles Saunders, is one of those people who possesses a wonderful understanding of the early Church Fathers. He would often quote them as well as whole songs which possessed biblical content. Several years ago, 2001, I believe, he helped write and produce for Public Television, "Forgotten Journey: The Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Saga." And here we return to "Be Thou My Vision."

The documentary tells the story of the first wagon train to cross the Sierra Nevada. And unlike the Donner Party they made it with out loss of life, in fact a baby was born on the way, so they finished with more people then they began with.

There is a place in the film where the guide discovers a safe passage for them to follow. It is the passage that allows the pioneers to travel undeterred toward their destination. Here the music, without fanfare, but placed there by Saunders becomes "Be Thou My Vision."

I had, over the last couple of years, lost track of what Saunders was doing, except we were there when he married a wonderful lady in a tiny Old Catholic Church, beside the sea, and they have a beautiful little boy. But in searching for him on the Internet I found his latest project. And I think all will be interested in this next PBS series, Saving the Bay: The Story of the San Francisco Bay. You can see a trailer here. And you can read about the members of the production team here.

So now you can follow the meandering of my mind while I am busy at Presbytery.
Picture by Viola Larson

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jesus Christ, God's final revelation




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I believe that biblically Jesus Christ as he is found in Holy Scripture is God's final revelation. On a recent posting about Jesus Christ, experience, and revelation, Carl Hahn of Los Angeles, accused me of being an absolutist about Jesus as God's final revelation found in Scripture. (Well yes I am.)

I wrote, "Jesus Christ as he is found in Scripture is God's final revelation"

Carl wrote:

"Maybe I don't know what you are talking about, but I think that is simply not true. From personal experience I know this not to be true. But I wonder: Where do you get such an absolutist notion?Surely not from Scripture?"

I did give Carl some Scriptures and some biblical commentary remarks on those verses.

But I found something more that I wanted to add so I decided to make a posting of this. I will first place here some of my comment on that posting then I will add the extra material.

"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (Heb. 1:1-2)

James Moffatt in A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews writes of the above verses:

"The final disclosure of God's mind and purpose has been made in his Son, who is far superior to the angels; beware then of taking it casually and carelessly!"

And:

"...Christ is God's last word to the world; revelation in him is complete, final and homogeneous."

Again more Scripture, "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9)

A.E. Brooke author of The International Critical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles writes:

"The true revelation of God was given in Jesus Christ. He who rejects the truth about Christ cannot enjoy the fellowship with God which Christ has made possible for men."

And now the extra is F.F. Bruce's The Epistle to the Hebrews, (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) This is on Hebrews 1:1-2.

"God has spoken'. This initial affirmation is basic to the whole argument of this epistle, as indeed it is basic to Christian faith. Had God remained silent, enshrouded in thick darkness, the plight of mankind would have been desperate indeed; but now He has spoken His revealing, redeeming and life-giving word, and in His light we see light. Our author is not thinking of that general revelation of Himself which God has given in creation, providence and conscience__

'Lo, these are but the outskirts of his ways: and how small a whisper do we hear of him!' (Job 26:14)
...
The earlier stage of the revelation was given in a variety of ways: God spoke in His mighty works of mercy and judgement, and made known through His servants the prophets the meaning and purpose of these works; they were admitted into His secret council and learned His plans in advance. He spoke in storm and thunder to Moses, in a still small voice to Elijah. To those who would not heed the gently flowing streams of Shiloah He spoke by means of the Euphratean flood. Priest and prophet, sage and singer were in their several ways His spokesmen; yet all the successive acts and varying modes of revelation in the ages before Christ came did not add up to the fullness of what God had to say.

His word was not completely uttered until Christ Came; but when Christ came, the word spoken in Him was indeed God's final word. In Him all the promises of God meet with the answering 'yes!' which seals their fulfillment to his people and evokes from them an answering 'Amen!'

The story of divine revelation is a story of progression up to Christ, but there is no progression beyond Him. It is 'at the end of these days' that God has spoken in Him, and by this phrase our author means much more than 'recently'; it is a literal rendering of the Hebrew phrase which is used in the Old Testament to denote the epoch when the words of the prophets will be fulfilled, and its use here means that the appearance of Christ 'once for all at the end of the age' (Ch. 9:26, RSV) has inaugurated that time of fulfillment.God's previous spokesmen were His servants, but for the proclamation of His last word to man He has chosen His Son."1

Picture by Stephen Larson
1.I have broken this very long paragraph up for easier reading.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The worth of a human soul



















"Learn hence the exceeding preciousness of souls, and at what a high rate God values them, that he gave his Son, his only Son out of his bosom, as a ransom for them. Surely this speaks their preciousness: 'You were not redeemed with corruptible things,as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.' 1 Pet. 1:18. Such an esteem God had for them, that rather than they should perish, Jesus Christ shall be made a man, yea, a curse for them. O then learn to put a due value upon your own souls: do not sell that cheap for which God hath paid so dear; remember what a treasure you carry about you; the glory that you see in this world is not equivalent in worth to it. 'what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Matt. 16: 26.


from: The Fountain of Life: Presenting Christ in His Essential and Mediatorial Glory by John Flavel a Pastor. The book was published in 1671. (picture by Stephen Larson)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Speaking of experience, Jack Haberer, Erwin Barron and my additional comments


Jack Haberer has responded to the many letters, as well as my several postings, on Dr. Erwin Barron’s articles on ethical decision making which include the subjects of experience, homosexuality and the Bible. Haberer e-mailed me and suggested that I might link to his comments. I am now linking with a few comments of my own. Haberer’s comments are here. Responses to Erwin Barron's articles

The three part series posted at
The Outlook are "Why do we Presbyterians continue to fight?", “The Bible in the homosexuality debate, ”and “The priority of experience in moral debate.”

Haberer writes that “Most responses to these articles raise questions about 1) the importance of personal experience and Biblical exegesis in forming Christian moral decisions; and, 2) whether or not, considering the subject matter of his articles, the Outlook should have let readers know of the writer’s own gay orientation and lifestyle.”

For my part I also complained, in a
letter to Presbyweb about Barron’s insistence on an on going revelation. Here I am referring to Barron's first article where he stated, "We also look to the continuing revelation of God in our experiences in history and tradition, in science, in reasoning, and in everyday events to guide us." And I pointed out, in my letter, that this statement was in direct contradiction to the Declaration of Barmen which states:

"We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God's revelation,"

I also quoted a statement made by one of the Confessing Pastors, Hans Asmussen, as he gave explanation of the Declaration to the Barmen Synod in a sermon. His statement, accepted by the Synod, has great relevance for today. His words,
“For it is only a relative difference whether beside Holy Scripture in the Church historical events or reason, culture, aesthetic feelings, progress, or other powers and figures are said to be binding claims upon the Church.”

In my exchange of e-mails with Barron that problem was again explored. I wrote, “There is no continuing revelation, there is only the word of God. And there is no other revelation than Jesus Christ the living Word as he is found in the Holy Scripture, the written word, as the Declaration of Barmen states.

Barron replied to me, “Do you really believe that God stopped revealing himself 2000 years ago when the Bible was canonized? Are you limiting God to the words of scripture alone? You are sure putting shackles on the living God that way. Wow.. we really do fundamentally disagree, don't we?”

That is a big problem, and it is why I find some, not all, of what Haberer states unhelpful. Haberer writes:

“At this point, I would want to tweak his [Barron’s] comments by adding that, after acknowledging our own experiences, and learning from the experiences of conversation partners, and learning from experience-shaped insights of others around the world and through history, and now looking afresh at Biblical texts with the help of such cross-cultural, cross-contextual, cross-experiential insights, our goal should be to hear holy Scripture without it being clouded by our subjectivism, so that Scripture can be decisive, the final word. If we instinctively and unavoidably begin our theology from below – our own experience – we do need to conclude it from above – God’s word. We do not so much assess Scripture from our perspective; Scripture assesses our perspective, and corrects it.”

The problem is Barron and others see all of the above listed by Haberer as an on-going revelation of God. Our experiences, the experiences of others, and historical events will be listened to in a far different way if they are revelation from God.

While I appreciate the fact that Haberer insists that God’s word must assess our experience, I still contend that we must come to Holy Scripture first and we cannot lay experience alongside the Word of God. We always come with a broken experience and we must acknowledge that brokeness as we come, allowing the word of God to bring healing.