Thursday, March 26, 2009

If I could write a letter to Lisa Larges

If I could write a letter to Lisa Larges:

Dear Lisa,

I read your article “The Advocate: God vs. Gay,” at "That All May Freely Serve.” I am almost certain that I am one of those Christians you are calling “extremist right,” and “homophobic.”

And I feel bad not because you have called me this but because you have called millions of Christians who have lived out their faith in the midst of joyful witness with bloody persecution, for almost two thousand years, this name. For they stood where I and others stand now.While their Lord loves them in their faithfulness you dishonor them.

In the seventies there was a Christmas song I loved, the title escapes me. But to paraphrase, it says something about the few shepherds and wise men that attended the Savior’s birth but then goes on to say and a multitude of angels. In the same manner I see that you give as the most obvious reason for staying within the Christian Church that you want to directly counter ‘my presence’ as well as thousands of others. You write:

“First, there’s the obvious. The Christian extremist right, which has increased its influence in mainline churches, must be countered. Many of the Christian denominations have a history of being moderate on many things and progressive on others. In the last three decades that moderate Christian voice has been drowned out, silenced, or taken over. The influence of the Christian right must be countered directly and from the inside. While the Christian right is regrouping, reviewing the payout of its last homophobic spending binge, and wearing that deer-in-the-headlights look, now is the time.”

This only leaves me with a few more words to say about your feelings about myself and my brothers and sisters. We do love you and pray that you might find the transforming power of Jesus Christ in your life.

We pray that God’s perfect will, will happen in your life. That is not praying something easy for you; instead it is a journey taken by all who call Christ Lord. It means dying to self and sin. It means repentance but new life. May it be so for you.

But to go on, you write of God and spirituality and suggest that those of us you consider homophobic are religious but have no spirituality! You also write about the Church and God.

“God still shows up at these things [the trial]. (You might be thinking that it was just caffeine, some other hormonal imbalance, or a perverse quirk, but let’s just call it God for the moment.) It was a God that was patient but frustrated, loving but forceful, and alternately laughing and crying over what some followers do in God’s name. There was a magnificent gaggle of young queers who turned out to observe the trial. Some of them were asked to leave on account of illegal twittering. So there they were, full of love, vibrancy, strength, and faith. I say that’s the church. So sue me.”

Well, I don’t wish to sue you, but if that is your understanding of God and the Church, may I sadly say you hold a kind of spirituality that is foreign to the Scripture. You are equating God with the sinfulness of humanity which leaves us all out in the cold.

Only one human who is also God has that uniqueness. Jesus Christ is the unique incarnation, the one who died for all our sins, whether homosexual or heterosexual. We all need his redemption. We all need to bow before his cross offering him our brokenness for transformation. Love, ”does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth:” (I Cor. 13:6)

Lisa, you are asking others to return to their faith tradition, including those who were raised in the Christian Church, for the purpose of insisting that those already in a faith tradition learn to be inclusive as far as sexual orientation goes.

Once again I am sad. You, who are seeking to be ordained, rather than call people to Jesus Christ, you call for others to join our Churches to teach Christians to allow unrepentant sinners to continue in their sin. You are calling for the destruction of the Church of Jesus Christ.

May you find mercy and forgiveness in the blood of Jesus.

Sincerely from someone who prays for you with sorrow.


42 comments:

Sam said...

Nice letter, hard for me to read, but well thought out and lovingly written.

I can see that there is no middle ground on this issue. I don't believe that the Bible is the word of God. I believe it was inspired by God but written by men who were influenced by their own time and culture. Women were second class citizens, owning slaves was normal and mental illness was demon possession.

These were nonnegotiable in that time. Now we have changed. I feel like we're in a parody of "Fiddler on the Roof", each daughter pushes the boundaries of their tradition a little farther until the youngest shatters them.

What is the answer? God only knows! Until that time that we are all enlightened, I guess we keep praying.

Aric Clark said...

Viola,

A couple points.

It is possible to disagree with a vast majority of the tradition on something, even to call those people sinful in that regard, and not have it be an indictment of their entire character and a rejection of everything they stood for. I have no problem saying that the vast majority of christians, faithful and unfaithful have historically been mysoginists or bigots in one form or another. Every Christian in some way has been dead wrong on a number of very important ethical and theological matters. Every Christian in some degree has needed to be called to account for their errors. We are all sinners.

You are right that the vast majority of the tradition has historically condemned homosexuality. In this the vast majority of the tradition is wrong. It is a sin that has divided the body of Christ and wounded countless brothers and sisters in the family of God. That we find ways of justifying our sin with scripture, appeals to the status quo, and a litany of logically falacious secular arguments is nothing new.

At the end of your letter you say, "you call for others to join our Churches to teach Christians to allow unrepentant sinners to continue in their sin. You are calling for the destruction of the Church of Jesus Christ."

On the contrary, Lisa is calling for those who have been wounded by the Church to, through nonviolent resistance, arouse the conscience of the unrepentant sinners who are presently excluding homosexuals from ministry, rather than allow them to continue in their sin.

And as for the melodramatic line about destroying the Church, the Church belongs to Christ and neither Lisa, nor even you, are capable of destroying it.

Viola Larson said...

Sam you are so very honest with what you believe. I do appreciate that. I agree there is no middle ground, the Bible is either the word of God or it is not.

I do have to say, having said that, I am not sure what you mean by the Bible being inspired by God when you do not believe it is his word.

The usual way of seeing the inspiration of the Scriptures is to understand that God has used humans to write his words. He does this using their language, gifts and personalities. In other words he doesn’t use humanity as robots.

Still it is his words, his revelation of who he is and how he works with humanity. We cannot just cast aside his words.

On the other had God allows us to see ourselves in a truthful manner. The Bible does not praise sin nor gloss it over.

I am sorry that you are struggling with this issue. I am praying for you.

Sacramento, Ca

Viola Larson said...

Yes Aric,
We are all sinners. But I am not so sure that statement says anything at all about what I have written, or what Lisa is seemingly meaning either.

She seems to believe that there was a time when, at least in the denominations, in the United States, church people would have accepted homosexual practices but now because of extreme Christians (her view) they don’t.

You write, “I have no problem saying that the vast majority of christians, faithful and unfaithful have historically been misogynists or bigots in one form or another. Every Christian in some way has been dead wrong on a number of very important ethical and theological matters.”

I have to take exception to your phrase, ‘vast majority.’ And I can’t help wondering where you are ‘dead wrong.’ : ) I think the term vast majority tends to dismiss an awful lot of Christianity in many other places.

But this, Y”ou are right that the vast majority of the tradition has historically condemned homosexuality. In this the vast majority of the tradition is wrong. It is a sin that has divided the body of Christ and wounded countless brothers and sisters in the family of God. That we find ways of justifying our sin with scripture, appeals to the status quo, and a litany of logically falacious secular arguments is nothing new.”

How can you call Christians who refuse to give into the culture of the day sinful, while you call those who are insisting on pushing present day cultural sinfulness on the Church good. And here I am talking about actions. Once again I know we are all sinners. And over and over this has been a problem for the Church.

I did not say that Lisa could destroy the Church; I said she was calling for the destruction of the Church. You are right no one can destroy the Church of Jesus Christ. It is his Church after all. However he can decide to remove his Church from different places—he has already, many times in Church history.

In fact, Barth warned the Church of that in his day.

Anonymous said...

Oh my...

I would just like to point out that "inspiration", as defined in the Bible, is what God did to Adam, as he brought him to life from molded clay.

It did not make Adam the word of God nor did it make him unable to be wrong.

This other meaning of inspiration comes to us from Greek mythology. The poets called upon the muses to inspire them, like Homer does as he begins his narrative of the Odyssey.

But the Greeks never thought that meant the Odyssey was the word of the gods, nor perfect nor inerrant. Just good poetry.

I do understand that Viola takes her own personal revelation as proof that the bible is the literal and final word of God. That makes it impossible to argue with her, but not impossible to completely disagree.

And it makes for a very week reason to continue mistreating the homosexual members of our community.

I think it was Gandhi who said: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

It is time to change that.

Tom
KC

Viola Larson said...

Tom,
Try this: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16)

God did breathe life into Adam but there is a difference, between Adam and God's word. Of course if you don't believe the Bible is God's word that is a different argument.

And yes, you are right about the Greek's use of that term when thinking of the muses. But that has nothing to do with the meaning of the inspiration of Scripture.

You write, “I do understand that Viola takes her own personal revelation as proof that the bible is the literal and final word of God. That makes it impossible to argue with her, but not impossible to completely disagree.”

I have to say I am not exactly sure what you mean by that and almost didn’t publish your comment because it sounded like an insult. God reveals himself in his word—I have nothing to do with that. Maybe it’s the way you wrote it and it means something else. Could you explain?

A lot of people disagree with me—of course that doesn’t make them right : )

Sacramento, Ca

Pastor Bob said...

Vi

Off subject but thought you would want to know. I'm having a cardiac cath on Monday and maybe angioplasty. Please keep me in your prayers

Bob Campbell
Sharon Hill, PA

Viola Larson said...

Many of us will keep you in our prayers Bob. May he be with you, comfort and keep you safe through it all.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry Viola,

I did not mean to insult. I was just quoting what you said in a previous post explaining your bottom line view of Scripture.

"But to top all of that is my relationship with Jesus Christ who is the living word of God and who is never different then how he is found in Scripture."

But here you went back to using an argument that lacks a large number of dubious steps and assumptions to get from what is in 2 Tim 3:16 to claiming that the word of God is the basis for your attacks on Christians struggling for acceptance in the Church.

Christians whose only fault is that they happen to be born with a different biochemical wiring than your own.

I think you were right the first time. Your ultimate basis for taking your position is your reliance on your own personal revelation of Jesus Christ. And you interpret the whole body of biblical writing in light of that revelation and believe they are in agreement.

My point is that such an argument is not convincing. You could be right. But unless I get the same revelation I won't be convinced.

And if I did, I might actually argue it.

Many great heroes of our faith have argued, sometimes successfully, with God, if I am to believe the stories in the Bible. I think I would follow their example, because it is not fair to declare a mortal sin matters we are born with and have no choice in. Like having blue eyes, or being born Jewish or black.

May it never be that our God be convicted of being unfair or capricious or racist or bigoted or anti-Semitic or even homophobic on the basis of the teachings of the Church and our understanding of God's word.

Which is exactly where the argument against full inclusion of gay people in the Church leaves us.

Either there, or with Gandhi.

Again, no intention to insult. I hope you see it that way.

Tom
KC

Kattie W. Coon said...

Bob,

I'll pray that everything's OK.

I've had Cardiac cath 4 times, twice with angioplasty and stent. It doesn't hurt a bit, and if you're lucky you'll be awake enough to watch the imagery in real time and carry on a coherent conversation with your Doc and the attendants. I found it to be an interesting experience, not scarry at all.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Dave Moody said...

Well written letter, Vi. Thank you for bearing faithful witness to our crucified Lord.

And may the Lord have mercy on us all, even those who are tempted to look elsewhere for another type of grace.

grace & peace,
dm

Aric Clark said...

Viola,

I can't speak for Lisa. If she believes there was a time when Homosexuals were accepted, but the denomination has swung more conservative I'd have to disagree.

As for me saying that the 'vast majority' of Christians through history have been bigoted in some way or another, you're right that it is a sweeping generalization, but it is not meant to be dismissive of those people's faith. Far from it. It is an acknowledgement on my part that miraculously we are capable of great faith in spite of our failings. Consider Luther who said some things that were horribly anti-semitic and yet is also responsible for some magnificent theology, liturgy, hymns and prayers. It is, I think, demonstrably true that the Church has been dead wrong on matters of race and gender frequently - and in spite of that also produced many people of remarkable nobility.

I believe the same is true today. There are many people of deep faith, compassion and generosity who are sinners in regard to their desire to resist the movement of the Holy Spirit in calling homosexual persons to ordained ministry. Homosexuality is not the sin. Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit by saying the spirit has not done what the spirit clearly has - called homosexual individuals to ordained ministry - is the sin.

And I am not claiming this is a new movement. The Holy Spirit has always been calling people of all types to ministry. In the past we chose to either ignore homosexuality (because it was a taboo subject and few of them were open about it) or maintained our stubborn resistance to the clear guidance of the Spirit.

Incidentally, I continually wonder where I am dead wrong. :) and rarely I get insight into the matter and I do my best to change. But I have no doubt that I will be indicted by future generations on a number of issues which I am completely blind to, just as most Christians in the United States saw nothing wrong with chattel slavery for two centuries.

Jim said...

Viola,

Thank you for standing up for the truth and for writing faithful and courageous words that need to be said. You are right. You are true. You are on course.

I am stunned by the ahistorical bending of the truth by people like Lisa Larges. You started to talk about that when you said that she seems to imagine a time when the church was all on her side, and then the big meanies from the radical right came along and pushed the church into discrimination against gay people.

Hello!

Jews first and then Christians have ALWAYS believed what you have been proclaiming. You are writing orthodoxy; Larges is largely out to lunch! There has never been a halcyon point for gay people when the church was in agreement with the legitimacy of homosexual practice!

What has happened is that a relatively small but very activist group has decided that their own particular sinfulness is something that everyone else just has to agree with, and THEY are the ones trying their darndest do move the church from where it once was (in alignment with God's revealed will about sexual purity) to where they would like it to be (chasing after popular worldliness).

How Larges has the unmitigated gall to try to make it look like those who stand for Christian morality are introducing something new is amazing to me. How could she be more careless about history and truthfulness?

Again, reading your detractors, the problem is clear: people will not subject themselves to the authority of God, as revealed throught the authority of the Bible. It takes no time at all in such discussions to discover that the arguments against what you write come from a place where first the Bible is held to have insignificant authority and relevance to the question at hand, and personal feelings and preferences are held up to have great authority in the place of biblical authority.

People can make that argument, but they shouldn't identify themselves as Christians when they do. They have discarded God's revelation of himself and his will. Such people cannot have Jesus as LORD (which means the one in charge of one's life, the master), because self is exercising lordship in that life.

There is a great need for Christian conversion within the church, it appears to me.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Glen said...

Good letter Viola. It speaks the truth candidly and lovingly.

The church has, for thousands of years, understood homosexual behavior to be sinful. The current arguments for or against a genetic basis for the orientation do not change that. The word of God speaks clearly to this for those who want to hear His word. Understanding this truth really has more to do with maturity of faith than with historical or literary criticism of the texts, modern psychological or genetic theories or any other secular influence.

The PC(USA) has made its statement. It is sin that will prohibit one from being ordained. It is time to move on.

Red_Cleric said...

Not much to add Viola, You're letter expresses orthodox Christian belief and your answers to the letters explain God's Word and inspiration quite well.

Was the song you referenced in your letter John Fischer's Angel's Song?

"In the town of Bethlehem
A king and ruler child was born
Not too many people noticed
Just some shepherds on their farm
Plus a few hundred thousand angels
Breaking the heavens with their song
And the rocks and the mountains joined them
For their time had come"

Great piece of music and teaching

Alan Wilkerson
Portland

Viola Larson said...

Tom,
Clearly it is not my “own personal” revelation, it is not outside of the Scriptures. You are attempting to dismiss the words of the Bible by appealing to personal revelation. But for a Christian revelation is never disconnected from the Bible.
There is not yet convincing evidence that people are born gay, but even if that were true the word of God is still to be obeyed. One could say that some men are born with the propensity to commit adultery but that does not mean their adulteries should be blessed. And in fact because of our sinfulness all of us are born with the propensity to commit sin, yet this also is something we must not bless. All of that is to say we need a Savior and God has provided us one, Jesus Christ.

Sacramento, Ca

Viola Larson said...

Aric,
You are right that some Christians are and have been bigoted and made other exceedingly grave errors in their faith. Interestingly Luther also said some good things about the Jewish people and during the Nazi era while the German Church Movement were quoting the bad things, Bonhoeffer was quoting the good things.
But I find some of what you wrote totally unacceptable. This:
“There are many people of deep faith, compassion and generosity who are sinners in regard to their desire to resist the movement of the Holy Spirit in calling homosexual persons to ordained ministry. Homosexuality is not the sin. Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit by saying the spirit has not done what the spirit clearly has - called homosexual individuals to ordained ministry - is the sin.

And I am not claiming this is a new movement. The Holy Spirit has always been calling people of all types to ministry. In the past we chose to either ignore homosexuality (because it was a taboo subject and few of them were open about it) or maintained our stubborn resistance to the clear guidance of the Spirit.”
It is outrageous for you to insist that Christians resisting the movement to ordain practicing homosexuals are blaspheming the Holy Spirit. This means that you have divorced the Holy Spirit from both the Scriptures and the Lord of the Church. Simply because someone feels called to ministry or to anything for that matter does not make it a work of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible clearly states that homosexual practice is sin. Jesus clearly pointed to marriage between a woman and a man. God will not take us beyond what is in his word or in his revelaton of himself given in Jesus Christ.

Kattie W. Coon said...

Jim said:

“I am stunned by the ahistorical bending of the truth by people like Lisa Larges. You [Viola] started to talk about that when you said that she seems to imagine a time when the church was all on her side, and then the big meanies from the radical right came along and pushed the church into discrimination against gay people.”

Actually Jim, Viola didn’t say that at all. What Viola said was:

“She [Lisa] seems to believe that there was a time when, at least in the denominations, in the United States, church people would have accepted homosexual practices but now because of extreme Christians (her view) they don’t.”

OK Jim, we all know you tend to swim neck deep in hyperbole, so I’ll let you slide a bit on that one, but it’s clear to me that you didn’t even read Lisa’s article. If you had read the article, then you would no doubt have come across the paragraph where she wrote:

“We do not stay because we’re naive about the poor track record of the church on queer issues. The colossal cluelessness of the church is something that LGBTs in the church have to laugh about -- in that ironic, rueful, shake-your-head-in-disbelief kind of way. We have also cried about, drank over, and raged against the bias for the last several eons. That bumper sticker that says “Jesus, save me from your followers” is something we relate to all too well. But we don’t leave our home. We stay to make needed repairs.”

Hmm… it looks to me like she clearly affirms that there “has never been a halcyon point for gay people when the church was in agreement with the legitimacy of homosexual practice”. So, for three paragraphs you go on and on about Lisa in what can only be described as an exercise in slander.

Viola’s statement is no better. In fact she claims to have read the article and still makes the statement I quoted above.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Viola Larson said...

Thanks and yes Dave how much we need his mercy.

Jim I agree with all you have said-but this stands out above all-"There is a great need for Christian conversion within the church," we must pray for God's revival among us.

Hi Glen, Thank you for your words. It really is time to move on. I do require that those posting here add their full name, city and state. I did check out your blog. Great blog.

Alan, thank you, thank you--yes that is the song. I looked all over the web yesterday for the song, but I had so little information to go by. You must have a Jesus movement background.

Aric Clark said...

Viola,

It is difficult to translate demeanor and emotion through this medium so I just want to assure you that I have taken, and intend no offense on the personal level, though I recognize the depth of the disagreement between us is significant.


You wrote, "you have divorced the Holy Spirit from both the Scriptures and the Lord of the Church."

On the contrary I believe you have raised your interpretation of scripture over both the Holy Spirit and God's Living Word who is Lord of the Church. It is scripture itself that attests to us that God is living and active and calling all people into his service. It is scripture which teaches us how to identify gifts for ministry and it is on the basis of those gifts, as well as the unavoidable fact that homosexual persons HAVE been ordained and HAVE provided effective and faithful ministry throughout the history of the church, that I am confident that the belief of some that homosexuality is an impediment to ordained ministry is a lie.

As for your statement that God will not take us beyond his Word - that sentence can only make sense if you take the Word to be the living and active Jesus Christ. We have already moved beyond the literal text of scripture in countless important ways. You do not adhere to a Biblical cosmology. You do not abide by Biblical law. Almost no scholars accept Biblical history as accurate. On and on the list of departures from scripture go. Good, rational departures. Conflating the Word of God with the text of Scripture is a horrible theological error which leads to a long list of silly hypocrisies because no person can or does actually abide by the whole of scripture. It is self-contradictory and futile.

Viola Larson said...

Kattie,
I came very close to not publishing your comment. This remark, “OK Jim, we all know you tend to swim neck deep in hyperbole, so I’ll let you slide a bit on that one, but it’s clear to me that you didn’t even read Lisa’s article.” is totally uncalled for. No one else on this thread has managed to pick on someone by personal attack. Do not do it again or I will not publish your remarks.

Jim is one of the finest researchers, reporters and Christian writers I know.

Lisa has two statements that must be taken together, the one I quoted and the one you quoted. I think the first one, the one I quoted, qualifies the second one. She does believe the Church has been changed by those she calls homophobic and extreme.

Aric Clark said...

Also, my apologies, I didn't realize you had a rule about posting city/state in comments. I'm not anonymous. :P

Aric Clark
Ft. Morgan, Colorado

Kattie W. Coon said...

Viola,

I guess I over reacted a bit concerning your statement, since you didn't actually imply that the entire church would have approved. Jim on the other hand did, in fact, exaggerate what you stated (prompting my hyperbole remark) by stating "that she seems to imagine a time when the church was all on her side". You didn't say that, and Lisa certainly didn't say that even when you do combine the two quotes you mention.

I apologize for over reacting toward you, but I don't apologize to Jim. His statements are clearly slanderous in content and over the top in apparent tone. Jim may be a fine researcher, but he blew it this time. He should admit his error. We'll all hopefully move on.

If what I did was a personal attack, by simply pointing out his error as slanderous, then shouldn’t we consider Jim’s comments to be a personal attack on Lisa and others? After all he did say “Larges is largely out to lunch”, and “Larges has the unmitigated gall”, and “People can make that argument, but they shouldn't identify themselves as Christians when they do.” Why did you not admonish Jim for that? Why did you instead say “Jim I agree with all you have said”?

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Jim said...

Kattie,

I'm not offended that you write--rather artfully, I'd say--that I "swim neck-deep in hyperbole." Maybe there's some good Hebrew in me! If hyperbole is guilt, I'll plead guilty as charged.

However, you are quite wrong in contending I haven't read Lisa Larges's article. I did. Very carefully.

And from it, I was writing about this set of sentences: "The Christian extremist right [Larges's hyperbole for "orthodox Christians"], which has increased its influence in mainline churches, must be countered. Many of the Christian denominations have a history of being moderate on many things and progressive on others. In the last three decades that moderate Christian voice has been drowned out, silenced, or taken over."

Larges is being utterly ahistorical. I've pastored for more than three decades. I've lived through the whole era. And let me tell you, the big CHANGE being foisted on the church is not a change from gay-sexual-practice acceptance to gay-sexual-practice disapproval. Always and forever, the practice of homosexuality has been condemned, and only in the last 35 years or so has faith so deteriorated that some dare to call sin good.

The change in the mainline churches in the last three decades is not from progressivism to a supposedly hard conservatism. It has been exactly the opposite: a drift away from orthodoxy into the arms of a seductive world that says to us, "Never mind what the Bible says. Do what you WANT to do, and we'll call it good."

The very fact that the sinfulness of homosexual practice is even DEBATED these days would be mind-boggling to folks like my dear grandfather, who died in 1966, a pillar of the church. Were he to rouse, Lazarus-like, from his grave and survey the so-called Christian church today, he would be dumbfounded.

No, the last three to four decades have not witnessed a mainline return to conservative faith. It has been exactly the opposite. Larges must be ignoring or rewriting history entirely.

THAT is what I was referring to in my little hyperbolic swim, Kattie.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Viola Larson said...

Aric,
You write, “It is scripture which teaches us how to identify gifts for ministry and it is on the basis of those gifts, as well as the unavoidable fact that homosexual persons HAVE been ordained and HAVE provided effective and faithful ministry throughout the history of the church, that I am confident that the belief of some that homosexuality is an impediment to ordained ministry is a lie.”

Two points here:

1.Our understanding from Scripture about how to identify gifts has to be correlated with the Scriptures insistence that Christians are to live their lives as those bought away from a habitual life of sin. A believer insisting that they need not repent of sin is to be disciplined not ordained. Think of the man sleeping with his father’s wife. Paul didn’t say lets ordain him he said remove him from your midst. And this was insisted on for the sake of the man so that he would repent. In fact, Paul tells the Church that they are arrogant because they were not sorrowful because of the sin.

2.That some who are practicing homosexuals are already ordained is not proof that it is okay. And as far as saying that has happen throughout the history of the Church and their ministry was effective I just simply disagree with you.

You write: “As for your statement that God will not take us beyond his Word - that sentence can only make sense if you take the Word to be the living and active Jesus Christ. We have already moved beyond the literal text of scripture in countless important ways. You do not adhere to a Biblical cosmology. You do not abide by Biblical law. Almost no scholars accept Biblical history as accurate. On and on the list of departures from scripture go.”

A lot of points.

On biblical cosmology: Now laugh if you want to: but if you didn’t read the bible in such a “wooden” literal way you wouldn’t even make that statement. And I emphasize the wooden here, because much of the cosmology in the Bible is neither an attempt at using the cosmology of the writer’s time nor is it in contradiction to postmodern thought. It is in some cases simply poetic and in other cases it is written apologetically for the people of the time. That is it shows how the Hebrew God is greater than any god conceptualized by the Israelites’ neighbors.

The biblical law is important, but not the food codes God gave to the Jewish people. But the laws God gave and all that flow from the Ten Commandments are still in force. What does Jesus say, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”

And what did Paul writes, “Do we then nullify the law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:31)

But what does God do for unclean food and unclean people. Remember Peter’s vision. God told him, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” God has made the food clean and through the death of his Son Jesus Christ he makes sinners clean.” But that doesn’t mean he makes their sinful practices clean. It means he forgives their sin and tells them to go and sin no more!

On your third point in that paragraph you are just plain wrong. There are many scholars who believe the history of the Bible is accurate. (Should I blame SF Theological Seminary for not giving you any orthodox or Evangelical Biblical scholars to read?!)

You write: “Conflating the Word of God with the text of Scripture is a horrible theological error which leads to a long list of silly hypocrisies because no person can or does actually abide by the whole of scripture. It is self-contradictory and futile.”

I am almost without any words to say on this statement. And that is because you are an ordained pastor in the PCUSA. All of the Confessions teach that the Scripture is the word of God, Calvin certainly taught that the scripture is the Word of God and the most important text of all, the Bible teaches that it is the word of God. If you cut Jesus Christ from his word he becomes what ever you choose him to be. If you disengage the Holy Spirit from the word of God written he becomes a free floating spirit leading people anywhere that feel’s good. Truly you make Christianity contradictory and futile.

Sacramento, CA

Viola Larson said...

Kattie,
I think Jim has just written a very good answer to you. Now if you wish to go on write about what you think is right or wrong about what Lisa said but don't write about Jims character or writing style anymore.

Glen said...

Sorry, Viola. Using Google, it appeared that my name and city would be provided...

Glen Hallead
Wellsboro, PA

Glen said...

Hi Viola,

Sorry for the oversight. I'm still learning some of the intricacies of blogger. I assumed that when I signed using my gmail/blooger account it would provide the appropriate information. Blessings,

Glen Hallead
Wellsboro, PA

Presbyman said...

Viola,

Why NOT write this letter to Lisa Larges as well? It's a great statement.

As an aside, if one separates the incarnate Word of God from the written Word, as my colleague and (I hope he doesn't object to my calling him) my friend Aric seems to be advocating, that leaves us to imagine a new Jesus who will, of course, agree with us on contested issues. Thus, Aric is convinced that opposition to gay ordination is a sin, based on, well ... his own opinion.

Not to pick on Aric ... this kind of thing has been going on at least since 1967, when the Confession of 1967 allowed for a gap between the incarnate and written Word of God.

I'd recommend some B.B. Warfield as an antidote to modern seminary indoctrination. Even though Warfield taught at Princeton, we surely didn't have him assigned very often.

Blessings,

John Erthein
Erie, PA

timeforthetruth said...

Viola,

That was an excellent summary in response to Aric's massive theological and biblical errors.

You answered so concisely and so well and with such grace.

Thank you for modelling such wonderful grace with thoughtful apologetics.

Jim,

You are absolutely right that right now the greatest need within the PCUSA is conversion.

Adel Thalos
Snellville, GA

Viola Larson said...

Glen,
Thanks for posting your city and state a couple of times : ) I know I have been doing this for awhile and I don't have it figured out yet. Looking at your blog were you a missionary at some point?

John,
I have thought about that but I would need to pray about it and then find out how.

I believe there is a lot more than B.B. Warfield out there. But he is good, I haven't read him but my husband really likes him.

Have you seen the recent book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham.

Aric Clark said...

Viola,

I've already taken far too much space in this thread so this will be my last remark. Thank you for your hospitality.

It does not require a wooden or literal reading of scripture to see that the various inconsistent cosmologies presented are wrong. One can make that observation quite apart from the various other purposes, poetic and polemical that the authors may have had for writing about them. And the moment you acknowledge that something in scripture is incorrect, whether you believe the whole is still valuable for other reasons - you have already made the crucial step toward admitting that it is not the text which is actually determinative, but your own interpretation of it. (admit it or not this is always the case. There is no reading without interpretation). You employ an interpretive principle to sever the actual words from something you read into the text (something like author's intention, or a mental reconstruction of social context or any other criteria). This is not a problem, this is unavoidable reality.

Augustine had an interpretive principle: the law of love. Whatever you read in scripture should conduce to love. If it is unloving it is to be taken figuratively. If it is loving, then literally. (my paraphrase).

Calvin and Barth both do what I also try to do in reading scripture - read it through the lens of the risen Christ.

The point is that scripture is not the tether which prevents the Holy Spirit or Christ from becoming whatever you want, because you are still the one interpreting it and you can and do make it say whatever you want.

There is no tether but Christ. If Christ does not see fit through his Holy Spirit to speak to people of Faith there IS no knowledge of God. Yes, the witness of the Church has been that we encounter Christ in scripture (also in the sacraments, and in the beloved community) but not because God put his Living Word there once and for all as though it could possibly be contained or codified permanently in human language. Rather scripture is where we encounter Christ because God in his infinite mercy sees fit to continually meet us there.

The book is not the answer. The words are not the answer. Our interpretation of the words is definitely not the answer. Only Christ is the answer.

But now I have diverged significantly from the original letter. My apologies.

John,

I don't mind you calling me friend, if you don't mind me considering you one.

I base my opinion that those who are opposing ordination of homosexuals are sinning, as I said above, on the testimony of the Holy Spirit, who has clearly called and gifted many homosexual individuals for ordained ministry.

Aric Clark
Ft. Morgan, Colorado

Bruce Byrne said...

I simply do not understand those who embrace a postmodernistic agnosticism toward all things orthodox on the one hand, while on the other, they know with certainty that it is a sin to oppose unrepentant homosexual ordination. Practitioners of doubt with such conviction!

Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Cameron Mott said...

Viola,

You have written a letter to Ms. Larges and have sent it to the public, why not to her personally?

Paola, KS

Anonymous said...

What does it mean to

"embrace a postmodernistic agnosticism toward all things orthodox"

?

Tom Evans
passing through Kansas City

Viola Larson said...

Aric,
I do not admit that anything in Scripture is incorrect. Misunderstood, yes, not understood yet, certainly, but not error.

But here I am more concerned with your insistence that interpretation severs the words of Scripture from meaning. You write:

“You employ an interpretive principle to sever the actual words from something you read into the text (something like author's intention, or a mental reconstruction of social context or any other criteria). This is not a problem, this is unavoidable reality.”

I see that as extremely post-modern, the idea that the author’s thoughts cannot be known by the reader. If you brush away that way of seeing interpretation there is not the problem you insist on. And I will get to the part of interpreting the texts through the lens of the risen Christ later.

You added this which certainly clarifies what you are thinking.

“The point is that scripture is not the tether which prevents the Holy Spirit or Christ from becoming whatever you want, because you are still the one interpreting it and you can and do make it say whatever you want.”

This is simply a false way of looking at the text. Of course, one studies the context it was written in, the language etc., etc. to better understand but there are two authors one must listen to. They are the human author and God the ultimate author. Interpretation principles can be good or bad but they do not of necessity change the meaning of the text, there is still an author who gave meaning in the first place. The interpreter’s job is to understand the author’s meaning, not to bring their own meaning.

A good example of this is Kenneth Bailey’s work on the parables. His works help the reader to understand what the author wrote about; it does not change the meaning of the text but clarifies.

As for interpreting the text through the lens of the risen Christ, I believe this can have two meanings and I believe that you have not quite explained enough with this statement for me to be sure what your meaning is.

When referring to the risen Christ one might be dividing the risen Christ from the biblical Jesus or one might be holding the second person of the Trinity tightly in connection with the biblical Jesus. I believe some theologians such as Rudolf Bultmann would divide the biblical Jesus from the risen Christ and that certainly makes a difference in interpretation. That is where one places their own meaning over the text.

But I have no problem with placing Jesus Christ complete over the whole text as an interpretative lens as long as one is careful to read the O.T. first for its own historical viewpoint. And, contrary to much modern theology, I insist that we find Jesus Christ in all of the Scriptures that is certainly what the New Testament writers and Jesus himself did. But it must be the Jesus Christ of Scripture not a free floating risen Christ.

As for Barth and Calvin, I do not believe that either of them would have quite agreed with you. For instance Barth wrote “Further, it is the unanimous opinion within the church, that God is never for us in the world, that is to say, in our space and time, except in this His Word, and that this Word for us has no other name and content but Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ is never to be found on our behalf save each day afresh in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. One is not in the Church at all if he is not of a mind with the Church in these things.”

Additionally in the same book he wrote, speaking of the German Church’s refusal to turn to the written word and the living word, “And this means that under the stormy assault of ‘principalities, powers, and rulers of this world’s darkness,’ we seek God elsewhere than in his Word, and seek His Word somewhere else than in Jesus Christ, and seek Jesus Christ elsewhere than in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. And so we become as those who do not seek for God at all.”

Calvin is so very clear on the inspiration of Scripture that some would undoubtedly make him a fundamentalist. I have written on his views in another posting so because this is so long I will not deal with him here.

This is all to say that when Jesus insists that marriage is between a man and a woman we need to listen to his words. And we in fact need to listen to all of the words of Scripture because they are the words of God and Jesus Christ is both man and God.

Viola Larson said...

Good point Bruce.

Cameron,

When one places an article in a public place it is considered okay to respond to it. At least in the United States it is. I do not have either Lisa's e=mail or address-do you?

Cameron Mott said...

No, but according to Google directing to TAMF website's contact page:

That All May Freely Serve
Downtown United Presbyterian Church
121 North Fitzhugh Street
Rochester, NY 14614

Contact...

Our Minister Coordinator, Lisa Larges,
phone (415) 401-6468

e-mail Lisa llarges@tamfs.org

Hope that is the correct Lisa Larges.

Paola, KS

Viola Larson said...

Thank you, Cameron,
I have sent a link.

Viola Larson said...

For anyone coming back here out of interest: I did e-mail the link to lisa who sent a gracious note back, declining to add anything here.

Tim Curtis said...

Hi Vi,

This is a very good post, you have written very well indeed. Your defense of God's Word has been excellent, leaving nothing to be said.

I saddens me greatly when I read Ms. Larges' letter, speaking of her call to ministry, and her advocacy of spirituality, and yet never once mentioned salvation. First and foremost, Christian faith is about a saving relationship with God, through Christ Jesus. It is my sincere prayer that God will raise up leaders within the Church, who actually believe in Him, and His written word.

How can someone see God at a trial, and yet disbelieve His word, is beyond my comprehension.

John Calvin once said, "A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's truth is attacked and yet would remain silent."

If only a majority of our pastors would take this stand and defend the Word of God, rather than argue against it. But instead we have a majority of pastors (based on surveys performed by the PC(USA)) that do not support or believe that the Bible is the actual Word of God. Leaving a stalwart minority to be vilified and marginalized in many presbyteries, for trying to uphold the Holy Scriptures.

My hat is off to those, who like Jim Berkley are willing to speak the truth, and stand for Christian Orthodoxy. We need to pray for their strength and fervor.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:11-12)

Blessings to you, keep fighting the good fight.

Tim Curtis,
Elk Grove, CA

Viola Larson said...

Tim,
Thanks for your comments. i hope Brad and I see you soon somewhere in Sacramento.