Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spiritual Violence? "We who have gone through the day of sadness shall enjoy together the day of gladness"

I live in California, where in my own city I have seen people harassed because they helped to pass Proposition 8, I think I have a small understanding of what the future may hold for all who are orthodox, Evangelical and Reformed. Michael Adee, Executive Director & Field Organizer of More Light Presbyterians, confirmed some of my thoughts with his words.

He thinks that defending marriage as between a man and woman only is ‘an act of spiritual violence and civil injustice.’

He tried to reinforce his word with an essay he has posted on the More Light Web site. The article, “The Religious Violence of ‘Defending Marriage’ by Jon Pahl, is taken from the Martin Marty Center for the study of Religions at the University Of Chicago Divinity School. It is one of those articles that can be defended or debated point by point.

For instance one point # 2 is “DOMA [Defense of Marriage acts] Laws elevate heterosexual marriage to idolatrous status. In some communities of faith, defending "marriage" has become all but an item of confessional status (it is absent from any historic Christian Confessions). This arrogates to a majority - heterosexuals - special privileges (economic, social, and spiritual) not available to sexual minorities.”

Now if one wants to argue about rights that is one subject. But to add the idea that the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman only is ‘idolatrous’ for those who adhere to Confessions attacks the Reformed faith with a vengeance.

The reason this is an attack is that the term idolatrous within a faith community implies that something or someone is being worshiped above God. But if a community holds to Confessions which state that the Bible is the word of God then their Confession of that truth must be their guide. For example The Second Helvetic Confession states:

“We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men. For God himself spoke to the Fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.

And in this Holy Scripture, the universal church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from the same.” (5.001-5.002)

The word of God, as it shows how to frame “a life acceptable to God,” insists that marriage is between a man and a woman. Therefore insistence on forming marriages of same sex couples is itself idolatry. And the one who attempts to do this has put same sex marriage above God.

And each point in Pahl’s article could be debated in such a manner. But that is not what I intend to do here. I think others will and have already written on each one of these points from a faithful orthodox position.

But as I said above, I live in California, where in my own city I have seen people harassed because they helped to pass Proposition 8. I think I have a small understanding of what the future may hold for those, who are orthodox, Evangelical and Reformed. I think I understand a little of what the Church must prepare for. If you and I are dubbed violent now for defending marriage between a man and a woman, the future, humanly speaking, is speeding toward one dark storm.

So this is not about how points are right or wrong, but about drawing close to the Lord of the Church and to each other. This is about embracing brothers and sisters who have not and well not give way to the sexually sick culture of the day. This is about staying one under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The Reformed writer Richard Baxter in his wonderful book The Saints Everlasting Rest, writes about the rest that belongs to the children of God:

“But though this rest be peculiar to the saints, yet it is common to all the saints; for it is an association of blessed spirits, both saints and angels—a corporation of perfected saints whereof Christ is the head—the communion of saints completed. As we have been together in the labor, duty, danger, and distress, so shall we be in the great recompense and deliverance. As we have been scorned and despised, so shall we be owned and honored together. We who have gone through the day of sadness shall enjoy together the day of gladness. Those who have been with us in persecution and in prison shall be with us also in that palace of consolation. How oft have our groans made, as it were, one sound, our tears one stream, and our desires one prayer. But now all our praises shall make up one melody, all our churches one church, and all ourselves one body; for we shall be one in Christ, even as he and the Father are one.” (61)

Take courage brothers and sisters who love Jesus.


Pastor Bob said...


I sent the following letter to Presbyweb in response to the article by Michale Adee you mention here. Please note my concern is specifically with the use of the word violence.

Re: Michael Adee’s article in TAMFS

Just what is religious or spiritual violence? When I think of religious violence I think of the Inquisition.

If religious violence means opposing marriage between two people of the same sex I think violence is the wrong word. Prejudice might be a more appropriate word or discrimination.

It seems to me that there are two issues around the question of marriage:

1. The many pluses that come from being married. Many of these should be overturned because they discriminate against all single people. Consider the laws and contracts around Social Security and pensions. A person works all of his/her life and earns a pension and Social Security. S/he dies. If the spouse remarries it doesn’t matter how much pension has been earned. The spouse loses the pension. That is just plain wrong. We need to change this and a variety of other laws and contracts so that single people stand on an equal footing with married people.

2. Marriage itself. Is marriage a right? Mr. Adee says that single heterosexual people can always get married. But you have to have someone who wants to marry you to get married. That isn’t always as easy as it seems. Are there any studies about whether there are more single heterosexuals as compared to homosexuals? (We need to leave single people in nursing homes out of the studies.)

The word violence has a particular meaning: someone gets physically hurt or the one doing the violence intends that someone gets physically hurt. There are types of abuse that are not violent and yet cause damage. Certainly verbal abuse is not violent but can and often does lasting damage. One could argue that denying marriage or ordination to someone on the basis of their sexual behavior (in this case let’s assume one man and one man or one woman and one woman) is a form of religious abuse if one interprets the scriptures of one’s religion to allow for marriage between two men or two women or ordination for one sexually involved outside of heterosexual marriage.

Finally there IS violence against people simply because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. I don’t think anyone on on Viola's blog will deny that such physical violence exists or is wrong. We need to make the distinction. When someone is physically assaulted for any reason, but including one’s sexual behavior or inclinations, that is violence. Matthew Shepherd suffered violence because of his sexual orientation. The denial of a marriage license is not a violent act because no one got physically hurt. Now, it does hurt one emotionally. Thus the word abuse might be more appropriate.

I suggest that those who support gay marriage and the ordination of self affirming, practicing homosexuals use the word abuse rather than violence. It is still a word with high negative emotional content and (while I disagree with gay marriage or the ordination of self affirming, practicing homosexuals), is closer to what I think Mr. Adee means than the word violence. Or try prejudice or discrimination. They are close to the truth from Mr. Adee’s point of view.

Robert Campbell
Sharon Hill, PA

Viola Larson said...

I would agree with all of that, well mostly. I would want to make it clear that the discrimination term fell under Adee's point of view, not the Bible's. After all the Bible does say don't ordain new believers so they don't fall into sin. That is discrimination but for a good reason, same with practicing homosexuals. But abuse seems to me to come awful close to violence!

I have been praying for your surgery tomorrow.

Pastor Bob said...


I got to thinking about Michael Adee's article, your response, my response to you and your response to me.

I have a further response but it is too long to put here so I'm going to blog on the subject here:

Bob Campbell
Sharon Hill, PA

Wayne Kent said...


You wrote: "If you and I are dubbed violent now for defending marriage between a man and a woman, the future, humanly speaking, is speeding toward one dark storm."

You are exactly right. If I was in a position of authority within a congregation, it would be my duty to remove a youth pastor who I believed was committing "a form of spiritual violence" against the youth. If I were on a COM, it would be my duty to remove a pastor who was engaged in spiritual violence from the pulpit. And I would do so with a clean conscience and with all my energy.

Thus, when Michale Adee's labels the teaching and preaching of what we believe to be biblical sexual morality "a form of spiritual violence", it doesn't take the gift of prophecy to see what is in store for us traditionalists should he and the More Light folks ever gain the upper hand within the denomination.

Just how much "spiritual violence" would you be willing to tolerate from a youth pastor or candidate for ministry? I'm guessing that the answer is "none". How much biblical sexual morality will the More Light folks be willing to tolerate in the classroom or from the pulpit? If they really believe the teaching of traditional biblical sexual morality to be a form of spiritual violence, the answer must also be "none".

We all agree that tolerance of spiritual violence is not a virtue, and it should give us pause, therefore, when those with whom we disagree define the teaching and preaching of what we believe to be a form of spiritual violence.

Wayne Kent said...


Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Chris Larimer said...

Sister Viola,

It is prescisely the love that Jesus has for the Church (and that the Church has for Jesus) that calls us to uphold the creation mandate of one man and one woman in life-long, self-giving, procreative covenantal love. And anybody who is even remotely familiar with Ephesians 5 knows why.

There is a spiritual violence hovering around this issue. It is a violence that seeks to adulterously slip in and cause the Church to divorce Christ. It is the violence of saying that Christ and the Church are on equal footing (because we reject all forms of subjection). It is the violence of saying that the Church and Christ are interchangeable - either one could just as easily redeem the world (because we reject all forms of natural/"physin"-Greek relational modes). It is the violence of saying MY WILL BE DONE, and making God in our own image so that we can become her ontologically-same lesbian lover.

The idolatry of the LGBTQ ideology is profound. And as long as they have people talking justice, history, fairness, kindness, and anything else then we will be blind to the end (and, I imagine for most, unintended) result of their blasphemous assault on Our Blessed Lord's self-offering for the Church.

A homosexualist "church" is one that refuses to see the plain (and universally necessary) distinctions between man & woman, Christ & the Church, and God & the World. It is a direct route to henotheism (at best) and panentheism / paganism.

Witness Mr. Shuck, and you'll see that this isn't in ANY WAY about what people do in the privacy of the bedroom, or the public halls of legislation. It is about casting scorn on the bridge that was built between finite humans and the Infinite God in the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Soldier on, sister.

Fr. Chris Larimer

Viola Larson said...

Bruce you have very clearly outlined the possible coming problem in the Church for those of us who are orthodox. The other problem is the state and the problems looming there. Some are proposing that no one should be considered married but that we only have civil unions in California. Only the Church, or other religious institutions would be involved in marriage.
There is a big question there (well probably a lot of them) about what Christians should do in that case???

Viola Larson said...

You have made some excellent observations, in particular, I think those about the differences between Christ and his Church are important to the subject.

He who is perfect insists on the continual perfecting of his bride. If it is his blood that makes her garments white what can be said for those who wish to damage her clothes with unrepentant sin.

I am a little concerned about mentioning names that don't really connect with the subject of my post, well not directly anyway. Please lets not go there.

Viola Larson said...

Okay Chris,
You were reading Shuck's blog and I wasn't. He is commenting over there at href="">Spritual Violence.

I will have to say, proclaim, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and I am one. He saved me and is constantly working to change and transform me. Knowing that how could I not love any other sinner. And my love, and more importantly God's love reaches out with care to all those involved in homosexual sin.

Viola Larson said...

I did something wrong. Just click on

Strode said...

re: The Second Helvetic Confession - see also:

"Nothing therefore can be more absurd than the fiction that the power of judging Scripture is in the Church, and that on her nod its certainty depends.
When the Church receives it, and gives it the stamp of her authority, she does not make that authentic which was otherwise doubtful or controverted but, acknowledging it as the truth of God, she, as in duty bounds shows her reverence by an unhesitating assent."

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapter 6

Rich Strode
Portland, OR

Viola Larson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Viola Larson said...

I love that Calvin quote. I can think of several other blogs I would like to use it at--. thanks.

Chris Larimer said...

"For our wisdom ought to be nothing else than to embrace with humble teachableness, and at least without finding fault, whatever is taught in Sacred Scripture."

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
(Bk. 1, Ch. XVIII, sect. 4)

Viola Larson said...

Thank you Chris, I like all the Calvin being quoted here. May the Holy Spirit give all that humble teachableness.

Debbie said...

I just read the post on Shuck's blog, and the comments on it. Their definition of spiritual violence seems to be based on, or similar to, this one by Jimmy Creech that Shuck quotes: "Spiritual violence is assault upon the integrity and dignity of a person when that person is told that, because of who she or he is, she or he is not loved and accepted by God, and is in fact rejected and condemned by God."

In other words, they are insisting on ignoring what we continually say: that we have NEVER said that any GLBTQ person is "not loved and accepted by God"; that we have NEVER said that any GLBTQ person is "in fact rejected and condemned by God." They insist on ignoring the fact that we have made a clear distinction between persons and behaviors. Any "spiritual violence" that they feel is therefore a result of their own willfulness in misinterpreting what we say.

Debbie said...

Oops: Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Chris Larimer said...

It's worse than that, Debbie. This is a capitulation of the Gospel. The good news of God's grace needs to be preceded by the bad news of our sinfulness and willful rebellions against the Loving Sovereign of the universe. We need to know that - apart from Christ - we are under God's wrath. Otherwise, we never repent and thus never trust Christ alone for right standing with God.

Yes...apart from Christ, we are condemned and rejected by God. The real violence isn't telling someone what they do shows them to be separated from God's mercy. The real violence is to let them keep standing on the train-tracks with a locomotive bearing down on them at 90 mph.

Fr. Chris Larimer

Pastor Bob said...


Absolutely correct. But there is something else too. They want words to mean exactly what they say they mean. Love cannot mean love unless you agree that God intends sex between men and between women. Marriage is redefined. Violence is redefined. You are violent unless you agree with me, no matter what your acts. You are unloving unless you agree with me.

I am willing to say let's interpret the Bible with each other and see where we disagree and why. Maybe one can convince the other based on compared exegesis. But if the prior assumption in exegesis is that homosexual behavior is bless by God and all Scripture must be read through these lens (only the method of some, specifically those using a liberation theology approach), then how do I have the conversation?

Pastor Bob

Debbie said...

Yes, Bob, I know that there is massive redefinition of words. That's one of the reasons we can't communicate with progressives. We use all the same vocabulary but it has different definitions. They're even starting to call themselves orthodox now.

They'll also say that we can't separate behaviors from persons. They'll say that they ARE their behavior, and to condemn what they do is to condemn them as a person. Our logical responses to this illogical argument fall on deaf ears.

They will also say that it is impossible not to act on an orientation, so that it is cruel (and violent?) to say that they could have a homosexual orientation without expressing it in a physical homosexual act. Our analogies with other innate tendencies that can be resisted, such as my sister's genetic tendency to alcoholism, which she has overcome with great effort, will be rejected; they will even fail to understand analogy and will say that we are accusing GLBTQ people of being alcoholics.

So all in all, I know that we can't win with logical argumentation anyway. Despite this, I still try now and then.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Tim Curtis said...

There is not much more that can be said on this issue, I think that all of the comments were well written.

the only thing that I would add, is that we are dealing with two divergent world-views. They revolve around two basic ideas. First, that the Bible is the Word of God, in and of itself, and has authority with or without the church. Second, much as Barth would say, the Bible become the word of God to the reader, therefore making the reader the authority on deciding what is the Word of God.

The second view has become the prevalent view in many churches today.

It think that the greatest mistake that the church has made in the recent past is the weakening of the examination process for elders and pastors, allowing unqualified men and women to lead the churches. We are suffering today, because of the poor choices that we made in the past, because we elected nice leaders (with agendas we did not know) rather than godly leaders who believe and uphold the Scriptures.

Unfortunately in many churches today, those who believe this often keep silent, for fear of being marginalized or removed from power, and the heresy continues.

I was accused of being violent in a committee meeting, over a different issue, because I spoke out of turn and disagreed with another committee member. It is so hypocritical for the one who accuse the violence to commit the same act that they call violent.

Those who lobby for, tolerance are intolerant. They say we must love, but they hate. They plead for unity, yet they bring chaos.

This type of struggle will continue as long as unbelievers are allowed to have authority within the church. The only way to stop the "violence" is to remove them, or to leave and start over.

If you see another recourse, please explain.

Tim Curtis
Elk Grove, CA

Viola Larson said...

I appreciate most of what you are saying but want to disagree with you about Barth. Barth would never say this: “the Bible become the word of God to the reader, therefore making the reader the authority on deciding what is the Word of God.” It is the last part there that is off. Barth would say that the Holy Spirit makes the word of God, the word of God each day afresh to the reader. Barth would never, never suggest that the reader is allowed to decide what is the word of God. In The Knowledge Of God and the Service of God According to the Teaching of The Reformation, he writes, “We have not to draw our knowledge of who God is from what we think we know about eternity, infinity, omnipotence and invisibility as conceptions which bound our thought. On the contrary, we have to draw our knowledge of eternity, infinity, omnipotence and invisibility from what we can know about God, from what God has said to us about Himself.”Barth is very clear that God’s revelation about himself is his. While I believe he can be weak on the inspiration of the Scriptures he was certainly not known for allowing humanity to decide that question.

One other thing I disagree with is the thought that those on the other side of this debate (at least those in the Church) are violent. On the same grounds that I will not accept this definition of spiritual violence for the orthodox I will not accept it for them. At least not until they start hitting people. And I do believe there will be tares in the Church until the Lord comes back.

Viola Larson said...

That square was suppose to be a smile.


Tim Curtis said...

Hi Vi,

Point taken, I will accept what you say on Barth, you are correct, my point was to say that that is where many people have taken what he said.

From the stand point of the violence, I wanted to make the point that the accuser is doing exactly what they are accusing others of doing, no more. I do not think that any dialogue is every violence unless it does come to blows, as you have said.

On a side note, i am reading the debate between John Calvin, and Cardinal Sadeleto, which goes way beyond anything that is happening today, from the standpoint of the accusations made, and yet I don't remember anyone accusing Calvin of violence.

Talk to you soon, ;-)

Elk Grove, CA

Viola Larson said...

That last point on Calvin and Cardinal Sadeletois really good. Also I think I may have misunderstood you on that violence issue. You are certainly right that if what the progressives say about speech and violence is correct, they also are standing under condemnation but on different grounds.

Presbyman said...

This sort of promiscuous over-use of the term "violence" does nothing to advance dialog. I am not convinced that dialog is even desired ... unless one's definition of "dialog" is that both sides agree that side A is bad and side B is the innocent victim of side A.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

Viola Larson said...

I have to agree with you John, I don't think, when one uses that choice of words they are looking for dialog either.
Sacramento, Ca