Monday, March 1, 2010

"God's New Family" and fleshing out the answer



Sitting in college classes I would hear a professor answer someone else’s answer with the words, “could you flesh that out a little more.” Now I knew what they meant but I didn’t like the words, too much of a cliché I thought. But listening to the fourth video in the More Light Presbyterians series, “God’s New Family,” I started thinking in those terms. But my thoughts were centered on the Incarnation.

There are four Presbyterian speakers, besides Michael Adee the MLP Director, on the video. The two ordained ones, Rev. Hal Porter and Rev. Jack Rogers both made mention of Jesus Christ as the lens through which we understand the Bible. Porter states:

“No one expounded the heart of God more than Jesus Christ. No one saw God’s unbounded love for person’s more than he was, so we need to look at God the same way he did.”

Rogers stated:

“The number one guideline is clearly read the Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ's redeeming life and ministry. … Jesus is the best interpreter.”

They are right.

But they don’t seem to be listening to their own words. And this is where my memories about fleshing out the answer entered my thoughts. Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, is the one who is fully human and fully God. In fact in Colossians Paul writes that in him “all the fullness of Deity dwells.” And so when we read of Jesus and his words in the New Testament, we find that he is fleshing out all the questions and answers found in the Old Testament. He even refers his disciples back to the Law, the Writings and the Prophets which explain “the things concerning himself.” (See Luke 24:25-27, 44)

He is the God who creates the universe. (Genesis 1:1, Col. 1:16) He is the God who stills the ocean and the storm. “He caused the Storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed.” (Psalm 107:29) “They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the wind and the water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:25)

He is the God who cares for the widow, the orphan and the stranger. He is the great sacrificial lamb that all other sacrifices point to. He is the fulfillment of the law. He is the living Word of God and all the words of Scripture are his; they are, after all, the written words of God. Jesus Christ has fleshed out the word of God. He has fulfilled the will of God written in the Law, the Prophets, the Writings and the New Testament. In every way, he moved beyond the cultural understandings of past days, his day and all days upholding the words of God.

In his temptation by Satan, who would misquote Scripture, Jesus simply quoted back his own words, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4b) (Jesus is quoting Deut 8:3)

God’s word, the Holy Scriptures, speak of the redeeming and transforming God. He redeems and transforms the sinner. That is what Jesus is about. He fleshes out the redeeming and transforming work of God. And one must understand that the goodness of God spoken about in the video can only be that goodness (righteousness) that Jesus gives to the sinful because of his life, death on the cross and resurrection.

Since the MLP video is about homosexuality and same gender sex, and those churches which advocate for such practices, then it must be said that Christ’s forgiveness and goodness is a gift to the repentant homosexual as well as all other sinners. In him, Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the Father is unbounded hospitality for the repentant sinner.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)




My Eyes Have Seen HolyWritten by Bebo Norman and Jason Ingram

Am I unfit for You
Remember me, the one who turned from You
I come in rags tattered by the Fall
And all the earth, a witness to my crime

Mercy, weep over me
Let Your tears wash me clean
Majesty, be merciful with me
For my eyes have seen Holy

Hear my prayer at night
Let the morning find me alive
For I am tired and weakened by the Fall
Let all the earth bear witness to my cry

Let the Amen sound from Heaven as You lift my soul
Let the Amen sound from Heaven as You lift my soul
Let the Angels sound from Heaven, Holy is the Lord

© 2006 Appstreet Music/New Spring

25 comments:

Mary E said...

I truely enjoy reading your blog, have an elequent way to clearly state things.

You stated

Rogers stated:

“The number one guideline is clearly read the Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ's redeeming life and ministry. … Jesus is the best interpreter.”


They are right. But they don’t seem to be listening to their own words.

That is the key to whole issue, they start on the right path and then as Bugs Bunny would say "...and then took a left turn at Albuquerque..."

They hook you by by starting with the God's truth and then mislead and divert to social and political agendas regardless to what the Bible says.

Mary Eidson

Viola Larson said...

Yes Mary, It is too bad that some stay hooked not thinking through the rest of the story. I am not sure that Porter believes Jesus is God, but I know Jack Rogers does so I cannot understand how he can say what he does and still believe homosexual sex is okay.
Sounds like Bugs Bunny has some good theology too: )

Anonymous said...

Viola

Our calling is to be Christ-like in all we do in this world, in both word and deed. Paul writes in 1Corinthians 13, that powerful chapter which is all too often trivialized in marriage ceremonies:

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

From my experience with Hal Porter, Michael Adee and the MLP folks, I see this Christ-like behavior more often than I see it on your side of the aisle where deciding who is right and who is wrong and who is in and who is out seems to be an ultimate concern.

Nice article about your husband, a talent not many of us have.

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

Mary E said...

Being a follower of Christ is based on Christ's love for us. That is the love and grace that is spoken of in I Corinthians 13. But as Christians we are called to a more excellent way.

As far as who is in and who is out, I don't know what you are talking about "in" what "out" of what. If you are talking about church as far as I am concerned once you admit that you have fallen short of the Glory of God, then your "in".

It is not about any particular sin for we all sin, but claiming that one sin is not a sin and trying to convince everyone else it is not a sin. And then wanting to call God's blessing for that sin is a whole new ball game.

It is like opening Pandora’s box, lets start making all sorts of exceptions for what any U.S. court of law has passed to be expectable. And make allowances in the Bible so that it does not offend anyone.

Mary Eidson

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Viola Larson said...

Sorry, Anonymous you need to leave your name city and state. And if you are a person who has been asked to not comment here please do not comment again.

Viola Larson said...

John Mc,
We are addressing here the issue of who is ordained and, if you listen to the whole video, and I didn't address this, what churches hate others. It seems that according to Heather Reichgott who is in the video that the only way you can know whether a church hates or not is if they have a MLP sign in front of the Church.

My point is that in the verses you quoted is this "love ... rejoices in the truth." The truth is that Jesus died for all repentant sinners including those who repent of their homosexual sexual practices. And here just to be very clear, it is the Triune God who grabs the sinner and leads them home.

Debbie said...

John McNeese, those of us on "our side of the aisle" have constantly said that we're not deciding who's in and who's out in terms of who God loves or even who can be a member of the church. We have constantly said that that is up to God. Yet those on "your side of the aisle" keep proclaiming that we're doing something we've said we're not doing. Maybe you're not good listeners?

At any rate, like Mary said, it's about who can and can't be ordained, not who is a member of God's family. There are plenty of people who can't be ordained, for all kinds of reasons. It's not an automatic right for every Christian.

Not repenting of and intending to continue in any particular sin is one of the things that exclude a person.

As my friend Bruce Byrne has said elsewhere, there are things that you would quite likely establish as a behavior that would exclude a person from ordination, and where we would agree, such as blatant racist behavior, or constant unrepentant unkindness. The difference between "your side of the aisle" and "our side of the aisle" is just that you do not include homosexual sex as a sinful behavior, and we do.

That's the difference. It has nothing to do with deciding that some person is "in" or "out" of God's love. It has everything to do with ordaining or not ordaining a person while knowing that that person plans to continue in unrepentant sinful behaviors.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Anonymous said...

Viola and Debbie

Yes, it is about ordination. Several years ago I posted, on another blog, my opinion that our problem is not who qualifies to be ordained but the institution of ordination itself. Ordination is a human construct and it is all about control, which probably began after the ascension of Christ with the question of who is in charge. The first casualties were the faithful women who followed Jesus to the very end, while the men fled in panic.

I have this image of glbt folks running around a track, chasing after this dubious institution of ordination held aloft by those on your side of the aisle. There is something idolatrous about this race, both the lusting after and the protecting at all costs this thing called ordination.

While I was ordained as deacon and elder years ago serving one term each, for me iodination is definitely overrated. I will never hold office again, even when glbt folks are finally included. It is a deeply flawed and damaged institution and I’m not sure it can be redeemed.

I work on this “issue” for full inclusion in this church because I want every glbt youth to know that they are loved and celebrated by God just as they are and entitled to full inclusion in this church and in this society. AND that day is coming. Your efforts may delay but will not stop this. I’m 66 and I hope to live to see that wonderful day.

As the wise Gamaliel, tells the council, in Acts 5 “...if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

Pastor Bob said...

John M

Strangely enough I agree at least about ordination. There is no such thing in the Bible. God chooses and the Church acknowledges. The closest we come to ceremony is Aaron and Paul and Barnabas.

Maybe we would be better off if ordination was only for MWS as in most traditions and then the standards would be somewhat more clear cut. But I do see value to having ruling elders, particularly if we go back to them having truly important duties such as visiting those who have stopped attending worship and are seen as true spiritual leaders.

As to Gamaliel, that sword can cut both ways, can't it? We all interpret Scripture but are we doing so correctly? Only God can say.

Viola Larson said...
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Viola Larson said...

Hopefully there are no arguments about there being elders and deacons in the Church in biblical times, although there may be some arguments about what the duties of each office was.

Also we get in Acts and 2 Timothy the idea of the laying on of hands. The word Trinity is not in the Bible but it does describe God as he is found in the scriptures. In the same way I don't think we need to have the word ordination appear for to be biblical and to describe what it means to hold an office in the Church.

And I also think that elders would not only be described as MWS but also as rulers. My NAS states, "The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching." (1 Timothy 5:17) So all three offices are there: teaching, preaching and ruling. And there are standards for the offices including not "laying hands' on a new convert

Paul even speaks of the Presbytery laying their hands on Stephen.

And Bob in the Scripture we know that sometimes the church acknowledged those who would bring ruin on the Church so perhaps they did not always listen either. And here I am partly thinking of Acts 20:25-31.

Debbie said...

Let's not nitpick over whether or not we have a ceremony of ordination. The idea is whether or not people serve as pastors, elders, and deacons, and as Viola said, versions of those offices can be found in the Bible.

John McNeese, you may declare that it's about control, but that is not what "our side of the aisle" has ever stated. Time and again we have set forth our Biblical reasons for defending the standards that were already in place. Since you and others on "your side of the aisle" continue to say things like accusing us of caring about control, or protecting standards "at all costs" (what do you mean by that?), I'm beginning to think that you prefer saying unkind things about us, demonizing us, rather than engaging our arguments.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John McNeese said...

Pastor Bob: You are correct. Gamaliel’s statement cuts both ways. When full inclusion comes, and it will, the problem with ordination remains. The only difference will be GLBT folks will get to participate in that control. The whole idea of setting aside certain persons for ordination indicates there is something special about them. I guess my only consolation is that we don’t genuflect and kiss rings.

Debbie: While my use of sides of the aisle is somewhat facetious, you will note that both of us are included in the body of the church.

Viola: One needs to be very careful when pointing out “those who would bring ruin on the Church.” We may, in fact, be blocking the work of the Spirit.

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

Viola Larson said...

John,
The work of the Holy Spirit never goes beyond the words and work of Jesus. That means not beyond the Holy Scripture.

"But when He the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth the truth; for he will not speak on his own initiative, but whatever he hears, he will speak; and he will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify me, for he will take of mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are mine; therefore I said that he takes of mine and will disclose it to you." (John 6: 13-15)Also John 14: 26.

The Spirit of course does lead various people in to different ministries but not into new truth that is not in the Scripture.

Debbie said...

John McNeese, again with your comments about inclusion in the church. You're either not listening, or else you're continuing to prefer to say unkind things about those who believe like we do. I have just finished saying in earlier comments that it's not about inclusion in the church, and then you make a pointed comment to me about inclusion in the church. Do you have a problem with understanding what we're saying, or are you purposefully continuing in demonizing our side?

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Debbie said...

John McNeese, if your comment about inclusion in the church meant something different from what I thought at first--if it meant that you're including our side in the church in spite of your disagreements with us (and not that you include everyone and we don't), then why don't you listen to what we say and respond to our arguments, rather than to what you want to say is our point of view (in spite of what we say is actually our point of view)?

Setting aside persons for ordination indicates that there is something special about them: yes; they have been called by God to that office. But it also makes demands on them. Those people must adhere to certain standards of behavior. That is not control that evangelicals/orthodox believers have invented for their own sakes. That originates in the Bible. People who want to serve God in a special way must also be willing to yield their lives to him even more intensely than other people.

Debbie Berkley

John McNeese said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth said...

I've really appreciated many of your blog posts, so I'm disappointed to see your homophobia in this post. I know that you probably don't see it as such, but it is social conditioning, no matter how much you use scripture to justify your views. It is interesting how you consider homosexuality so clearly a sin and yet not divorce. Jesus clearly condemned divorce and didn't even mention homosexuality. We all pick and choose which "sins" we want to recognize, and the reasons are political - even when we want to pretend otherwise.

In respectful disagreement,

Liz Simson
Portland, OR

Viola Larson said...

Hi Liz,
I do consider divorce a sin, and I think most of us do. Sometimes it is a sin on one person’s part sometimes both. And when for instance a spouse has caused it by adultery or abuse, etc., it must be repented of.

The problem is those who live a sinful lifestyle but want to call it good and be ordained in their sin.
The even bigger problem is leaders and shepherds in the church who are called to proclaim God’s good news that Jesus died on the cross for all our sin, who encourage the sinner in their sin, never attempting to pull them away and into the new life in Christ.

Viola Larson said...

Another thought Liz,
Doesn't homophobia imply hatred of LGBT people. I have never, and never would hate people for their behavior. I would feel sad, and if they were hurting themselves or someone else I could even be angry. But how could I hate.

Bruce said...

Elizabeth,

You wrote: "I know that you probably don't see it as such, but it [Viola's stance on homosexual behavior] is social conditioning, no matter how much you use scripture to justify your views."

Are your views regarding homosexuality/homosexual behavior the result of social conditioning? Are you claiming that your social conditioning was/is better than Viola's social conditioning or just different? Why should I prefer the consequences of your social conditioning over Viola's?

You wrote: "We all pick and choose which "sins" we want to recognize, and the reasons are political - even when we want to pretend otherwise."

What are your political reasons for your position regarding homosexual behavior?

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

Pastor Bob said...

Are we all affected by the social values of the culture in which we were raised? Of course we are! And we should all take that into account when we seek to interpret the Bible. But social conditioning has nothing to do with whether a particular act is sinful or not.

The honest interpreter of the Bible is always willing to be convinced that s/he may not have interpreted the Bible correctly. I have to admit that people are going to have to come up with new arguments to convince me that the Bible doesn't say that sex between two people of the same gender is sinful as the arguments I have heard over the last 30 years have not convinced me that I am interpreting the Bible incorrectly. But to dismiss someone's interpretation on the basis of social conditioning fails to take that person seriously.

Jack Rogers is a friend of mine. His spoken and written arguments on this subject have failed to convince me that my interpretation of the Bible on this issue is wrong. I listened and read carefully and am not convinced that his translation of words and interpretation of the meaning of words in context are incorrect. That doesn't mean either of us are bad people or not Christian or our positions should be dismissed as caused by social conditioning. We disagree.

I think Jack is right about methods of interpretation. I think his interpretation in this particular case is wrong.

Debbie said...

Liz, I agree with Bruce's questions, and would like to add to them:

According to you, what behaviors that evangelicals call sinful, based on what evangelicals read in the Bible, are actually merely social conditioning, and what are not? For example, would favoring the rich over the poor also be social conditioning? Just like homosexual sex, that's a sinful behavior, according to the Bible. How do you distinguish between the ones that are merely social conditioning, and the ones that are not?

And how is it that you, not being acquainted with us, are so sure that you know better than we do--that you are better educated, or wiser, or more open-minded, or that we are merely hateful, or frightened?

It actually takes a lot of arrogance for progressives to make these claims about all evangelicals, but that's basically what they're doing when they say things like "it's social conditioning".

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA