Saturday, November 13, 2010

Giants in the land ...

Edward Terry, reporter for The Presbyterian Layman, in a news posting, “Kirkpatrick predicts end of PCUSA’s fidelity-chastity standard,” writes that at the Covenant Network Conference, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Clifton Kirkpatrick “said that God is calling on Christians to cooperate, break down barriers to find ways that different gifts can complement one another. He also called on the church to repent for exclusions based on injustice.

‘We are in the process of what God is calling us to be … an open community,” he said. “Our only intolerance should be an intolerance of efforts to exclude those who are different.’ Terry, in a different article, “Former PCUSA pastor challenges Covenant Network to ‘circle back’” writes of a former Presbyterian, Rev. Katie Morrison, who in her sermon given at the same conference stated, “she hopes the PCUSA can one day have a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” once it changes its position on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) issues.”

Dr. Jim Berkley writing for The Layman, Let no faithful disciple go unpunished? includes Morrison’s words with those of the recent confessions of sin propagated by the now apostate Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Some newly written prayers of confession placed biblical Christians in the position of having to repent of the sin of intolerance because of their faithful stance against the ordination of unrepentant homosexuals. Berkley quotes two of the confessions including this one:

In San Francisco: “Our church of the Reformation has been too long captive to bias and misinformation. … We have not respected the gift of sexuality. … We have betrayed fellow members of the body of Christ because of cultural prejudice. We have misused Scripture as a tool of discrimination. We have forced celibacy upon too many. … We have promoted invisibility and dishonesty. … We have intimidated and disciplined, censured and expelled.”

These various pastors and leaders have one thing in common with such pastors as John Shuck who does not believe in a personal creator or in a resurrected future for those who belong to Jesus. They are like the giant, Goliath; standing in defiance of the living God in the sense that they are taunting the faithful with a possible bleak future should those pushing for new sexual standards get their own way.

But God’s future includes the faithful. His promises are unbreakable, his presence with his people unending. For what or who can separate us from Christ:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew, he also predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom he predestined he also called and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things?

If God is for us who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him over for us all, how will he not also with him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? (Romans 828-34a)

There are two promises here I want to point out. First, we are to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. God’s adopted sons and daughters are destined for transformation. We may kick and scream as the Holy Spirit does his work, but we will be conformed. The process may hurt sometimes, but it is his work.

The process is not unlike the story of Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Because of his crankiness, greed and general awfulness Eustace becomes a dragon. And it is only Aslan the great Lion who can change him back into a boy, and a better boy, at that.

C.S. Lewis has Eustace say, as he tells of his experience:
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You—know if you’re ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.
Aslan goes on to wash and dress Eustace as Christ does us, washing away our sin by his blood, regenerating us by his Holy Spirit and dressing us with his righteousness. And there is that part, in the above verse, that reminds the believer that no one can bring a charge against God’s elect. No one. As F.F. Bruce puts it in his commentary on Romans:
In the forensic language of this passage we catch an unmistakable echo of the challenge of the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 50:8-9, ‘He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let him come near to me. Behold the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? When God enters into judgment, the outlook for the opposing side is bleak (Rom. 3-4); but if God takes the side of the defendant, no amount of evidence for the prosecution can procure an adverse verdict. A good Old Testament illustration is the silence of Satan, chief prosecutor in the heavenly court, when God declares his acceptance of Joshua the high priest (Zc. 3:1-5).
Conformed to his image, walking in obedience the Church must just keep walking straight ahead proclaiming Christ’s redeeming, transforming life, death and resurrection.


Doug Hagler said...

As always, we are staring at each other through some kind of fun-house mirror. I promise that right now, supporters of LGBTQ inclusion feel very much like David, facing down Goliath.

I can't help but be entertained by the "now apostate" attached to the mention of the ELCA.

If the amendment passes (who knows? It's been close to 50/50 for some time now) are you one who will flee the Beast of Inclusivity rising from the sea, or will you stay and seek to overturn with a new amendment?

Viola Larson said...

Doug your apocryphal images are delightful but they don’t fit here. Someone, coming from the progressive side, suggesting that the Church should have a truth and reconciliation commissions gives me the shudders.
I will stay where the Lord tells me to stay.

Doug Hagler said...

Thank you, I aim to entertain. :) I disagree that my Beast of Inclusivity doesn't fit, but that's certainly a matter of opinion. I don't think I'm inventing the argument that inclusivity is Satanic capitulation to worldliness, etc. etc.

I think that truth and reconciliation commissions are not appropriate in this case, because in the absence of general agreement, they would likely come off as further bludgeoning of already-tender areas of the denomination.

That is, in post-aparthide South Africa, TRCs made sense because they were an alternative to retaliation on the part of the liberated majority, and the belief that apartheid was wrong was far more widely held than the belief that discrimination against LGBTQ folks is wrong - nowhere near our 50/50. I would much rather just have freedom of conscience for Presbyterians who want to ordain LGBTQ folks as well as for those who don't.

How do you know where the Lord tells you to stay?

Doug Hagler said...

And now I'm distracted trying to envision a Beast of Inclusion rising from the sea. Whatever it would look like, I think it needs a bobble-head. Something simultaneously benign and disturbing.

Viola Larson said...

Hmmm, Doug, I think I will let you worry about your own beastly visions.

On the truth and reconciliation commission, I am glad you feel that way, I applaud you for that. But in my mind there is much, much more than “further bludgeoning of already-tender areas of the denomination.” In South Arica, whites refused to live in the same areas, eat with, go to church or school with black people. Certainly whites were not friends with blacks. You cannot say that at all about orthodox Christians in the PCUSA. I am sure you know better.

South Africa’s problems were about sinful racism not about insisting on unbiblical sinful leadership.
It’s never the same, knowing where the Lord is leading and sometimes he makes you wait a long time. How did you know you were called to ministry?

And when are you going to answer the questions I asked you on the comment thread of my last posting?

Pastor Bob said...

So the word injustice is now being used by someone people listen to: Cliff Kirkpatrick. That means that even if we have freedom of conscience after G-6.0106b is deleted or changed there is already a movement growing to exclude those who believe that sex between two people of the same sex is wrong. I have predicted in the past that the final result will be a refusal to ordain those who disagree with the Covenant Network. I used to think it would happen after I am retired and maybe after I am safely dead. It seems others want that to happen sooner.

One of the requirements of the truth and justice commissions was that the oppressor would confess his/her sins. If I don't think I'm sinning how do I confess?

As for knowing that the Lord tells me to stay, the Lord called me to be a MWS in the PCUSA. I am part of this part of the Church. I can't imagine God calling me to serve elsewhere unless I am kicked out. That was the position of Luther and Calvin and I think they were right.

Viola Larson said...

Yes Bob, it does seem that they want it sooner. What I didn't even mention is in a posting written by the Reformed Pastor David Fischler, at

My concern is that any part of any of this will get tied into the government

John Shuck said...

So the gays (and those who advocate for equality) are Goliath. Those who discriminate against them are David with his little slingshot.

One can only marvel.

John Shuck
Elizabethton, TN

Viola Larson said...

You didn't read carefully or I didn't write carefully-something. I said that the people I named were like Goliath because "they are taunting the faithful with a possible bleak future should those pushing for new sexual standards get their own way."

Thats why I included you.

I didn't say anything about anybody being David. You carried my metaphor too far.

There is a moral kind of discrimination. Its about not allowing what is biblically immoral to be the standard.