Is not ordaining unrepentant sinners an essential of the faith? A friend has been blogging on this,PRESBYTERIAN HABERDASHERY , answering the question with a no. And to be fair he says that he would not ordain unrepentant practicing homosexuals, which is of course what the question, at this time in history, is about. So having started this posting with a biblical understanding that same gender sex is sin, I want to look at why I believe, in this case, that not ordaining anyone involved in unrepentant sexual sin is an essential of the faith.
The Confessions and Scripture insist that some sins are greater than others. The Second Helvetic Confession referring to original sin states:
“We also confess that sins are not equal; although they arise from the same fountain of corruption and unbelief, some are more serious than others. As the Lord said, it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for the city that rejects the word of the Gospel.(Matt. 10:14 f.; 11;20.)”
And also The Shorter Catechism: “Q. 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous? A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others. (7.083)”
One of the verses given for the above is Jesus’ remark to Pilate, “You would have no authority over me, unless it had been given to you from above; for this reason he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19: 11)
The Larger Catechism states almost the same question and answer as the Shorter but goes on in question 151 to ask “What are those aggravations which make some sins more heinous than others.” The answer is long and detailed with several categories and lists.
But under # 2‘Sins receive their aggravations from the nature and quality of the offense’ one of the categories is “if it be against the … light of nature.” In an endnote, that particular sin is denying the knowledge of God’s invisible attributes, power and divine nature as known by God’s creation. This particular sin as listed in the endnote and detailed in Roman’s 1:20-21 is so heinous as to cause God to turn humanity over to their own sexual lust and many other sins.
The sexual aspects of God’s turning humanity over to lust have to do with same gender sex. The rest entails almost the whole range of human sins including slander, malice and disobedience to parents. So in this case the most terrible sin is denying the true God but the consequences are a whole range of sins including homosexuality. So God condemns and turns us over to our rebellion. And the circle is complete.
Humanity denies God’s power to change humanity, denies God’s mercy, and denies the very particulars of his creation. All of the fine details, the differences between creatures and God, between children and parents, between the sexes are denied and God allows the results. But God gives us over to pick us up again at the cross.
So what about not ordaining those who commit sexual sin and refuse to acknowledge it as sin and so do not repent. How does it touch the essentials such as the deity of Christ, Jesus’ redemptive death on the cross, the resurrection and the Trinity? In everyway such ordination denies essential biblical teaching.
To ordain the unrepentant GLBT person, denies, as above, the power of God as He takes on human flesh and suffers for our sins. It says God through the eternal son is unable to transform or keep through temptation the sinner. It denies the deity of Christ who is able because he is God to overcome death for our sake. It denies the bodily resurrection, because it denies that we are united to Christ’s resurrected body from which we draw nourishment and help. It denies the fellowship within the Trinity because it lets go of the eternal decision within the Godhead to redeem a people who will be set apart as vessels for the Lord. It denies the Holy Spirit who woos us away from that which the scriptures call sin.
Paul in 1 Timothy 1, in his explanation about how the law is good since it is used to catch up the sinner, lists many of those sins listed in the first chapter of Romans: liars, homosexuals, rebels and murderers. But he goes on to point out how he himself was a blasphemer, a murderer and a “violent aggressor” and yet God through his grace showed him mercy. He writes:
It is a trust worthy saying deserving full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate his perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in him for eternal life. (I Timothy 1:15-16.)
So Paul does not deny the mercy of God but instead admits his sin and the saving power of Christ. And so must we all. That is essential.