Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is not ordaining unrepentant sinners an essential of the faith?

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.

15 comments:

Robert said...

I am the person Viola speaks of at the beginning of this blog. Here is a brief response.

I wrote the blog after Philadelphia Presbytery voted on 10-A. It was my intention to say that I think that there was a certain hypocrisy in the current G-6.0106b and in 10-A. Neither amendment was clear about its real meaning. Certainly 10-A is not really about conducting better exams for those to be ordained and/or installed. It is really about allowing homosexuals to be ordained and installed as deacons, elders and ministers. The debate in our presbytery was clear on this. I was the only one who actually spoke to the amendment.

After rereading the blog I note that I did say that the issue is not essential. By this I mean that I can continue in the PCUSA because the denomination has not denied a doctrine that I consider essential. I would say, since I refuse to ordain sexually active homosexuals, and heterosexuals who have sex outside the bonds of marriage that it clearly an essential for ordination for me.

On the other hand I would not vote against the ordination/installation of someone at presbytery solely on the grounds of their willingness to ordain sexually active homosexuals. I find more than enough heresy in candidates today (to say nothing of bad grammar) to keep me occupied. And it breaks my heart that I often am the only person to vote against people that are at least heterodox if not heretical. The failure to even mention the crucifixion or the connection between the crucifixion and the forgiveness of sins appalls me as does the use of creator, redeemer and sustainer to describe the Trinity.

Having said that I clearly do not make the same connection between this ethical issue and the essentials of the faith that you do. While I would agree that there is certainly a connection between the various doctrines you name and sin I don't think some who believe sexual activity between two people of the same sex is not sinful all actively deny these essential doctrines.

So we disagree. Still love ya in Christ.

Bob Campbell
Sharon Hill, PA

Viola Larson said...

Robert,

Thanks for clarifying and stating what you do believe. I think we are fairly close in agreement but not in this case.

And I should point out that I did not mean that all who are for the ordination of those practicing same gender sex are consciously denying the essentials of the faith, but rather such an act would deny the essentials whether intended or not.

I still love you in Christ also.

Viola Larson said...

Robert suggested that I link to his blog and so I have.

John McNeese said...

Bob and Viola demonstrate the evil of the practice of ordination. The idea that only a special kind of people, who have reached a certain level of righteousness, are eligible for high office is unbiblical. Ordination, a human construct, intends to set certain kind of people apart, over and above others.  It is all about control. It goes against the concept of the priesthood of all believers and a discipleship of equals. Ordination needs to be abolished and replaced with Letty Russell's "church in the round."

Stushie said...

So who started ordination in the New testament, John?

Viola Larson said...

John M,
Letty Russell's theology of the church is a bit strange. Russell in Dictionary of Feminist Theologies, writes of those who should belong to the church:

"From a feminist liberation perspective, however, faithfulness would require the marks or signs [of the church] to include the dimension of God's justice and welcome to all those who are excluded, including those of other faiths."

That doesn't seem like the church to me.

And there was ordination in the biblical church. So I'm not sure what you are talking about, maybe you could explain. Ordination isn't the same as the priesthood of the believer.

pastormattferg said...

Robert,

When I list what I consider essentials of the faith I include ones view of the Bible, included within is ones method of interpretation. If someone has a low view of scripture or uses a bad method of interpretation of scripture, then if they do not already hold heretical views it is only a matter of time until they do. Case in point, someone whose view of scripture or method of interpretation allows them to hold the view that it would be proper to ordain someone involved in a same gender sexual relationship.I believe if ones method of interpretation allows you to come to such a conclusion it will also eventually lead you to non-orthodox views down the road.

I would like to know your thoughts on belonging to a denomination where such action is allowed. You commented how you would not vote against someone solely on the basis of their willingness to ordain sexually active homosexuals. Would you continue to belong to a denomination that did so? If not, then I would see your previously stated position as contradictory. I could be wrong on that and would like to hear your thinking if that is what youw would do.

God's blessings to you,
Matt Ferguson, Hillsboro

Robert said...

Matt

There are those who use the same methods of interpretation and yet come to different conclusions. I think predestination is very clear in the Bible. My Evangelical Methodists friends disagree even though we use the same interpretive methods.

I see some who argue that the Bible does not speak to the issues of modern homosexuality that use the same basic interpretive methods I do. I think they are wrong. But we can talk about how we each see each passage and how each interprets each passage.

The people who worry me are the ones who just throw out the Scripture and say that Scripture is wrong on the subject.

As I've said I will not ordain a sexually active homosexual or a sexually active heterosexual who is not married.

As to staying in the PCUSA, God put me here and I'm not leaving unless I get kicked out.

Homosexuality is not the be all and end all. We have a lot of bigger problems with heresy out there in the denomination. Someone has to speak to that.

Are you leaving Matt?

pastormattferg said...

Robert,

Could you refer me to a faithful exegete (one you say uses solid methods of Biblical interpretation) who finds through those methods that God does not view same gender sexual relationship as sinful?

I, along with a great number in our denomination who are orthodox in faith, are striving to find a faithful way within the PCUSA. Many of us will be gathering in Minneapolis in late August. We would appreciate your prayers that a way be clear for us to do so as that is our hope and goal.

God's blessings to you,
Matt Ferguson, Hillsboro

Robert said...

Matt

Read Jack Roger's book. He uses traditional exegesis methods. I think his translations of certain words and interpretations of passages are wrong, not his methodology.

pastormattferg said...

Robert,

Some translations of some words by Jack (my former professor at Fuller) are wrong---I don't think good scholarship disagrees. I don't think it can be said of someone that their exegesis method is good when they mistranslate / misdefine key words. I think Jack had a mission to find some way to support a particular view as he set out to do his interpretation---hardly good exegesis. I seem to find those who come to new understandings on this issue always have some personal relationship impact their life to bring it about. (Ex: A son tells his parents he is gay and suddenly the pastor-parent has a new way to read texts that make it okay.)
I think we shall disagree on this issue---"that there has been folks using solid exegetical methods who have come to conclude that God does not call sin some gender sexual relations." Like others who have been actively involved in this discussion for 25 years plus---I have read all the attempts by others to twist God's word to say what it does not. I have found them all to use methods of interpretation that if used consistently could yield any number of essential beliefs void of support. Thus, they must be opposed when being used to justify this less-than-essential view of approving same gender sexual relationship.
God's blessings to you,
Matt Ferguson, Hillsboro, IL

Viola Larson said...

Matt & Robert,
I have to agree with Matt on this. I have not read Roger's book but having read two of Mark Achtemeier’s papers and written on one, I have found that the person whose exegesis of scripture shone when it came to Christology slipped badly in an attempt to justify a friends homosexuality. I pray that nothing else slips.

But that is the problem with the sexuality problem in our Church. experience starts eating away at the authority of scripture.

John McNeese said...

Well Matt and Viola, I guess you both will be leaving the PCUSA if amendment 10A passes, as all indications appear it will.  The meeting in Minneapolis in late August will be no more successful than the confessing church and the new wineskin movements. Sure a few more churches, maybe even a few big-steeples, will leave, but the PCUSA will continue. It would certainly make it easier for the "like minded" folks who remain. 

Viola Larson said...

Sorry John M if you want me to go someone will have to tell me to.

Robert said...

Matt

I would agree that Jack has certainly mistranslated words. In fact I think his work is outdated even in relation to the current works of those who support ordination of sexually active homosexuals. I am making a distinction that you are not: that between outcome and method. I would suggest that Jack's method hasn't changed over the years. Rather that on this particular is he is wrong not only in his translations but also in keeping up with current trends.