Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jesus and salvation: wrapped up in our voting

John Vest writing about, First Principles and Like-Mindedness and a new church development training conference listed four principles which a presenter felt should be agreed upon before a committee for new church development began planning. The principles are:


§ Who is Jesus?
§ What is Church?
§ What is Salvation?
§ What is Service?

Vest felt that a conversation on those topics was important but not a consensus on the answers. He wrote, “I’m a little troubled by the suggestion that we must arrive at a consensus on these matters, because I’m not sure how realistic—or necessary—it is for an NCD team, a congregation, or a denomination to be in agreement on each of these questions”

He also stated that,“ When it comes to new church development—or any expression of the church’s mission—do I really need to find people that I can agree with on first principles before beginning missional work together? Should people that cannot agree with me find people that they can agree with and go about mission in a parallel but separate way from what I end up doing with people that I agree with?’ These are good questions but Vest’s assumptions I believe are totally misguided, as are the assumptions of many others.

Sure, it is possible to build a Habitat for Humanity house with even unbelievers. It is possible to stand side by side with a diverse mix of religious people and feed the poor in the inner city or rebuild communities torn by disasters.

But for the orthodox that part of mission only deals with the fallen- physical world; but there is a fallen humanity that needs a Savior. The Savior is both God and human. The Savior shed his blood on a cross for the sins of humanity. The Savior, who is both God and human, because he is God and human, forgives and transforms the sinner. That is revelation about the incarnation and redemption as found and known in God’s word. That is the core of mission; bringing that good news about Jesus to lost humanity. It is non-negotiable.

But that brings me to the second part of what I wanted to say.

Vest is right when he writes, “In many ways, the debates we keep having with each other are symptoms of not talking about these foundational issues [the principles he has listed]. But still he says he does not want consensus. He wants discussion, theological debate with out resolution, Nicaea with out choosing the deity of Christ over the created creature of Arianism, the Confessions without confessing. And this is what is happening in our voting.

Those seeking the ordination of practicing GLBT persons think that our polity is the necessary movement of the Holy Spirit. They believe that voting continually on the issue of standards will eventually lead the church to accept a different viewpoint about what God wants for the church. For progressives nothing is fixed, solid or absolute. It is for them, at the moment, like Vest’s ideas about conversation; the outcome will have no real resolution. Although many in the church will not agree they believe voting will make it so. Although scriptures and confessions will not agree they believe voting will make it so.

But what the progressive side does not understand is that the orthodox are not voting as a means of deciding the outcome of what God wants, they are instead, with their vote, defending the faith against a sinful invasive cultural decadence. The orthodox are voting as a means of defending the faith which upholds Jesus as both God and human. They are voting as a means of defending the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross whose bloody death brings forgiveness and transformation to all sinners who repent.

The whole of our faith is wrapped up in the voting. Sinful, weak and needy though we are, we are standing where the apostles, martyrs and followers of Jesus Christ have stood through all the centuries. It isn’t just about voting. It isn’t just about gay sex. It is about Jesus Christ as Lord of the church.

20 comments:

Kattie W. Coon said...

“Those seeking the ordination of practicing GLBT persons think”…

You really should try not to over generalize like that. Your statement certainly doesn’t describe me.

“But what the progressive side does not understand is that the orthodox are not voting as a means of deciding the outcome of what God wants, they are instead, with their vote, defending the faith against a sinful invasive cultural decadence. The orthodox are voting as a means of defending the faith which upholds Jesus as both God and human. They are voting as a means of defending the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross whose bloody death brings forgiveness and transformation to all sinners who repent. ”

Please don’t try to declare what I don’t understand. I happen to identify with all the things you claim in your post are true of the “orthodox”. Actually, I am very orthodox in my faith according to definitions you have given in the past, but I identify in my conclusion with the “progressive side” on this issue. I too will defend the faith against a sinful invasive cultural decadence; it just appears not to be what you see as decadence.

There are lots of reasons people are voting for amendment 10-A, and I disagree with a lot of them, but I disagree more strongly with the arguments made by those who are voting against 10-A. I really think people tend to over simplify when they make it an Us or Them kind of argument. It’s just not that simple.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

revmmlj said...

Viola, could you more fully draw the connection - or the distinction - between your last two sentences out? Or link to a previous post that you feel walks the logic from Amendment 10A to the rejection of the Lordship of Christ?

Viola Larson said...

Rev. MMIJ,

Yes, "It isn’t just about voting. It isn’t just about gay sex. It is about Jesus Christ as Lord of the church."The word of God is his word,all of it. When we reject his word we reject his Lordship. For links go here http://naminghisgrace.blogspot.com/2010/10/covenant-networks-ten-affirmations-and.html and here http://www.pcusastandards.org/html%20files/FaithPolityProject.html
on that last one scroll down to "To What Authority Must Church Officers Submit?"

Viola Larson said...

Also I forgot to say please leave your name, city and state when posting a comment.

Viola Larson said...

I'm sorry Rev. MMIJ
I am rushing with this as I am busy cooking corn beef and cabbage after having planted strawberries, onions and peas. What a day. Anyway, I wanted to explain- This understanding about who Jesus is fits into the voting because if you do not believe Jesus is God, and many progressives do not, than you don't have to listen to his word. if you don't believe Christ shed his blood for our sins nor that that is transformative you don't have to worry so much about sin. All of this is a rejection of Jesus.

Stushie said...

Thanks Viola - the lordship of Christ and the belief that Christ is the Only Savior of the World are where the next battle lines are being drawn. Every person seeking ordination in the PCUSA should be asked to state that Christ is their True Lord and the Only One through whom salvation can be found.

Viola Larson said...

I think so to Stushie, and we do ask those questions in our Presbytery, but now there is not enough evangelicals for that to make a difference. So you are right it is knocking at our door.

Kattie W. Coon said...

I think so too, but the loss of Evangelicals certainly doesn’t bother me.

I’m reminded of something my father-in-law (Southern Republican Conservative, Calvinist, Lay Presbyterian Minister, and one of 15 Editors of the final draft of C-67) once said back in the early ‘80’s: “The Evangelicals will ruin the church”.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Tera said...

Viola, I think Kattie has a good point about not generalizing or lumping one issue into another as they are indeed separate issues. Of course the statement about "Evangelicals ruining the church" is also not clarified well. There are certain Evangelicals who use fear of damnation to seize control and steer the direction of the church, take scripture out of context and try to simplify the process of coming to know who Jesus is by standardizing it. There are others who are compassionate and live by example and embody the gospel message of Jesus' love and sacrifice.

Sometimes we forget the example of Jesus and how he gently through relationships with others revealed himself.

Someday all will be known that is unknown. Until then, we all live with uncertainty. That's what faith is - believing in the uncertain things, the things we cannot see nor prove. It takes trust. Many followers, including both orthodox and progressives have lost trust in the church because the government bodies take the authority of God and try to bend others to do things or adhere to ideas or beliefs in the name of God that they do not believe that Jesus or scriptures of God commanded.

Orthodox and Progressives are each trying to save the church and her universal body of Christ in their own way. They just don't agree about how to do it.

Tera
Sacramento, CA

Viola Larson said...

Kattie,
everytime I think I can allow you to comment here you go on to insult people. Do not post here again, I know your comments will always be about how something is written and insults.

Viola Larson said...

Tera,
When we refuse to hear the words of Scripture we are refusing to hear Jesus. When we wish to bless unrepentent sin with ordination we are refusing the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To love Jesus is to obey him.

tera said...

Viola,

I'm not absolutely disagreeing with you here. What I'm saying is that people are limited and prone to error even when they truly desire to follow Jesus. Some of these people in err are Conservative Evangelicals and some of them are Progressive Evangelicals.

What's important according to scriptures is to love one another as God loves us. Jesus is the embodiment of this love and sacrifice. We are to follow that example.

Tera
Sacramento, CA

Viola Larson said...

Tera,
I am sure you are right that both progressives and evangelicals can be in error. And it is important that we love others as Christ has loved us even dying for us. But nonetheless the words of Scripture belong to the living word, Jesus Christ, and we need to obey his words. That includes the Bible's prohibitions on same gender sex.

Kerri said...

I'm stumped...can you help me understand how Kattie's comments are insulting and your original post is not?

Kerri Peterson-Davis
Solon, OH

tera said...

Why do you delete my posts when they are not at all disrespectful in tone nor put you down in any way or anyone else? I'm confused about this.

I'm not going to repost my reply, but in regards to your statement that we need to obey scriptures because they are the words of Jesus, I basically wondered what your thoughts on all the scriptures in the bible that have been reinterpreted throughout the years such as many things in Deuteronomy and Leviticus as well as things about interracial marriage, women pastors, divorce, slavery and polygamy?

Our understanding about them is now different. Why can't this be the case with homosexual marriage?

Tera
Sacramento, CA

Viola Larson said...

Tera,
I didn't delete your comment. They are all there.
I did delete you on a posting a week or so ago because you were commenting too much and I had asked you not to do that. But that was a while back not on this particular posting.

On your question about women and slavery those are different subjects then homosexuality. In the Bible where there are seeming contradictions one finds the answer by using scripture. For slavery there are descriptions of slavery and one place where Paul says for slaves to obey their masters. But there are other places where Paul encourages slaves to try to obtain their freedom and even a letter where Paul encourages a master to let his slave go free. One reconciles the tensions by understanding that slavery is not God's intention. Slave owners in the South before the civil war tried to use scripture to defend their actions. But they used scripture wrongly and did not try to understand the text.

The same is true of women in ministry. There are several texts where Paul seems to say that women should not teach men or have authority over men. But there are other places where he encourages women in ministry and even greets a woman in the sixteenth chapter of Romans who he calls an apostle. So those differences must be reconciled.

But there is no place in the entire Bible where homosexuality is commended. It is called a sin and is listed with other sins. And all of us as sinners are required to repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and transformation.
I hope that helps.

Viola Larson said...

Kerri,

I know some see those who advocate for ordaining LGBT people and the marriage of same gender people as just one side of an argument that stands on equal ground with the other side that considers such actions sin. But if you truly hold to the authority of the Bible they are not equal arguments.

If the practice of gay sex is sin, and I believe it is, and the church is contemplating blessing it with ordination and marriage that is truly awful.

As the theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg has stated:

“Here lies the boundary of a Christian church that knows itself to be bound by the authority of Scripture. Those who urge the church to change the norm of its teaching on this matter must know that they are promoting schism. If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”

Kerri said...

@Viola - thanks for the comment but you didn't actually answer my question.

Viola Larson said...

Kerri,
I think I did. Those who are pushing same gender marriage and the ordination of LGBT persons will ruin the church. I'm not angry with them, I care about them, but insisting that sin is not sin and should be blessed will ruin the church. For me that is a true statement, not an insult.

Anonymous said...

Viola,

Let's get this straight.

You make a statement that you believe to be true, so it is not an insult. Even if others do not believe it to be true.

But if someone else makes a statement they believe to be true, and you believe it is not, then it IS an insult.

Did I get that right?

Steve Blair
San Diego, CA