Thursday, January 30, 2014

From New York Presbytery an argument for same sex marriage: my response

On Presbyterian Voices for Justice there is a link to Plucky Presby Blog, owned by teaching elder John Russell Stranger. Evidently the Presbytery of New York City had a debate on the 28th of January, on same gender marriage. They were voting on both an authoritative interpretation and an overture. Stranger took the progressive side in the debate and teaching elder Clark Bradley the orthodox view. Stranger has placed his speech on his blog.

The core of his argument has to do with the person of Jesus Christ and the Bible. Stranger attempts to say that we cannot limit our knowledge of God to the Bible. And he goes further suggesting that we learn more about God from Jesus Christ than from the Bible. Here is his three main points which he believes aligns with Reformed faith:

1.We believe in the Sovereign God, so we know God cannot be captured entirely by the Bible. To limit the Infinite God to a book—even the most Holy Book—is idolatry.

2.We believe Scripture is a central piece of God’s revelation to us. But it must never become the central core of God’s revelation; that is Christ Jesus alone.

3.We believe the Bible reveals God only through the power of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of the Living God that is at work in the world today, surprising us again and again.

After these three thoughts Stranger states, “Ultimately, the conversation about same-sex marriages cannot be about what the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) thinks the Bible says. It must be about who we believe God—revealed in Jesus Christ—to be.”

So lets look at these in order. On number one, yes, God is undoubtedly more than what he has revealed in his word—we will surely spend eternity exploring his glory. But notice what Stranger's statement fails to say and this will be true in all three statements. While God is more, we can only know what God has revealed in his word, the Bible. Creation does reveal the “eternal power and divine nature” of God but that is all. And we also see those attributes more clearly in Scripture.

On Stranger's second point, yes Jesus is the central core of God's revelation. But how do we know that? We know it from Scripture. In fact, everything we know about Jesus we know from the word of God. And Jesus Christ shines through all of the pages of Scripture. In the Old Testament he is seen in the signs, symbols and types. He is the ark, the sacrifice, the star that comes forth from Jacob, the branch that grows out of Jesse's root. Jesus is Moses' “a prophet like me.” And indeed, Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises given by the prophets.

Jesus himself tells his disciples that he is found in all of the Old Testament, “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which were written about me in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24: 44) (See also Luke 24: 25-27) So without God's Holy Scripture we would know nothing of Christ.

Stranger, with his third point attempts to separate the work of the Holy Spirit from the words of the Bible. He states that “the Bible reveals God only through the power of the Holy Spirit.” This is true, the Holy Spirit illuminates the word to us. But then Stranger goes on to say “the Spirit of the Living God that is at work in the world today, surprising us again and again.” The implication here—and it is a wide jump—is that what the Holy Spirit is doing in the world “today” is different or something more than what Scripture has stated. The further implication being that the Holy Spirit is revealing that same gender sex is okay! But this is both untrue and unbiblical.

Yes, we do speak of God doing something new, but when we say that, we don't mean something that is different from a biblical viewpoint. Perhaps we are speaking of a new ministry such as some of the recent ones to prostitutes. Ministries that help them out of oppression including separation from pimps and their own addictions. Ministries that help them reach safe places, provide job skills, build up their self-respect, and more importantly ministries that lead the women to Christ and transformation. This is truly something new but not unbiblical, in fact, very biblical.

Stranger's last statement, I have quoted, rings true, except he does not understand what he has written. His words, “Ultimately, the conversation about same-sex marriages cannot be about what the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) thinks the Bible says. It must be about who we believe God—revealed in Jesus Christ—to be.” It doesn't matter what the PC (U.S.A) thinks the Bible says, it matters what the Scripture actually says. That means careful study and attention to the texts. And it means obedience to the written word of God and the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.

And who is this God revealed in the written & living Word? This God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the one who, out of love, chose to take on human flesh—the Father sent—the Son took on humanity, lived died on a cross and was resurrected for our sins and our hope. The Holy Spirit speaks of Christ and reveals the things of Christ to his people.

The Holy Spirit reveals the suffering and humiliation of Jesus, to which we are called and united. The Holy Spirit reveals the transforming power of the risen Christ which is ours in Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals the sanctification found in Christ rather than the shoddy pleasures of the world. The Holy Spirit is constantly, everywhere, turning humanity, in repentance, toward a new, and yes, abundant life in Christ. We are a new creation called by the Holy Spirit to turn from sin and walk in newness of life.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, 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 washed, 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)

Picture by Ethan McHenry


Anonymous said...

This is what happens when one invents and then worships his own "god."
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Anonymous said...


Thank you for helping make clear that the arguments about same-sex marriage (and for that matter allowing LGBT ordination) are at heart arguments about theology and Biblical authority.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Viola Larson said...

Anonymous I usually don't allow anon. comments, but I do know who you are:-) Your choice of verse certainly fits.

Viola Larson said...

John we all need to keep that in mind. One of the important reasons is because if it is only about morality, your choice or mine, the good news is left in the dust. Which means there is no forgiveness, no grace and no transformation. And Stranger is right in that it all circles around God and who he is-it is just that without the Bible you cannot know of God's holiness, wrath or compassion.