Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Presbyterians Today, a blog and the person of Jesus

Presbyterians Today a PC (U.S.A) magazine now has a blog. Diverse Presbyterians write there and the side bar is careful to explain that “Our opinions are ours alone; they do not represent the policies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) or Presbyterians Today.” But the blog, “One Church Many Voices” is published by a PC (U.S.A.) magazine. On their home site they call it “our blog.”
There are several evangelicals who write on the blog. David R. Collins, see SWELL, and Jodi Craiglow, see SIMPLICITY ON THE FAR SIDE OF COMPLEXITY, are two and they are excellent writers. A favorite of mine is Brandon Gaide, see POKING AT ELEPHANTS.
But there is a place where a line is crossed and the person of Jesus is misconstrued in an ungodly manner, which is saying a lot since Christians believe that name should be exulted above every name. Today, October the 27th, on the blog, Layton E. Williams, a teaching elder, who writes under the title PresbyHonest, posted “I love Jesus but sometimes I don’t like him.” [1]
Williams believes Jesus has some flaws. Although she believes “deeply in both the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the world-transforming power of his teachings about justice and mercy,” Williams opines that “1st-century Jesus is not nearly as inclusive and feminist as I would like.” She sees him as not believing in the equality of women and not supporting the LGBTQ community, and insists that Jesus participated in oppressive systems.
Williams writes:
Only by accepting this full humanity can we trust that Jesus’ full divinity has the power to enter into and transform those oppressive systems and us. Jesus’ full humanity also means that he grows and changes over the course of his life. His experience with the Syrophoenician woman, for example, challenged him to confront his own human prejudices and realign himself with the radically inclusive gospel he proclaimed (Mark 7:25–30, Matt. 15:21-28). His growth is a living testament to the transformative power of that gospel.”
In other words, according to Williams, Jesus like the rest of us was a sinner who had to be transformed.
Well, I could make this posting an apologetic showing that Jesus was sinless and that the LGBTQ community like the rest of us are sinners who Jesus can transform by his death and resurrection. It is the blood of Christ that washes us from our sinfulness. It is the righteousness of Jesus that we cling to for our salvation. And we are called to walk in purity away from our sinful desires.
And I could make this an apologetic about Jesus’ honoring the faith of the Syrophoenician woman, healing her daughter because of that faith. But she did not transform Jesus—He was the Son of David—the righteous One, the one who had already ministered to Gentiles and reflected on their faith. (See Matthew 8:5-13; 12: 38-42) And the woman recognized Jesus before the healing as the Son of David.
Still, what really troubles me is that so many believe that this kind of diversity is acceptable in a Christian denomination. It seems as though many believe that dialogue is a Christian virtue. Sometimes it is if one needs to witness about Jesus Christ. It is if the object is to bring about peace in a community fighting over non-essential items such as worship styles. But the person of Jesus Christ is not up for grabs, He is instead the Lord of the church. His authority, his word, the written word of God, the Bible, call for obedience.
Williams says she loves Jesus but she wants to change him; to go beyond him, to insist that he evolved beyond his own human self. And yet the word of God states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13: 8)
And the leadership of the church allows Williams to influence the people of God on an official Presbyterian site.
The apostle Paul wrote of those within the church who would come and attempt to draw others after them into false teaching. He reminds the Ephesians that he admonished them with tears:
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparring the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20: 25-30)
It wasn’t dialogue aimed toward diversity Paul was concerned about but that the sheep should be protected.
[1] The posting by Williams can also be found this morning, Oct. 28th, on the Presbyterian News Service page- see side bar. https://www.pcusa.org/news/


Martha Leatherman said...

Amen and Amen. Thank you for addressing this. I sat for too many years under lies like this from the pulpit of my former PCUSA church. Poison lies that were wrapped in "spiritual" language. I mourn for the sheep sill under such false teaching. "Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them.Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. Jer. 23:2"

Andy Vloedman said...

Viola Your last 2 posts have stayed with me. I think I have accepted that in a denomination as large as the PCUSA there is always going to be some noise in the system even on issues I would define as essential to our identity. While I have been motivated to comment at times I have dismissed folks like Shuck as noise in the system. I have believed that the testimony of Christians around the world who have heeded Paul's call to be not conformed to the world but present your bodies as a living sacrifice and have died for it would expose the shallowness of Shuck's call to remove the first 4 ordination questions because being required to profess that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and that the Bible is God's Word "turns people off". I have been encouraged by churches and teaching Elders within my Presbytery who I see seeking to serve Jesus Christ. Your posts raise a troubling question, at what point does the noise in the system become the witness of the church. In response to Rada's call the question before the church may be: do we follow Shuck's vision who quoting Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar advocates "Find a parade and get in front of it" or do we follow Paul's call to be not conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Viola Larson said...

Andy you raise a good question. I used to feel like you that it was just some noise, but at the last two GAs it was more than that. It was a battle that in some ways was being lost--in the last GA it was lost. I don't mean that all of God's plans and promises were lost but the PCUSA was lost and the loss happened by way of manipulation and deceit. A lot of things that were done in dark corners are now being done in the light. For instance in yesterdays blog posting on Presbyterians Today an article about domestic abuse had this in it.
"While we love to read the story of Ruth as one of faithfulness, love, and redemption, let’s not neglect to consider that Ruth had been exploited by her mother-in-law, who placed her in a compromising and potentially scandalous position in order to secure her own future."
The article had some good ideas in it, but when it comes to scripture it was badly twisted. The noise is taking over.
This isn't to say that there are no more faithful people in the PCUSA, of course there are many, many of them my friends, but too many at the top are unfaithful and are doing harm to the denomination.

Jodie said...

As long as the mindset exists that there is an "us" vs "them", and the "we' are are on God's side and the "they" are not, there will be plenty of people doing harm to the Church. The only comfort I have in this scenario, the only silver lining if you will, is that if the Church is really the "Body of Christ" then it is even to the point of being the "Broken Body of Christ".

Broken for the World.