The new Jerk Store?

WARNING: The following is an egregious display of dispassionate thinking that some may find highly offensive. Assumptions made within the post do not reflect the position of any church, denomination, or Christian entity. --The Administrator

One storm gives way to another and so, having survived Irma, I turn my thoughts back to the web storm that was the Nashville Statement (NS). If you’re wondering whether or not you should continue reading here’s a simple test:

The Nashville Statement is:
(a) an evangelical statement on human sexuality
(b) a press release on Troy Gentry’s death.

If you answered ‘b’ you probably won’t care to read any further.

For the remnant who answered ‘a’ (and are willing to persevere to the end) you should read the NS if you haven’t already. The responses have been all over the map so trying to group people in pro and con camps is futile. But amidst the cacophony is a variegated faction who agree with the NS but refuse to endorse it because they believe the document is incomplete and/or cold. I find their position curious and unpersuasive.

On the whole, I like what Samuel James has to say in his article over at First Things, especially when he says:

I suspect that what has turned off many people to the Nashville Statement is its clarity.

I think James is right on this point even though it’s impossible to prove the relative sincerity of a given critic, so while some may withhold their endorsement with integrity I have a few suspicions of my own.

{pause to adjust soapbox}

I suspect many people are letting the perfect become the enemy of the good. Perusing my Documents of the Christian Church (2nd edition) I search in vain to find a creedal statement that is both exhaustive in scope and sensitive in tone. The Nicene Creed? Good on the Trinity but weak on the hypostatic union. The Westminster Confession? Exhaustive but as warm as January in Maine. The Baptist Faith & Message? Pick your poison. Then there’s The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Manhattan Declaration but you get the point. Christians have never claimed nor expected perfection from their doctrinal statements–what’s changed?

I suspect that many critics conflate sexual orientation with personal identity and, as a result, no longer consider same-sex desires inherently sinful. As long as this remains true I don’t think any orthodox statement will pass the sensitivity test. Everything will be interpreted as a personal attack.

I suspect that some of those who balk at the NS would be encouraged by taking a quick look at the initial signatories. J. I. Packer, D. A. Carson, Russell Moore, Sam Allberry, and Rosario Butterfield aren’t exactly short-sighted, insensitive clods. That has to count for something, right?

I get that some Christians have genuine concerns when a select group addresses a complicated issue with far-reaching consequences, and I’m certainly not suggesting that we distribute our dogma in Costanza’s Jerk Store. But orthodoxy will  always have sharp edges and we’re fooling ourselves if we think we can smooth them out with a little more craftsmanship.

Chesterton on trusting tradition

‘Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.’

What follows is a brilliant passage from Orthodoxy in which Chesterton articulates not a political philosophy but the earliest of his profound persuasions (i.e. presuppositions) which was instrumental in his conversion to Christianity. In short, he’s explaining why ancient beliefs are no less true simply because they’re old than modern beliefs are true simply because they’re current.

I have never been able to understand where people got the idea that democracy was in some way opposed to tradition. It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time. It is trusting to a consensus of common human voices rather than to some isolated or arbitrary record . . . Those who urge against tradition that men in the past were ignorant may go and urge it at the Carlton Club, along with the statement that voters in the slums are ignorant. It will not do for us. If we attach great importance to the opinion of ordinary men in great unanimity when we are dealing with daily matters, there is no reason why we should disregard it when we are dealing with history or fable. Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.  [emphasis added]

Must’ve been a teleprompter typo

The McClatchy package moves us into the realm of pathetic duplicity.

The plan for Friday night was to do a quick scan through the internets before settling in for some Sweet 16 action (Gonzaga & Syracuse–tough loss for the Zags). My last stop was the local news repository to divine the future of the aquatic center and the upcoming referendum on property taxes. But scrolling down the page my eye caught sight of a video caption “North Carolina is not the only state restricting LGBT rights”.

 The piece turns out to be a McClatchy feature–The Buzz with Buzz–with this particular installment surveying the latest fronts in the battle for “civil rights.” There’s really not much to say about the video. If you’re even minimally informed about the issue in NC you know by the title that the report is going to be slanted.

Even so I was surprised by what I saw and heard when it came to Georgia’s honorable mention for HB 757. I recently pointed out how ridiculous the opposition and protest appears when you actually read what the bill says. But the McClatchy package moves us into the realm of pathetic duplicity.

You can watch the video for yourself but I can save you some time by providing a screen shot with the accompanying transcript from the talking head. Keep in mind that the screen text and statement are happening simultaneously. You are literally reading one thing while hearing another:

McClatchy HB757

We see it in Georgia which has got a pending law about the rights, the religious liberty of businesses not to help or serve gay weddings…

Stay classy, McClatchy.

Pastors may keep Atlanta from hosting the Super Bowl

Nothing screams “invidious discrimination” like an SBC pastor who refuses to officiate a gay wedding.

This may be difficult to hear for those of you who look on Georgia as a land flowing with sweet tea and gravy, but something stinks in God’s country. Elected representatives are about to drag the citizenry into an abyss of lawless discrimination.

Last week the GA senate, under cover of darkness,  passed an amended version of the insidious Free Exercise Protection Act–HB 757 if you don’t want to sugarcoat the wanton violation of civil rights. The bill now sits on the governor’s desk awaiting a signature. Legalized discrimination is just a pen stroke away.

While equal protection for all may become a relic in the South (who says history doesn’t repeat itself?), injustice isn’t marching on unopposed. Along with political action groups, more than 400 businesses have joined the coalition Georgia Prospers which is pressuring Gov. Deal to veto the bill. Even the NFL, the gold standard of American morality, has said that Atlanta may not be able to host the Super Bowl if the ‘anti-gay bill’ passes.

But the righteous indignation heard in the public square doesn’t adequately convey just how offensive HB 757 is. You have to read the bill to get the full impact. Since loyal Script readers are certain to read the bill for themselves I’ll just summarize the offending proposals:

  1. Ordained ministers, in keeping with their religious convictions, would be free to choose whether or not they will officiate a wedding, perform a religious rite, or administer any sacraments. (sec 2.b.)
  2. Anyone[!] would be free to attend or not attend a wedding, performance of any rite, or administration of any sacrament in keeping with the exercise of their religion. (sec 2.d.)
  3. Faith based organizations (i.e. churches, religious school, etc.) would not required to provide their facilities or services if it violated their religious beliefs (sec 4.a-b)
  4. Faith based organizations would not be required to hire or keep as an employee anyone whose religious beliefs/practices aren’t in line with the beliefs/practices of the faith based organization. (sec 5.b.)

To sum up: religious leaders would be free to practice their religion, religious institutions would be free to determine how their facilities & resources are used, and everyone would be free to choose whether or not to attend a wedding or religious ceremony.

Huh.

Is it just me, or does the actual content leave you underwhelmed?

HB 757 will not lead to a proliferation of water fountains–half for heterosexuals, half for homosexuals. HB 757 will not create shop signs reading “No shirt, No heterosexuality, No service.” And HB 757 offers no protection–zero–for religious individuals in the marketplace. Only formally recognized religious leaders and institutions “benefit” from this legislation.

But even if Gov. Deal signs the bill into law, Georgia Prospers’ weeping may only last for the night. The dawn will bring an inevitable court challenge where an enlightened judiciary will rule that the bigot bill provides an escape clause:

“Nothing in this chapter should be construed to permit invidious discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law.”

Let’s face it. Nothing screams “invidious discrimination” like an SBC pastor who refuses to officiate a gay wedding.

Apple is preaching to you

apple-iphone-6-1How has it come about that we use the highly emotive word “stagnation”, with all its malodorous and malarial overtones, for what other ages have called “permanence”? Why does the word at once suggest to us clumsiness, inefficiency, barbarity? When our ancestors talked of the primitive church or the primitive purity of our constitution they meant nothing of that sort… Why does “latest” in advertisements mean “best”? Well, let us admit that these semantic developments owe something to the nineteenth-century belief in spontaneous progress which itself owes something either to Darwin’s theorem of biological evolution or to that myth of universal evolutionism which is really so different from it, and earlier… But I submit that what has imposed this climate of opinion so firmly on the human mind is a new archetypal image. It is the image of old machines being superseded by new and better ones.  For in the world of machines the new most often really is better and the primitive really is the clumsy. And this image, potent in all our minds, reigns almost without rival in the minds of the uneducated. For to them, after their marriages and the birth of their children, the very milestones of life are technical advances. From the old push-bike to the motor-bike and thence to the little car; from gramophone to radio and from radio to television; from the range to the stove; these are the very stages of their pilgrimage. But whether from this cause or from some other, assuredly that approach to life which has left these footprints on our language is the thing that separates us most sharply from our ancestors and whose absence would strike us as most alien if we could return to their world. Conversely, our assumption that everything is provisional and soon to be superseded, that the attainment of goods we have never yet had, rather than the defense and conservation of those we have already, is the cardinal business of life, would most shock and bewilder them if they could visit ours.

-C. S. Lewis, “De Descriptione Temporum” [Inaugural Lecture from the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, 1954]

10 questions from Salon’s pedophile article

Salon recently ran an autobiographical article by a self-identified (but non-practicing) pedophile. As expected, opinion is mixed on whether or not the article is an early attempt at normalizing pedophilia. Decide for yourself but while you’re at it you might as well start working out your answers to the following questions:

  1. Is the social taboo associated with pedophilia based on fear, ignorance, or hate?
  2. Does a pedophile have any chance at a normal life so long as his condition remains a social taboo?
  3. Is it possible that pedophilia is a genetic and/or congenital disposition?
  4. If pedophilia is genetic and or congenital should it be considered a disorder?
  5. If some people are genetically predisposed to pedophilia, can we insist that pedophiles repress their natural desires?
  6. Should pedophilia be labeled a “sexual identity”?
  7. Should a Christian self-identify as a “pedophile Christian”?
  8. Is pedophilia always harmful?
  9. From whom/what do you derive your answers to these questions?
  10. Depending on your answer to the previous question, should you keep an open mind about pedophilia?

Trueman on the irony of our sexual age

The age which denies any real significance to sex also wants to argue that sexual desires are of paramount importance to personal identity and fulfillment.  Squaring that particular circle will no doubt generate a whole textbook full of neuroses in the coming years.

-Carl Trueman, ‘We’re All Sadists Now‘. [First Things. N.p., 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2015]

Disappointed but not surprised

We interrupt our regularly scheduled musings for the following news flash.

It’s come to our attention that a prominent pastor (PP) recently addressed some vexing problems for the church in America:

“There is not consensus in this room when it comes to same-sex attraction. There is not consensus in this room when it comes to gay marriage,” said [Prominent Pastor].

“We just can’t continue to look into the filter of our politics at our spirituality. Its got to be the other way around … and specifically when it comes to this issue.”

And from a subsequent interview:

Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible– that is just cheating. It’s cheating because that would be easy, first of all. That isn’t how you grow people. No one in the Scripture modeled that. There’s not one example of that.

To sum up: (1) Christians have no consensus on gay marriage. (2) Verse-by-verse preaching is easy but it doesn’t grow anyone & it has no biblical model.

Public reaction to these statements is mixed but reports are beginning to trickle in. It seems that some Christians are now desperately searching for an apolitical, authoritative word to create a consensus on gay marriage while a small number of pastors have already renounced expository preaching. Reports that lexical aids & exegetical works are being collected for book burnings have not been confirmed.

Study in confusion

groupthink
Beware doctrinaire campus ministry!

A CT report on a new study from Lifeway Research offers a rather dismal snapshot of current evangelical thinking. The study, which examined the nation’s attitudes toward campus ministries’ faith requirements, surveyed 1,000 Americans. Among the reported findings:

  • Respondents were asked “Should student religious organizations, recognized by publicly funded colleges, be allowed to require their leaders to hold specific beliefs?” 51% of evangelicals said yes, 44% said no.
  • When the same question was asked about student groups at private institutions 60% of evangelicals answered yes, while 36% said no.

So almost half of evangelicals think it’s a bad idea to require ministry leaders on a public campus to hold the doctrinal views of the organization they represent. And more than a third wouldn’t hold ministry leaders to doctrinal standards even at a private institution.

Uh-huh.

What do we make of these findings? I have three potential conclusions:

  1. The term evangelical has become so broad as to be almost meaningless. (i.e. evangelical has more to do with a certain culture than a set of convictions)
  2. evangelicals are weary (and wary) of being labeled haters & bigots when they allow their doctrine to divide (wherever that dividing line is drawn)
  3. evangelicals are buying into the notion that faith has no place in the public square

Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to discuss.

Lefty counters

A friend–we’ll call him “Lefty”–sent me an email related to my previous post and a prior  discussion of that post over lunch. I thought his email was fairly representative of those who would advocate the baking of a wedding cake for an LGBT ceremony. With his permission, here is a portion of his email:

You know, Jesus taught the people that if they were told to carry a burden one mile, they were to offer to carry it two. We know that the origin of this was that a Roman soldier could require a non-Roman citizen to carry his kit at least one mile. For Jesus to tell Jews this was unconscionable. I wonder, though, how many Roman soldiers were led to Christ simply by the example of some Jewish boy offering to carry his load an extra mile and subsequently asking him why. We may never know.

Imagine the Christian baker who gets the order for a birthday cake for a gay wedding, who takes a moment with both “spouses” and says, “Look. I don’t mean to be unkind, please don’t take this that I am being hateful, but I am a Christian. I believe that what you are doing is wrong, it is sinful. I could never condone such a lifestyle. However…as a Christian, I am also led by the greatest commandment, to love my neighbor as I love myself. Therefore, not only will I bake your wedding cake, I will do it for half price, and it will be the most beautiful cake you could imagine. Furthermore, though I might personally wish for you both to ‘repent’, short of that, I wish you a long and happy life together.”

I appreciate Lefty taking my thoughts seriously enough to offer a considerate response. My reply would consist of the following:

  1. The “not one but two” analogy (Mat 5:41) is attractive but it falls flat. The analogy runs afoul of the the “apples & oranges” criteria since being coerced into carrying luggage, while humiliating, was in no way at odds with biblical morality. Now if the Jew were being put upon to carry a toddler for a child sacrifice then we might have something to work with.
  2. The “not one but two” analogy misses the biblical context. Going two miles serves to illustrate Jesus’ point three verses earlier: “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person . . .” (Mat 5:38-39a). The point is that Jesus’ followers should be willing to suffer–unjustly–insult or injury without demanding restitution. The passage has nothing to do with acquiescing to any & all requests made of you. Take, for example, the verse following the “two mile” illustration. Jesus said “Give to him who asks of you. . .” (Mat 5:42a). Surely no one would contend that this teaching is impervious to mitigating circumstances. If a Roman demanded your virgin daughter for his sexual pleasure, would Jesus have you give your daughter (or two!) because we “do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you”?
  3. We are losing the language (and meaning) of “love your neighbor.” Disagreement over Mat 5:38ff notwithstanding, I would challenge the notion that “love” will always give what is asked for. As a father, I refuse many requests from my pleading children precisely because I love them. If, in practice, “love your neighbor” means “satisfy your neighbor” then I think our Christian witness is in more trouble than either of us realize.

Any feedback, whether from Lefty or Hoi Polloi, is welcome.