Friday, March 29, 2013

The Best of Both Worlds?

I went to my church's Maundy Thursday service last night.  We had a guest speaker, who was from another church, and she was preaching to us about Exodus 12.  She delivered her sermon in a rather mainline Protestant manner (since, well, she is mainline Protestant): demure, thoughtful, measured, etc.  But some of what she was saying sounded pretty evangelical, or at least conservative!  She was saying that we focus a lot on the grace of God, but we should also remember that God has rules that we should follow.  She also said that, if she were an Israelite living in the days of the Exodus, she wouldn't want to test God: she would follow God's instructions on how to preserve the lives of the Israelite firstborn while the death angel was killing the firstborn in Egypt.  She'd put blood on her door, blood that foreshadows the blood of Christ, which delivers people from God's wrath.

She made God sound real, tough, like the sort of God whom Marshall Hogan wanted to hear about in Frank Peretti's novel, This Present Darkness (which was why he was discontent with his liberal church).  What she was saying also reminded me of the evangelical cliche, "God is loving, but God is also JUST!", or "God is loving, but God is also HOLY!"

I suppose that it shouldn't be a surprise to me that a mainline Protestant would believe that there is a God who wants for us to live in a certain way.  As the pastor noted, the bad things that we do hurt ourselves and others.  It would be a wonderful thing if Jesus Christ came to earth to deliver us from the prison of sin.  I can use that!  I question whether I can truly be free from my imperfections----or whether I should instead just cope with them and try to keep them from doing damage.  But I can see why people long for deliverance from sin, and why they would feel limited and thus look to a higher power to bring that deliverance about.

I did an Internet search on the pastor who spoke to us last night.  In our denomination's conflicts over homosexuality, she appears to be on the side of allowing homosexuals to be pastors without demanding that they be celibate.  Moreover, she is a proponent of marriage equality.  Do I believe that this conflicts with her sermon?  Well, yeah, part of me does, and the reason is this: I myself believe that it's unfair to demand that homosexuals live in celibacy for the rest of their natural lives, but I think that way despite the Bible, which I believe is pretty clear in its opposition to same-sex sexual activity.  Therefore, I have a hard time conceiving of a position that takes the Bible seriously, while also believing that homosexuals should be allowed to have a life partner of their own sex.  Are there people who do manage to arrive at a position that they think contains the best of both worlds?  Yes.  That's why it shouldn't be a surprise to me that the pastor who spoke to us last night can believe in a real God, have faith that Jesus Christ provides hope, and see the Bible as God's word (though not necessarily as a fundamentalist might), while believing that God is okay with homosexuality.  I'm just saying that I haven't arrived at a position that makes sense to me, that preserves the best of both worlds.  I myself am not gay, but I can somewhat empathize with those who are gay.     


  1. How is it you could not, for instance, think the things, morality even, in the Bible are situation specific, God taking into account human limitations?

    I've read recently "The Severity of God" by Paul Moser. Moser writes badly, but something in his ideas looks interesting. "He argues that if God's aim is to extend without coercion His lasting life to humans, then commitment to that goal could manifest itself in making human life severe, for the sake of encouraging humans to enter into that cooperative good life. In this scenario, divine agape is conferred as free gift, but the human reception of it includes stress and struggle in the face of conflicting powers and priorities." I don't like the implication (not considered by Moser) that, for our good, severity might continue in the kingdom, because I don't want there to be any there! Moser also doesn't consider that, this world being what is, people, including Christians, can be 'tested' past breaking point, they can not just get in awful situations, but they can be crushed utterly by them. So, the path to Heaven for some might not just be hard but completely unbearable.

  2. Situation specific. I suppose one can go that route. The thing is, though, as you know, people who see the Bible religiously want it to apply universally, on some level. A problem I have with some pro-gay interpretations of the Bible is that, on the issue of homosexuality, they act as if what's said about same-sex conduct is about a really, really specific situation, and thus doesn't apply to same-sex relationships today. The thing is, they don't seem to be that narrow when it comes to their interpretations of other passages of Scripture.

    I definitely can see your point about Moser. In fact, some evangelicals use a similar argument: Who cares if gays are not happy when obeying God, for life is not about being happy? I find that approach cold, for one. I'd like to think that God, on some level, is concerned about our happiness, even in this life. Moreover, since religion is pretty speculative anyway (in my opinion), why should a homosexual forego a relationship, over an afterlife that may or may not exist?


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