Evangelical Alliance responds to Simon Peter’s dangerous sermon in Acts 11

This statement surfaced yesterday in response to the recent controversy surrounding Simon Peter and the household of Cornelius, a Roman centurion and dirty Gentile from Caesarea, whom Peter embraced despite the clear teachings of scripture.  It’s a fascinating glimpse of how the early church defended the scriptures against Peter’s dangerous, unbiblical ideas.

Evangelical Alliance Responds to Simon Peter on Unclean Gentile Converts

From Evangelical Alliance general director Steve Clifford.

Simon Peter is a friend of mine. We go back many years. I am convinced that when the history of the Church in Jerusalem is written, Peter’s contribution over the last 25 years will be recognized as profoundly significant. So with this as a backdrop I am writing my response to Peter’s argument in Acts 11. While I understand and respect Peter’s pastoral motivations, I believe the conclusions he has come to on unclean Gentile converts are wrong.

It is with both sadness and disappointment that I reflect on how Peter has not only distanced himself from the vast majority of the Christian community here in Jerusalem, but indeed from the Church across the world and 2,000 years of scriptural interpretation that are sure to follow.

Simon Peter baptized the unclean centurion Cornelius in the name of “Christ-like inclusion.” The Evangelical Alliance says Peter is “not radical enough in his inclusiveness,” because he didn’t require Cornelius to change in order to be included.

Peter has raised issues which touch on deep areas of human identity. At a Soul Survivor seminar last summer, a newly circumcised, ex-Gentile convert introduced his talk to a marquee full of young people by indicating that he would love to find a theology in the scripture which would allow him to remain uncircumcised and not to keep kashrut. But, he said: “I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not there and I don’t want to live in rebellion to the one that I love.”

This pastor is just one of tens of thousands of Christians who have come to the conclusion that the laws of clean and unclean were designed by God and that we must not dare to call anything clean that God has called unclean and who have therefore chosen to be circumcised and to never allow anything impure or unclean to enter their mouths.

Simon Peter’s challenge to historic scriptural interpretation is in danger of undermining such courageous lifestyle decisions. Last year, the Evangelical Alliance produced a resource for leaders entitled Scriptural and Pastoral Responses to Unclean Gentiles – put together by a commission of eight and peer reviewed by 40. I trust this resource reflects a considered, gracious and mature response. It follows on from the highly respected Faith, Hope and Unclean Gentiles book produced some 14 years ago, combining a clear and succinct statement of scriptural teaching on cleanliness and purity. It expressed regret for the Church’s past and present failure in relation to the unclean Gentile community. Realistically and honestly, it engages with real-life scenarios to help Christians, and especially apostles and others in Christian ministry, discern how we can speak and live the truth in love. Copies can be purchased for £7 via our website.

Generations of Christians will someday face the challenge of making the gospel relevant within their cultural settings. The danger we all face, and I fear Peter has succumbed to, is that we produce ‘a god’ in our own likeness or in the likeness of the culture in which we find ourselves.

Peter’s approach to scriptural interpretation allows for a god in the likeness of first-century Caesarean mindsets. His call for “Christ-like inclusion” is not radical enough in its inclusiveness. We all come to the gospel in our brokenness, with an attachment to things, self-centeredness, addictions, fears and pride. We all need a savior in every area of our lives, including our circumcision and our cleanliness according to the law. We all live with pain. The radical inclusiveness of the gospel means we are all welcomed. In a wonderful grace-filled process we find repentance and forgiveness and Christ commits himself through the work of the Holy Spirit to bring transformation to our lives – a life-long process.

This is the radical inclusiveness I believe the gospel offers to all of us. God doesn’t leave us on our own, He promises to work in us, to bring us into our ultimate goal which is His likeness, transforming even unclean Gentiles into law-abiding, circumcised believers.

Inevitably Peter’s article will open again the conversation on cleanliness and circumcision. But as we have this discussion let’s remember that Jesus requires us to disagree without being disagreeable. We must listen honestly and carefully to one another, being courteous and generous.

  • redsixwing

    Oh SNAP.

  • http://beholdconfusion.wordpress.com/ beholdconfusion

    We have always been at war with Simon Peter?

  • martsen79

    This is one of the best things I have seen on the internet in the past month. Well done.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Petard.
    Hoisted.

  • Darkrose

    I believe someone has just been told.

  • Jim Roberts

    A-frickin’-men.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     Agreed! Even though I don’t particularly care how tolerant the Christian Church happens to be (I’m an atheist) to homosexuals, blacks, women, etc. (as long as its stances don’t affect politics), I have to agree this is a masterful rebuttal to the homophobes who call themselves Christians.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    OT, but I know Fred was raked over the coals last week for pointing out that racism has a lot to do with the founding of the Christian Right, and their support of parayer in schools and opposition to abortion.

    Well, Digby just linked to a Nation piece that spells out that historical fact.  

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    as long as its stances don’t affect politics

    Oh for a country in which various Christian branches’ misogyny, racism, homophobia, and snobbery have no bearing on politics, instead of a  country in which they shape politics. For a world in which the Catholic church’s misogyny does not keep birth control from women, and does not worsen the AIDS crisis in Africa. A place where religion was actually separate from politics would be some kind of utopia — by its first Merriam-Webster definition of  “an imaginary and indefinitely remote place.” 

  • Magic_Cracker

    It would be a masterful take down if Fundies would admit they’ve been taken down, but like Monty Python’s Black Knight, they never will.
    The “hole” that Fundies will poke in Fred’s argument is that Acts is now part of Scripture, so un-cut Christians eating chimpanzees is totes scriptural, but 2000 years ago, Scripture was imperfect (i.e., Jewish), so la la la we can’t hear you.

  • Victor

    (((so la la la we can’t hear you.)))

    That’s the problem. If GOD (Good Old Dad) told U>S (usual sinners) what to do, we just wouldn’t listen anyway.

    I hear ya sinner vic! For once you’re right Victor cause these humans won’t listen to U>S gods when we say that when your so called GOD passes gases in the atmosphere, Galaxies are created and he’ll gladly give them away to lost souls but “I” ask ya, where would ya human being be without the help of U>S alien gods Victor?

    Not Quiet Sure sinner vic! :)

    Peace

  • Magic_Cracker

    Dude, I can’t tell if you’re on drug, off your meds, or both.

  • ReverendRef

    We hold a mid-week Eucharist on Wednesday here at my parish.  It’s a rather informal gathering and, most of the time, we celebrate a particular Saint or other important person from the early Church or our own Episcopal/Anglican tradition.  I often end up transferring the feast day from the day on which it occurs to Wednesday because there isn’t an appointed feast.  Today, for instance, is an open day.  Tomorrow, though, is the feast day for Antony of Egypt, one of the Desert Fathers.  So I slid him to today and we commemorated him at worship.

    I go back and read through posts that Fred puts up and the associated comments.  Today’s post was fabulous.  But we also have posts about RTCs claiming that pictures of Jesus really aren’t religious (we just think it’s a cultural art piece).  Or Hobby Lobby arguing that the money an individual spends on healthcare shouldn’t be allowed to cover things H.L. “morally disapprove of.”  Or the nonsense spewed by Dobson, Perkins, et al about how gays are out to destroy our country (funny how RTCs in Texas want to secede, but nobody’s saying they’re destroying our country).  Or any of the other BS where people scream persecution but aren’t being persecuted and calling for the sanctioned oppression, separation and (in some cases) death of those with whom they disagree.

    Somewhere between 285 c.e. and 350 c.e. Abba Antony uttered these words:  A time is coming when when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, “You are mad, you are not like us.”

    It seems that time has come.

  • LL

    Falwell really was a piece of shit. As are any of the politicians who fawned over him.

  • Victor

    (((Dude, I can’t tell if you’re on drug, off your meds, or both.)))

    Great country Magic_Craker, we all have our own opinion and not sent to the gallows because some don’t agree with U>S (usual sinners)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUcurcqfcvo&list=AL94UKMTqg-9CsoL1wb57KE3PhIWCcedxR

    Peace

  • http://www.registeredrunaways.wordpress.com/ Registered Runaway

    Shameless plug (but I was totally here first), a few weeks back I wrote a piece on that passage.

    Give it a run through:
    http://registeredrunaways.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/education-of-a-church-recognize/

  • Nicole Resweber

    Brilliant.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Oooh! Oooh! Both is AWESOME! I had this manic-depressive friend who went off his meds and smoked crystal meth. He blew his whole paycheck on illicit drugs and whores, and I drove him around for a weekend when he finally crashed and out of nowhere accused me of conspiring with his dealer…who WAS SATAN (sweet girl, really. Friend of my sister’s.)

  • Wingedwyrm

    Victor, he’s not talking about your opinions.  He’s talking about your insistance upon putting everything into this near-English language of your own creation.

    He thinks there may be some imbalance sparking delusions within your mind, because you’re certainly not communicating like someone who has some comprehension of reality.

    Of course, there’s another possibility, and that’s that you’re both stupid enough to think that this way of speaking shows you to be wise and self-centered enough to ignore and/or deflect any attempt to say that you’re not the great thinker you think you are.

  • Mary

    Disagreements in the early church? Say it ain’t so!

    People seem to ignore the fact that there never has been a “Golden Age” of Christianity where everyone has agreed on doctrine.

  • Amaryllis

     It’s best to just let Victor communicate on his own terms.

    that when your so called GOD passes gases in the atmosphere, Galaxies are created and he’ll gladly give them away to lost souls

    Well, that’s one way to put it.

    Mark Van Doren uses a similar metaphor.

  • Victor

    (((Victor, he’s not talking about your opinions.)))With all due respect Wingedwyrm, how would ya know what he’s thinks?  As for me, please don’t claim to know me when ya can’t even tell U>S (usual sinners) your real name and long story short, I don’t think that I’m a great thinker, I only call “IT” the way I see “IT” and GOD (Good Old Dad) is the only “ONE” who knows what’s in my heart and my mind and knows if “I’M” right or wrong, so won’t ya please give “IT” a rest? You and your friends have made “IT” clear that ya don’t agree with me butt their are a LOT worst ways that me, myself and i might voice my opinions. Lighten “IT” UP cause “IT” five O’clock somewhere. :)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPCjC543llUPeace

  • SisterCoyote

    Leave him alone. He’s been here a while, he speaks his own way – he’s more coherent in some posts than others – but he’s not trolling, he’s not hurting anyone, and he’s really not doing anything wrong.

  • Victor

    (((Leave him alone.)))Blessed are the peace makerhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMosIAHalhg&list=AL94UKMTqg-9CsoL1wb57KE3PhIWCcedxRPeace

  • Victor
  • BrokenBell

    Is this really necessary? Does some guy being inoffensively kooky now and again honestly warrant cutting accusations of being some combination of mentally disordered and arrogant? What do you want him to do, exactly? Act more normally? To what end? I’ve never seen him say a bad word about another commenter, even as they actively try to pick fights with him.

    Biggest delusion I can see here is that which transforms Victor’s harmless quirks into a grave personal insult, demanding retort.

  • The Guest Who Posts

    I just want Victor  to leave, to be honest. He contributes nothing to the discussion.

    If he does have a mental problem, I’m very sorry for him and want him to seek help. However, if he’s just trolling, he can cut it out.

  • Mrs Grimble

    Sinner Vic is a pretty regular poster here and always posts like that.  We stopped speculating about the state of his meds long ago.  He does no harm and is  a welcome guest here.

  • ako

    He’s been posting in that style for years, and rarely gets a hostile reaction, so I really doubt he’s trolling. (He’s generally ignored, with the occasional confused new person asking what he’s trying to say.) If he has mental problems and could use help, I hope he gets it, but I’m not sure if anything another commenter here said would be terribly persuasive. He doesn’t seem to mean any harm, and he doesn’t do any worse than make some confusing comments.

  • JustoneK

    I’m frustrated, personally, that I can’t understand a lot of what Victor posts.  I see it as a problem on my end more than his.  I’m certainly not in a position to condemn or exclude him for it, as my communication skills aren’t perfect either.

    Condescending to him strikes me as petty, unnecessary assholery.

  • Magic_Cracker

    You’re right, I’m an asshole for playing the addict and mental illness cards. I should follow my own advice and scroll past posters I know will annoy me.

  • Carstonio

    Great method by Fred of condemning the homophobia. He’s never said explicitly that he disagrees with the assertion that homosexuality is objectively immoral, although his words strongly suggest that he does. He might subscribe to a personal ethic or code that rules out himself acting on romantic and sexual attractions to other men, but that wouldn’t necessarily be relevant. He repeatedly condemns the “We’re just trying to save you from hell” disingenuousness of opponents who insist that they’re different from the Dobson and Perkins hatemongers. Still, I would think that the live-and-let-live approach almost requires a conclusion that there’s nothing objectively immoral about homosexuality – do you think that’s accurate?

  • sarah
  • Victor

    (((You’re right, I’m an asshole for playing the addict and mental illness cards.)))

    Magic_Cracker, you’re not an asshole anymore than “I’AM” but we all must be very careful about what we do and say NOWadays which includes myself butt try and teach an old man to change their ways, “IT” often is like trying to teach an old dog new tricks and in this case the old dog may have physical illness to go along with his mental set backs. :)

    All kidding aside society has done their job in checking me out and long story short, a professional good senior doctoc who will remain nameless, but of our course, “IT” wouldn’t be a mission impossible to learn that person’s name.  Anyway longer story short, I was told that “I’M” not crazy so go figure! :(

    I apologize for having offended but that doesn’t mean that what “I” believe is wrong in my eyes and Fred you’ve got a great group of people here who love you and if push came to shove, me, myself and i believe that some would even put some of their body cells on the line for you if ya know what “I” mean?

    I’ve only lost “IT” here once and that was with LL and my wife couldn’t believe the number of (‘F’riendly ‘U’sual ‘Christian’ ‘k’ind) words, sinner vic said to that person butt then again, “IT” only goes to show that “I’M” human, I guess!? :)

    In closing, I’ll say that “I’M’ not sure when I’ll be back but if “I” has “IT” my WAY, “‘I’LL BE BACK’” someday.

    God Bless

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvj6zdWLUuk 

    Peace
     
     

  • Carstonio

    I stand corrected. Thanks for the link.

  • Madhabmatics

     even putting aside that you were wrong here, where did you get the idea that fred was secretly a homophobe, just one that wanted equality for gay people in the first place?

  • Carstonio

     I wasn’t suggested anything of the kind, unless you interpret “subscribe to a personal ethic or code that rules out himself acting on romantic and sexual attractions to other men” as the same as homophobia. I was raising the idea that Fred might subscribe to that.

    Now, if Fred had declared homosexuality to be objectively and/or universally immoral, meaning that everyone has a responsibility or duty to refrain from it, then the homophobe label deserves serious consideration. Sealing the deal would be if Fred didn’t offer a credible argument for homosexuality’s immorality, but instead offered a rationalization of squick or authoritarian assumptions about deities or nature.

  • roisindubh211

     Victor,  you are one of the most gracious and forgiving people on the internet, as far as I can see, and we’re lucky to have you here. (I’m not sure I’d have been so polite to Magic_Cracker or Wingedwyrm!)
    God Bless.

  • Victor

    Ha Shucks! Ya didn’t have to say that roisindubh211 but thanks.

    I hear ya sinner vic! There goes Victor’s Ego, will there be anyone to stop him NOW? :)

    Peace

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I think it’s pretty obvious that Fred does subscribe to a personal code that rules out him acting on attractions to other men, if he had such attractions, because he is married to a woman and monogamous. He doesn’t act out attractions to women other than his wife, either.

    I have no idea what he thinks of sex without a marriage or marriage-type relationship, however. This does sometimes bother me; he often says that love is a necessary condition of healthy sexual relations. Now, he might mean by “love” what I mean by “respect” — Christians often do. In which case I have no quarrel with him. But I would like to know.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Victor, if you like hanging out here, then please stick around :)

  • Sarahvanacore

     No problem. :)

  • Carstonio

    rules out him acting on attractions to other men, if he had such attractions, because he is married to a woman and monogamous

    Sure, but my original question assumed the hypothetical situation of Fred being unmarried and unattached.

  • ScorpioUndone

    Even if Fred didn’t approve of sex outside marriage, he doesn’t seem (in the years I’ve been reading his blog) to be advocating for that in any kind of political sense– he is, as far as anyone knows, not trying to get anyone arrested or thrown in jail.

    I found it useful to understand that our role models do not have to be perfect or exactly like us in *every* conceivable way. I used to hope every popular musician I liked was also a Christian, as that was always a good ward against parental disapproval.  Now that I’m older and not a Christian, that doesn’t matter. I like the plurality of the people whose music I listen to.  It would be a dull, echo chamber of a world if we all agreed on every mundane little thing. 

    To the point, I still come here regularly (even if I don’t comment very regularly) because I like what Fred has to say. Wishing that he were Wiccan or Atheist* would make him more like me, but the statement “homophobia is wrong” is true regardless of the status of one’s faith and (hopefully) regardless of the other things one believes.

    shorter me: I keep coming back for LB Fridays. Occasionally, Fred posts other things I’m interested in, sometimes not. I take what I like and leave the rest.  As Fred’s beliefs aren’t harming anyone, whether he believes sex requires love or marriage neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg (to paraphrase a bit).

    ————-

    *do we capitalize that? It felt weird leaving it lower cased since everything else got caps, but I feel like not believing in god isn’t exactly a religion. I don’t go to Sunday school to be a better atheist, you know?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Atheism gets capitalized only when it’s starting a sentence or being used as part of a proper noun, example, Atheism+. Atheism itself is not a proper noun, because it is not, as you said, a religion.

    Wouldn’t hurt if atheism had weekly meetings and an equivalent to Sunday school, though. One of the big reasons people stick with churches despite being atheists, or go back to church after years of rare attendance regardless of religious belief, is that churches are associated with community and moral instruction, which people tend to want for their children. There’s at least one group that’s trying to replicate the community and moral-instruction parts of churches while still being explicitly atheist, but I forget who and where–it’s probably on the Friendly Atheist blog somewhere.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    So long as Fred does not advocate abstinence-until-marriage, so long as he’s very quiet about it, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. But sometimes other things come through, both in what he says and whom he chooses to link. And then there is a problem. Because I believe that is a deeply unhealthy attitude, and one that causes a lot of pain to a lot of people.

    It’s none of my business what someone does or does not do consensually in their sex life. But when someone says that love and commitment must be part of the ethics of sex for everyone, I believe they are factually, harmfully wrong, and Fred has gestured that way before. That does pick my pocket/break my leg, metaphorically speaking. I have not been harmed by having sex without love and commitment. I have been harmed by thinking I needed those things to have sex. Not just in not getting to have sex with a guy I wish I’d had sex with, either. When my first sexual-romantic relationship ended, I fell into deep depression for years — a depression that completely fucked up my plans for my life. Looking back, it would have been half as bad and lasted half as long, if that, if I’d allowed myself to fulfill my sexual needs with someone whom I had no romantic feelings toward and to whom I was not committed. 

    Women are particularly harmed by this attitude; a huge number of young women end up thinking they must be in love to justify feeling and acting on lust. This leads to accepting abuse, stifling one’s sexual needs on the one hand and consenting to things we don’t want on the other, and even some straight women acting like assholes on the internet when two hot guys don’t kiss. Because we’re not allowed to just want to feed our lust — there must be a Greater Meaning behind it. And that is extraordinarily unhealthy.

  • Victor

     
     
    (((So long as Fred does not advocate abstinence-until-marriage, so long as he’s very quiet about it, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. )))

    Lliira, I can only guess what Fred really thinks about sex before “The Blessed Sacrament of Marriage” but long story short, “I’M” sorry that “IT” took place before “I” got married. :(

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO4uIyz_d90&list=AL94UKMTqg-9CsoL1wb57KE3PhIWCcedxR

    Tell US gods and worst of all, you continually keep calling U>S (usual sinners) and the alien gods also agree that ya must stop “IT” before “IT” becomes too late for U>S 92% gods. Look Victor ya have no right to try and steal our Cindarella and stick US who Love can almost hear his soul and spirit singing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEmyiOM9Sa4&list=AL94UKMTqg-9CsoL1wb57KE3PhIWCcedxR

    In closing “I’M” sure that our five loving daughters would want to hear our wedding song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQFqXkAeF9w

    Peace

  • Victor

    Try Again

    (((So long as Fred does not advocate abstinence-until-marriage, so long as he’s very quiet about it, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. )))

    Lliira, I can only guess what Fred really thinks about sex before “The Blessed Sacrament of Marriage” but long story short, “I’M” sorry that “IT” took place before “I” got married. :(

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO4uIyz_d90&list=AL94UKMTqg-9CsoL1wb57KE3PhIWCcedxR

    Tell US gods and worst of all, you continually keep calling U>S (usual sinners) and the alien gods also agree that ya must stop “IT” before “IT” becomes too late for U>S 92% gods. Look Victor ya have no right to try and steal our Cindarella and stick US who Love can almost hear his soul and spirit singing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEmyiOM9Sa4&list=AL94UKMTqg-9CsoL1wb57KE3PhIWCcedxR

    In closing “I’M” sure that our five loving daughters would want to hear our wedding song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQFqXkAeF9w

    Peace

  • Victor

    “I” give UP but me, myself and i won’t surrender. Fred if ya alien gods can’t allow “IT” all, I would appreciate that they be like John Carter, I mean Joe Carter and not allow any of “IT”! :(

    Thank ya! :)

    Peace

  • ScorpioUndone

    I absolutely understand where you’re coming from (or at least I think I do). In fact, it’s because I disagree with the majority of Fred’s theological beliefs that I said what I did earlier– we can choose to continue reading those posts of his that we find interesting or we can choose to stop coming here altogether. 

    I suppose the other half of my original point though, is that a belief is just that. A difference of opinion isn’t necessarily a statement of disrespect. Even if Fred talks about and links to posts about his brand of sexual ethics, we are still free to reject that.  For my own part, I’ve never understood his position to be one of disrespect for the way other people live their lives and that is a big part of why I continue coming here– everyone is treated with respect.

    I also keep referring back to Fred’s words as not advocating for any kind of political action and that’s a key component of it for me.  When the belief intrudes into my own life, that’s too far. As long as it remains just a belief, I have no problem with it. (Well, not no problem with it, just less of a problem with it.)  My response would be wildly different if Fred were, for example, trying to get the local school board to adopt an abstinence-only curriculum. 

    Abstinence until marriage may be how Fred thinks It Should Be, but I also feel that the way a lot of us decide upon such things is very black and white. It can’t just be This Is How It Should Be For Me. If it’s good enough for me, why not for you, too? Why aren’t we all held to the same standard? It’s confusing, and if there’s one thing I have come to learn about human nature, it’s that we abhor the grey areas.

    So the abstinence belief becomes a universal standard rather than a corporate ethic. That’s far from ideal, as it can absolutely be harmful, as you point out. I think the biggest problem comes when people jump on the universal standard bandwagon, rather than identifying that corporate ethic as being applicable to them individually. 


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