Katherine Kersten's Many Fallacies

Katherine Kersten, MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley

Katherine Kersten is the often-mocked conservative columnist at the Minneapolis StarTribune.  Often mocked because her columns regularly sound like she’s Michelle Bachman’s a-little-bit-less-stupid big sister.  Mainly, she touts reactionary talking points and far-fetched anecdotes as her arguments.

Yesterday, her column was so cloddish that I thought I’d break it down, paragraph-by-paragraph.  She wrote about same sex marriage and the death of all that’s holy.

Is same-sex marriage just over the horizon in Minnesota? Many say yes. A suit to legalize it has been filed in Hennepin County, and a slew of bills on the subject were introduced in the last legislative session. All the Democratic candidates for governor — along with Independent Tom Horner — endorse gay marriage.

Yes, indeed, same sex marriage will likely be legalized in Minnesota rather soon.  Why?  Because most people are coming around to the realization that it is not only harmless, but actually good for the stability of society.

At the national level, a federal judge in Massachusetts recently ruled unconstitutional the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Any day now, a federal judge in California is expected to strike down Proposition 8, which was endorsed in 2008 by California voters and defined marriage as a male-female institution in the state’s constitution.

Same-sex marriage supporters assure us that redefining marriage is no big deal. “How will my same-sex marriage hurt you?” they ask, expecting the answer to be “it doesn’t.”

Don’t believe it.

Same-sex marriage would transform American law and social life. That’s because it’s grounded in a radical idea: that male-female marriage, an institution rooted in human biology and intended to create the best setting to beget and raise children, is just irrational bigotry.

Here’s where KK really hits her stride.  Same sex marriage is about as “radical” an idea as miscegenation, another form of marriage that KK would have likely opposed just a few decades ago.  Really, what’s become clear as notions of family have evolved — and evolved they have over the past 10,000 years — is that “American law and social life” are always transforming.  That’s what happens as time goes on.  Institutions change, reform, and transform.

I mean, seriously, does she not understand that if our ideas of sexuality and equality hadn’t evolved, she wouldn’t be a columnist for a major daily newspaper!  There are plenty of places on this planet that KK could move that steadfastly uphold the kind of marriage she desires, and she can move there today.  But I don’t think they’ll publish her essays.

And on the final sentence in that paragraph, let’s remove the dependent clause and see what she’s really saying:

“male-female marriage…is just irrational bigotry”

I know a few GLBT persons, and many allies, and I don’t know one who thinks that male-female marriage is bigotry.  I mean, seriously, how does an editor even let that sentence stay in her column?

The implications of this revolutionary notion are far-reaching, and many are unforeseeable. But one thing is certain: If adopted, it will put government on a collision course with religious institutions and believers, and it’s a sure bet government will win.

No such think will happen.  See below.

Male-female marriage is a foundational tenet of all the major world religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. If gay marriage becomes government policy, people who believe that kids need both a mother and a father will be treated with the contempt formerly reserved for racial bigots.

First of all, most of the major world religions — including the three she cites — are based on a very different version of hetero-marriage: it’s called polygamy.  And I can’t imagine that’s what she’s advocating.  Secondly, she has absolutely no basis for claiming that those who opt for hetero-based family systems will be treated with contempt in society.  Regarding her parallel to racism, the fact is that while most people in America believe in equality among races and ethnicities, most also choose to live, work, and go to school with those who look like them.  In other words, societies tend to find equilibriums on contentious issues like race and sexuality.

If you think I’m exaggerating, listen to Mark Dayton, who may be Minnesota’s next governor. In 2004, he told a crowd of gay-rights activists that people who support a constitutional amendment to protect male-female marriage are “the forces of bigotry and hatred” who “spew hatred and inhumanity,” according to the Star Tribune.

If you’ve got to go back to 2004 to get a quote you don’t like from a full-time politician, well, I don’t think you’ve got much to work with.

Today, we’re already seeing the implications of this view play out:

•If gay marriage becomes law, churches and religiously affiliated organizations may be denied tax exemption, on grounds that their beliefs are “contrary to public policy.” The threat is “credible” and “palpable,” according to Robin Wilson, a law professor at Washington and Lee University. In New Jersey, for example, a Methodist ministry had to fight government officials to defend its tax exemption for a facility after declining to allow two lesbian couples to use it for civil union ceremonies.

Not going to happen.  Every state in which same sex legislation has passed has included language that exempts religious organizations from financial penalties for maintaining hetero-normativity; and if they didn’t have that language, they have since added it.

•Some faith-based charities may have to stop providing social services. Catholic Charities in Boston — which specialized in adoptions involving hard-to-place kids — had to give up adoption after gay marriage began in Massachusetts. Religiously affiliated hospitals, rehabilitation centers and homeless shelters that get government contracts or deal with Medicaid and Medicare may be similarly threatened.

Some faith-based charities may have to stop…  Thanks for the qualifiers, KK.

•Public employees may be disciplined or dismissed if they refuse to approve of homosexual acts. Recently, for example, a professor who taught Catholic theology at the University of Illinois was fired after a student accused him of hate speech. The professor had written in an e-mail that Catholic theology teaches that “sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same,” and had said he agrees with this view.

For one thing, the University of Illinois is currently reviewing its firing of Kenneth Howell (and I’m sure if he’s reinstated, KK will write a column commending the university for its tolerance of conservative opinions).  For another, he wasn’t a professor of Catholic theology but an adjunct lecturer in the religion department.  And for yet another, he wrote a lot more in the email than KK reports.

•In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Christian Legal Society at the University of California, Hastings, College of the Law could be denied status as a registered student group because it holds that the only rightful form of sex is between a man and woman within marriage — a view that violates the school’s nondiscrimination policy on sexual orientation. The ruling may sound the death-knell for orthodox Christian, Jewish and Muslim campus groups.

Oh, puhleeze.  This SCOTUS decision has been much debated and has yet to be fully fleshed out.  But no one of sound mind has suggested that Campus Crusade and InterVarsity groups start packing their bags and leaving campus.

•Small-business owners could be liable under discrimination laws if they decline to provide goods or services in contexts that violate their beliefs — providing wedding photography at a same-sex marriage, for example. Boards that license professionals, including psychologists and social workers, may require approval of same-sex marriage for licensure or admission to professional schools.

Again, KK peppers her paragraph with conditional — could, may, might.  The rest of us will appeal to common sense and reply, won’t.

In California in 2008, we saw what’s in store for traditional-marriage supporters who stand up for their beliefs. Same-sex marriage activists there vandalized property, targeted jobs and defaced houses of worship. Here in the Twin Cities, leaders of the recent Gay Pride celebration also refused to tolerate dissent. They went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to bar a lone Christian evangelist from handing out Bibles in the public park where their event took place.

Let’s use her same reasoning in another context: Last year we saw what happened to Jews who dare to frequent a house of worship. Christian activists vandalized their property and defaced their houses of worship with the Nazi sign of the swastika. The sinful actions of the few, of course, do not reflect the normative actions of the many.

In its early years, the gay-rights movement marched under the banner of tolerance. No more. Activists are demanding conformance with and approval of their agenda, and are punishing those who dare to disagree.

No, KK, no one is “punishing those to dare to disagree.”  What same sex marriage advocates are asking for is protection under the law.  We’re asking for the same financial incentives afforded to heterosexual couples.  It’s not going to destroy hetero-marriage; it’ll simply be the next step in the many millennia development and evolution of how human beings mate and express love toward one another.

Hey, that’s kind of interesting.  In all of Kersten’s columns about the importance of hetero-marriage, I don’t read her talking about love.  Yet when I hear my GLBT friends talking about their desire to marry, that word comes up a lot.  That’s something to ponder.

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  • Thanks for this Tony. I can’t believe the StarTrib published this either. I read it and thought I was back in 1950 reading about why blacks and whites shouldn’t marry either. But beyond that it’s hate stained an otherwise pleasant Sunday morning and I wish I could scrub the awfully constructed logic from my brain!

  • Hey Tony,

    If you haven’t met and connected with Megan DiFranza here near Salem (Beverly, MA) you should look her up on facebook. She is doing her Doctoral work on intersexed issues.

    peace bro,

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  • Steve H

    “male-female marriage…is just irrational bigotry”

    “I know a few GLBT persons, and many allies, and I don’t know one who thinks that male-female marriage is bigotry. I mean, seriously, how does an editor even let that sentence stay in her column?”

    Actually, she didn’t say that gay marriage proponents are equating male-female marriage with bigotry. She said that they would challenge the idea that male-female marriage creates “the best setting to beget and raise children.” There’s a distinct difference.

    I am pro-gay marriage myself, but let’s be careful that we do not misquote or take out of context those with whom we disagree.

    (love your blog, btw)

  • “her columns regularly sound like she’s Michelle Bachman’s a-little-bit-less-stupid big sister. “

    Tony, I can’t get enough of your hypocrisy. It’s hilarious. You have the audacity to claim that I’m being an “asshole” and a jerk, and then you write something like this. Do you really have no sense of irony?

  • As for the topic at hand, KK is spot on. We merely need to look no further than Canada to see what the normalization of homo sex has done to free speech. A woman was banned from posting Scripture online by the “human rights” commission. Christians are routinely harassed for saying anything un-PC against homosexuality. I know many pastors in this country are gearing up for the day when preaching from the Bible will land them in jail due to tyrants in the gay lobby and their sympathizers. It’s coming, though it may take longer because we have this thing called the Constitution which Canada and other Western countries don’t have.

  • Jim

    Yeah, Tony, I’m afraid you aren’t quite up to speed on this one. I attend the New Jersey Methodist church she mentions, and we did lose our tax exemption for the building where we refuse to marry a lesbian couple, and now, for fear of more lawsuits, we no longer hold weddings there at all. Not “might,” not “could,” did. It isn’t a joke or an irrational fear, it happens. The more you keep claiming it doesn’t , the more we get nervous.
    I think you’re a reasonable guy, and would not support the government forcing us less evolved folks into doing what our conscience forbids us from doing. But when our church is sued for refusing to allow gay marriage, and Tony Jones blithely tells us that these lawsuits are “not going to happen,” we start to wonder if he supports ecclesiastical eugenics for the less-evolved species of church. “This won’t hurt a bit.”

    • Jim, I’ve got a few comments: 1) clergypersons and churches should not be performing legal marriage ceremonies in the first place; 2) non-profit status for churches is a constitutionally suspect concept as well; 3) your church may be the guinea pig on this one, but I strongly suspect that state and federal governments will not allow churches en masse to be penalized for not performing same sex weddings.

    • Robert Recio

      Your church was not sued for refusing to allow gay marriage. Your church was sued because it had a building that it was renting out to members of the public and changed its mind as to what constituted the public when the lesbian couple came along. Your building was available for Jewish weddings, Islamic weddings, and any other event known to man. It was obviously NOT reserved for Methodist functions alone and the church made a lot of money renting out the building.
      There is such a thing as a public accommodation law which mandates non-discrimination to those that provide services to the public. You want your church to discriminate? Your path is simple: DO NOT SERVE THE PUBLIC. Only allow Methodists to use the hall and you’ll be fine. In fact, I think that’s what you are doing now.
      However, you were making a lot of extra money by renting out the hall for public functions of all stripes to members of the general public. Don’t do that and then decide to discriminate. Those lesbians and any couple were entitled to the “open door” your church had adopted. They were entitled to be treated as any member of the general public BECAUSE YOUR CHURCH HAD MADE IT CLEAR THAT THE FACILITY WAS NOT BEING RESERVED FOR RELIGIOUS PURPOSES AT ALL.
      So, don’t give the BS that your religious freedom is being trampled upon. You had no problem serving the public until a couple, which did not deserve to be treated to bigotry, challenged someone’s personal comfort (not their religious beliefs). It would be the same if the Methodist church was selling cookies on the street to the general public and a gay couple was refused. You weren’t selling cookies for religious purposes, you were selling them for MONEY. And, guess what? When you deal with the PUBLIC, you’re not allowed to DISCRIMINATE.

  • Rev. Chris Byars

    Again you show your own intolerance. I am against gay marriage, but have supported the idea of civil unions and protections yet I would argue why not extend it to any couple that supports and lives together, i.e. family benefits to siblings that live together and one is the main support. There are isues with you polygamy statement since the overall historical voice of Christianity has not been in support of polygamy. The reality is that Christian institutions in states that favor gay marriage have been forced to reevaluate if they will continue to offer services because of their convictions. The Catholic Church has been challenged because of their stance on birth control and have stopped adoption services in Massachusetts. The LCMS is pulling some support of services offered through Lutheran Social Services because of the weakening stance of biblical marriage in the ELCA.

    The activist GLBT stance, in my opinion, has created a greater divide in the Church over sexuality. Your argument is oddly enough the same argument of those that are truly homophobic. Tony, you continually make two words that have never been meant to be synonymous, “accept” and “approve”, which is the same stance that those that are truly anti-homosexual.

    By the way, Tony, qualifiers are a sign of good journalism and editorial writing.

  • Brilliant comment, Chris. It always strikes me as funny that the homo marriage supporters are themselves the biggest “bigots” against polygamy. It is their blind spot it seems. I have no problem being against polygamy, and I can be logically consistent to be against it. Homo marriage fans cannot. Don’t you just love the self-refuting nature of postmodernism?

    • Robert Recio

      Gee, I have no problem being against polygamy and supporting marriage EQUALITY. The way marriage is structured, any TWO people of a certain age should be able to access the institution without facing DISCRIMINATION. There was once a race limitation for couples that prohibited a black man from marrying a white woman. It didn’t make sense to have that discrimination and it doesn’t make sense to discriminate on gender when you have a group of people (gays and lesbians) who are attracted only to their own gender.
      Polygamy can be exploitative of women and there are actually reasons against it that are entirely rational.

  • carla jo

    Here’s a fuller picture of the Methodist church/tax issue. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/18/nyregion/18grove.html
    The church itself didn’t loose its exempt status. The EPA revoked the exemption for one building in a large, park-like property they own that is used by the church and the public for various purposes: “The administrator of the Camp Meeting Association, Scott Hoffman, said in a written statement that ‘the Camp Meeting is reviewing the letter. However, it is worth noting that over 99 percent of the Camp Meeting’s land was recertified as tax-exempt.'”
    Losing an exemption over one building is not the same thing as losing it as a church. I don’t necessarily agree with the EPA’s decision, but KK certainly skewed the truth by giving only the vaguest info.

    As for the Boston Catholic Charities issue, they could have–and may have–taken the same road as CC in Washington DC by handing their foster care and adoption divisions over to another non-profit so that the care for the children involved continues. Again, this kind of attention to detail is not KK’s strong suit.

    Also, as a professional editor, I’d like to note that qualifiers are used to save the ass of the editor/publication. They are intended to dilute and soften a point. In some cases, they serve a story well. But in an opinion column such as KK’s, they allow her to stir up fear and frenzy where none is warranted. And it’s not just on this issue. She is a terrible columnist who has used this same tactic on everything from the public schools to the environment to every other issue she deems to be a “liberal” cause.

  • Wes

    I think this video adds perspective to the New Jersey and Catholic Charities in Boston situations. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0dKMhYSX20&feature=player_embedded

    What it boils down to is that people are still just very afraid. They are fearful of change and fearful of being wrong.

  • Jim

    You are right, carlo jo, that only part of the property’s tax exemption status was revoked. But it was also the only building under controversy. Only one building refused to allow civil unions, and only one building lost tax exemption status. Seeing a pattern here?

    The amount of money in this case is inconsequential. What is of consequence is the state government flexing its muscles to badger, hinder, and potentially destroy ministries that refuse to evolve along their timeline. As for the Boston Catholic Charities, sure, that could have been a workable solution. That isn’t the point. The point is that they can no longer minister in the way they choose because the State doesn’t like it.

    The bottom line is that these things are happening. Not might happen, not could happen, are actually happening right now. We’re down here in the trenches with mud on our faces fighting hand-to-hand, and Tony is placidly saying “Puh-leeze, the Germans are miles away.” No matter which side you’re on, those in the trenches know better.

  • Jim, it’s pretty apparent that the liberals on this site have no qualms with tyranny as long as it is in their favor. And they will defend and spin it as much as fits their needs.

    This country was founded on freedom, not tyranny.

  • carla jo

    So Darius, why can’t homosexuals have the freedom to marry?

  • carla jo

    Also, it seems to me that Catholic Charities is ministering exactly the way they choose to. They pulled out of the adoption ministry because they choose to hold on to their belief that homosexuals should not raise children. They had other options but this is the one they chose.

  • Jim

    But I don’t think they see it as tyranny, Darius. It’s just the naturally consequence of certain forms of statism.

    For example, the man in Wes’s video argued that lesbians should be allowed to marry in the NJ Methodists’ church because the organization accepted tax money to repair their roof after a hurricane. In the NY Times article posted above, this subsidizing argument is extended to tax exemption:

    ““And when the public subsidizes it with tax breaks, it goes with the expectation that it is not going to be parsed out, whether it be by activity or any particular beliefs.”

    So this is how the argument goes:
    1.) The state is allowed to take your money.
    2.) If the state chooses to let you keep some of your own money, you lose religious freedom and discretion in your organization (and on your property).

    The man in Wes’s video makes the point that this has nothing to do with gay marriage in particular, but with discrimination laws. This is true, but also misleading. Liberals (without much objection from many conservatives) have eroded the right to private property and religious liberty. The battle over gay marriage now is simply over one more thing that will be imposed on anyone who “takes government money” (a.k.a. keeps their own property).

    Again, I want to point out that this is something that is actually happening. It’s not potential. It isn’t a scare tactic. It happens, and, conservative or liberal, we need to deal with it. Tony can say it won’t happen as much as he pleases, but he won’t convince those it’s already happened to. We may be less evolved, but we aren’t stupid.

  • “Also, it seems to me that Catholic Charities is ministering exactly the way they choose to. They pulled out of the adoption ministry because they choose to hold on to their belief that homosexuals should not raise children. They had other options but this is the one they chose.”

    Carla Jo, you should read 1984. That comment was so Orwellian. I gotta love your definition of choice. Inside every liberal is a tyrant trying to get out…

    “So Darius, why can’t homosexuals have the freedom to marry?”

    Another intellectually dishonest question… no surprise there. Homosexuals DO have the freedom to marry whomever they so choose. They can get a bunch of friends together, find a priest or witch or warlock or friendly neighborhood magician, and get married. Nice and private like. No problem. They just don’t have the “freedom” to make society condone, sanction, and affirm their “marriage”… just as polygamists likewise don’t have that right.

  • Tony,
    I think Kersten is just another example of a (capital “P”) Personality that writes columns like this one to gain fame and recognition by riling up fear-rattled masses Groupthink style.

    I appreciate your response to how illogical it is. But I think Kersten is just like Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, or whoever you want to add to the list. There’s no way right-thinking people would say the kind of overstated, pejorative statements she makes unless it is done to gain readership.

  • Jim

    1.) Pretty much agree on this one, I think.
    2.) Agree, sort of? They say the power to tax is the power to destroy. But I agree a church is better off just rendering unto Caesar and salvaging whatever liberties they can.
    3.) I suppose we’ll see. I certainly hope you’re right. It’s uncomfortable to be at the mercy of the courts though, can you really blame us?

  • carla jo

    Darius, if you want to have an intellectually honest conversation, I’m all for it. Thus far, you have yet to demonstrate that such a conversation is on your agenda. You seem, instead, to show up at this blog, one which clearly rubs you the wrong way on a variety of issues, in order to insult Tony, myself, and any other poster who has ideas that differ from your own. Either you have abundant time on your hands or you have a driving need to pick fights.

  • Haha, fine, ignore my point. You made a dishonest claim and I called you out on it. Show where I’m wrong instead of coming back with an ad hominem attack. Typical for liberals that logic is nowhere to be found but insults and ad hominems are readily at hand.

    Tony called KK and Bachmann “stupid.” I guess it’s okay as long as you agree with him. Talk about moral relativism…

  • carla jo

    What is your point exactly? And what is my dishonest claim exactly?

  • “And what is my dishonest claim exactly?”

    Already answered that: “So Darius, why can’t homosexuals have the freedom to marry?”

    No one is saying they can’t marry. The same fallacious argument is used when people say that conservatives should stay out of people’s bedrooms or should stop telling gays who they can love. It’s not conservatives who care about what people do in their bedrooms, we just don’t want it forced on the rest of us who actually don’t like seeing perversion affirmed by our government and society. I have no say whatsoever over who a homosexual wants to love… but I shouldn’t be forced to like it or support it.

  • Marusha

    The Bible clearly calls homosexuality a sin, and as a Bible believing Chrisitian, you’ve gotta see how the talk of and endorsement of gay marriage can be completely abhorrent to someone like me. Gay people claim to want equal rights. They want society and the church now to accept them in that sin. They have exactly the same rights as I do. They can get married, just like I did, to someone of the opposite gender. Just like them, I do not have the right to marry someone of the same gender. You might come back with, “gays should be able to marry someone they love” and I would have to come back with, that it is not true biblical love to express it in a sinful way. If you call yourself a Christian, the only place I can appeal to you from is what the Bible says, I find it fruitless to try and argue from a pragmatic place.

  • carla jo

    Darius, I’m still not sure why that claim seems dishonest to you. It might be too general a question or one to which you believe there is an obvious answer, but apart from clarifying my question, I don’t know how to ask it any differently. So allow me to clarify.

    The problem is that lots of people are saying homosexuals can’t–and shouldn’t–marry, including Ms. Kersten and Marusha up there. I completely understand why many Christians believe homosexual marriage should never be accepted or endorsed by the church. I don’t agree with that, but I get it. I honestly get it. And I don’t have an issue with churches–entire denominations even–deciding that they will not now nor ever endorse gay marriage. That churches get to differ from one another rather that follow some state-mandated doctrine is the whole idea behind religious freedom after all. There are churches and entire denominations that don’t let women be pastors or teach or vote and that’s their business. I don’t attend those kind of churches and while I think they are dead wrong–FROM A BIBLICAL STANDPOINT–about those doctrines I don’t believe the people in those churches are somehow not Christian. I consider them my brothers and sisters in the faith.I believe you are a Christian and I consider you my brother in Christ. I believe that it’s possible for us to read the same Bible and be led by the Holy Spirit to different conclusions. Perhaps you and others will take issue with that belief and even question my faith and standing before God because of it. I can assure you–because I have been assured by the Bible–that my salvation is secure and you don’t need to spend a second of your time concerning yourself with that.

    However, my “dishonest” question came on the heels of a claim that this country was build on freedom, not tyranny. And so I wondered why we continue–from a purely legal standpoint–to deny a group of people the right to be married in the eyes of the law, thereby denying them the significant privileges that legal status brings with it.

    Your answer was about the ceremonial version of marriage. And in that context, you’re correct. Homosexuals can find someone to call them married. But it the eyes of the law, which is the context of the Kersten column and most of this comment thread, the freedom to enter into a legally recognized marriage remains out of bounds for a wide swath of the American people. And that, to me, is problematic and a clear denial of the essential freedoms upon which this country was built. After all, when you say, “They just don’t have the ‘freedom’ to make society condone, sanction, and affirm their ‘marriage’… just as polygamists likewise don’t have that right.” You know who does have that freedom? You, me, the idiot who married my dear friend and left her 6 months later, Katherine Kersten, rapists and sex offenders, total strangers who meet in Vegas, the mentally ill, abusers, addicts, murders. If you don’t want to be part of a system that makes you condone, sanction, and affirm marriages that offend you or that you deem abhorrent or sinful, you might need to move because they happen every day.

  • Marusha

    Less than 2% of the total American population is homosexual. Not a wide swath. In regards to the Bible, we must find out what God is saying, and that is to interpret it responsibly, properly and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must find His conclusion, His message, not foster all sorts of differing conclusions of our own. Using the argument that there are bad heterosexual marriage does not give support for the gay marriage cause. I don’t condone any frivolous marriages whether gay or straight precisely for the fact that it cheapens the institute of marriage given by God.

  • Rev. Chris Byars

    The greatest issue is the term “marriage” which carries with it a lot of weight that sets it apart from a contractual union. Marriage is biblically defined as a union between a man and a woman set apart by God. Where the glbt movement, in my opinion, gravely erred is the determination on their part a civil union was not good enough. I used to be more supportive of that option. This issue, also, has been one that has made a lot of congregations like the one in Corinth in which Paul admonishes them for being tolerant of a member who slept with his father’s wife. That would almost be laughable in our world, but those offenses were abhorrent to the time and were also abhorrent to Christ. Truth be told Christ would minister to homosexuals today as he did adultresses, liars, cheats, the unclean, and possessed but His ministry was to bring the Truth and life and not “I’m OK, you’re OK.” Jesus, also, didn’t differentiate the civil law when it pertained to spiritual truths since all law must obtain its efficacy from the Lord the civil side maintains order and protects and spiritual law convicts and drives us to Christ so we can truly know the Gospel.

    It has been criticized here why Darius or those that do not agree read and comment on Tony’s blog. Well, Tony has been placed by his choice and the direction of others to be a voice with some authority in the emergent movement and he has used this position to his benefit with his writings and it has, I’m sure, assisted in his professorship. This means that he has a greater responsibility with the opinions he posts. What needs to be returned to the area of academic discourse is a level of respect given to varied viewpoints that exist most particularly the conservative philosophy and liberal philosophy. In this, I believe, Tony has been irresponsible in the authority he has been given in his role as a teacher in calling the viewpoint and philosophy of one he doesn’t agree with as stupid. I don’t look at Tony as stupid or any liberal as stupid, but I would say that some of the opinions that he and many liberals espouse as wrongminded and often show just as nuch if not a greater ignorance of the other side on the issue. The assumption that those that do not agree on this issue are just bigotted and do not know any homosexuals or have no personal investment in this is ignorant. Which is more loving a parent who spanks or a parent let’s their child do as they please?

  • James Blair

    So, Tony, you believe same sex marriage is not only harmless but good for society?

    Certainly, people should have the same rights, but even most secular studies indicate kids are better off with two parents of opposite sex, but what the heck.

    And as to what Jesus said about marriage, you have obviously thrown that by the wayside so we don’t need that.

    So, what is it we need Christianity at all for?

  • James Blair

    By the way, Tony, I am amused by you saying you don’t hear Kersten talking about “love”.

    Of coruse, your “loving” response to her makes up for that.

    Right, buddy?

  • Brian

    What is all this talk about redefining marriage? What I want to talk about is redefining divorce. I think if we all ban together and get our agenda straight, we will be able to redefine divorce so that its not a sin either. Think of how many people that would help! Over 50% of Americans are divorced. If only we could figure a way to make divorce ok . I mean seriously, only like 2% of the population is glbt. This would help so many more people. Come on liberals ban together! Let’s fight this with everything we’ve got! I say that divorce can only happen between a man and a cat. Anyone with me?

    Sorry, postmodernism is dumb. Why the need to redefine what has already been defined? You can know the truth and the truth will set you free. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

  • Korey

    I wonder if you know any homosexual couples in long term relationships personally? Of course you may actually and whether you do or do not has no bearing on the merits/truth of your perspective. It’s just that I have found that those who do know a homosexual couple in a long term relationship and oppose homosexual marriage or civil unions they typically don’t speak about it as scathingly as you seem to do.

  • Korey, I actually do know one or two homosexual couples. They’re actually very nice people. But what they are engaged in is plain ol’ sin, as much as I may like to think otherwise. Homosexuality is a perversion of God’s created order. No matter how much scam theologians may protest otherwise, those are the facts. I would that they found the freedom from sin that I have found in Christ (not to say that I no longer sin, cause God knows that I certainly do).

    Please note that I am as “intolerant” of adultery and most divorces as I am of homosexuality. It’s just that I don’t find many people defending adultery…

  • Andrew


    She is ignorant.

    You are naive and a surreptitious pawn incapable of seeing larger social forces at play.

  • What’s amazing to me is that in Jesus’ sermon on the mount, there is not one mention of homosexuality, but instead a strong warning not to divorce. Yet divorced people are welcome with open arms in churches, and there are even second marriage counseling materials for those remarry.

    If people are going to be selective, I think they should at least admit it. Admit you don’t greet one another with a holy kiss, that you do welcome divorcees, that you choose to hate homosexuals, that you align yourselves more with Pauline theology, and just get on with it. But stop pretending you’re protecting some righteous idea like a martyr to a culture that wishes you were dead. It isn’t true at all.

  • Alex, Jesus welcomes sinners of all types. So he welcomes divorced people AND homosexuals. But He doesn’t say that it’s cool to be a follower of His and act like there is nothing wrong with divorce or homosexuality. I agree that the Church has not been hard enough on divorce, but that isn’t a valid argument for homosexuality.

  • Korey

    Thanks for clarifying. I think the same experience of God that orients my sense of good and evil (that I’ve resisted over the years and trusted) causes me to dispute the notion that some of my same sex friends are sinful in their committed monogamous homosexuality. Rarely does it steer me in a path that does not comport more comfortably with Scripture, but I would say Scripture contains stories and admonitions that also produce a similar friction with my understanding and experience of God’s nature. I personally find discernment and an ongoing engagement with Scripture and Christian Tradition as a balance to my prayer life and personal experience in ethical assessments. As for divorce and adultery (polygamy and “open marriage” aka serial adultery), I find these to be sin. But even in such cases (though I know no polygamists), I resonate more with a practice that strains toward compassion while maintaining an ethical stance. I try to do so when interacting with others caught up in such sin and I hope that those who find homosexuality sinful can strive to do the same.

  • Hey Darius,

    Thanks for the reply. I am swayed to believe that, time and time again, Jesus says no to the ways of persecution. The norm was to stone adulterers, and he said no to that system. The norm was to use a sword, and he said no to that system. The norm was to fight back, but he said no to that whole system and called out its deepest flaws.

    So perhaps those who persecute homosexuals and continually make them feel subhuman are keeping alive a system, a way of believing, a lifestyle, that Jesus repeatedly said no to. Perhaps those who persecute homosexuals are similar to Peter cutting off the ear of the soldier, only to find Jesus saying, no. There is a better way.

    I would find it the ultimate irony if “the world” had it right all along about love and we missed the point.

  • Yes, Alex, but after rescuing the adulteress (or homosexual, if you will), Jesus told her to go and sin no more. Tony tells her to go and sin all the more. Big difference.

  • Marusha

    What was the message of Jesus? Was it for tolerance of all sorts of lifestyles and to just get along? I believe, and I don’t want to speak for people like Darius, but I think he would agree, that the Bible clearly says that Jesus came and showed us the way to be with God by teaching us and dying on the cross to free us from sin. I, and Darius and other true Christians are not without sin. Not at all. All have sinned. The difference is that we have realized this. We have humbled ourselves before God and admitted that we are filthy, dirty creatures who deserve hell. We repented, or in other words, turned away from our sinful ways and put our trust in Jesus that His sacrifice is enough for us to be saved from sin, from destruction and His righteousness is what gets us to be with God. When we repent and put our faith in Christ alone, we no longer love our sin. We do sin but we hate it and we trust that God is working in us to bring us down the narrow road to finally be with Him. To me, this is a far better message than a social agenda.

  • Rev. Christopher Byars

    Since when has it been persecution to bring correction? Correction is a loving response that we are all called to as Christians. We are told within Scripture to be prepared with a sound understanding of our faith and be ready to gently correct those of our brothers and sisters with a loving word. Jesus spoke strongly against divorce and adultery because those were things that were occurring regularly in his time, John the Baptist was beheaded because he called out the king for taking the wife of his brother. Adultery was happening within the people of Israel also. These things were happening regularly within the people of Israel and were not being as strongly attacked (as you notice in John 8 it was only the woman and not the man which was brought to Jesus and Scripture would call for both to be stoned). The practices of divorce and adultery were tolerated within the time and, though same gendered sexual relations did occur, that was a given in the community that it was wrong and should not be tolerated and would have made no sense to make a big issue of it. The reason that Jesus abolished stoning is that dead people can not repent. Jesus entered in and ministered to people with a message of repentance and forgiveness. His purpose was and is to reconcile all people to God. Reconciliation happens when people turn away from the behavior that causes the break and ask for forgiveness. Jesus did not die upon the cross to protect our fragile self-esteem and make us feel better about ourselves, Jesus died upon the cross that we also may die with him and be resurrected into new life with him. The Theology of the Cross, which is the theological position which Martin Luther espoused, is a theology in which we worry not about our self-esteem, but come to the realization of exactly how bad we truly our in and of ourselves that we are willing to die to ourselves and be reborn into Christ. To say that it is persecution to say homosexual relations is a sin and that for that purpose we mustn’t bless those unions is to deny the saving act of God’s grace in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • Marusha, Darius, and Christopher,

    What do you think about slavery? About smiling when your master gives you an order because you know who you are really serving? Were the Christians who challenged slavery turning from Scripture? I am far more troubled by the fact that the majority of Christians during that era were pro-slavery, and the amount of pro-slavery literature written by Christians far outweighs the amount of abolition literature written by Christians.

    And what of the people who fought for civil rights in the 50s and 60s, up till today? Do they not too face persecution? Is it easier to define sin based on character than skin color these days? Because that seems to be the case.

    I’m only 22, but as far as I can tell from the studies I have done, concepts of sin evolve over time. People eat shellfish now, wear clothes with mixed fibers, husbands interact with their menstruating wives, and on and on and on. It is a tough, tough thing to embrace the evolution of human consciousness, but necessary nonetheless. Society will change whether you want it to or not.

    Respectfully, I understand that we see the world differently in a variety of ways. And honestly, we all think we are right. But I am still interested in what you have to say.

  • Alex, thanks for being willing to dialogue. It’s much appreciated. I’ll try to answer your questions and concerns as best I can.

    Regarding slavery… I think the most important point here is that the slavery that existed in the Old Testament and largely in the New Testament was of a very different variety than what has existed in the last few centuries. When Paul was writing Philemon, many slaves chose to be slaves. “Indentured servitude” it was called. You signed on for so many years of slavery and eventually had an opportunity to be set free or, if you so chose, sign up for lifetime enslavement. Our modern sensibilities balk at this as some outlandish scam that no one would actually choose. But if we consider that the alternatives many times involved starvation, then we recognize that slavery in Biblical times was actually sometimes the best way available to provide for poor people. In contrast, the slavery that Christians like William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln fought rarely allowed much freedom of choice to the slaves. If you were lucky, you got a nice owner who would set you free eventually, perhaps on his deathbed. Otherwise, you and your family were doomed to spend your lives as property with few rights of your own. Thankfully, due to basic free market laws, slavery in this country wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been or is usually portrayed by Hollywood. Slave owners were by and large decent to their slaves, if for no other reason than it made the most economic sense. Treat a slave or animal well and you get more for your investment. But it still was wrong and rightly fought by Christians (the entire abolition movement was driven by Christians, in fact).

    That many Christians were at best ambivalent regarding slavery only speaks to what we already know about humans in general: they tend not to live up to the morals they believe in. Look at today. Liberal Christians would rather tax other people to the bone to care for the poor than give money out of their own pocket. People are tyrants, what else is new? We all need a Savior.

    Re: civil rights… again, a movement largely pushed forward by Christians. You didn’t see Hollywood secular elites at the front of the marches until after Christians had already been working those trenches for years. Sure, people who claimed to be Christians were against it, but their attempts at defending their beliefs with Scripture were weak at best.

    Re: evolving definitions of sin… the reason that we eat shellfish, besides the fact that we’re not Jewish, is that Christ fulfilled the law. That doesn’t mean that everything in the Old Testament no longer applies, but we have been given a new law, written on the hearts of Christians, which supersedes it. Many of the laws involving shellfish, menstruation, etc. were to set the Israelite people apart from their neighbors (and to give them better hygiene and health). When Christ came, the law that was practiced primarily to attempt to earn God’s favor was fulfilled. The new (yet not so new) ethic was to love God and love others. But that didn’t stop Jesus from condemning sin. So divorce, anger, homosexuality, etc. were all still sin according to Jesus. But eating certain foods, as long as it is done in faith, was fine. For that matter, everything needs to be done in faith and with thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean everything done “in faith” is right. If it contradicts Scripture, it’s clearly wrong. And will remain wrong until Christ returns. God never changes, His law remains the same forever. The New Testament explains all this in pretty good detail. I would encourage you to study it carefully, and read good books by good authors. Tim Keller, John Stott, John Piper, Jerry Bridges… you can’t go wrong with those guys.

  • Darius,

    Thanks for the reply. I think a reason why this dialogue is difficult, besides the fact that it is online, is that we are operating from a different set of assumptions.

    What is most interesting to me about anytime dialogues go on long enough is that we get to the Truth behind the truth. If we talk long enough, all the assumptions and more deeply help beliefs and motivations come out.

    For instance, your paradigm is penal substitutionary atonement, while mine is not. Your paradigm is that God never changes, while mine is not. Your paradigm is that God’s law endures forever (except for Jesus, who abolished the law that endures forever?), while mine is not.

    The difficulty with something like this is that we can quickly operate from a dualistic mindset because a person can’t speak to someone who has already made up their mind without also seeming like they have made up their mind, too.

    What I think is this: those are deeply offended by homosexuality are not threatened by homosexuality in and by itself. They are rather threatened by the implications of what accepting homosexuality would mean for their paradigms. Because, rather quickly, many, many things operating beneath the surface can unravel if one of the strings is tugged. Do you see that at all in your final remarks about God never changing? What seems like a talk about homosexuality appears to be touching a deeper nerve about God’s character. And I understand that, it’s just that I think it unfair for us to leave that unacknowledged, the fear of what it could mean for our faith to accept gay people for who they are.

    Christians have somehow made adjustments in their hearts, space (what the word salvation really means) to accept and love divorced people. Is it possible that accepting gays poses more of a threat to your own comfort than it does for God, and maybe it’s an issue of you refusing to make space for them in your heart? If salvation means space, then isn’t it time to have the space to accept all people for exactly who they are?

    Philip baptized a eunuch even though eunuchs were considered perverse, disgusting individuals. The eunuch had just traveled from a place of worship where he/she would have most definitely faced persecution and exclusion. In a spur of the moment decision, Philip baptized the eunuch. Can you imagine the power of that moment, the love the eunuch must have felt from God? Do homosexuals not deserve that, too? If so, why not?

  • I’m not threatened by homosexuality, Alex. It’s either sin or it isn’t. And since I operate off the assumption that God’s Word is Truth. You say you believe God changes. That’s nice, but it isn’t scriptural. The difference between you and me, ultimately, is one of us views the Bible as God’s inspired Word to mankind and one of us doesn’t quite view it that way. If you read something in it that doesn’t mesh with your sensibilities, the Bible has to change, not your preconceived notions. The only “nerves” being touched on my part is whenever God is blasphemed along the way Satan blasphemed Him in Eden. “Did God really say?” At the end of the day, that is the chasm that currently exists between our belief systems.

    I don’t mind “accepting” gay people if by that you mean loving them and being kind to them. After all, Jesus did that and would want me to do so likewise. He practiced the “love the sinner, hate the sin” ethic to which the entire New Testament testifies. This is how I (and Biblical Christians) view homosexuality and those who practice it: they are no different than me. We all struggle with different sins which we are born inclined to. Some have a predisposition for lying, others for lust, others for anger, others for greed, and others for homosexuality. It’s all sin, we’re all “born” with it. That doesn’t make any of it right in the eyes of God. Homosexuals need freedom from their sin just as much as I needed (and still need) freedom from the sin that enslaved me.

    The key in all of this is repentance. It’s one thing to love and fellowship with someone who has repented of their past divorce. It’s a whole other issue if someone is living in sin and wants to pretend to be a follower of Christ. Jesus and Paul both made this very point. As long as a Christian is willing to repent, they should stay in fellowship with other believers. If not, then Christians shouldn’t even eat with them. The point here is not to “hate on” them but to make sure they understand that they are playing with fire. If we just pretend like everything is fine and dandy, they would get the mistaken idea that living with their girlfriend, stealing from their work, or engaging in homosexual acts was what Christians were supposed to do. Paul says that the reason to throw them out of Christian fellowship is to turn them over to Satan for a time being so that ultimately they may come back to repentance.

    The eunuch example is pretty weak, but I will engage it. A eunuch usually had little to no control over his becoming a eunuch, and nothing about it was inherently sinful. He might have been a social outcast, but so were lepers. If he had been a homosexual, he would have likewise been baptized. However, if he had been born again by the Holy Spirit, he would have gone away changed and free of his sinful lifestyle (not to say that he wouldn’t necessarily still have some temptations, as we all do to return to the vomit of our sin).

  • Darius,

    Perhaps I worded that incorrectly. I believe our highest possible understanding of God changes.

    That being said, while you do make some points, I have a few questions:

    Does Scripture say it was Satan in Eden, or am I mistaken in that it was only referred to as a serpent?

    You say that people are born with proclivity toward certain sins, something out of their control. But then with the eunuchs and lepers you say nothing is inherently sinful about it even though they had no choice in it. Why this distinction, and where does that idea come from for you?

    If you believe God never changes and therefore knows all, then why would God allow certain people to be born with cultural insufficiencies and constantly remind them of how broken they are? And if that is the case, why are lepers and eunuchs not held responsible for their condition? Why does it seem that God has a deep understanding and grace toward them, but not everybody else?

    If you had it your way, would you accept homosexuals? I mean, if you didn’t feel like the Bible was holding you back from affirming a homosexual lifestyle, would you, or would that make you uncomfortable?

    Looking forward to your responses!

  • Rev. Christopher Byars

    In reviewing your response the deficiency of your theology is in your grasp of the Gospels and the fact that Jesus, himself, states that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. The fulfillment of the law is in the fact that we have been given, through His death and resurrection, the greatest gift of all, the forgiveness of our sin. Original sin is the concept that is being forgotten and the Satan, or the accuser, that was through the serpent, which has throughout Judeo-Christian theological thought been understood as Satan embodied in the serpent. The temptation is the question, “Did God truly say that?” The great temptation is self-justification and, in essence, the breach of the first commandment. Concupiscence is what is inborn in us and is the sin-sickness that we are ALL affected with. The other issue is the fact that in your argument you are wanting to blame God for sin instead of it being the reality that sin is caused by the fall and reminds us of our need for a Savior. The irony of this argument is that instead of explaining the great need for the grace of Christ it completely removes the need for Christ to have died on the cross because instead of remembering that it was for our sin He died we can justify ourselves by placing the blame on God because it was He who made us sin by the sinful desires placed in our hearts.
    The difference is whether or not you believe God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (ever present everywhere and everytime), and omipotent (all powerful) and then the question becomes are you worshiping God or a god of your own creation. I believe that God can free us from the sin which binds us and as we come to the Cross and lay our sins down before His Cross and then can be resurrected anew through the Baptism that He has given to us. I would suggest for a greater understanding of this read the Apology to the Augsburg Confession article V on love. Good stuff and some great Scriptural exegesis!

  • nathan


    there’s irony to be found in the mode of your critiques.

    you consistently comment with barbs and snark all the while complaining about barbs and snark from Tony.

    If it’s so bad, why not rise “above it” and try to comport yourself in a manner consistent with your complaints?

    And, more importantly, it would be nice if you stopped using the the word “post-modern” as a pejorative. Your use of it only succeeds in communicating a misunderstanding of the word.

    Just some things to think about…

  • Nathan, fair question. I don’t have a problem with some barbs and snark, since Jesus and the Bible clearly don’t. Some of the best sarcasm can be found in the Gospels and prophets. What I have a problem with is Tony’s hypocrisy. He gets on my case for being snarky yet does the very same thing himself. Everyone can see that the emperor has no clothes.

    I use post-modern as it is applicable. I know postmoderns hate it to be defined and pigeonholed according to the logic of their ideology, but they do it to everyone else. It’s good for them to get a taste of their own medicine. You can’t expect to make up overly simplistic attacks on conservative Reformed Christians and not get the same treatment in return.

  • Jim

    If I can chime in here, I think Alex is right when he points out the central issue of debate here. It’s not really about homosexuality, but about our “paradigms,” as he says. I think the main issue is revelation.

    The question at hand is whether or not:
    A.) The Bible is God’s inspired, infallible word, and
    B.) The Bible is effective in giving Christians true and sufficient knowledge of the unchanging God.

    B is important because some of us believe that even though humans cannot find any absolute truths on our own, God has broken through that barrier and told us, effectively, through the power of his Holy Spirit, what we must know and what God expects of us.

    Is there anyone here who wholly affirms A and B (with my explanation) that also denies the sinfulness of homosexuality? If so, we can debate from the scriptures. If not, what will be the grounds of our discussion?

  • “But then with the eunuchs and lepers you say nothing is inherently sinful about it even though they had no choice in it. Why this distinction, and where does that idea come from for you?”

    The Bible. It doesn’t say being a eunuch or leper is sinful. It does say homosexuality is sinful, along with lots of other things. Just because someone is born with a proclivity to sin doesn’t mean they have to sin or are not responsible when they do sin. Temptation is not a sin. Acting on that temptation is sin.

    “If you believe God never changes and therefore knows all, then why would God allow certain people to be born with cultural insufficiencies and constantly remind them of how broken they are? And if that is the case, why are lepers and eunuchs not held responsible for their condition? Why does it seem that God has a deep understanding and grace toward them, but not everybody else?”

    We’re all born with “cultural insufficiences.” I am constantly reminded of how broken I am when I struggle with lust or my temper or other sinful urges. It’s a good thing to be reminded about our brokenness, cause it leads to repentance and looking to Christ as the One who can cure us and be perfect where we can never be perfect. Lepers and eunuchs have physical problems. Sin is a spiritual condition. That’s the difference.

    “If you had it your way, would you accept homosexuals? I mean, if you didn’t feel like the Bible was holding you back from affirming a homosexual lifestyle, would you, or would that make you uncomfortable?”

    First of all, this sounds like a little bit of a red herring of a question. I accept homosexuals now just fine, just like I “accept” all types of sinners. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t accept myself. If the Bible affirmed homosexuality (or was silent on the matter), then I would be fine with the lifestyle. My discomfort with it stems entirely from what the Bible says… any cultural discomfort can also be attributed to that reason.

  • JP in KN

    This post has taken on a life of its own. How long until the blogospherions lose interest and move onto another post?

    Some questions I would love to get some opinions on from both sides:

    Is it possible to love somone, and yet want something for them other than what they want? I get the sense that if “Jim” disagrees with “John’s” lifstyle and wants something else for “John”, “John” doesn’t beleive that “Jim” could possibly love “John”. “If you truly had love for me, you would be completely cool with everything I have decided.” Is that true/false right/wrong? Does it apply in this situation? What does this kind of love look like? Did I spell “beleive” wrong?

    -just some brain dump. thoughts/comments/insights/flames?

  • Hey everyone,

    Wow, so many replies! Well, to respond to Darius a bit, I just want to say that, in fact, there are many, many interpretations of the serpent in Genesis. Many Jewish theologians believe that it was God dressing up as a serpent to “trick” Adam and Eve into becoming autonomous, independent adults who could love free of codependence. That is pretty strange theology to most Protestants who were raised with the assumptions you raise.

    And also, just because I ask honest questions doesn’t mean you should make me look like an ignorant 22 year with weak theology. On the contrary, I believe that my ability to ask these questions indicates something strong in my spirit, something that won’t settle for pat answers or simple moralizing.

    I think these issues are like ladder rungs. We can discuss vehemently a single rung, when we all know we are discussing what’s at the top of the ladder. It all shoots upward very quickly, and suddenly a talk about homosexuality is about our most vulnerable understandings of God, so maybe we should be more respectful to one another.

    That being said, I think JP has it right. This issue is about whether or not we feel the dominant trait of God is one of affirmation or one of disapproval. I still don’t know if the two can peacefully coexist, but I do know the ramifications of both are phenomenal.

    Personally, I see the revelation of Jesus being baptized and hearing God say, “This is my son, with whom I am well pleased,” as the ultimate affirmation. We all long for this, to hear God say, I am so glad you are here, you please me. But there are so many distinct voices saying no, you are an enemy to yourself, those around you, and God. God is angry with your very nature, but with a furrowed brow has decided to make you good again.

    Honestly, I don’t see a hint of this God in the father of the prodigal son or the scene of Jesus’ baptism. I am so fascinated how these things, if they go on long enough, reveal the deepest longings of our souls. Not just to be loved by God, but to be liked by God. We long to hear the words, “This is my child, with whom I am well pleased.”

  • Alex, I didn’t respond to your question about Satan and the serpent, Chris did. Also, not sure where I implied you were ignorant or where I was disrespectful of you. Please point it out where I did this.

  • Darius,

    I guess I just assumed you and I were the only ones left! I think that what bothered me was that I felt you were assuming I am ignorant in what I know about Scripture, that’s all.

    Anyways, back to the topic at hand.

  • NO, I don’t think you are ignorant of the Scriptures, just perhaps ignorant (or unwilling to employ it) of a basic hermeneutical approach. I base that belief on your discussion of the evolution of sin. Your comments (particularly those about shellfish and menstruation) showed that either you’ve never read/understood how one should approach the Mosaic law as a Christian OR you have rejected that approach and pretend like it doesn’t exist. The latter is a matter of dishonesty, the former merely of ignorance, which is not a big deal. Everyone is ignorant to some degree or another on a whole host of topics. I certainly am. So I certainly don’t hold it against you. On the other hand, someone like Tony who I know has been taught and studied proper exegesis and CHOOSES not to employ it and even has the audacity to pretend like it doesn’t exist… I do hold that against him and others of his “academic” ilk.

    So I apologize (sincerely) if anything I’ve said in the last few comments came across as condescending. I don’t have time for dishonest arguments who know the truth but choose to reject it. But I am fully open to a snark-free discussion if I sense the other person is either not aware of all the arguments involved or is willing to (re)consider them. Tony has already admitted in the past that he recognizes that penal substitution is in the Pauline literature, but he still rejects the idea. As long as he rejects the Word of God, there isn’t much debate to be had. I assume (and hope) you haven’t quite reached that point.

    And now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

  • “Personally, I see the revelation of Jesus being baptized and hearing God say, “This is my son, with whom I am well pleased,” as the ultimate affirmation. We all long for this, to hear God say, I am so glad you are here, you please me. But there are so many distinct voices saying no, you are an enemy to yourself, those around you, and God. God is angry with your very nature, but with a furrowed brow has decided to make you good again.”

    Jesus is the one who pleases God, we cannot please God EXCEPT through Christ and what He did on the cross. This is because God cannot be near sin. As Psalm 11:5 tells us, God hates the wicked. Who are the wicked, you ask? Anyone who doesn’t have faith in Christ. So as Christians, we DO get to hear “well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” But that’s not due to anything in us. It’s entirely based on the wonderful work of Christ. God doesn’t want a bunch of people who can save themselves, that’s why Jesus was so harsh toward the Pharisees. They were teaching a works-righteousness. He wants repentant sinners who rely on the blood of His Son to atone for their sins.

    The heart of the Gospel is that God does it ALL. We do nothing but trust in what He did on the cross. We’re not saved because of something we do or a decision we make or some doctrine we hold. We’re saved because God first loved us, even though we hated Him, and gave up His own life for us.

  • Darius,

    I am confused by your understanding that God cannot be near, or look upon, sin. If Jesus is the ultimate portrait of God, and God cannot be near sin, why did Jesus then tell groups of ragtag people they were the light of the world, eat with tax collectors (still today considered a vile career by many), tell people that it was their faith that had saved them?

    If you believe that God cannot be near sin and the world is sinful, then can we not extrapolate that out to say that God simply can’t be active in the lives of anybody, anywhere, ever? That sounds like Deism to me.

    And if God wants us to rely on the blood of his son to atone for sin, then how is it possible that Jesus forgave people’s sins before he was crucified?

  • jeff

    Hey Darius,
    I know you said you are a Reformed believer. So I have two questions for you (this may not be the right forum so I apologize in advance). The first is an ‘honest’ question.

    Are you a five point Calvinist and if not which petals of the tulip have you plucked off?

    The second question I will admit will fall into your ‘dishonest question’ category but i have to ask.

    If the elect are already determined why do you spend time on here debating when ultimately nothing any of us do or say can change who the elect are?

    • Easy Aspi

      Don’t pluck with the Calvinists.

  • Marusha

    God’s overarching attribute, if you will, is His holiness. When man sinned it created an uncrossable barrier. Before this, man had complete access to God and could be in His presence but now that sin came in, man could no longer be in His presence. It is true that God is omnipresent (everywhere) but we cannot look upon Him in our sinful state. You will see througout the OT how this has been shown. Moses was allowed to only see the back of God as He passed by. Isaiah felt doomed because he was in the presence of God. In the temple there was a thick curtain blocking the way to the Holy of Holies. If the priests ministered in an unacceptable way or were unclean, they died in there. Darkness cannot survive in the light. When Jesus came, he set aside His glory and became a humble man. He did not set aside His deity because He is fully God and fully man, but He died for the sins of all who would believe and trust in Him, past and present. How can this be? How were OT people saved? They practiced the ceremonies and temple duties as they were the types and shadows of God’s redemption in Messiah. They believed in God’s redemption. This was completely fulfilled in Christ. He caused the curtain in the temple to be torn. If we believe in Him, humble ourselves and turn from our sins and ask for mercy, He will save us. It is nothing we can do. He makes us a new creation. If we trust in His grace alone He will save us. The light in us is only from Him and we cannot possess this new life if we are slaves to sin and refuse to repent.

  • Marusha

    It is not our faith that save us, it is the object of our faith: Jesus and all He did.

  • Wow, Marusha pretty well nailed it. Well-put, sister!

    “And if God wants us to rely on the blood of his son to atone for sin, then how is it possible that Jesus forgave people’s sins before he was crucified?”

    Because everything was predicated on Christ being the atoning sacrifice, which had as good as happened from the creation of the world. Once God plans and decrees something to come to pass, it’s a done deal. Christ’s death paid the penalty for sin. Our faith in the promises of God brings us under that payment and into right standing before God.

    “If you believe that God cannot be near sin and the world is sinful, then can we not extrapolate that out to say that God simply can’t be active in the lives of anybody, anywhere, ever? That sounds like Deism to me.”

    No. Once again, it all comes back to Christ. Because Christ puts His righteousness on us, God can be active in us through the Holy Spirit. The book of Romans does a great job of explaining this in great detail.

  • Jim

    Jeff, I can’t answer for Darius in your first question, but I will take a stab at the second:
    “If the elect are already determined why do you spend time on here debating when ultimately nothing any of us do or say can change who the elect are?”

    The answer is two-fold: First, we are commanded to preach the gospel and to have a ready answer. So, we obey.
    Second, God works through intermediary causes. He used, for example, Pilate to crucify Christ and he used Paul to convert the Ethiopian eunuch.

    As the Westminster Confession puts it:
    “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby (1) neither is God the author of sin, (2) nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; (3) nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
    So we preach the gospel because though God ordains everything, including the elect, we still have a moral responsibility to obey him and he still uses secondary or intermediate causes to bring about his will.

    This is really a far cry from the subject of the post, though, so maybe an exposition of election could wait until another time? It seems that there are three questions relevant here:
    1.) Is homosexual behavior a sin?
    2.) How do we know whether or not it is a sin? (This seems the crucial question to me, and should be settled first)
    3.) What is the government’s responsibility or authority in interacting with sex, marriage, and private property?

  • Jeff…

    Yes, I am pretty much a 5-point Calvinist, assuming that one understands and accurately defines what that means. There are a lot of misconceptions about it.

    Your second question doesn’t seem to be dishonest (unless you know the answer and you’re just trying to trap me). What I mean by dishonest questions are those that knowingly set up a false dilemma or phrase a question in such a way as to corner the other person in some beyond-the-pale location. For example, if I ask you if you have stopped beating your wife, you’re trapped in a lose-lose situation. Likewise, when someone says “why don’t you want to let gays marry or love each other?”, they are placing me in a position they know I don’t hold and are appealing to emotion.

    As to your second question, it seems Jim has answered it quite well and little needs to be added.

  • “It seems that there are three questions relevant here:
    1.) Is homosexual behavior a sin?
    2.) How do we know whether or not it is a sin? (This seems the crucial question to me, and should be settled first)
    3.) What is the government’s responsibility or authority in interacting with sex, marriage, and private property?”

    Nice, you’re focusing us like a laser beam, Jim. Well done.

    1.) Yes, as long as the person involved is doing it of their own free will. Forced homosexual rape is obviously not a sin of the victim anymore than hetero rape. Small distinction, but one that tends to need to be made on sites like these. Otherwise, someone is apt to strain at that gnat.

    2.) The Bible. The Old Testament lays out a pretty convincing case against it, but if that isn’t enough, 1 Corinth. 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 are pretty clear on this point as well.

    3.) This is the most debatable of these questions, primarily because the Bible doesn’t explicitly define the government’s role in these issues. However, we CAN say that as much as possible, the government should refrain from getting involved at all in matters between individuals. And when it does involve itself, it should be for the good of society. So, case in point, one could argue that the government should get out of the marriage business entirely. But since that really isn’t a likely option, then the argument switches to which relationships it should endorse and which ones it should not. So the argument here is that if Jesus is indeed Lord of all, then governments (secular or otherwise) should align themselves as much as possible His Word. After all, just because I may think I’m in some far-off corner of the King’s territory doesn’t change the fact that it is still His and His rules still apply. Furthermore, governments should also be in the business of supporting the health of its citizens. And even if you ignore what the Bible teaches, most studies still show that not only does a healthy hetero relationship best support a nation via procreation, they also indicate that those raised in such familial situations are most likely to be themselves productive and healthy members of society.

    I think there is one additional question that needs to be answered because it comes up in these debates and has come up in this comment thread.

    4.) If homosexuality is sin, how does the Church treat those engaged in it?

    Some people think that the Church treats homosexuals differently. There may be some truth to that, some churches DO treat homosexuality like it’s a worse sin than other sins. Shame on them. But the answer to that is not to just affirm homosexuality as good. The answer is to preach the freedom of Christ found through the Gospel, to teach repentance, and to welcome all who have rejected the lies and turned to Christ.

  • Marusha,

    Actually, God’s overarching attribute is love.

  • I’m not sure that we can pit one attribute of God against another. His Holiness IS terribly important, since that is what the Bible spends most of its time on. The love of God is given far less time than the holiness of God. That said, His love is also very important. But I think Scripturally it seems like it stems from His holiness and goodness rather than the other way around. He is good and holy, so He loves… rather than He loves, so He is good and holy.

  • jeff

    Thanks Jim and Darius. I come from a Wesleyan/Arminian tradition and have always had a hard time understanding why Calvinists do anything, that is why I felt the question was relevant to this discussion. I have heard this explanation before I think, but it is good to hear it again since it helps me appreciate your tradition and overcome my own ignorance about it.

  • Rev. Christopher Byars

    Well, it looks like many more bases have been covered and being the sole Lutheran in this discussion the approach that I have is different to some extent. One of the great paradigms that I have worked through and I believe have presented, but seems to continue to arise is the larger issue that is being brought up in the discussion over and over. The issue of “acceptance” and “approval”. It is the same as was discussed with the story presented in one of the most recent points of wanting something from someone. The issue that is being muddled is that Tony, Alex, and others that have jumped on the GLBT bandwagon is that they define the words “accept” and “approve” as being synonymous. Jesus never did that and undermines Scripture. If this standard were applied in John 8 Jesus’ words “Go and sin no more” would not be a freeing word, but one meant to bind and entrap the woman by not allowing her to continue to engage in the proclivities which I’m sure she found joy. The same would have been true in John 4 when Jesus revealed to the Samaritan woman her sin, no where does He state it is good that she has been married five times and the man she is living with is not her husband, the woman would have found his revelation of those things to be more of a “and?” and the change that the community saw would not have occurred and fewer would have heard the Gospel. I would urge many to look to the “Theology of the Cross” and if you want to read some good theological writings on it I would recommend Gerhard Forde. The greatest gift that sets it apart from the Theology of Glory is how it is a humbling of oneself before God and subjecting ourselves to His correction and rule in our lives. GLBT identity is the idol of the debate because if one cannot approve of the idol then they cannot accept the worshiper of that idol.

  • jeff

    Rev. Byers,
    Could you clarify that last post a little. I am not sure I understand what you are saying in regards to homosexual marriage or lifestyle. Do you mean we can accept homosexual marriage without approving of it? Or are you saying that accepting it is approving of it? I think your last sentence is the key to understanding what you said. It seems to say that ‘hate the sin love the sinner’ doesn’t work, is that correct? I read the post several times but what you mean just isn’t plain to me.

  • Rev. Christopher Byars

    The new paradigm does not accept the “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach and for those who cry out “embrace diversity” that statement is no longer a tolerant statement. So, in this new paradigm it is necessary for you to approve of homosexual relationships in order to accept homosexuals. The two cannot be separated. What I want you to understand is that this is not my stance, but what I have found in each and every discussion with those that feel that homosexuality is a natural condition that should be affirmed and not sinful. So, in essence, for those glbt activists the truth is that if you cannot stand behind gay marriage you hate gays, if you believe that homosexuality is sin you hate homosexuals, and so on and so forth. What is ironic is that the strong anti-homosexual “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church utilizes the same paradigm just on the other extreme which they say if you accept homosexuals and believe in their right to live their lives without fear you must approve of them and are in the wrong in your acceptance/approval. I hope this clarifies.

    In Christ,
    Pr. Chris

  • jeff

    Thanks, your assessment of the paradigm change it is something I have never considered in those terms and helps to clarify a lot. I essentially agree with you assessment but not so much your conclusion.

    “So, in essence, for those glbt activists the truth is that if you cannot stand behind gay marriage you hate gays, if you believe that homosexuality is sin you hate homosexuals, and so on and so forth.”

    Do you say this out of personal experience? I can see how the tone of Tony’s response Katherine Kersten’s article could make someone feel this way but I don’t think that is how most glbt folks and supporters really feel. I certainly have not met all of them (since that is basically impossible) but all that I have met and interacted with understand the struggle that those of us on the outside go through with this issue. I think that both Tony and Katherine hurt both of their arguments with the tone of their writing. Katherine’s is an attempt to make conservatives afraid somewhat hostile towards glbt issues and Tony’s was an emotional reaction to an issue he is passionate about.

    Thanks again for the clarification it will help me as I consider this issue.

  • Korey

    Thanks for the enjoyable discussion. I think it gave me an improved understanding of the perspectives on homosexuality and also how the denial of free will in Calvinism (as I understand it) is just not the room for me off the common hall C.S. Lewis describes in Mere Christianity.

  • I’d say this is as good a place as any to end the discussion.

  • Nathan


    I would agree.


    I just slogged through this thread and read your response back to my questions from so long ago.

    Thanks for replying.

    It’s still a concern to me that your response is basically: “Tony is offensive to me, so people should expect us to be offensive back.”

    I would invite you to consider that the force of your arguments is not lessened by taking what would be for you the “high road” in tone and rhetoric.

    On the use of “postmodern”, I genuinely don’t think you use the term correctly because you basically deploy it as “post-modern = hard relativism, etc.” I could be wrong about your useage, but such a useage is a caricature and betrays a basic misunderstanding of the post-modern critique–which actually has a value.

    On the other hand, anyone who self-consciously says “I’m a post-modern”, in my view, fundamentally misunderstands the category too
    Just something to think about…


  • “It’s still a concern to me that your response is basically: “Tony is offensive to me, so people should expect us to be offensive back.””

    That wasn’t my response, Nathan. My response was that snarkiness or sarcasm isn’t always out of bounds. Jesus, Elijah, and many others employed it in their day when dealing with false teachers like Baal prophets and Pharisees. So I don’t see why using it occasionally against the false teachers of today is so bad (as long as it’s done in moderation, I suppose). If you’ve noticed, I have not been (or tried not to be) sarcastic or condescending toward honest questions like those posed by Alex. My main fault is sometimes I assume too quickly that someone is a false teacher rather than merely a confused or misled seeker. To anyone that I’ve jumped the gun like that, I sincerely apologize.

    My “offense” by Tony (I’m not one to be offended) was that he had the audacity to ridicule me for being sarcastic, condescending, or boorish in my comments yet he does the same exact thing. His hypocritical blind spot is clear to most people on here, as the comments have shown. I’m not the only one to notice this hypocrisy.

    “On the use of “postmodern”, I genuinely don’t think you use the term correctly because you basically deploy it as “post-modern = hard relativism, etc.” I could be wrong about your useage, but such a useage is a caricature and betrays a basic misunderstanding of the post-modern critique–which actually has a value. “

    Fair enough. You are correct that the post-modern critique DOES have its value. Unfortunately, many commenters on here have abused it to the point of hard relativism (to use your term). I’m losing track of how many times I’ve heard variations of “well, that’s just the way you read the Bible, it’s not true for me” on here. Sure, the Bible requires interpretation. And on this side of eternity, no one person will likely interpret it perfectly. But that doesn’t mean it has many right ways to be understood. That’s where the Holy Spirit (and a proper grasp of Biblical hermeneutics) comes in.

  • Darius,

    You say you are not condescending to me, but then you say it’s only because you see me as a confused and misled seeker. I don’t believe I am confused or misled, as stated before.

    Perhaps you shouldn’t see yourself as a theological thought policeman, and instead as a fellow seeker.

  • “I don’t believe I am confused or misled, as stated before.”

    I don’t believe I ever met someone who did believe that about themselves. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

    True, I am a fellow seeker. I don’t have the answers, but I know who does and am willing to point you to them.

  • Darius,

    With all due respect, the person you are pointing me to is Calvin, not God.

  • Nathan

    @ Darius,

    thanks for your response.

    I know the relative merits of sarcasm can be debated/argued…and God knows that I can dish it from time to time with confidence…that being said, when outside the context of its use, I’m probably less comfortable saying because Jesus/Elijah used it we get to use it too. Simply because I ain’t Jesus. 😉

    I remember hearing Mark Driscoll say that because Jesus was harsh we should be harsh too.

    that seems a bit presumptuous…but nevertheless, I appreciate your response.


  • Marusha

    Darius doesn’t need me to stick up for him but I really believe he is trying to point you toward God, not Calvin. The reason why a lot of Christians are into reformed theology (myself included) is because of what they taught and how they fought for the Bible to be known by the common person. Despite what postmoderns think and emergent leaders teach, the Bible is knowable, the Bible is relevent and the Bible contains the truth that gives us what we need to know God and His way to salvation. Please, read what the reformers wrote. Just because they are all old dead guys, does not mean we are smarter than them or know more than them. I need to make it clear that I am in no way elevating them above God, I just think that they pointed toward God and His Word and we can learn from what they found to be so amazing, and why they fought so hard and lost their lives for the truth to be known for even us today.

  • Robert Hagedorn

    The exegesis for the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Genesis causes nervousness, especially among mystics. Why? Because the real sin Adam and Eve committed was anal sex–the mystery Saint Augustine almost solved 1600 years ago. (He thought their sin was normal penile/vaginal sex.) For more information google “WikiAnswers-What is wrong with Robert Hagedorn’s Blogs”

  • Nathan


    sounds like you’re using “postmodern” in the same problematic way.

    I hate to inform all of you, but we’re all “post-modern” in some sense precisely because we live in the era we live in.

    Furthermore, I’ve been around the “conversation” long enough to know that the claim that the Bible is still ‘relevant’ in contradistinction to the purported claims of “emergent leaders” is specious. Neither has any “leader” in the emergent thing ever claimed the Bible is unknowable.

    This may be an oft repeated claim, but repetition does not make something true.

    I’ve sat in the room on numerous occasions and listened to Tony and Brian McLaren and others repeatedly and vigorously affirm the centrality of the entire Incarnation–life, death, resurrection–for the whole creation (that means humans too).A

    I’ve sat in the room and listened to McLaren, out of a clear respect and love of the Scriptures, basically say “the Bible is relevent and the Bible contains the truth that gives us what we need to know God and His way to salvation” and expand further as to what salvation is for and how the Bible equips us to do the good works we were saved for.

    We can contest these things all day, but the claims so casually offered about each other are unhelpful.

    Despite the insistence of certain voices, disagreement on things like gay marriage, evolution, etc. are NOT litmus tests of true Christian identity–no matter how much certain voices claim otherwise. If they are, then we have added to the Gospel and Paul has some pretty harsh things to say about such a move.

    Furthermore, it is abundantly clear that “epistemology” and a particular theory of it has been elevated to yet another litmus test of Christian identity…something NEVER done before in Christian history.

    This is a disturbing turn that makes difficult conversations around these issues almost impossible.

    I grant that we all need to be careful about these things.

    Thanks for listening…

  • Thanks Nathan.

  • Marusha


    I know that trying to define postmodernism goes against the grain of postmodernism. If it tries to define itself it no longer exists, if you will. Yet, here are some things that I have learned about it when I have studied it. I used to consider myself a postmodernist. There is basically a rejection of truth. How can what I say what is true, is true for you? It also seems to be a reaction to modernity. Yes there is some good features to postmodernism, like the questioning of things rather than people just giving in to “this is just how it is, so just go with it” mentality. I know this does not encompass the whole meaning of postmodernism but it has serious implications when it comes to faith in Jesus and how we view the Bible. I know we are living in a postmodern age. But, instead of becoming like the world, I believe Christians are to be transmodern. Guarding and standing up for the truth. I have read and studied emergent leaders. You mentioned McLaren. Just his books alone will show you how diametrically opposed his thinking is to orthodox Christian doctrine. He doesn’t have a high regard for the Bible and he teaches a works righteous salvation rather than the true gospel of grace alone. You will probably disagree with me on all of this and that won’t surprise me, but Christians must test everything in light of Scripture so I would encourage you to do that when in comes to emergent leaders.

  • Marusha

    “Furthermore, it is abundantly clear that “epistemology” and a particular theory of it has been elevated to yet another litmus test of Christian identity…something NEVER done before in Christian history”

    Could you please clarify this for me? I’m not the brightest crayon in the box.

  • Jim

    Small point, Nathan. I don’t think the things you mentioned (homosexuality, epistemology) are used as litmus tests for Christian identity, but for Christian teaching. If a pastor teaches homosexuality is permissible, I don’t know anything about whether or not that pastor is a Christian. I do know, however, that he is not, on this point, teaching Christian doctrine. I can infer (with some, but not total accuracy) that he does not hold to biblical inerrancy, and that therefore we would have little common ground to reason with each other or even minister together. But as much as I know (or guess, perhaps wrongly) about his teaching, I know nothing about his “Christian identity.”

    Justified, elect, persevering Christians can teach doctrine from the pit of hell. I think its possible to condemn that teaching to where it come from, while saying nothing about the Christian’s “identity.” Maybe some do it badly; shame on them.

  • Nathan


    I would have to respectfully disagree. Inerrancy is still dependent on interpretation. One can hold to inerrancy and articulate views on homosexuality grounded in philological arguments. (that’s where most of the literature I’ve read grounds the arguments “for and against”.

    The struggle for most people I know who struggle with this point is not about their view of inerrancy, but their desire to be faithful to the language written there. They have high confidence that God has spoken definitively, and believe that God does not ‘err’, they want to make sure they themselves do not ‘err’. This is must my experience with people around this issue…

    @ Marusha:
    Epistemology is the theories of “how we know” something.
    There are different kinds of ways we know things and some of the arguments around post-modernity have been grappling with those ideas. It’s a big huge long discussion with background and the thought of it just wears me out. haha…


    This is a pretty decent article and you can see how it would connect to issues of “truth” and how we know it…

    Respectfully, I don’t think you can say McLaren does not have a respect for Scripture. You can say that you and he disagree on how to use the Scripture, but that’s something entirely different.

    Also, postmodernity is not the rejection of truth. It’s the rejection of the modernist construction of truth. A construction that too often established truth at the cost of human lives and human dignity. A construction that established “norms”/ truth by the outright creation of an “other” so that what was “good” and “normal” could be defined by its necessarily opposite antecedents. This was a key motivator in the writings of postmodern critics.

    It’s not that there isn’t “truth” or “good” it’s that certain things named with absolute certainty as “good” or “truth” were really contingent realities that should not be absolutized and then were used to hurt people.

    postmodernity (except for very hard forms) is not the rejection of absolutes/truth/right and wrong.

    it’s clear that Tony and others here believe that there is such thing as right and wrong. They believe their views are “right” and “good” and “true”.

    I would argue that this particular point of postmodernity is the embodiment of Tillich’s protestant principle. (i.e. NEVER absolutize the temporal because that is idolatry..phew…there was a lot of “p’s” in that sentence.)

    The real discussion being had here isn’t about who values Scripture more, or who loves the truth more. Although that makes the discussion seem simpler and certain “gatekeeper” voices have tried to cast it as such.

    The real discussion is
    1. When I value Scripture differently than you do how do we have a discussion without devolving into claims that one of us don’t really love God/value Scripture/care about the truth or that one of us is a regressive unsophisticated neanderthal? 😉

    When we make these sweeping claims we alienate each other and, frankly, we aren’t being very loving.

    One of my mentors during my undergrad work articulated the hopeful challenge of postmodern critique this way:

    Let’s come together and listen to each other and let us change each other.

    I hear hints of Christian humility, mutual submission and reconciliation in this…

    Thanks for listening…

  • Marusha


    If only it was that harmless. We can depend on the Bible as absolute truth because it comes from God who is truth. Scripture is not reletive and right and wrong doesn’t depend on what I think it is. My knowledge, however, is reletive; it is always changing and growing. It is impossible to know all truth but we can know it sufficiently. When it comes to biblical hermaneutics there is one meaning of any given passage and we must find out what it is. Where things differ is in its application. Have you heard or read the many different things emergent leaders have said about the Bible? You said you’ve heard hints of Christian humility but I assure you, more than not, it is a false humility. There is an agenda. I used to be steeped in emergent ideals. It is not merely a conversation, because that wouldn’t bother anyone. It is the subtle undermining of Christian faith. Yes, the books and teachings of emergents is extremely compelling which makes it all the more dangerous. I was caught up in it. As to postmodernism, what I should have tried to articulate before, is that it is a disillusionment with the failed promises made by modernity. I’m still trying to figure out how exactly modernity influenced the church and why we have such a strong reaction to that today.

  • Rev. Chris Byars

    The greatest issue of inerrancy is the debate on does the Bible speak of homosexuality as is understood today or not. One of the ways that this is argued in the negative is that no where in ancient Scripture does the modern term “homosexual” appear and in that they are correct. “Homosexual”, as is “Heterosexual”, is a modern construct developed by a psychologist in 1897 in order to normalize a segment of people that were once just categorized as sexual deviants and to give parity to what was normal and acceptable. It is ironic that the postmodern argument on this issue is based upon a modern construct that was created by a man that created a term in an attempt to normalize a sexual perversion that in all prior human history was seen as a taboo and a sign of hedonistic extravagance, Greece and Rome didn’t uphold it as either good or normal, they just saw it as another indulgence.
    My only issue in this is the understanding of sin and whether or not same gendered sexual relations is sinful or not. This has never been answered while still upholding Scripture because one cannot either the Scripture that admonishes is explained away by saying it does not mean what we understand today and even if we set aside the seven verses often debated the question of fornication arises and whether or not we can bless fornication or not.

  • Nathan


    I’m at a loss…

    I’ve not claimed Scripture is relative–whatever that means, or right and wrong is determined by my choice, or truth is unknowable, and I’ve yet to hear an “emergent leader” make these claims.

    So I’m not clear as to who or what you’re responding to…I’m sorry.

  • Nathan

    @Chris Byars,

    I understand your point, and appreciate the insights therein.

    I personally don’t care about the relative merits of either position, my concern is that we can’t simply say that a person who disagrees with the traditional position on homosexuality for theological reasons necessarily does so out of a disregard for Scripture.

    This claim muddies the waters…and is uncharitable…
    most of the people who have done the study and come to the non-traditional reading on the issue do so because they desire to understand the Scriptures clearly. That means they value the Scriptures.

    And when we just reduce their position to their being pejoratively “post-modern” or “not respecting the authority of Scripture” we actually demonstrate that we have not listened well to the why’s and wherefore’s of their position. Even if we believe that position to be wrong.

    My concern here on this thread is not any particular position per se, my concern is the “rhetoric” we use when discussing these positions.

  • Marusha

    I’m at a loss as well. I think we may be talking past each other? I’m having trouble understanding what you are saying. I may have to bow out at this point. I would like to suggest, however, that we cannot seperate the Christian from the essential beliefs about God, what He has done and His Word. What is a Christian without a saving faith? No Christian at all. We cannot make the mistake of building our house on the sand.

  • Nathan

    I would agree that there is a baseline content of belief/theology that informs Christian identity.

    Please accept my apologies if I have not communicated as clearly as I would hope to communicate.

    I appreciate your interaction with me here.


  • Marusha

    It is I who must apologize. I failed to understand. Thank you for the conversation.

  • What I don’t get is how so many claim homosexuality goes against the grain of nature when homosexuality is actually very present in nature.

  • Rev. Chris Byars

    It is present in the brokenness of nature as is murder, conflict, and the like. Animals caniballize themselves should we bless that because it is “natural”? Sin is natural, righteousness is not. We only can be made righteous in God through Christ. In Christ we are reborn in the Spirit. In our natural state we are dead in our flesh. Is our faith to one that celebrates our flesh or the new to Spirit to which we are reborn?

  • Chris,

    Man, I really love how this thread is covering so much. Really.

    I know the belief that nature in all its forms is utterly depraved. I recently heard a sermon and the pastor said he knows we are all inherently selfish because the only reason we stay on our side of the road is so we won’t get hurt, not the other drivers.

    Later, I realized there is also another way to think about this. People swerve at squirrels and birds in the road all the time, and I don’t think it’s because they want to protect themselves. I think it’s because they don’t want to harm the creatures.

    So, while there are inherently selfish parts of us, undeniably so, there are also inherently generous parts of us. So to respond to your question,

    Is our faith to one that celebrates our flesh or the new to Spirit to which we are reborn?

    do you think the answer could perhaps be a simple yes?

  • Rev. Chris Byars

    I guess I could have worded that better, it’s a great reminder of the benefits of good editing. What I meant is more of what Paul speaks of in Romans. The flesh is death, the Spirit is life. So, on the simple yes that is truly not a realistic possibility and has been a heresy of the Church. The struggle that I think you fight is anti-nomianism, which is the belief “there is no law” or that Christ “abolished” the law. It came out strong in the reformation and, like a genie, hard to get back in the bottle.

  • Korey

    When Nathan says “I would agree that there is a baseline content of belief/theology that informs Christian identity”, I assume this is the sticking point between he and Marusha and I suspect myself. Finding the baseline seems to be the essence of denominationalism. I get the impression that Marusha might consider reformed theology as the baseline of orthodox Christianity. Perhaps another might suggest the Nicene Creed or some other stream of thought in the Christian Tradition? I wish there were a way to be more charitable in this without diluting Christian identity or compromising our convictions.

  • nathan



    To be clear for everyone…
    I don’t think disagreement = uncharitable.

    Disagreement is a feature of human relationships. It’s not bad in itself.

    It’s just the “how” and being attentive to each other in our disagreements that concern me.

    Simply because I believe that how we comport ourselves is itself a theology. (We do what we really believe.)

    That’s why I really zeroed in on the use of the term “postmodern” as a pejorative.

  • Korey

    Indeed. If only critical points of contention could be discussed passionately while maintaining the possibility of fellowship and communal worship across a larger swath of Christendom. We seem to need a way to avoid breaching the baseline or so newly redefining its terms so as to render it unrecognizable to prior understandings. History makes it clear that that is a tall order to say the least.

  • Alex

    Institutions preserve the gains of past social movements while simultaneously opposing the proposed gains of current social movements. The most difficult part of a new way of thinking is that while it transcends all that came before, it also embodies all that came before. Most people are one or the other, thinking they can only transcend or only embody when we must do both. It is a difficult but vitally important task.

  • Easy Aspi

    There is an oversupply of perverts. Send them to the Isle of Lesbos on a slow boat.