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The Worst Progressive Argument Ever?

The Worst Progressive Argument Ever? March 19, 2015

I think the worst arguments are the ones where the response of the critic is so obvious that only willful ignorance allows the argument to be made.* Whenever I discuss sexual morality in American, I often hear:

Does your church contain sinners? If so, why pick on this particular community? 

Some members get it now.
Some members get it now.

Generally I read or hear this dreadful argument in the context of those who want to have sex outside Christian until-death-do-you-part-marriage between a man and a woman. Before making the obvious retort, it is worth saying that my particular sin becomes no less sinful because my critic is worse than I am. If I rob banks, think robbing banks is justified by the evils of capitalism, and defend robbing banks, my thievery would not be any better if many of the critics of thievery were robber barons of capitalism. The evils of capitalism might explain my wickedness but could not justifiy it.

My church does contain sinners. In fact, all living members of my church are (almost surely) presently sinning in some manner or another. It contains no members in good standing who think their sin is not sinful. In fact, from the New Testament forward, it was not doctrine that was the fastest way out of fellowship. The church is reasonable and takes time to determine right beliefs and then will take time to argue with the errant reasoner. We draw broad lines and dialog within those lines about many ideas. The fastest way out of the church (see Paul) is to sin and intend to keep on sinning.

Pick a sin: such were some of us. Such are some of us, but we repent. If a sinner comes and says: “My immorality is necessary to human flourishing” then they have ceased to be a Christian. There are no good Christians who justify sin. 

The message is not “just as I am now accept me” but “just as I am without one plea.” Far from having no plea modernity cries: just as I am you must dialog with me.

The obvious retort to this obvious rejoinder to a very bad argument (!) is that many of us sinners simply kid ourselves: we do not see our sin. Surely this is true. Jesus shows me new areas of improvement (sanctification) yearly. He is gracious not to dump it all on me at one time. Thank God for His mercy! Sometimes when he shows me my sin, I take time to see the sinfulness of my sin. What I do not do is form a lobbying group in my church to get rid of the intolerance of my actions.

The church does not welcome sinners as sinners. We welcome humans caught in sin to be redeemed from sin. We come as we are to become different than we are. We come as racists to be purged of our racism. We come greedy to be purged of our greed. Greater still, love, holiness, justice, righteousness replaces our sin over time. If we are not becoming better, our “right beliefs” are a lie . . . we will become what we truly believe.

If I believe I cannot be happy without my deep longings being fulfilled, I will never be happy. I have deep longings that will never be made good because the world is disordered, I am disordered, or the desire is made for eternity. No Christian lives to be fully happy now. The placated consumer gaming his way through life is slowly becoming less human. My job isn’t to judge your progress . . . God may be working on you in ways I cannot say.

I can, however, judge sin. Sin is sinful. See! It is easy!

Of course, this entire discussion of the members in my church ignores most of the membership of my church: the great cloud of witnesses. Those saints who have died and gone to be with the Lord are not at present struggling with their sins and they represent the vast majority of the membership. They rest in peace in Christ and are done with all their labors. My sin is an offense to them and I am glad they tolerate my presence at worship. I must recognize not one great hero of the faith recognized in any church (Roman, Protestant, or Orthodox) would justify the sinful deeds some are designing liturgies to celebrate.

The majority of the members of the church are not changing their mind on sexual ethics. They cannot.

Perhaps all the saints to write on sexuality were totally wrong on divorce, fornication, sodomy, lust, and other sexual sins, but  their voices should be heard. Not all the members of the church are in a state of sin. Say what you will about Wesleyanism and its quest for perfection in this life: John Wesley is now perfect having seen Jesus. 

*This is not an argument against homosexual actions, but is against one argument often used in the discussion about them.

 


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