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Stitching Together Our Quilt Called Community

I was talking with my friend, John, recently about the wonderfully vigorous national conversation about marriage sparked last month by the Supreme Court hearings on Prop 8 and DOMA. John agreed with a politician who publicly expressed a fear that straight people might pretend to be gay so that they could get the special benefits of having a “gay marriage.” I shared with him how this made no sense to me.

John helped me see that the presumption behind this is: The state rewards marriage in order to support the children. This would make gay marriage “profitable” because the couple would have no children but still reap the benefits awarded by the state to them as married.

This raised an interesting question – one I saw hovering over the discussion both inside and outside the Supreme Court – what is the state’s interest in granting privileges through law to married couples?

In other words, what is the purpose of marriage?

For many who have come to embrace the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, that question may be irrelevant. In a country that deeply values individual freedom, all that matters is that the state not interfere in deeply personal life decisions.

While I strongly support the personal freedoms associated with marriage, I also believe that marriage strengthens our communities and humanity. If community is like a beautiful quilt that binds all of us together, then marriage is one very important set of stitches that connect the fabric of humanity.

We can, perhaps, agree that the basic purpose of marriage is, as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Directory for Worship says, “For the well-being of the entire human family.” The love and commitment forged through time between two people – what we call marriage – is crucial for a healthy society. But why?

As John and I continued our conversation, I came to learn that John’s support for the politician’s “special benefits” argument was based on the idea he shared that lesbian and gay couples don’t have children. He listened carefully as I explained that many same-sex couples are wonderful parents to children.

Surely we can agree that the children of gay and lesbian parents benefit when their parents are able to marry as the whole family receives the special supports granted by the state to married couples. The family is the most ancient form of community – and supporting marriage is one way we support the family. If we accept that one purpose for marriage is to support the nurture of children, then we must also acknowledge the truth that all married couples, including same-sex couples, can have children.

The Episcopal Church includes “procreation” in their statement on the purpose of marriage in The Book of Common Prayer but it trails behind “mutual joy” and “the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity.”

The PCUSA speaks of “a covenant” in response to a call “to live out together before God their lives of discipleship” and “a lifelong commitment to each other, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith.” I pointed out to John that my church, the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.), does not mention children in its description of marriage.

Perhaps, that’s because marriage has other purposes that benefit all of us in community together.

For many people of faith, we find one of these in that first moment in Genesis where after placing Adam in the garden, God declares, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper to be his partner” (Genesis 2:18).

Humans are communal. We are stronger when we are together than when we are alone. First, and foremost, marriage allows us to form the loving bonds of care for another that have helped us survive as a human race.

There are other important forms of community that nurture us as humans. Jesus teaches this when he says to the crowd, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). Jesus sees beyond the family to other ways people connect and live well as a beautiful whole like a patchwork quilt.

Marriage, family, and faith are not the only ways that we can be connected to one another. Friendship is yet another. John and I are friends. We may disagree on the purposes of marriage. We can agree on this: It is not good that man be alone. We don’t need to quote Scripture to come to that conclusion.

We cannot stop same-sex couples from being together. But when we discourage it, when we make it harder, we tear at the stitches that bind our beautiful quilt of community together. Neither of us wants to do that.

 


50 Responses
  • JB Richards on May 11, 2013

    Thank YOU, Rev Edwards! Keep on shining that Light of yours in dark places!
    JB Richards, Author
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Miriamne-the-Magdala-First-in-the-Series-of-the-Yeshua-Miri-Novels/206903979347028

    To see more articles like this one, catch up with recent affairs that affect our world, and learn more about the “Yeshua and Miri Novel Series” and the upcoming publication of “Miriamne the Magdala”, the first book in this series, please click on the above link to my Author’s Page.

  • Jeff Hyatt on May 17, 2013

    Greetings Dr. Edwards…I was intrigued by this post that appeared on the HuffPost Religion Blog, and followed you to your own site. I left a brief reply on the HuffPost site, but wanted to join your conversation with my response to your article. I do with all respect, and a desire to engage in conversation with those who regularly read your blog. So, here goes…

    I was interested to read this blog post when I saw it listed on Twitter because I wondered how the sacrament of marriage would be explained. Unfortunately, the clear meaning of the biblical texts cited have been replaced by a generalized preference of human community.

    In Genesis 1 & 2, the creation of humanity as male and female is not primarily about companionship – although the the lack of companionship was the context in which Adam was initially found to exist – it was about the creation of a core human community that reflects the image of God. So why male and female? Because it was in their sameness (human as opposed to the rest of the animal world) and their difference (male and female rather than male and male or female and female) that they reflected a God whom we would come to understand later is tri-unity.

    I agree with the Rev. Dr. Edwards that what the “the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Directory for Worship says, “For the well-being of the entire human family” is correct. However, this statement about humanity benefiting from the God-designed relationship of marriage in Genesis 1 & 2 is not a statement of purpose but of benefit.

    Benefit and purpose are not the same thing, and equating these leaves us with not only a misunderstanding of the biblical texts (regardless of whether we agree with them or not) but also a generic definition of marriage that looses its uniqueness.

    In regards to the removal of procreation from the purpose of marriage, I would also agree with the Rev. Dr. Edwards. This has been the weakness of the conservative Christian argument against gay marriage, I think. A careful reading of Genesis 1 & 2 clearly indicates that procreation (“be fruitful and multiply) is one of the responsibilities that the Creator God gave to humanity. And while natural biological procreation requires both male and female within the human species, it is not specifically the ‘purpose of marriage’ in the biblical texts. When we rely on this argument in an age when we have available to us scientifically manipulated procreation, this argument falls short of convincing.

    Finally, I am not interested in trying to “stop same-sex couples from being together,” even though I do not support and/or celebrate same-sex marriages. We all make ‘moral’ decisions everyday because morality is simply our understanding of what is right and wrong. You do not have to be particularly religious to live by a moral code. It is the human way of making personal and societal decisions.

    However, to argue – as the Rev. Dr. Edwards does – that discouraging same-sex marriage (or any behavior based on this argument) tears away “at the stitches that bind our beautiful quilt of community together” would leave us as a society without an ability to make any decisions. Inherent in the process of choosing anything is to embrace one option while rejecting another. We do this in courtrooms, homes and workplaces everyday.

    In a pluralistic society, we have a variety of worldviews freely represented, and this is a good way to structure a human society. A biblical worldview can stand on its own merit alongside other religious worldviews as well as a secular humanist worldview. We do not need to change any of these to a generic worldview that everyone will find compelling or acceptable. I live out of a biblical worldview which clearly describes marriage as created by God between one man and one woman for the purpose of uniquely living as the image bearers of God in the world – and it also calls me to love my neighbor as myself. I am called to embrace the first in the spirit of the second. God help me to do so.

  • Janet Edwards on May 18, 2013

    Dear Jeff Hyatt,

    I am very grateful for your thoughtful comments. I can certainly see how you are, indeed, holding together your interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 even as you seek to love me and your lesbian and gay neighbors as yourself.

    I have a few comments and questions which I hope will further a rich conversation.

    First, it feels important to me to clarify that I do not understand marriage to be a sacrament in accord with the traditional differences between the Catholic and Protestant streams of Christianity. In my Presbyterian tradition, marriage is a covenant whose parameters have been determined by the state. The role of the church is to witness that covenant, bless it and declare it to the world. I don’t know if this is important to you, Jeff. Is it?

    It seems clear that you and I do interpret the two stories of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 differently. Perhaps most important here, I do not see this as a place where “marriage” is established. Throughout Scripture, our English word. “marriage,” translates a longer Hebrew phrase: “The man takes the woman as wife.” I don’t think that is used here. It is certainly not the case in Genesis 1 where God gives them to each other. In Genesis 2, Adam chooses Eve to be his companion instead of the animals. How do you see these chapters setting marriage in place?

    I think we agree that Genesis 1 and 2 touch upon how human community reflects the image of God but disagree on exactly what in the text does that. As I understand you, you see the image of GOd reflected in the man and the woman together. I suggest that this is more akin to the religions around the Biblical writers in their time. This gives sense to sexual acts being part of their religious rituals and their idols of god. This looking to male and female is exactly what the God of Israel is not and is what God so vociferously objected to.

    Instead, what I see is the covenant as the reflection of the image of God, in other words, love. It is the binding love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that is reflected in the human love in a marriage covenant as well as other relationships. When we clearly see, as we do, the same kind of love between two men or two women that we can see between a woman and a man who are in love, then the covenant of marriage between them makes perfect sense. And reflects the image of God, in my view.

    Finally, let me try to explain better how discouraging marriage of same-sex couples tears at the stitches of our community. Of course, I see the covenantal love between two men or two women as a moral good, contributing to the stability of society by building a family and sustaining each individual’s gifts for service to us all. That love–so beneficial to society–deserves the same legal and church support that love between a man and a woman does. When we make life harder for same-sex couples by denying that support, then, we tear at stitches–loving couples–in the whole fabric of our community. I am not attacking any individual’s or society’s ability to make decisions as you seem to suggest. If you still see this, I need you to explain.

    There is more that could be said but I expect that is enough for us to continue and for others to join in.

    Thanks again for coming here. I look forward to your response.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on May 19, 2013

    I wish to comment on the fear that straight people will pretend to be gay in order to obtain marriage benefits.

    The societal “penalty” being what it is for GLBT people, I doubt anyone would want to pretend to be gay and married (although in my lifetime I have known of several male and female couples who have pretended to be straight/married couples, for the sake of appearances and careers.

    However, that is given our current context in society: being straight is still the norm and being GLBT is deviant from that norm. Should that context change, and it is, the underlying fear is not that people will do whatever they can to get marital benefits. It is, that single, non-married people will try to obtain the same benefits as are afforded married couples. That uncovers, I think, another layer of discrimination in our society, with regard to the civil/legal benefits of marriage (such as survivorship, preference in adoptions, and fiscal relief (i.e. tax deductions, etc.)), to which singles, GLBT or not, are not privileged.

    The bottom line is: if there is a fear that someone will obtain some special status that someone else has, then there is a systemic inequity in place.

    Donna

  • Jeff Hyatt on May 21, 2013

    Hi Janet,

    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response. I will try to reply briefly on each of your points.

    First, I appreciate your clarification on your reference to marriage as a ‘sacrament.’ As I understand the history of that word’s usage, a sacrament would something through which one experiences the grace of God. The historic Christian sacraments were viewed, in my understanding, as being given by God – or at least given meaning or new meaning by God for his people.

    Does your statement, “In my Presbyterian tradition, marriage is a covenant whose parameters have been determined by the state. The role of the church is to witness that covenant, bless it and declare it to the world.” mean that you do not see a defining of the covenant of marriage in the Bible? Does this mean that you see marriage as a human/societal construct?

    What is important to me is to bear witness to the new covenant established in/through Jesus with all those who will enter into the Kingdom. I don’t see the Church as responsible to bless and declare human covenants in the way that I think you are describing it. (I still could be misunderstanding you on this point.)

    Second, I am familiar with the sexualized nature of the surrounding ancient religions, and this is not what I am referring to. In Genesis 1:26-27 we read of God’s creative intention in making ‘mankind’ or humanity in his image. In order to do this, male and female are needed and created. I do not see male and female engenderedness as defining God, but as coming out of God’s life. Together, they are able to reflect something of the image of God that alone they cannot. this, as I understand it, is also what is picked upon in Genesis 2:18 in Adam’s aloneness. Not merely that he needed an assistant, but that in isolation he was not able to live as the image bearer of God that was God’s creative intent. I see the unique covenant of marriage described in Genesis 2:21-25 when creates the woman out of the man’s body and then brings her to him. It is hard for me to understand how verse 24 could be referring to anything other than a marriage covenant that then is enacted – imperfectly – throughout the ensuing pages of the Scriptures.

    I do think I understand, and agree to a certain degree, your description of love being the unitive characteristics in God as Father, Son and Spirit.

    I certainly accept and see that the ‘agape’ love of God can and should be shared between people. That is what we are called and empowered to in Jesus through the Spirit (1 Cor. 13 for example). Sharing that love, however, does not equal the unique covenant of marriage as I understand it. The love of family, friends and neighbor certainly reflects the image of God in the world – I agree with you! But as you might know better than I, there are different kinds of love to be had between human beings – even in the texts of Scripture. Coming together in erotic (eros) love between any two people who are not in the unique covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is described in the Scriptures as sin – missing the mark of living as the glory reflectors / image bearers of God.

    I’m not sure how you view the Apostle Paul, as some whom I have interacted with on these topics write him off as a sexist, bigot, and homophobic, but he saw same-sex expressions of ‘eros’ as a prime example of the rejection of God’s creative intent. (Romans 1:18-32)

    Lastly, I have no interest in trying to make life harder for same-sex people. Our society, in the past, saw marriage in the traditional sense as a moral good worth supporting and encouraging, and out of that desire came tax benefits and unique legal relationships. I have no problem reviewing this arrangement with its benefits, even though I benefit from them myself. What I don’t agree with is the need to redefine marriage as the only path to legal equality in our country.

    My comment about making decisions was in regards to your final paragraph where you said, “But when we discourage it, when we make it harder, we tear at the stitches that bind our beautiful quilt of community together.” Please correct me if I am misunderstanding your meaning. By the nature of choosing to support and celebrate same-sex marriage, you are choosing to discourage and move away from the position of traditional marriage as one man / one women. That is just part of embracing one idea over another. So if we can’t make these decisions individually or as a community because they discourage or make things harder for those who hold a differing view point, then how can we make decisions?

    Perhaps I am not understanding your meaning, and I apologize if I am. Could you clarify for me what you mean by your imagery of the “stitches” that bind our community? Are there any “stitches” that are to be found unacceptable?

    Thank you for your dialogue with me!

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  • Jeff Hyatt on May 21, 2013

    Hi Donna,

    I agree with you that this argument is baseless. While I do not support same-sex marriages, I too get tired of many of these kinds of fear-based arguments from those who share my position.

    Fear of loosing one’s ‘special status’ is a very poor basis for making decisions, and I have no problem in having the tax and legal advantages/disadvantages reviewed in our country.

    Thank you for your comment.

    Jeff

  • Janet Edwards on May 22, 2013

    Dear Donna and Jeff,

    Thanks, Donna, for bringing up the ways preservation of privilege is a part of the tensions in our country around the freedom to marry.

    And it delights me that we all agree that fear of losing privilege should not be central the direction we take in the movement with regard to marriage happening among us.

    What you point to, Donna, that intrigues me is the inequality between single and married folk. I know there are many who want to end all special legal provisions for marriage.

    I clearly see marriage as a good that we ought to encourage. At the same time, I am very willing to listen to a pitch for ending legal favoring of married couples. Do you want to make that case?

    Peace be with you both, Janet

  • Janet Edwards on May 23, 2013

    Dear Jeff,

    I so appreciate your frank explanations of where you are coming from in your understanding of Scripture, Christian faith and marriage. Let me comment on some of your thoughts and answer your questions as succinctly as I am able.

    I think, with regard to “sacrament” and “covenant” we miss one another because of what I would call a distinction between capital letters and small letters. Let me try to explain.

    In my Presbyterian tradition, a Sacrament is defined as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” And there are only two Sacraments, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. In the first, the bread and wine are the outward signs of Jesus’ love and sacrifice (grace) by which we are saved. In Baptism the water is the outward sign of the falling of the Holy Spirit (grace). I tend to reserve the word “sacrament” for these two traditions of the universal communion of saints.

    The Catholic Church, and perhaps you, include marriage as a Sacrament, meaning an outward sign of God’s grace in the covenant made first with creation, then with Israel and then with the church through Jesus. As I say, I do see marriage as an example of God’s loving covenant with us but it cannot rise, for me, to the level of Sacrament because not everyone is called to it (as is true for Communion and Baptism). And that leads me to the other important word, “covenant”.

    My impression is that you limit the word covenant to the new covenant offered in Christ by which believers are welcomed into the kingdom. Please correct me if I am wrong there. I certainly see that as important but obviously I use “covenant” in a lot more ways, seeing it as a theme throughout Scripture. There is the covenant of the rainbow with God’s promise not to destroy creation again, the covenant with Saul as King which God retracts, the covenant with David as King that also becomes problematic and which Jesus reinstates in Christian belief. I see the covenant of marriage as a “small c covenant,” as I say, reflecting all of these efforts at relationship offered to us by God because God loves us (grace).

    And I see the reflection of this love in the covenants LGBT people make to one another which we all recognize as marriage. To speak to one of your last points now, I do not see any either/or here. I don’t see this love between two women or two men negating or challenging in any way the married love between a man and a woman. Both are good, both are stitches in the fabric of community. It seems to me that you see an either/or of some sort here. Is that correct? If so, then I’d like to understand what brings you to that view.

    Let me jump quickly to your very helpful elaboration of your understanding of Genesis 1 and 2. I accept that you don’t see your view as being akin to Baal/Asherah worship. Still, you say that a man and a woman “together, they are able to reflect something of the image of God that alone they cannot,” that seems to me to be exactly the pagan understanding that the Hebrews were told to resist. It borders, for me, on leaving single people out of being made in the image of God. Is that really what you want to suggest?

    You and I do have very different interpretations of the Creation story which is what, for me, the first two chapters of Genesis are. I get that you see in Genesis 2:24 the establishment of marriage. I hope you see that this is an interpretation. The words there do not inherently need to mean “marriage”–that is the meaning you pour into them. And many others find, with you, that meaning there, of course. My question is: Can we live together with different understandings of this passage and, more broadly, different understandings of what Scripture teaches us, as a whole, about marriage? I pray we can, as I say, partly because, for me this is not an either/or.

    Just a few more quick things; I do not see what is going on now as “a redefinition of marriage.”We are getting at the heart of marriage which is the love between the two people. If you want me to explain that more I will.

    I do not think marriage is the “only path to equality.” In my state there is no law against discrimination toward LGBT people in housing, employment or other central elements of life so we have many steps on the path to equality to take here as do lots of other communities.

    Finally, I do not see Paul speaking in either Romans or Corinthians about erotic love between two men or two women. In every instance, Paul is talking about either lust (which we all–gay and straight–are potentially tempted by) or idolatrous pagan sexual ritual (which were both gay and straight at that time and I trust we would agree is sin).

    This is my best effort right now to explain myself. I hope it is clear to you and I am eager for your response.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on May 23, 2013

    Not really, Janet. Just an observation.

    Thanks Jeff!

    Donna

  • Bill on May 24, 2013

    What “if” God was so awesome in power that without lifting a finger, he breathed into being all of creation. What “if” he was so awesome that he found 40 people to write down his heart and mind so that all who would later seek him could read his word and understand. What “if” he made the Bible ( his word) so easy to understand that any average person could understand it? Wouldnt that be awesome…..
    And that is the God I know. When he said not to steal, he meant not know, not ever. When he said do not commit adultery, he meant not now, not ever. I just for the life of me, dont understand why its that hard to believe. Surely a God of that power could accomplish that task?
    Nobody else here thinks thats possible?

  • Bill on May 24, 2013

    “not now”…..sorry.

  • Jeff Hyatt on May 24, 2013

    Dear Janet,

    Your explanation of your understanding and usage of the word sacrament and covenant is helpful for our conversation, and I share your understanding on both of these. I have spent most of my growing up years in Baptist churches where the term of choice was ordinance in reject of what was considered the Catholic designation, sacrament. While I have benefited from some Catholic traditions, their doctrine of the Sacraments is not one that I share.

    I am currently pastoring a non-denominational church community in Minnesota. (Just to reveal a bit about my context) As involved as you seem to be in LGBT causes, you probably know that our state legislature just passed legislation, signed into law by our governor of the same party, to re-write our marriage legislation to remove any reference to gender. So this is a fresh conversation for us – cause for celebration by some and grief for others.

    Back to the topics at hand…

    Covenants throughout the OT period, I would argue, were not simply expressions of love. I think that would be an over simplification at best. A covenant was a binding of oneself to another, based upon the terms at hand, including blessings and curses for breaking it. A very graphic illustration of this is found in Genesis 15 where God makes a covenant with Abraham based upon his very life. Anyway…I agree with you that there were covenants (big and small) throughout the OT which led up and and informs the New Covenant in/through Jesus.

    In regards to my view of the image of God in the male and female: I do see a uniqueness in the marriage relationship of a man and a woman. This is different from, the way in which an individual reflects God in the world. Perhaps a better way to say it would be to use Paul’s words from Ephesians 5:31-32 “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Here Paul quotes directly from Genesis 2:24 in referring to how this marriage relationship between a man and a woman reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church. It is unique, but it that doesn’t mean that an individual in relationship with God and other can’t reflect the glory of God in the world. Marriage, however, is significant and unique.

    I certainly can co-exist with people who think differently than I do. In fact, I have been actively seeking out these kinds of conversations and relationships over the past 5 years, and it has been very beneficial. However, I think we hold some very different ways of approaching the Scriptures that will leave us unable to come to a common perspective at the same time.

    I am familiar with the perspective that all of the texts that refer to homosexuality in the Scripture aren’t really about monogamous same-sex relationships. However, a plain reading of the text in the historical-literary context does not back this up. The Creation stories, in Genesis 1 & 2, simply portray the creation of male and female as the image bearers of God for the flourishing of human kind and ruling over the earth with God. Whether you see the covenant of marriage reflected in Genesis 2:24 as Paul did, same-sex marriages or unions have never been the normative relationship within the people of God within the Scriptures.

    The texts which speak negatively about homosexual intercourse are always dismissed by my friends in town as we converse. “No one follows the Holiness Codes in Leviticus, therefore they don’t apply.” “The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was violence not homosexuality.” “Jesus never said anything against homosexuality, and when he cited the Creation story as the basis for marriage he was only talking about commitment.” I don’t know if you share these perspectives, and I’m not attributing them to you. I am listing them because they leave my friends and I at an impasse that they feel as well. Our conversations typically develop to this point, and then we run into a point where neither one of us are willing/able to leave behind our ways of reading the texts.

    Thoughts?

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  • Jeff Hyatt on May 24, 2013

    Hi Bill,

    I’m new to this blog, and am just joining the conversation. I find myself in your email in seeking to see, understand and respond to what God teaches through the writings of Scripture. I find these conversations difficult and beneficial to me, however.

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  • Bill on May 24, 2013

    Hi Jeff. I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts. When I first started reading the Bible and going to church, it all seemed so hard to me. Every Pastor seemed to have thier own idea of what was being said. How was I ever going to make sense of it! My life was miserable and God just wouldnt help me. Then I heard someone say that God sometimes hides the truth from people that want thier own will to be done rather than God’s. That was a defining day for me and I realized that God had thought of me. So I sat down and started reading, not with my own wants or agenda. And it was simple! From what I have seen, the vast majority of people make it hard because they have an agenda they want justified. If a person reads it wanting to do the Lords will ( Lords Prayer, “let thy will be done”), it is amazingly easy. I dont claim to understand it all, but when God says “Dont do this”….thats what he means.
    Thanks for contributing here.

  • Janet Edwards on May 26, 2013

    Dear Jeff and Bill,

    Thanks very much to you both for continuing the conversation here. I hope my comments further our seeking to know and serve God in Christ better and together.

    Jeff, as far as I know myself, I do not dismiss the verses used most often to judge LGBT folk as sinners. I do interpret them differently from you based upon two things. I have already spoken briefly to the historical contexts for these passages which lead me to conclude that all of them are about situations and practices very different from loving, committed, covenantal relationships upon which families and fruitful lives are built(marriage).

    The other thing that influences my interpretation of these passages is the approach my church, the PCUSA, has crafted in the past century to find our way interpreting Scripture together as a faith community. We take several equally important considerations into account every time we approach any part of the Bible: Jesus’ redemptive activity, the plain text (including grammar and historical context), guidance of the Holy Spirit for interpretation and application, doctrinal consensus of the church (including tradition), the rule of love (God and neighbor), earnest study (including familiarity with the cultural context in which the divine message came), and the particular passage in light of the whole Bible. When I prayerfully do all these things, the passages you cite do not hold up as the kind of clear message Bill finds there.For me, the commandment against adultery is about exactly that–fidelity–and is as applicable to all marriage, including between two men or tow women.

    To put this more simply, there is much, much more of Scripture to be brought to bear upon marriage of same-sex couples than just these passages. There are lots of passages I interpret as positive statements about LGBT people and our relationships. I hope you look at the Conversations section of this website—all these LGBT and ally Christians share how Scripture brings them to their conclusions about the place in God’s heart of LGBT people and relationships. In particular, I commend to you the conversation with Rev. Oby Ballinger, another Minnesotan. You can find him through the search line and perhaps even contact him in real life for what I know would be a blessed conversation.

    There is so much more I want to say so if I am not touching on something you said of particular importance to you, please speak to it again.

    I want to add this one thought. As far as I know myself, I am not really seeking with those who disagree with me what you call “a common perspective at the same time.” What I want is our different perspectives to live together in the church at the same time, letting the Holy Spirit continue to work upon us through the course of time which is the way I find the Spirit works most of the time.

    In my Presbyterian tradition we hold our church together with this tenet: In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity. In my view, faith in Christ is the essential and all three of us share that. Marriage is a non-essential that has clearly changed through the course of time and can change again, as the Holy Spirit is inspiring right now. And I am grateful that we are committed to charity toward one another.

    I look forward to your responses, Peace be with you both, Janet

  • Bill on May 26, 2013

    Hello Janet,
    This seems so plain to me, but I would honestly try to see it your way if you could explain to me how this doesnt mean what it says? Take your time..
    Thanks,
    Bill

    1 Corinthians 6:9

    New International Version (NIV)

    9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men

  • Donna on May 27, 2013

    Hi Janet,

    This may or may not apply to the current topic, but I wanted to put it out there…

    As I continue with my “self study” of theology and religious studies, now in “the lost gospels,” I’ve come across not only interesting perspectives on the history of the Bible but the construct of the Bible itself. Currently, I’m in the book “Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity” by Elaine Pagels and Karen King.

    Pagels and King offer an interesting take on the construct of the Bible based on the diverse nature of the various Christian sects – and their disagreement – and the necessary politics involved in forming an overall point of reference (the Bible) rather than each sect affiliating with only one apostle.

    I won’t bore you with all of that. What is interesting to me, that these authors point out, is that despite the effort to promote a unified reference text and an harmonious community, the very texts within the Bible relay disagreements on issues. For example, Paul calling Peter a hypocrite, because Peter would not eat with Christians when Jews were around.

    The authors add to that the political “layer” of those men who selected the texts to be included in the Bible. But I won’t bore you with that either.

    What is important is a couple of the observations they highlight:

    1) “Recognizing that the New Testament gospels contain many such stories in which Jesus’s followers are portrayed as disagreeing, we can see that despite their disagreements, those on both sides of the argument usually remained within the same community. Most conflicts the gospels describe show that Christian groups, then as now, were able to accept a variety of viewpoints on controversial issues without dividing.” p 39.

    2) “Church leaders established the canon at a specific and critical time in history and for a specific purpose: to endorse a list of books ‘approved’ for reading in public worship in order to unify the movement under their leadership…an enormous range of churches…all draw upon the same collection of New Testament books, and read them in worship.” p 103.

    My point is that we accept as God’s ultimate truth what some politically motivated folks put together a very long time ago. Yes, they were Christian, but what did they leave out? Were they right in doing so? Do we have the whole picture? I’ve also read the same about the Old Testament and the laws as given by Moses (the Pentateuch), that the purpose was specifically for nationbuilding (much like our Constitution). These are big questions, but really there is only one answer: faith. By faith we believe that the Bible is the true and accurate word of God (although we cannot prove it). By faith we try to honor Christ’s command and ideals (although we fail). By faith, we raise questions about God and God’s purpose on such issues as same-sex relations, and by faith I think we must conclude “we cannot know” God’s intent.

    So, Janet, I understand your reason for staying with the PCUSA. I tend to think that same-sex relations is an issue both sides of the argument can continue to work out (or not) but still believe in the same Scripture as well as worship together. That is, remain united, by faith.

    Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with an anecdote.

    Prior to the 2012 presidential election, I was made to answer, on a certain blog, this question: “How can you vote for Romney? He’s not even Christian! Do you know he believes God is an alien and resides on some planet in another universe?”

    I paused for a while and instead of a long response answered with “So?” The person responded with more anti-Mormon muckety-muck, never getting the clue that my “So?” meant: is that really so different from Christianity where we believe in a God we don’t see, has no form, somehow impregnated a virgin, and begat himself, lived in human form, had magical healing powers, died, came back to life, and then ascended to a Heaven that we don’t know what it consists of or where it is located?

    Indeed, by faith we can accept what we cannot know and still remain united, until evidence arises otherwise.

    Donna

  • Jeff Hyatt on May 27, 2013

    Hi Donna,

    As you probably read in Pagels work, the “lost gospels” are not really that – which is probably why you put that in quotes. 🙂

    These psuedonymous gospels are more acturately described as the Gnostic Gospels that were written hunderds of years after the life of Jesus. They are not connected to any of the Apostles, despite their name.

    The OT collection of Scriptures had already been translated into Greek (the commerce language of the day) before Jesus’ birth. It was referred to as the Septuagint because of the legend that it was translated by 70 scholars. Along with the Hebrew language texts, the Septuagint is quoted in the NT.

    What is now the canonical gospels were written and circulated among the churches, along with some of the letters of Paul and Peter during their life time. There certainly are writings of Paul, for example, which were not preserved. 2 Corinthians, for example, is believed to be a third letter that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, the second letter no longer existing.

    The Canon of the NT was finally agreed upon by the bishops of the church around 400 A.D. The need for such a clearly agreed upon canon of writings was brought about the formulation of a ‘canon’ by a man named Marcion who was eventually excommunicated for heresy. Without the controversy, the need apparently would not have been so pressing even at that time.

    I will push back on what you wrote: “My point is that we accept as God’s ultimate truth what some politically motivated folks put together a very long time ago.” I think that this is a misunderstanding of what motivated the final formulation of the NT canon, and the reliability of the writings that we have. The NT writings are better attested to by far than any of the ancient writings.

    Redaction criticism, which begins with a theory that editors collected fragments from different places/people and compiled them into a cohesive unit under a pseudonym, shows its card from the outset. The conclusion is nearly determined before the work with the text is even begun. If you would like to read some other scholarly work that does not share this starting point, I would suggest the following works:

    “The Canon of Scripture” – F.F. Bruce
    “The New Testament Documents” – F.F. Bruce
    “Judas and the Gospel of Jesus” – NT Wright
    “The New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content” – Bruce Metzger

    Blessings on your studies!

    Jeff

  • Donna on May 27, 2013

    Thanks Jeff – I’ll take your recommended list into consideration as I work down my own list.

    Thank you for the overview of the history. If I recall correctly, the NT gospels were were written(at the latest) by 150 AD and it sounds as though the “lost gospels” were estimated to be written around 180 AD.

    It is my understanding that the first Bibles were commissioned by Constantine in 300 AD, the contents of which were derived from lists drawn up and distributed to churches by Iraneus, Esubius, etc. Canonical Bibles were formally accepted much later, in the 1400s and 1500s.

    We will have to agree to disagree on the political motivations of Iraneus, etc. My point is that by faith we accept the discernment of these ancient scholars, and by faith we accept the Bible as true and “inspired writings” because people many years ago decided on it. We cannot know what the truth is given these circumstances only accept by faith that the Bible we look to is what God intended. So, I think you missed my point entirely.

    Peculiar that today we will stand firm on the verity of a document like the Bible and yet call the US Constitution “flawed.” But I digress…

    Best,

    Donna

  • Jeff Hyatt on May 27, 2013

    Donna,

    I’m sorry if I missed your point. I do understand where you are coming from on our need to accept by faith that the Bible is the reliable Word of God. Faith is necessary, to be sure!

    My point was meant to be in conjunction with yours. The historical reliability is quite strong, and are some of the most reliable of ancient documents within textual criticism.

    Here is a very accessible timeline of the history of the Bible.

    http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefactsandlists/a/History-Of-The-Bible.htm

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  • Donna on May 28, 2013

    Thanks Jeff.

    Here is a chronology of the “lists” by author:

    http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_canons.htm

    From there you can find this site’s definition of gnosticism, but more than that, an exhaustive account of those who wrote against heresies, some 180 of them, with gnosticism being one of the greatest because it seemed to be readily taking hold.

    What I’m saying is that you believe the Bible is true and correct because it was decided for you to believe so. For them (in the link above), it was more their struggle against variant forms of Christianity that produced the Bible and eventually the formal church.

    What I’m saying is that Christianity still today is as diverse – from Roman Catholic to Quakers to Pentecostal – and do not these same sects today tend to one heresy or another?

    GLBT inclusion, in my opinion, is not so radical an issue by comparison.

    As my anecdote relays, the Christian truth is not very different from the Mormon truth when viewed from non-judgmental eyes.

    Best,

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on May 29, 2013

    Dear Bill,

    Thanks so much for asking about 1 Corinthians 6:9 as it offers a good example for application of some factors encouraged by the PCUSA when reading Scripture.

    Paul uses two Greek words there, “arsenekoitai” and “malekoi.” There is no other use of these words in all of known ancient Greek literature, which creates a challenge for us since establishing what a word in a dead language means is primarily determined by comparing its uses in a variety of places. In the case of these two words there are no other places or writers to compare 1 Corinthians to.

    What we do know is that these words are recognizable because they combine some common Greek words. We know they literally mean, “male beds” and “soft men.” The most common English translation is “ “effeminate” for “malekoi” and “abusers of themselves with men” for “arsenokoitai.” This is what the 1611 King James Version does.

    But, of course, you know that there are a host of English translations now and there is a wide range of translations which you can find if you google these two Greek words. The translators of your New international Version made their choice. And that’s what that is: prayerful, considered choice, but a choice none-the-less. These choices have great consequences, of course.

    The process for choosing sacred Scripture that Jeff and Donna are discussing is rich and long. Acknowledging this does not diminish the Bible’s power and centrality to our knowledge of God and God’s will for us. It does mean that there are more people involved in the Spirit inspired choice of biblical content and the meaning of it than you speak of. We are participating in this process when we discern together Paul’s meaning in his letter to the Corinthians.

    My understanding is that you read Paul as speaking here of all men who engage in sex with men. I read it as men who abuse themselves and other men. None of the gay men I know do this as far as I know.

    I trust that you and I can agree: any behavior that abuses another (man or woman) or oneself is contrary to God’s will for us. That said, can we live together as Christians with our different interpretations of “arsenokotai” and “malekoi?” Can we love our gay neighbors as ourselves and leave judgment to God as Jesus tells us to do?

    Peace, Janet

  • Janet Edwards on May 29, 2013

    Dear Donna and Jeff,

    Thanks to you both for this lovely exchange. It makes me really happy when we share perspectives and knowledge and all emerge enriched by it. This certainly is the case for me here.

    And I want to take this opportunity to pick up on one of Jeff’s earlier points, that is, what you call the uniqueness of the marriage between a man and a woman.

    Please correct me if I am wrong: I think we agree that marriage is a covenant that reflects the centrality of covenant to God. My understanding goes this way: God is love, love means relationship, relationship means covenant and one powerful human covenant is marriage.

    We can also, agree, perhaps, that Scripture lifts up marriage as a particular covenant that reflects God’s love and was lifted up as such by the prophets particularly Hosea and Isaiah.

    I would suggest that their comparison of marriage with the covenant between God and Israel is the foundation for the shift through time from marriage as the man taking possession of the woman to the way we understand marriage now as a mutual commitment to have and to hold.

    In the prophets, God yearns for a mutual love with the people. I see Paul hinting at this, as well, in his comparison of Christ and the church to a married couple.

    In all of this, what I do not see is any uniqueness to the partners in the marriage being a man and an woman. There are in Scripture both male and female images for God and, in my experience, God is a mystery beyond these human categories. We know Israel, creation and the church are not inherently female though the marriage image in the prophets may assign these places to them.

    And I need you to say more, Jeff, to be convinced that finding uniqueness in the coupling of a man and a woman does not cross a line into idolatry. I guess I need to understand better what you mean by “unique.”

    Donna, your notion that all variations of Christians today are heresies is intriguing to me. I like the idea that the early church found a way to hold the heresies together by including their perspectives in Scripture. We have four gospels not one harmonized one. We have Paul’s letters and John’s. I’d love to hear what others see in this idea.

    Peace, Janet

  • Jeff Hyatt on May 29, 2013

    Hi Janet,

    I do think that we are close in our perspectives on marriage as you describe in your first paragraph. I would want to modify your description just a bit, however. You wrote: “God is love, love means relationship, relationship means covenant and one powerful human covenant is marriage.” Where I have a difference is that I would want to say that love is expressed in relationship. Love “is” a commitment to work for the ultimate good of the beloved. (I would say). Each of the connecting words I would want to modify. Covenant is a kind of relationship, but it is not the only kind even in the Bible. The final phrase I would very much agree with. These differences for me are significant, not merely semantics. 🙂

    I have to run right now, so I will continue interacting with your post probably tomorrow.

    So…to be continued.

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  • Donna on May 29, 2013

    Hi Janet,

    I would like to reiterate my phrase “tend to” and not completely characterized by any particular heresy.

    Some that are:

    Jehovah’s witnesses: Monotheism, Psilanthropism

    Mormons: Sabellianism

    Eastern Orthodox: Nestorianism

    Baptist: belief of innocence at birth is a part Pelagianism

    Those that tend toward heresy, in my opinion, are:

    Pentecostal: elevation of the Holy Spirit over the whole of the Trinity

    If you’re Roman Catholic, the whole of Protestantism is heretical, is it not?

    Donna

  • Donna on May 29, 2013

    Janet, Jeff,

    I’d like to add what I’ve come to understand with regard to relationship and that is actually a combination of both your premises.

    The male/female relationship established in Genesis *is* unique (or as Jeff says “they reflected a God whom we would come to understand later [a]s tri-un[e]”), but I’ve come to understand this uniqueness primarily because of purpose: procreation. Together they share the great gift of life, which in that way, is a likeness of God (they create life, God creates life).

    However, not all male/female relationships reproduce, and yet they have relationship with God in marriage, so relationship cannot be primarily about creation, particularly with consideration of those who do not marry at all and yet dedicate their lives to God (a relationship).

    We marvel at young men and women today who dedicate their lives to Christ and grow as they age in relationship with Him. How is it then that when they meet another such person (of the same or different gender) that relationship with God changes? I think it doesn’t. I know it doesn’t.

    So aside from purpose, and aside from medical advances, even though two naturally born males or females cannot reproduce, they can enjoy together a life in Christ even as they did apart. It is church teaching that relays otherwise.

    Another point I’d like to make is about writers. I’ve always felt that writing is a gift from God, as much as is the ability to dance, make music, preach, and so on. Of the Christian writers I’ve read and preachers I’ve heard in my lifetime, and the rare occasion when I’ve done both, I’ve noted one peculiar aspect of inspiration: anointing, and by that I mean the anointing of the Holy Spirit. You know it as a writer or a preacher what is your inspiration and what is God’s anointed inspiration, and very often so does the audience.

    It is this anointed inspiration that I wonder about most when it comes to the Bible, because, let’s face it, if we were getting God’s message right from the start with the original law, then why the need for Jesus? The fact is we (humanity) didn’t get it right, and if Jesus’s arguments with the church leaders of His day are of any virtue, it’s perfectly clear that the law was not at all what God had in mind. For hundreds and hundreds of years, the law was followed, and then Jesus begins teaching, and he begins teaching the various ways the law was “really” meant not what it had come to mean (calling rabbis and priests alike hypocrites).

    This is what leads me to think critically about the Bible as being described as perfect and true (along with a good education). All of it is wonderfully inspired *but* we must acknowledge that imperfect, self-centered, and sometimes self-inspired human hands and minds did the work, so not all of it is anointed by God.

    Donna

  • Bill on May 31, 2013

    Hello Janet and Donna,
    Then if the Bible isnt correct in everything its says, it cant be “Holy”. Right? And if it isnt Holy, then it cant be from God and would have to be by man. Then people would pick and choose what they want to believe ( or not believe). And then division will occur. So, we are back where we started. Some churches dont believe the Bible as being Holy ( Liberalism) and other see it “as the true and correct word of God. “Holy”. And that I believe is why we will never agree on the subject of same-sex marriage. If the Bible isnt Holy, then its nothing and we believers refuse to give up our Lord…….

  • Donna on May 31, 2013

    Hi Bill,

    Bill, my point is the difference between anointed and inspired. Lots of things that weren’t so good (even considered evil) were done by the belief that they were inspired by God: the Crusades for one, the Inquisition for another. And we can even look at the Reformation as an example as well (Luther vs. Catholic Church), and actually we’ll use it because it illustrates best what I’m trying to say.

    If you can agree that both Protestant and Catholic churches are Holy, but that Protestant churches came to because of a different interpretation of the Bible, while still recognizing the Bible as Holy, then you’ll get my point. Martin Luther saw a corrupted church – many rules that had come about based on Biblical interpretation (excuse me if I dilute the story some for brevity), and went about proposing changes. Eucharist, Bible reading, personal practice/devotion, and so on. Others after him went further – removal of iconography, baptism. Does Luther’s work make the Catholic Church any less inspired or anointed of God? I think not. Nor does it change the Bible or make it any less Holy. The interpretation and implementation of practice changed based on Luther’s inspiration (we say “by God”).

    Two other examples which illustrate my point are when Moses acts opposite of God’s wishes (and is denied entry into the promised land) and when Jesus points out that Moses gave certain laws concerning divorce to please the people. These clearly show that one of the people closest to God inserted his own sense of inspiration rather doing what God ordained. Does that make Moses less Holy? No. Does that make the Bible less Holy. No.

    What it does do is give us a glimpse of God’s toleration of humanity and our ability of using an anointed state to advance our own sense of what would please God. Jesus is the only example who does not fail at this as we do.

    It’s not about picking and choosing from the Bible certain things to believe or not to believe, nor to disregard the Bible as unholy, but rather to determine the appropriate interpretation.

    I happen to see God’s movement in the Bible as a covenant that is ever-widening – from a select group (Israelites) to including the outcasts in that society (the poor, maimed, etc.) to eunuchs (Isaiah) to gentiles and all those who will come to Christ for salvation.

    That being said, I think God’s swath of love covers a lot of diversity and that people who believe like me and people who believe like you can still worship side by side. It’s not a matter of right and wrong belief in my mind, it’s a matter of being able to live together in Christ.

    This is where Janet and I differ on method. I don’t wish to persuade anyone from what they believe to be true, but that doesn’t mean anyone should deny me my belief of what is true.

    Can you live with “agree to disagree” in order to move the church forward in its purpose?

    Gotta go…

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on June 1, 2013

    Dear Bill,

    For me, the flaw in your logic is the original assumption that the holiness of Scripture requires everything in the Bible to be “correct.” I expect my thought will make you wince but only you can say if it does: The truth of this statement depends on what is meant by “correct” and “holy.”

    Let me take the example you brought up, 1 Corinthians 6:9. What is correct there? It seems to me that the correct words for our English Bibles are “male beds” and “soft men” as that is exactly what the scribe wrote down in Greek. Then we open our hearts to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to grasp what the correct meanings of “male beds” and “soft men’ are for Paul and God’s word to us.

    I understand that certainty is central to your faith in Christ. I suggest to you that it is possible to be a faithful follower of Christ and to have less personal certainty about what the Bible says than you have. I would also say that this kind of faith can have just as much commitment as you have to Scripture as the word of God (I don’t capitalize “word” because I reserve that for Jesus, John 1:1).

    In the congregation I am part of, we say that we take Scripture seriously (and we do). We do not take it literally. For example, Christian tradition has almost never taken the Song of Songs literally. Instead we turn the frank erotic poetry (not specified, by the way, between a married couple) into imagery of the love between God and the church. What is a “correct” interpretation of Song of Songs?

    I would love to hear more about what you mean by “holy.” I hope you share that with us.

    Peace, Janet

  • Bill on June 2, 2013

    The Elements of Liberalism

    by Matt Slick

    In the context of Christianity, liberalism is the moving away from traditional, historical interpretation of Scripture into “new” interpretations that are more consistent with secular views. Liberalism occurs in different forms and intensities. Some liberals deny that Jesus even existed, or say that the Bible is a good book full of moral teachings, or that Adam and Eve were metaphors, etc. On the other hand, there are liberals who hold to the essentials of the Christian faith but depart from its literalness in historic understanding in areas such as male only elders – the topic under examination in this section. So, since liberalism is a constant threat to Christian teaching, wouldn’t it make sense to examine some of the elements of liberalism?

    Following is a list of basic principles, and examples, that reveal some aspects of liberalism. Of course, not all liberals hold to all the points, but as you read through them you should see that it comes down to one thing, not believing the Bible for what it says.
    1.Denial of inspiration, inerrancy, and/or authority of the Bible A.Saying that the Bible has errors, is “written by man”, is only a guide, or is not absolutely true.

    2.Denying historic accuracy of the Bible. A.Denying that Adam, Eve, Moses, Jesus, etc., were real people.
    B.Denying that the Exodus happened.
    C.Denying that there was an actual Garden of Eden, etc.

    3.Denial of particular parts of the Bible as being authentic A.Denying that Moses wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
    B.Denying Paul’s letter’s as authentic.
    C.Denying that the Gospels are accurate, etc.

    4.Denial a basic Christian doctrine A.Trinity, deity of Christ, resurrection, etc.
    B.Salvation by grace.
    C.Denying that Jesus is the only way to salvation, the doctrine of hell, etc.

    5.Denial of historic understanding of Scripture and substituting new ones. A.Redefining salvation as self-deliverance from oppression.
    B.Saying that Jesus’ didn’t literally rise from the dead and that it is a metaphor for success over trials.
    C.”Husband of one wife” is not taken literally. It is a phrase applied to wives, too.
    D.Homosexuality is not a sin; it is an alternative lifestyle.

    6.Affirming experience over Scripture A.A person’s feelings supersede biblical revelation.
    B.”Feeling” that Jesus isn’t the only way to God.
    C.As long as you are sincere, God will let you go to heaven.

    7.Using outside sources to interpret scripture A.Use of psychology manuals, self-help books, science books, etc. and subjecting the Bible to their teaching.

    8.Saying the Bible is outdated, patriarchal A.This is an attempt to invalidate scripture by dismissing it as ancient and therefore, not true.
    B.It also negates the inspiration of Scripture because it implies the patriarchal structure is due to cultural influence and not scriptural revelation.

    9.Imposing secular ideals upon Scripture A.Women ordination
    B.Pro homosexuality
    C.Denying moral absolutes
    D.Upholding evolution as how mankind arrived on earth
    E.Defending “abortion rights” from scripture.

    10.Gender Neutral wording in reference to God, people, mankind, etc. A.Referring to God as Mother God or Father-Mother God.
    B.Referring to various references of male leaders as people.

    As you read through the list, did you think of any church groups or denominations that fit in any of the categories? Maybe you have some friends who are liberal or, maybe you are yourself in some areas.

    Is liberalism dangerous?

    Yes, liberalism is dangerous because it leads to a denial of biblical truth. But denial of biblical truth usually means that things contrary to Scripture are often affirmed. Consider this quote:

    “If we look at the denominations that approved women’s ordination from 1956-1976, we find that several of them, such as the United Methodist church and the United Presbyterian Church (now called the Presbyterian Church-USA), have large contingents pressing for (a) the endorsement of homosexual conduct as morally valid and (b) the approval of homosexual ordination.”1

    In the article Denominations, women ordination, and other errors, we see that women’s ordination is often accompanied by other errors; namely, supporting abortion, affirming homosexuality, and a denial of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. It is rare that heresies are singular. They come in clusters.

    Since Jesus claimed to be God in flesh (John 8:24) and said that no one comes to the Father but through him (John 14:6), then we must make a decision. Either what Jesus said is true or it is false. Either Jesus was crazy or he was telling us something so profound, that we better listen carefully. Which is it? If you hold to biblical authority and inspiration, you will believe what Christ said. If you hold to liberalism, why should you?

    Since Jesus rose from the dead, walked on water, raised others from the dead, performed miracles, healed people, etc., he has demonstrated his right to speak authoritatively. Therefore, we must consider his words carefully. When he warned people about eternal damnation are we to consider his words as metaphor or absolute truth? Did he really rise from the dead, or is that just an illustration about how we can have victory over our problems?

    Either what the Bible tells us in its totality is true or it is to be dismissed as the fable. I don’t know about you, but I consider eternity too long of a time to be wrong and I cannot dismiss the words of Christ as being fabrications. I trust in the absolute inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, and authority of the Bible.

    Liberalism leads away from biblical fidelity and compromises Scriptural truth. It only needs the door to be open a crack in order to push its way through. The only guarantee against the liberal influence on the church, is to set our minds and eyes upon the word of God, study it diligently, and believe what it says.

  • Bill on June 2, 2013

    Folks, your preaching a new and different gospel here. Call it anything you want, but when you purposely hunt for an explaination of why something isnt true in the Bible to justify your will, then your not doing God’s. Its a shame God isnt strong enough to see to it that the Bible actually says what he wants it to say………..God Bless.

  • Janet Edwards on June 2, 2013

    Dear Bill,

    I so wish that you would give us the courtesy of actually answering at least some of my questions. Then we would be having a conversation.

    Matt Slick is certainly entitled to his opinion of what he calls liberalism and his generalities about it as he sees it. I want to ask: Why should I pay any attention to what he says?

    Bill, I know you know that dialogue requires an agreed upon respect among the speakers. If you do not share that ground rule, then, perhaps this is not a place for you to participate.

    Your approach to Scripture and your ideas of liberal Christians are duly noted. What do you expect us to say then?

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on June 3, 2013

    Hi Bill,

    For now, this is what I have to say in response. I hope you take it kindly. I don’t speak for anyone else but me.

    1) who here is denying that the Bible is inspired by God? I believe it is inspired by God but I do not believe that all of the words in it are anointed of God. As I relayed, Jesus points to the divorce laws given by Moses – and it is clear that He refers to Moses as giving the laws to appease the people.

    2) Doesn’t apply.

    3) I went to a very conservative seminary, Bill, and even there there were discussion about the actual writers. One of the key question about Moses’ authoriship is brought about by the fact the texts talk of his death and what happens afterward.

    4) doesn’t apply.

    5) A-C don’t apply. In particular, I have stated many times that I cannot state whether homosexuality is a sin or not, and believe that only God can. Having reviewed all of the anti-gay scriptures in the Bible, equal with the context in which they are given, I personally have reached an impasse on the subject and leave the decision to the people and their God.

    6 – 8) don’t apply.

    9) A. I was raised in a fundamentalist church by an anointed, charismatic husband/wife pastor team. God calls whom He will. B. See above. Remainder of 9 and 10 do not apply at all.

    Our similarities, Bill, are greater than our difference. I hope you see that.

    And I will point to recent examples of people with great anointing who also took advantage of that anointed status: Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Tom Haggard… as far as I’m concerned, those in the Bible were just as susceptible and imperfect as these evangelists are/were and as we are. That’s not being heretical or blasphemous, or even liberal on my part, it’s being realistic.

    Our God is perfect and Almighty in my mind, but He works with imperfect, selfish, selfcentered, wanton people.

    You know, Jesus criticized “you who strain at a gnat…” but miss the bounty of “love your neighbor.”

    That being said, I have taken issue with Janet over politics, and what I felt wasn’t right. There are people out there who say/think Obama is “a saviour.” No one but Jesus is our Saviour, and anyone who acts or wants to be that in place of Him, will never have my support. These same people also believe that socialism is some of legislation of Christianity and goodwill, but honestly I believe that even Jesus would say that it is not possible to force charity. People must love enough and want to give based on their Christian walk, in order to give, and the only One who is capable of changing hearts in that way is Christ. The one thing God gave us that has been preserved in this great country is freedom, the freedom of choice, to excel for God or self, and I hazard to say perhaps both. And what do we do? We blindly insist on giving that freedom over to godless leaders ingovernment that will only trample on us and prohibit God’s will.

    Well, enough of that…I think I’ve clearly expressed what I believe…except to say that I think what stops evangelicals from loving GLBT people is an inner sense of self-righteousness and superiority that at once allows a person to say “God cannot possibly love these people” denying God’s incredible capacity for love, while claiming that God loves only evangelicals.

    Finally Bill, God’s message hasn’t change and neither have we – most of ignore the love and cling to self-righteousness. If anything is a shame, it’s that God gave us free will – had it been otherwise, wow, what a different world this would be, huh?

    Best wishes,

    Donna

  • Jeff Hyatt on June 4, 2013

    Hi Janet, Donna & Bill,

    Sorry for my delay in completing my reply to Janet’s questions last week. I have been quite busy, but have followed the ongoing conversation between you all.

    First, Bill…one of the things that I have found in my face-to-face friendships with people who hold very different theological and social positions is that these kinds of conversations rarely result in a person changing their mind. So, I have taken the approach instead of seeking to benefit personally in my understanding of why people think/believe what they do. This way, my frustration level goes down, and I still can benefit from our interactions and remain friends.

    Second, Donna…I want to push back just a bit on the comment you have made a couple of times regarding Jesus saying that Moses gave the instruction to give certificates of divorce as a way to appease the people. I can see why you draw that conclusion because in Matthew 19:8 Jesus said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.” I don’t see this as Moses ‘appeasing’ the people (men) who wanted to divorce “for any reason.” Instead, I see this as Moses mitigating their destructive behavior by requiring them to give their wives a certificate. This was an act of mercy to the women, in my opinion, because it gave them proof that they were not an adulteress and were able in some ways to support themselves in a male-dominated society. Without the certificate (yes given because of the hardness of the hearts of these men) these women could be accused of inappropriate behavior if seen in public with another man, etc. So, I don’t see Moses’ issuing a certificate of divorce, or Jesus reference to this in Matt. 19, as a human subversion or modification of the Divine Law. Instead, I see it as a permitted act of mercy because of the hardness/sinfulness/brokenness of these human beings.

    Third, Janet…regarding the issue of idolatry. My understanding of idolatry is fashioning ‘god’ in the likeness of anything other than God. Creator being fashioned after the creation. So, if I were to describe God in an idolatrous way, then I would be saying that God is a many-breasted woman (Artemis) or Phallic-idol God. These were the ways in which the surrounding nation/religions were seeing their gods as fashioned after the male/female sexuality, and thus idolatry. Consequently, sex acts of various formulations, number and gender were a part of their worship of these fertile gods. I am NOT coming from this perspective! 😀

    I am saying that the creation narratives in Genesis 1 & 2 are just the opposite. Not that God is male/female sexuality, but that male/female engenderedness finds its origination in God. God makes humanity in his image in these passages, and he makes humanity as male & female. He blesses them…commissions them…and together (as different and yet made of the same ‘stuff’) that they are able to reflect this God who later we come to know is One and yet Three. This is not idolatry, but instead is humanity as male/female reflecting the unity and diversity within God. Marriage uniquely reflects this, in my opinion, as expressed directly in Genesis 2:24, Matthew 5:19, and Ephesians 5:31.

    I would also like to speak to a more general perspective (not saying you, Janet or Donna necessarily hold this thought) that the reason people who do not accept same-sex relationships as being affirmed and celebrated by God are doing so because of either fear, hatred and/or ignorance.

    One of the most common accusations is the people like myself are ‘homophobic’ – literally afraid of homosexuals. I simply do not understand this accusation because I am not afraid or fearful of people who self-identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender. I can categorically say that the reason that I hold the position that I do on this issue is not because of fear, but is because of my understanding of the biblical teaching and history of the Church. No one that I personally know who holds the same position as I are motivated by fear. I know that there might be some people in our country who are, but this is not at all reflective of myself and those I know.

    Second, hatred. Again, I regularly hear that people who hold the position that I do are motivated by hatred of GLBT people. I can honestly say that this also is not true of me and those I personally know. I have seen coverage of Fred Phelps and his family who clearly are hateful, but he does not represent me or anyone else that I know. I am not a bigot. I am not motivated by hate. My family spent part of our vacation with a high-school friend who self-identifies as gay. We love him! It is possible, and necessary as a follower of Jesus, to be able to recognize sin, brokenness and evil in one’s self, others and the world all the while loving God and one’s neighbor. Saying the something is sin (hamartia – missing the mark) does not equal ‘hate.’

    Third, ignorance. I have noticed that the reasons given for the position that non of the passages in the Bible which appear to address homosexuality really are not about same-sex marriage is the the ‘historical’ context indicates such. While the historical work that I have done does not corroborate this claim…let’s assume that I do agree. Even if this is the case, there has never been a time in the history of the Judeo-Christian people of God when homosexual relationships/sexuality was viewed as within the norms established by God – until recent times. So the accusation that people who hold the position that I do are somehow ignorant of history or textual criticism still falls short.

    In addition, ‘ignorance’ is the reason given in regards to biology and what is ‘natural’ to a person. I, for one, do not argue that my friend or others who self-identify as having a homosexual orientation are ‘making it up’ or ‘don’t really have this orientation or inclination. I fully accept that this is an internal reality for a person. I also acknowledge that there are many internal orientations that we as human beings living in a broken world have which are not consistent with God’s good design. This is not coming from ignorance, but from a different view of the way the world and we/me are as human beings.

    Again, I am NOT saying that Janet or Donna have accused me of this, but I do find it a very common and misleading argument. It is at least a ‘straw man’ argument, if not an outright slanderous accusation for many, many people who do not agree with same-sex marriage, etc.

    If I’m not in trouble as this point, may I ask a question? 🙂

    Donna and/or Janet have asked Bill or I a question about our ability to live together in love those we disagree with. Would describe what you see that looking like for people like Bill and myself who strongly disagree with same-sex relationships?

    Thanks,

    Jeff

  • Donna on June 4, 2013

    Hi Jeff,

    Why would you be in trouble?

    Regarding the push back question: you focus on *why* Moses permitted. I am focusing on the fact that *Moses* permitted. Do you see what I’m saying?

    I don’t know the Greek to be able to translate the Scripture well enough, but I question how “hard” tranlates to sinfulness. Maybe you or someone else could expand on that?

    Jeff you seem to be well studied in ancient texts. May I ask you comment on the “liberalism” points posted by Bill? Are you aware of the questions surrounding Moses’ authorship of the Pentateuch? What are your thoughts on the ordination of women?

    Also would you be willing to comment on why it is the “anti-gay” texts in the Bible remain intact when the other cleanliness laws, rules for slave ownership, etc., have become either culturally or morally disregarded?

    You see, these are two things that cause me to reach an impasse on God’s view of homosexuality: man’s influence on the Bible and the fact that even conservatives/evangelicals do not observe all of the cleanliness rules, allow women to minister, etc. (and yet they cling to the homosexuality texts).

    So, while I’m considered “liberal” by some, I don’t consider myself to be a liberal (in religion or politics). See above points to Bill. I believe the same as you and Bill except for women’s ordination and GLBT acceptance. To me these are matters of being equal souls (for all) before God.

    Help me with this if you can, because what I see is Moses and Paul decrying homosexuality and not God. And I see the message of God being consistent throughout – loving Him and one another with mutual regard.

    Thank you…and blessing to you too –

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on June 5, 2013

    Dear Jeff,

    Dear Jeff,

    As far as I know myself, trouble erupts here when movement in the dialogue seems to me to grind to a halt. Your clear desire to really get an answer to your questions and your willingness to respond to questions asked of you are wonderful, Jeff. Keep coming!

    I hope you have seen that I take exactly the approach to those who disagree with me that you do: listen and learn. This prompts gratitude in me when I walk away from conversations with conservative colleagues knowing I have been changed through our exchange. That is a good foundation for friendship. I have learned from you—thanks.

    I appreciate your unpacking of idolatry, defining it as “fashioning ‘god’ in anything other than the likeness of God.” Perhaps we can agree that any likeness of God that we use comes from a “partnership” between God and human imagination. Where I begin to see a difference between you and me is on who is drives the creation of that likeness. Let me try to explain what I mean.

    Tell me if I am wrong on this: you see God driving the image of man and woman together (marriage) as a unique likeness of God given to us in Genesis, Matthew and Ephesians. Because the image is God given it is not idolatry, that is, human beings shaping statues in the form of males or females and claiming those are a likeness of God. This is human driven to you, not God driven. This is how I understand your comment that “male/female engenderedness finds their origin in God.”

    Two things come to mind for me as I ponder this. First, I think we are back in a discussion about exactly what Scripture is and how God and humans work together to create sacred writings. When is the human more to the fore and when is God? Bill seems to answer this by God always driving everything and the humans are just vessels through whom God moves (like what I understand to be the Muslim approach to the Koran or the Latter Day Saints sense of the Book of Mormon).

    Scripture is a daily guide for me on how to love God and my neighbor (and of course more). And I do see in the Bible, marriage offered as an image for God (foremost by the prophets, not by Genesis). One thing I have reminded myself of in the course of this discussion is that Genesis was compiled and written around the exile when the Hebrew sense of God was expanding beyond the warrior who protected the nation to the creator of all that is, including Babylon. Genesis is about creation.

    You prompt me to ask the question: What in marriage finds its origin in God? What I have understood from you is that the male/female coupling finds its origin in God. If I am wrong about that, please correct me. I have said before: for me, it is the love between the partners that finds its origins in God because God is love. So I flinch at the importance you give to male/female covenants being “unique” because it lifts up what is one among many embodiments of God’s love, including the covenantal love between two men or two women. I guess, for me, that lifting up of the male/female coupling is what carries your interpretation of Genesis 2:24 across the line toward idolatry. It’s not about statues for me, its about lifting up,perhaps. Does that make any sense to you?

    Two more fast things: First, yes, many liberal Christians are as swift as Bill is of liberals to explain the views and actions of conservative Christians in the ways you describe. For myself, I ask God’s help everyday to make no assumptions and to take nothing personally. This means I work at not engaging in such ascription of anything to another person and pay little attention to what another ascribes to me. I try to just be with what is in front of me. I hope you see me doing that and that we can, perhaps, mourn that such assessment is a human tendency and not do it ourselves.

    Second, with regard to your question about how we can live together. One reason I love my tradition is the way my Presbyterian ancestors responded to the violence of the Reformation by creating a way to live together with disagreement: in essentials, unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity. I think I mentioned this already. I could go on about this for a good while. What has disrupted us in our time is disagreement on what is essential. How essential, then, is your hermeneutic of Scripture and your understanding of marriage? Can we exercise freedom of conscience in these areas? I hope the answer is Yes for you. Is it? That’s the key to unity, in my opinion.

    I look forward to your thoughts and answers.

    Peace, Janet

  • Jeff Hyatt on June 6, 2013

    Hi Donna,

    I do see what you are saying in regards to Moses doing the changing. Personally, I don’t see that as a problem as long as Moses was acting in harmony with God. One of the amazing aspects of how God works in the world is that he often uses people – imperfect, sinful people. That being said, it does seem apparent to me as well that there are many ‘bad’ examples in the Bible which would certainly not be something for us to model our lives after. In this sense, just because it is ‘in the bible’ doesn’t make it good.

    So how then do I reconcile the bible coming to us through human beings, and imperfect ones at that? Faith – which I see as informed trust. Frankly, I start with Jesus – the Word of God – who lived a real, historical human life documented outside of the gospels. I also hold an informed trust in the canonical gospels – ‘informed’ because there are fragments of these gospels that date very close to the original writings and within the lifetime of the Apostles. This is why they were included in the NT canon hundreds of years later because they were viewed as reliable witnesses to the life and teachings of Jesus. These gospels direct me back to the OT as the scriptural documents that Jesus knew, trusted and interpreted as pointing to himself as the Messiah. (That includes Jesus’ quoting of from the creation narratives in Genesis 1 & 2 in regards to marriage and divorce.) So, I see the Bible – OT & NT – as the reliable “word” of God that bears witness to Jesus, the Word of God.

    I acknowledge that I am trusting that God saw to it that we have the Bible that we have in the form that he wanted it in order to direct us into relationship with him through Jesus in the power of the Spirit. This does not mean that I see these men and women as perfect, but then again Jesus was the only perfect human person to live as the “exact representation” of God’s being – image bearer! I also view the fact that we do not have the original writings a good thing, because if we did humans would be tempted to worship them and fight over who would have possession of them. (Much like Moses’ body being hidden by God when he died).

    I am familiar, Donna, with the questions regarding Moses’ authorship of the Pentateuch. If nothing else, the question of how Moses would have written about his life after he died brings this question forward. My assumption on that specific point is that someone else wrote that part at minimum. As you probably know, much of the ancient world used ‘oral tradition’ to pass along history from one generation to another. They were much better at it than we modern people are, and they would often appoint a new “story teller” to be trained and taught about the tribes/nations history. This still happens in more remote parts of our world today. Later, when documenting began to develop they would write down the history that had been passed through oral tradition to that present generation. So, I don’t know if Moses “wrote” the Pentateuch – probably he didn’t. But the more important question for me is whether or not it was traced back to him and his time. Obviously, he wasn’t present at creation, so the creation narrative was passed on to him through oral tradition – I assume. Oral tradition makes us modern, technologically savvy people nervous, I find, because we conclude that this means that it is full of historical and theological errors. Not sure how to convince a person otherwise except for sharing what I just wrote.

    Briefly, “hard” is not directly equivalent to the word(s) for “sin.” A “hard heart or heart of stone” however is a metaphor for sin. (Ezekiel 11:19) For me, the most helpful understanding of the word “sin” is the Gk. hamartia – meaning “miss the mark.” In Romans 3:23, Paul writes that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. One image of this is of an archer who shoots for a target but misses. I was taught growing up that this verse was saying that God is glorious and we fall short of living equal to God’s glory, therefore we are sinners. I have come to a different understanding of this verse based upon our creation as image bearers of God. We were never created to be equal to God, but we were created to live as the image bearers or glory reflectors of God in the world. That is our target, so to speak, and I often fall short of living in that way. All of those ways in which I fall short of living as the image bearer of God are sin (missing the mark). I see all of the “anti” texts as being clarifying markers that God has given to us to help us see the target. The same is true of the “pro” texts which describe what it looks like to live as the image bearers of God.

    For me, and I believe also for Jesus and the observant Jews of his day and before, the creation narratives in Genesis 1 & 2 were very important because they served to shape their view of the world as created by God – the ways in which he desires us to live in relationship with Himself, each other and world around us. In the reading of the stories this also includes a description of his design for our sexuality. Genesis 3, however, describes the breaking apart of this created order. And now, what comes ‘natural’ to the world and to us as human beings is not always consistent with God’s good design. We live under the curse of sin which creates a brokenness in us and in the world. This will one day be restored/made new, and we wait for it with groaning. (Romans 8:22-25)

    In regards to the ‘holiness code’ in Leviticus, I understand your quandry. Let me just say that if we did not have the description of male/female the way that we do in Genesis 1 & 2, and if the question of homosexuality was not addressed in other parts of the Bible, then I too would have a difficult time picking and choosing from Leviticus. My view of Leviticus is that it was a guide for the formation of a new community (Israel) that enabled them to live rightly with each other. I don’t claim to understand “why” all of the codes were given, but interestingly to me, Jesus quoted from Leviticus 19:18 when giving the “second” greatest commandment. So, Jesus still saw this text as normative in some way, no?

    I understand that some, as Janet has articulated, believe that the other texts in NT which appear to address homosexuality do not apply because they are not about faithful, monogamous relationships. I, frankly, find that interpretation to be lacking – perhaps a case of missing the forest for the trees? As I mentioned before, until recently, marriage has always been defined as between man/woman within the Judeo-Christian people of God. Yes, there were deviation from that with polygamy, but even with that deviation the creation norm of male/female has been embraced. My primary problem with the current push for same-sex unions is that I am being told I have to “affirm” and “celebrate” something that is not consistent to how God made the world in its goodness. I simply can not do that anymore than I can affirm and celebrate the various ways that I myself and broken and eagerly longing for the redemption of my body/desires/emotions! I pursue that now through the renewing of my mind and by submitting to the teachings of the Scriptures even when that go against what comes ‘natural’ to me.

    Okay…I feel like I have written a lot. So, I’m going to stop here and ask for Donna’s reply.

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  • Donna on June 6, 2013

    Hi Jeff –

    Thanks so much for answering. This isn’t easy stuff, is it? And thank you, too, for persisting. I respect your faithfulness to your foundational beliefs and believe that you respect mine. Thank you for that, very much.

    There’s a lot I want to say, but when the dark background comes up in the reply, my eyes can’t bear it, so I have to go offline and type a response. Hoepfully this comes out formatted well.

    ** “Personally, I don’t see that as a problem as long as Moses was acting in harmony with God.” ** I agree, and when I think about the reasons, as you did, why Moses would grant divorces, they run the gamut from infidelity, lust, and lack of love, to latent homosexuality, barrenness, and just plain crabby people who should’ve never gotten married to begin with. I don’t see Moses’ changing the law to be a problem. I see it, first because Jesus points to it; second, as stated earlier, as an anointed of God acting in what he believes is on behalf of God (for right or wrong); and third, acceptance that if two people don’t truly love each other then they should not be married (because, perhaps, they are not in relationship with each other or with God if they are so miserable together as to want a divorce) and so this makes it an act of grace. To me, although I would prefer a commandment, there is no commandment on human sexuality. We have Leviticus (nation-building laws) and we have Paul (a rhetorical sexual history of humanity), neither of which are suitable as sustainable evidence that God considers homosexuality a sin. We don’t have Jesus saying that homosexuality is a sin (although in the Gospel of Judas, He does). We do have Him saying things like (I paraphrase here) not everyone is going to be given in marriage, some will be married, some will be single, some will be eunuchs, if you can accept this, do so.

    Also, what we don’t have is procreation before “the fall” either, to determine whether two perfectly created beings bring forth homosexual children. Nor do we have answers to where Cain and Seth found wives. We make assumptions to fill in the blanks because we already know the commandments that came *after* Eden, and the nation-building laws, and Paul.

    Let me say here that while I fully agree with you and genuinely appreciate male/female compatibility, it is the miracle of procreation that makes that relationship so, and not necessarily the love relationship or lack thereof between the two. A man can rape his wife and the result is procreation, but that is not what we all would assume as a Holy marriage. Conversely, a man and a woman can have, uh, ongoing procreation exercise, fully within a loving and Holy marriage, and yet never yield a child. The “ideal” for a male/female marriage, then, is the promise of procreation within a loving relationship with each other and with God. These days, the promise is fulfilled or aborted, and the marriage fails more than 50% of the time. That is neither a good testimony for male/female compatibility, nor marriage, nor relationship with God. Meanwhile, there are untold numbers of gay men and lesbian couples who maintain a loving relationship with each other and with God despite not having the promise of being able to procreate (of their own accord). Somehow, I can’t reconcile in miy mind that God would bless even the worst-case male/female marriage and curse even the Holiest same-sex marriage (and by Holiest, I mean that both people seek honor God within their relationship and in their lives). Along those same lines I’m unable to reconcile that the vilest straight person on earth is loved more by God than the purest homosexual who makes God #1 in all that he does. Do you see the dilemma?

    The problem, I think, is that once a person knows someone else is gay, that shrouds the image of that person so that their gayness is all that is seen. People become the gay pastor, the lesbian down the hall, the gay football player, despite all else they are, even if they are, first and foremost, good Christians. People murder other people, get released from jail, and are welcomed into churches, become pastors even, and no one thinks: there’s murderer Bruno. It is one of the great injustices of this world.

    ** “Oral tradition makes us modern, technologically savvy people nervous, I find, because we conclude that this means that it is full of historical and theological errors.” ** I don’t know, Jeff. We are a problem-solving lot, and I think we look at the Bible, and the past, in a desperate search for absolutes and truths, to fill in the blanks.I do as you do and look the Gospels, to the words and actions of Jesus, before all else. You are right, He points to Leviticus, but I think moreso, the Ten Commandments within it, and He very often points to various laws to reveal how far from God’s intent the interpretation has come or how unwisely formulated the law was given. My favorite book, by the way, is Job, the oldest, older than all others, and the most perfect, I think, though I learned that there are parts to it that were added later.

    ** “I understand that some, as Janet has articulated, believe that the other texts in NT which appear to address homosexuality do not apply because they are not about faithful, monogamous relationships. I, frankly, find that interpretation to be lacking…” ** I understand your point here, because sometimes it seems all semantics. Personally, I credit them to the Judeo-Christian disciples, steeped in the law and Leviticus, referring to their roots to bring some of that alive in Christianity, and again anointed of God acting what they believe is God’s behalf.

    May I ask you one question? If you do not hold personally to the belief in slavery, or eating shellfish, as outlined in Leviticus, what makes you hold to the homosexual statement therein?

    And now, time to rest my eyes…blessings on you, Jeff –

    Donna

  • Bill on June 7, 2013

    Janet.
    You said: “Janet Edwards says:

    June 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Dear Bill,

    I so wish that you would give us the courtesy of actually answering at least some of my questions. Then we would be having a conversation.

    Matt Slick is certainly entitled to his opinion of what he calls liberalism and his generalities about it as he sees it. I want to ask: Why should I pay any attention to what he says?

    Bill, I know you know that dialogue requires an agreed upon respect among the speakers. If you do not share that ground rule, then, perhaps this is not a place for you to participate.

    Your approach to Scripture and your ideas of liberal Christians are duly noted. What do you expect us to say then?

    Peace, Janet”
    Its not just his opinion. Its the opinion of almost every conservative I know of.I think Southern Babtists are like the 2nd or 3rd largest group in the counrty, and they believe the Bible is true and correct. The Bible itself tells us so. 2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV)
    All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
    We believe God doesnt want us to fail in our search for him. We believe he is fully capable of creating the universe and everything in it, including the Bible.We believe God doesnt want division in his church or is people. The only way that can occur is if the Bible ( his heart and mind) is easy enough the average person can understand it. If eveyone is allowed to interpret it seperately then the only outcome will be disagreement.
    As a general rule conservatives believe the Bible to be true and correct, as a general rule, liberals believe it has many false or incorrect teachings.That is rerally the heart of this disagreement over same-sex marriage. Forget homosexuality for the moment. Our real disagreement is over the truth of the Bible, plain and simple.
    Song of songs…easy. Its a poem about Gods version of a marriage between husband and wife. Sort of a blueprint if you will.
    You said:”Can we love our gay neighbors as ourselves and leave judgment to God as Jesus tells us to do?

    Peace, Janet”
    Absolutely! But love does not mean that a person has to agree…Jesus forgave the sin of adultery, then he said to go and sin no more.
    I think thats all the questions you asked,right?

    Donna, there is more to I’d like to share with you about your comments. I will have to come back later tho…
    God Bless

  • Donna on June 7, 2013

    Hi Bill,

    Quick point here: I think we would agree today that the Bible is not correct about slavery, or eating shellfish, or women in the church (at least I hope we would agree), so is it safe to say that if the Bible is not correct in these things then something can be incorrect and still Holy?

    Donna

  • Jeff Hyatt on June 10, 2013

    Donna,

    I do see your point regarding the lack of description of procreation before the fall. We are left to infer based on the ‘curses’ in Genesis 3 what that would be like. So, point well made.

    In reply to your comments about Biblical interpretation….it does appear that you, Janet, Bill and I have different approaches the inspiration / authority / interpretation of the Bible. This perhaps leads us in divergent directions on a number of issues. It is helpful to identify these sources of difference, otherwise we end up arguing points without an understanding of ‘why’ the differences.

    So, I come from the stream of Christian thought that embraces the Bible this way: “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” (Evangelical) As such, I accept that the canonical Bible was given to us by God in the current form for the purpose of leading us into relationship with Him. This happened through flawed human beings, but this does not change for me/us our belief that the Bible is still inspired, infallible and authoritative. As Bill indicated, we view passage like 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as instructive in this way.

    However, I think I differ from Bill, you and Janet in how I read and interpret the texts. I am not a ‘literalist’ in the sense that I read ALL texts as “literally true.” For example, I do not believe that God is a literal ‘rock.’ (Deut. 32:4) In this regard, when pressed, I don’t think that anyone would claim to be a ‘literalist.’ So, what is informative for me in the interpretation of the texts is the genre or literary style. If it is poetry or apocalypitc literature, then it needs to be read / interpreted as such – metaphor, simile, etc. When it is historical, then it does need to be read as presenting an accurate historical account. When it is an epistle, then it needs to be read through the lens of a dialogue. One of the difference that I think I see between you and I in our readings is that perhaps you join the stream of thought which sees metaphor as the point of historical, gospel or epistle texts. Yes / No?

    In regards to Leviticus, I do approach this text from the same overarching perspective. This is perhaps one of the most difficult writings for any of us to know what to do with. I read it as instructive in two primary ways. First, the holiness of God. Second, his desire for the holiness (set-apartness) of his people from the surrounding nations who do not worship him. I agree with your statement Donna that this was about a particular “nation building” activity. In such, do you see that homosexual intercourse was not allowed? If so, why do you think this was? If not, what you these texts are about?

    Do not use these texts as a primary basis for discussion with those I am relating to, or counseling. As I’ve indicated before, I read the other passages regarding sexuality as being sufficiently clear and instructive for all human beings.
    Does this answer your last question? If not, I’ll try again. 🙂

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  • Jeff Hyatt on June 10, 2013

    Hi Janet…sorry for the delay in response. I am enjoying this discussion, but I find myself getting behind.

    I do appreciate the approach ” in essentials, unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” My wife and I found this emphasis in the Evangelical Covenant Church as well, and it was a breath of fresh air for us. Of course, what we define as “essentials” makes all the difference. I suspect even between the PCUSA and the ECC there would be substantive differences.

    In regards to the significance of marriage, you are correct in thinking that I would not say that ‘love’ is the basis for the coupling of male/female in Genesis 2:24. The context of Genesis 2:18-25 provide the significance of male/female. A suitable ‘helper’ / ezer was not found for Adam. So God created a ‘suitable’ partner for Adam in Eve. Another human being who was made out of the same stuff as Adam, yet was different from him so that they could be in relationship as ‘One.’ Sexual intercourse is an enactment / demonstration / reflection of that compatibility and oneness. Jesus affirms this uniting in Matthew 19 by quoting from this very passage.

    Later in Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul describes how marriage of male/female is actually a picture of Christ and the Church – and as such is a unique reflection of the life of God in relation to his people. (Hosea also uses this imagery)

    “Image” as I understand it and use it, is not about a statue or an idol. It is about a representative of the original. Kings, for example, would place ‘images’ of themselves around their kingdom to ‘represent’ that this was their territory. Now some when further to require worship of their image, but that is not what I am seeing in God creating male/female as the ‘image’ of God. It is like the Greek work ‘icon’ which can be used to describe idolatrous images, but is also used as a representative of the real thing. Use of ‘icons’ then in worship are intended to direct a person’s thoughts from the picture itself on to the greater reality of God. They can devolve into objects of worship, and then become idolatrous. This is what motivated the iconoclasts, for example.

    God’s love (agape) is to describe all of our relationships as Christians. Married or single. Family and friends. Male/Male, Female/Female, Male/Female.

    One of the questions that come up for me with those who share your perspective on Genesis 2, for example, is that you see a ‘principle’ but do not seem to see that actual story. The story then gets left behind, it seems to me, in favor a more general principle that gets applied in situations that contradict the very story they are drawn from. That is a problem for me.

    Here is where I can not go further for the sake of unity: affirming and celebrating those things which God clearly indicates as missing the mark of what he designed – as the stream of Bible interpretation which I find to be the most convincing articulates.

    What I have encountered here in MN through our marriage amendment and same-sex marriage legislation is a similar request – that those who disagree with our new legislation which redefines marriage just agree to disagree. But that is not what the other side of this issue has done. In fact, quite the opposite. So now that the change has been put through, we are told that it is up to us to embrace unity. Historic change has been made (that is the ‘good’ that our legislature has emphasized), and those of us who disagree with this are not told to keep our morals to ourselves. Interestingly, on the day of the passage of the marriage legislation in the MN Senate, I listened to one senator after another in favor of the changes claiming the moral high ground. It’s these kinds of contradictions that are very frustrating to people like myself.

    Thoughts?

    Jeff

  • Jeff Hyatt on June 10, 2013

    Hi Bill,

    I just want to add my agreement to your last paragraph! Love does not require agreeing with the beloved.

    As I understand agape love in the Bible, it is a commitment to work for the ultimate good of the other. This is how God loves in trinitarian relationship, and how he loves his creation. This kind of love is committed to be “patient, kind, not envy, not boast, not proud, not dishonor others, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, never fails.” (1 Cor 13:4-8)

    May we live in this love…especially with those with whom we disagree. In this way we love even when disagreeing!

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  • Janet Edwards on June 13, 2013

    Dear Jeff,

    Slowness here is no vice, Jeff. Mostly for me it means that I want to give prayerful thought to my reply rather than just my initial reaction. And life in the real world is full to overflowing for most of us. Please do not burden yourself with concern about speed in answering.

    I agree with you completely that our disagreement in the church over what is essential to our faith is at the heart of our difficulties. And I expect we agree that you consider the man and the woman together in marriage to be an essential icon for God and I consider it one of many images for God (and one in which the physical differences between the male and the female are even dangerous because they take us into “pagan” territory) among many—non-essential. I just wanted to make sure we are on the same page with this.

    With regard to the second creation story in Genesis, I certainly hope I am not ignoring the story or the context of the story. Where I see our difference is in the aspects we emphasize. I highlight two things: that this is the first time God declares something is not good, “It is not good that man should be alone,” and the way God gives Adam the choice of helper—not the animals, the woman. I do not see this as a rule that man shall only choose a woman; I see God giving the choice to us.

    When we know that there men whose love (in the life-long sense we bring to marriage) leads them to choose a man or a woman to choose a woman, then the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes to what the writers and readers of Scripture did not see (and Jesus chose not to reveal when he quoted this passage to emphasize faithfulness). Our human context has changed and, in my view, that is God’s gracious doing.

    It is also not good for lesbian women or gay men to live alone. Requiring them to be celibate (which Paul acknowledges is a gift only given to some) is a violation of Genesis 2:18. And none of us want a person to enter into marriage falsely in order to conform to one interpretation of Genesis. I know many Christians have tried that, thinking they will change somehow from gay to straight. So much spiritual hurt for everyone involved has come from that.

    I trust we can agree that “suitable” is not a word in the Genesis story, itself. And who is to choose who is a suitable partner for a person? I understand your point that the physical compatibility of a male and a female can be a demonstration of oneness and even of the way God is One (I’ve already shared my hesitations about that as crossing a border with pagan worship central to God in Scripture and you have not changed my mind on that yet). I cannot find my way to seeing male/female as an essential of our understanding of God or of married love.

    I know far too many lesbian and gay couples with long, long fruitful marriages despite all the hardships our culture presents to them. I marvel at the stories they tell of how they met, how they support one another in their vocations, how they have nurtured beautiful children. Their love and compatibility have taught me much about how to be married. They are just obviously suited to one another.

    I would like to hear more about your experience in Minnesota. I don’t get how Freedom to Marry advocates will not allow you to disagree with them. You had the opportunity to speak for the amendment to the constitution and to vote for it. You had the chance to speak out to the legislature. Your position in both cases was the minority position (the place I am in most often in my presbytery and my church, on may things). You continue to have voice and vote.

    No one is requiring you to marry a same-sex couple contrary to your freedom of conscience. I know many fear that and only time will tell. That “God alone is Lord of the conscience” is deeply rooted in my church and I am a fierce advocate for ministers having the right to decline presiding at any wedding that violates their conscience for any reason. I know fears of this rightly embed in civil legislation the right of clergy to decline a request from any couple. Could you explain more about your experience and how you see things in MN.

    I hope this responds to your request for my thoughts. I covet yours. Peace, Janet

  • Janet Edwards on June 13, 2013

    Dear Bill,

    As I know you and myself, I do not find us disagreeing on the power of God or the authority of Scripture. We disagree over our interpretation of Scripture and how we deal with that disagreement.

    We can only be in dialogue, Bill, if we give each other some “benefit of the doubt” in order to listen to the other. In other words, we have to be ready to receive a gift from God for the other’s point of view. So far, as far as I know myself, I bring this attitude to you. Can you bring it to me?

    Numbers, like the number of Southern Baptists, is not that important to me. I take tradition seriously but I take Jesus’ scrutiny of religious tradition as a model when I give myself to following Him. Southern Baptists were in line with tradition when they doggedly held on to slavery and segregation. Tradition is a guide to be honored, for me. What exactly is it for you?

    What I see in Jesus with the woman taken in adultery is His saying He will not condemn her–He will not judge her. He says to her, Go and sin no more, and doesn’t He say that to us all? He says that to LGBT people, of course, but He does not condemn anywhere their being gay or whatever their sexual practice is. We read this text differently. And then what do we do?

    Peace be with you, Janet

  • Donna on June 17, 2013

    I think I got lost where things left off between old and new sites… 😮

  • Jeff Hyatt on June 26, 2013

    Hi Janet, Donna & Bill,

    I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for your interaction with me over the past several weeks. I am not able to continue the on-going conversation, but I didn’t want to just disappear.

    I have appreciated the way you have shared your thoughts, convictions and beliefs. I value these kinds of conversations, and find them all too rare.

    As you all know, today was a significant day with the U.S. Supreme Court handing down their ruling on the DOMA law, and their pass on Prop 8. The expansion of civil marriage to include same-sex couples has taken a large step forward in our society, but the conversation and differences will continue to stir our thoughts and conversations both within the Church and in the larger society. I pray that we will be able to continue to speak clearly and kindly, even as we have in this dialogue.

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  • Donna on June 26, 2013

    Thank you, too Jeff. Sorry you have to go…wondering why not? But as always, best to you and blessings too!

    Donna

  • Bill on June 27, 2013

    I too am curious why you choose to leave, if you’d care to share?

  • Bill on February 3, 2014

    Janet said: ” what the writers and readers of Scripture did not see (and Jesus chose not to reveal”, ………….but Janet see’s? Its so sad that you decieve and so many listen.
    Matthew 24:11
    1 John 4:1
    1 Corinthians 6:9-10

    Jesus said: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
    Matthew 4:17

    Please people, stop believing the lies…..please. Your being lead astray by someone who is tickiling your ear and freely admits it! …2 Timothy 4:3-4. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

    I beg each of you to listen to God’s word ( Holy Bible) and not this demon….


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