Putting things in context

I found the juxtaposition of this story and this story, both from today’s Chronicle, amusing.


17 Responses

  1. Oh, what has happened to my church?

  2. There are many people who believe that homosexuality is a perversion. The question in the 21st Century is, does God consider homosexuality a perversion?

  3. Hi Al,

    Assuming God exists, and assuming the Bible is God’s Word, your question was answered 3,000 years ago. The passage from Romans reflects that, as do passages from the earliest books of the Bible.

    The first article ended with a quote that the Church is always changing. But true believers believe that God is all-wise, all-knowing, and never changing. If the church changes, it should change in a direction that better accepts the Word of God, not in a direction that moves away from God.

    Personally, I believe that secular same-sex merriages should be legal. But I do not believe in God. It is a sad day when those who do believe in God abandon God’s Word and a sadder day still when the leaders of a major God-worshipping Church lead their flock away from God’s Word.

  4. From the first article.“The 27,000-member Diocese of California, based in San Francisco, has ordained more gay and lesbian clergy than any other. Priests in the diocese – which includes San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa counties and part of Santa Clara County – have blessed same-sex unions for more than three decades. Those practices, once on the margins of the Episcopal Church, have become the mainstream.”

    If the Diocese of California has only 27,000 members, it appears to me that the Diocese of California is NOT mainstream, but rather marginal within the counties it comprises. The 2006 population estimates for the counties comprising the Diocese, not including Santa Clara, is 4.2 million, so less than 1% of the population of these counties are members of the Diocese of California. (quick facts.census.gov)

  5. Well said, DQ – better than I could express it.

    I don’t understand why some people want it both ways. The want the authority and nice things contained in the Bible, but ignore the things they don’t like.

    If they cherry pick scripture to live by, maybe they are their own god.

  6. Hi DQ and Jose,
    One thing I am is a pediatrician, and I relearn every day that I am not God, or my own God. And have no desire to be.
    I am my own man. With a mind given by God. I do not know where he wants me to go. I can only make a guess, based on my understanding of His precepts and data that the God given minds of many individuals have published over the years, and go there. God is all knowing and all caring, and unchanging.
    What changes is man’s understanding of His words. If the Israelites had not changed in some way during the Babylonian captivity, they would never have made it back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. There are prohibitions against intermarriage in the old scriptures. There are rants against the uncircumcised. When Jenner was researching cowpox, there were priests using their understanding of scripture to orate that it was against God’s word to inject an element from a base animal into the temple that was the image of God on earth, man.
    I do not believe that it is “cherry picking” to question what men wrote about God centuries ago in light of the knowledge that the God given minds of later men have developed. It is not ignoring things one does not like. Sometimes the questioning takes one places that one does not personally or emotionally want to go.

  7. Hi Al,

    I respect your beliefs and they are well-put. Still, if you reject the Bible as the inspired Word of God and relegate it to the crude understanding of man which evolves over time, you eliminate the one anchor that defines the religion. The religion you describe is very individualistic, which each individual to come to his or her own understanding of God.

    In my area of the law, it is like those who view the Constitution as flexible, to be continually modified by the Court (as opposed to by the proper amendment process) as circumstances change. We end up with no fixed laws and the rules we live by subject to the whims of whoever can muster 5 votes on the Supreme Court at any given time.

    And, just as this anchorless system doesn’t work very well in the laws, I don’t think it works very well in organized religion. Believing that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, with fixed principals, not the very imperfect writings of men with imperfect understandings, gives the Church a fixed understanding of God upon which to base its morality, its worship, and its members’ lives.

    Still, in some sense I suppose you are right that we all must reach our own individual understanding of the universe and our place in it. Thanks for writing.

  8. DQ, you are great for my brain and bad for my daily schedule.
    Write you later.

  9. Al,

    I can’t improve on what DQ says about the importance of a defining anchor for religion, or law.

    As far as Old Testament rules about intermarriage, circumcision, hygiene, etc., they are not observed by Christians, but not because our interpretation evolved. Instead we received new teaching. (Galations 3:24, “Wherefore the [Old Testament] law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ…”).

    The point is whether or not we have received any updates from God since the time of Christ. How would one know? What are the criteria for authenticity? Who do you believe? There are a multitude of ideas on this but they can’t all be right.

  10. DQ and Jose,
    I can not agree more with the problem of determining which is religious truth and what is valid law. The analogy you present, DQ, of the proper way to change Federal Law via Constitutional Amendment vs Supreme Court fiat in relation to a change in the general understanding of God’s word is exactly where I stand. As and aside, the brilliance of the Constitution reflects my belief that the Framers were Divinely inspired.
    The Episcopal Church is struggling to deal with the issue of whether homosexuals should have all the rights that heterosexuals have in the Church. Some congregations say no, some say yes. To my understanding, most Episcopal Dioceses say no, one says yes. Who decides? Ideally, a convocation of the entire Anglican Communion would debate the issue and whatever is decided there would be the teaching of the Church. Practically, that will not happen, first, because the Anglican Communion is a collection of essentially autonomous provinces and second, the emotions are too high.So the debate falls to the individual Provinces, of which the Episcopal Church is the American component. The debate is even more strident here. A convocation of the Episcopal Church would probably try to allow for both views, the way it did when the Church ordained it’s first female Bishop. Then, I believe, an attempt was made to have dissenting congregations report to a male bishop. After a while, no one cared about the sex of the bishop. We now have a female Presiding Bishop, or head bishop. That tactic will probably not fly on this issue. What will probably happen is what has happened in the past. Different congregations will split off, possibly creating their own denominations, following their own understanding of God’s word. The Episcopal Church will be smaller and poorer for it. Just as the early Christian sects became smaller and poorer when they separated.
    One of the reasons I love the Episcopal Church is that it strives to include all peoples and allow for all attitudes. As a former priest of mine once said, it is the only major American Church which did not split into a northern and a southern version during the Civil War.
    I’m sorry, I digress.
    Major shifts in interpretation of God’s word are best made by national convocations. The attendees striving to understand His intent as best they can. It is interesting that Jose mentioned Galations. Some believe that this is the earliest writing of Paul. It may have been written prior to the Council of Jerusalem. Paul writes in Galations that it is faith in Christ which is what now saves us, and that faith has removed us from under the schoolmaster of the Jewish law. The Council of Jerusalem was where the question of the primacy of the law or the primacy of faith was decided. The law had been primary. Paul argued successfully that faith in Christ was now primary. A question of religious truth was decided by a group of men.
    The anchor of religion and the anchor of the law can only be reforged by the largest reasonable number of authorized representatives of a society openly debating the question and then coming to a decision. But the process does not end there. For the society to remain viable, a large majority of the society must accept that decision.
    I agree that the Supreme Court is not the place to make law.
    An individual diocese is not the place to determine issues of religious truth.

  11. I’ll just throw one thing into the pot, which is something I heard Dennis Prager say yesterday in response to a caller, an ex -Christian who had converted to Islam, who says that adulterers must be stoned because it’s God’s law. She pointed out that the Bible says so too.

    Prager, who believes that the Bible is God’s law, says that he believes that the morals are ever changing, but that the rules God laid down to enforce those laws can be understood to be time and culture specific.

    That is, God isn’t speaking to us lately. When he spoke to us 3,000 or 2,000 years ago, he said “this is my morality, and this is how you can bring it about.” Prager believes that the phrase “this is my morality” is unchanging, but the procedures can change to fit the society or culture. That’s why Christians can say without hypocrisy that they disapprove of homosexuality (that, after all, is the morality), but not feel any compulsion to execute homosexuals (which was the procedure for a different time and place).

    Works for me.

  12. Revealed Truth requires outside philosophical backgrounding. Meaning, if you follow the word of God and that was just it, you would be a zombie and someone without free will. Free will, something the AYrabs and Islam don’t like or believe in, requires that a believer come to his or her faith by a philosophical backdrop. You can call it a culturalbackdrop, I suppose. It is just that people have other reasons to believe in the Bible than that the Bible is God’s Word handed down. I don’t believe that, but I still need a backgroun philosophical foundation to empower my belief in the US Constitution, human progress, US military discipline, etc.

    Humanity always requires more than one network of knowledge for true wisdom and understanding. THose that only look towards one source or one law or one Word, are fanatics rather than simply true believers.

  13. The same ethical dilemma that comes about concerning GOd’s word, his intent, and so forth is mirrored in the decision Benedict Arnold made. After all, how do you know that Arnold’s decision, if it had succeded, wouldn’t have been better for the US in the long term?

    The answer is simple. We can know because we have free will, free conscience, and the ability to obtain knowledge (epistemology).

    The quest for what is right, for what is true, is an endless journey upon which humanity is on. A patriot has to make the decision of what is best for his family as opposed to what is best for his country.

  14. Al, that was a very interesting and informative post. The process you describe is a good one, but your post also demonstrates that it doesn’t always work. An open debate by a large body of authorized representatives has value, but it also puts me in mind of the United Nations.

    Paul’s argument in Galatians could not be refuted, not because there was an agreement of learned men, but because he was divinely inspired. To say that a question of religious truth was decided by a group of men denies that inspiration. In any case, Paul was usually in the minority wherever he went.

    A basic premise of the New Testament is that an individual can approach God directly, learn the theology for himself, and not rely upon a hierarchy or priesthood to intercede for him.

    And yes, we make mistakes. Fortunately we can be forgiven. We know Paul started his career persecuting Christians.

  15. The idea that God’s punishment for sin changed over time is true. The change is entirely due to New Testament instruction. Nowhere does it contain a penalty like stoning for homosexuality, adultery or any other offense.

    The entire context of Romans 1, where homosexuality is condemned, also condemns envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, etc. However, immediately following, in Romans 2, we are warned against judging punishment on those who commit those sins, because of our own imperfections. We are not to condone those sins, but we are told to let God handle the punishment.

    Regardless of the Inquisition, or any other error practiced in the name of Christianity, about the only punishment Christians can impose on a sinner is to dissociate themselves from him.

  16. Jose,
    This has been an uplifting discussion.
    There is no question that we, man, have an imperfect understanding of God’s desires for us, and this leads us into really hideous acts. Like the Inquisition, pogroms, witch trials, etc.
    But , as you say, an individual can learn the theology by approaching God himself, and act on what he has divined.
    I do not think that God stopped speaking to us directly 2000 years ago. I believe that he speaks to us now, repeatedly. We
    just need to take the time to hear Him. He is in the feeling we have when we make the unusual turn on our commute and sail through multiple green traffic lights in a congested rush hour. He is in the room when a jealous sibling gives a hug to a rival for parental affections after the rival gets three shots. He makes the adolescent potential suicide retreat from the precipice. He lets you hear the first heart beat of a newborn after forty two minutes of asystoly and continuous CPR.
    I do not believe that God wants us to dissociate from any of his creation. Christ was continually including the outcast. The tax collector, the leper, the whore. I see His Church as inclusive, not exclusive. And I have to tell you, there are some in my neck of the woods I would cheerfully dropkick out of creation for my perceptions of their actions. But I must not do that because of Christ.
    We are all works in progress.

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