Wednesday, July 16, 2008

PCUSA Debate over Homosexuality

I've been following the debate in the Presbyterian Church over whether practicing homosexuals should be ordained for the gospel ministry. Mark Roberts is a Presbyterian minister who recently left the pastorate of an influential church in California to serve as the resident theologian of a retreat/camp in Texas called "Laity Lodge." I've followed his blog ever since I met him last year (through a mutual friend, former student, Steven Purcell, who's also on staff at Laity Lodge), and have found his writing to be very helpful, insightful, wise, and compassionate. He has a great mind and a good heart--a great combination for the work of the kingdom. Anyway, his blog can be found here:

I think Mark has put his finger on the salient reason why those who oppose ordination of gays and lesbians will never be able to agree with those who do (and vice versa). For those who oppose, it's a matter of personal righteousness. Since same sex behavior is condemned in the Bible as sinful, then those who participate in homoerotic behavior are committing sin. For those who support ordination of gays and lesbians, it's a matter of justice. Since the marginalized are often singled out by the prophets as victims of injustice, then those who fight for the marginalized are doing the work of God because He is a defender of the weak, the outcast, the rejected. So, as Mark writes, those who support ordination of gays and lesbians will never give up until these who have been marginalized in America are accepted--it's a matter of divine justice. And, those who oppose ordination of gays and lesbians will never accept the homosexual lifestyle as anything but sinful because personal righteousness is defined by God's Word not by individual preferences.

So, here's the question that I think will help bring a little light to the subject. Can you think of examples where Jesus defended the marginalized by redefining the margins--what is "unclean" anyway? And, can you think of examples where Jesus defended the marginalized while maintaining the margins--sin is still sin, right? I think the difference will be revealing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Surprised by Wright

N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope seems to have raised a few eyebrows in the Church. I'm surprised by the reaction to Wright's work. It's one of those cases where I thought everyone already knew what Wright was writing about, i.e., the importance of the resurrection for Christian faith. After finishing the book soon after its release, I thought to myself, "Well. He's done it again. There's nothing new here. But, because he's such a good writer, this will get some good press."

But, here's the shocker: to much of the reading public, there is much that is new here. In other words, Wright has put his finger on a major theological problem in pop Christianity. It seems that most Christians do have a gnostic view of life after death, that the resurrection of their bodies is a rather offensive idea to their modern sensibilities, and that the common way of talking about heaven as "our final reward" does reveal their preferences for the afterlife (by the way, Eugene Petersen issued the same warning a few years ago in his, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places).

I can't believe it. To test Wright's warning, lately I've been bringing up eschatology in everyday conversation with believers (no, not the left behind variety). It's been amazing how many believers find the biblical idea of a resurrected earth and a resurrected body as bizarre and foreign ideas. When I say, "heaven is not our final reward. It's a halfway house until the last day, when God brings heaven to earth and the grave gives up bodies for resurrection glory." They often say, "Really? I've never heard that before."

All this singing about "When we all get to heaven" has messed up our theology more than I realized.

Be careful little mouths what you sing.