HT to KC
Matt has responded to a previous post. I want to quickly answer a few things.
First, it seems to me a false step to set our theological priorities against the positions we hold. Is it not the case that our priorities influence, perhaps even determine, the positions we hold?
I don’t want you to think I intend to aim my criticism directly against Matt, because I am not; however, these view to me is the basic problem of (modern) Protestantism. We are so focused on “living” we have forgot to think about why we are living. Our focus is on our bodies and our neighbor’s but not on Christ. Indeed, if we spent as much if not more time focusing on Christ — Who he is, What he did — we would find relief. Theology must come before our individual positions. Why? Because theology exists outside of ourselves. It is not concerned with our individual actions so much as it is in continuing the Great Tradition. Thus, the Trinity (et al) comes before our views on LGBT issues and even alcohol.
If we confuse the great doctrines of the Church with positions, we are in serious trouble. But honestly, haven’t we? In discussing things with John, he said he would take holiness over doctrine. This smacks of Pelagianism. When we call LGBT issues a matter of salvation, we are setting our position against the priority of the Church.
Matt goes on,
How does the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity relate to marriage and sexual ethics?….Perhaps different attitudes towards human sexuality emerge from fundamentally different visions of God and what it means to bear the image of God.
And yet, Genesis 1.26-27 doesn’t really include sexual ethics, or if so, ethics that may surprise you. I believe a reasonable argument can be made that the “male and female” bit “in the image of God” can be understood to be androgynous. This view is not modern, post or otherwise, but can be found in ancient works as well. I mean, read 2 Clement.
Let me also suggest that there is a lot more to Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 than sexual ethics (Wright can argue for Creation, the sanest anti-LGBT argument a Protestant can/should make). There is the whole notion of personhood and what that means in light of the image of God. If we are going to argue for positions, we need to start with God as Creator, move through the notions of things in proper order, and what it means for humans to exist as persons of sacred worth. In that final discussion, I believe, is the subset of sexual ethics.
But, beyond arguing, I want to give you “real life” examples of Doctrine v. (for a lack of a better term) Holiness.
The Creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, Constantinople) do not speak of holiness of the life of the Christian. These originated as baptismal formulas meant to shield the doctrine of the early Church. The questions weren’t asked “Do you promise to lead a Christian life?,” “Is X Christian?,” and so on. No, the questions were simple. Do you believe in God the Father…In Jesus…in the Holy Spirit…? What do you believe about them?
Where are the moral positions in the creeds?
Or, as Tom from Good News brought up but never returned to answer my questions, the Articles of Religion and Confessions of Faith? In the Articles of Religion, marriage is mentioned once,
The ministers of Christ are not commanded by God’s law either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage; therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christians, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness. – Article XXI
Why is this in there? No doubt because of the still lingering Catholic influence – which is why Wesley had to define his doctrines against Rome in matters of purgatory, the sacraments and ministerial marriage.
Where, though, are those positions related to holiness? Yes, Wesley mentions that these things will follow our justification (Article X). Does he list them? In the great doctrinal standard handed down to us by Wesley, does Wesley list the aspects of holiness or does he list doctrines and then say holiness will follow our justification? By the way, justification is a doctrine that is defined doctrinally.
Tom pointed out the Creeds do not give witness to episcopal authority. Yet, the Creeds were approved by Bishops. For us United Methodists, our doctrinal standards were approved by the ordained. This means the episcopal authority pre-existed the creeds and in fact, the creeds are dependent upon episcopal authority.
But, before I finish… Let me call attention to the (so-called) Athanasian Creed. While Fr. John disagreed with certain clauses of the Creed (such as the Hell bit), the creed that existed in Christianity long before Wesley is important for this conversation.
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
If I were in any given mood, I might suggest that orthodoxy (right doctrine) is all that “saves us” but I don’t think so. I don’t think Scripture upholds that, nor the majority of Christian teaching. However, this creed is important because it establishes the importance of proper doctrine before anything else.
Our positions on holiness, however you may define that, will come after — not before, and not alongside — in regards to proper teaching.
What gets me here is that the right and the left are virtually the same when it comes to this matter. No one wants to invest the time in doctrine. This has left us with the idea that gay marriage is related to salvation and that the only thing we need to do to be a Christian is to love our enemies.
I remember hearing this when it came out and then after a long separation, hearing it again. It got…odder…as I got older…
I recently watched the movie Legion, a 2010 apocalyptic supernatural action movie. In the movie, God has lost his faith in humankind and has sent his angles, led by the Archangel Gabriel, to wipe out humankind. The Archangel Michael “disobeys” God’s command and instead comes to Earth in an attempt to thwart the coming apocalypse. His goal is not to save all of humankind. Rather, Michael’s goal is to save the life of one, unborn child because Michael still has faith in humankind.
On the theological front, he movie itself was not very good and suffers from a serious lack of a basic understanding of the Bible. But then, would a theologically sound movie do well at the box office? Probably not.
The question then remains, should Christians watch movies that distort the biblical narrative? I personally do not have a problem with it. As I was writing my thoughts down, I looked up what others have said about the movie. Pretty much the only thing I could find were negative reviews coming from Conservative or Fundamentalist Christians. Their answer to my question was unsurprising: No, don’t watch this movie. They characterized the movie as blasphemous, heretical, mixing Spiritual symbolism with the demonic and an intentional distortion of the Word.
Aside from one quote at the beginning of the movie, the Bible wasn’t referenced throughout the rest of the movie. In my opinion, the movie did a better job pulling out themes: eschatology, love, sin and faith. The reviews I read picked up on these themes. They also picked up on Michael’s “rebellion”. But it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Michael was not rebellious, but rather passed God’s test. As he states in the movie, Gabriel did what God asked; Michael did what God needed. I guess it’s all in how you interpret the movie. I think that this is a point that other Christian reviewers missed. Throughout the Bible, God regularly tests humans. It’s not too farfetched to think that God would also test the Angels. Why do I think that it was test? For starters, God rewards Michael at the end of the movie, where as Gabriel, the Angel who “listened” to God was not rewarded.
This was a fun movie to watch. Fun, but not great or even good. The main reason I watched the movie was so I would have a better idea of what was going on in the tv series, Dominion. The show takes place 25 years after the movie.
DOUBLE TALK? Reason with me for a second:
We Protestants, giving honor to our name protest against relics, the preservation of statues and statuettes (the statues wives), shrines, or anything that remotely resembles idolatry or the glorification of men. Why then are we so outraged, enraged, fuming furious, about the destruction of… relics statues, statuettes (again, the statues wives) and shrines perpetrated by I.S.I.S in Iraq? This Calvinist believes in preserving history, but how can we preserve relics, and historical monuments without crossing the line of idolatry? Calvin also said this in relation to the same issue: “Everyone of us is, from his mother’s womb, a master craftsman of idols!”
Read Dr. Jim West, here:
I believe that one can make a fair case that Bush’s war in Iraq brought the dreadful law of unintended consequences with a vengeance if we think in terms of Christians and the History of Christianity. There is a tough question for Christians though:
Should Christians be complacent, with murderous dictators because their demise may ultimately result in the destruction not only of Christianity, but also Christian History and even the survival of Christian people, as it is happening in Iraq?
This is a tough question! It is tough because many Arabs I know, and one in particular who is a Christian, tell me a known fact that when Assad is gone, Christians and Christianity will disappear from Syria! How can you answer to this question?
Are we as Christians called to such self-sacrifice that we support the ousting of these murderous dictators, as Bush did in Iraq, and risk death of everything is dear to us, or do we simply give a blind eye for their atrocities so we can survive as Christians, our brethren in that area of the world can survive as well and the History of Christianity may be preserved?
Tough question indeed!
If the article linked is true there will be many interesting and rather unexpected results. The immediate one is that some black churches will be hurt the most as they are the ones who invite candidates that not necessarily share their faith, but promise (and never fulfill) to fight for what African Americans consider to be their issues. However, if this becomes a manner in which Pastors will dedicate their very short time with their congregation to the exposition if the Gospel exclusively, it may not be such a bad thing. The problem is that most pastors who resort to political speech from their pulpits often choose to do so because of their lack of theological preparation to do anything other than to rant on Sunday mornings against issues that are not exactly leading to “eternal life”, and do not pertain to “life and Godliness”.
The poster of the article on Facebook, makes the following pertinent comment, to which I agree:
“This whole article is based on the assumption that 501c3 is even necessary for churches. As the author noted but didn’t fully explain, churches are automatically tax exempt. But they don’t need to file for 501c3 status. The disadvantages are they there is not certain “liabilities protection” that come with the 501c3 status since they would not be a “non profit organization.” The other disadvantage is there is no “tax exempt number” to allow the churches to not have to pay sales tax on purchases. Everything else is the same including the right for congregants to deduct their tithes and offerings if they qualify for itemizing on their annual tax returns.”I decided that my church that I pastored in the past would not apply for a 501(C3) because I felt that the government has no right to “recognize” an organization as a church when the people who congregate together calls their congregation a church; I also believe that the only motivation for a Christian to give to the work of the ministry must be exclusively the love and interest for the work of the ministry. Do not give to my church expecting a tax exempted letter at the end of the fiscal year. I also believe that it is not the role of the government or the I.R.S., or through the I.R.S. or any other governmental organism to police and censor what is said by a group when they decide to assemble enjoying the constitutional right to assemble. So, I have mixed feelings about this measure (if proven true, again I say) since I think that God prompts men to enact certain laws and rules when He feels that it is necessary to keep His people within the boundaries of that which they are called to do. Not everything that man does that appears evil is evil resulting… remember the story of Joseph… but let’s wait and see. What thinketh Thou?
I tried to paint a flower – a purple-white lily (real thing) on a black background. I didn’t get very far. So, I painted something else.
The first painting is the black-painted canvas. The second is me attempting to draw a stem. It looked like a wine class. Perhaps it was a sign. Anyway, after a week of looking it, I moved on. I wanted to paint a bridge. I got the inspiration driving north recently. I passed over several of these types of bridges. The final pictures are the progress.
First, John M. has a post up. I have left a comment I am reproducing here:
A few things… Wesley didn’t argue for holiness before doctrine. Why? I would suggest that unless we know our doctrine, we don’t know much about what is holy and why we need holiness. I do not think all we need is doctrine, but if we can agree on doctrine and then move on, based on that, to discussing everything else. At the moment, we have a myriad of views express by both the right and the left I would consider heterodox if not downright heretical.
Do we really disagree on what it means to be holy? Are you suggesting that marriage, LGBT or otherwise, is the sum total of what makes someone holy or the sum total of what an agreement is worth?
And I’m going to disagree with you about Christ and his holiness. We were not founded upon his work in his life, nor his manner of life, but upon his death which renewed the covenant and brought the Gentiles into Israel. This means knowledge of sacrifice and covenant came before what was expected of us.
Look at the early baptismal creeds. This was about the work and person of Christ, not about holiness.
Conversation is continuing over there. Please be sure to check it out.
Second, Tom Lambrecht from Goodness has left a comment on my previous post.
Joel, are you saying there is not an orthodox doctrine of marriage? I believe that the Church has always defined marriage as between one man and one woman, no? And what about all the commands in the NT about avoiding sexual immorality and adultery? Are they not doctrinal in nature? I can’t imagine any of the great historical theologians of the church being considered orthodox while holding a definition of marriage and sexuality in line with the current progressive “doctrine.”
You uphold episcopal authority as a matter of orthodox doctrine. Yet it is not mentioned in either the Articles of Religion or the Confession of Faith, nor is it in any of the ecumenical creeds. So how can it be a matter of orthodox doctrine?
So I guess I’m arguing that if you can include episcopal authority as a doctrine, so can marriage and sexuality be included as doctrines of the church.
If there is an “orthodox doctrine of marriage” it is most likely the Catholic view that includes natural law almost to the level of doctrine. I do not believe marriage is a doctrine – unlike, say, the Trinity, baptism, and episcopal authority. Further, we know marriage has changed in the West during the past two thousand years.
I believe we should avoid sexual immorality and adultery. This is not doctrine in nature, but in the realm of holiness. Holiness as a whole should be a doctrine and is at least a Wesleyan precept. I would contend that Wesley understand perfection as the doctrine and holiness as the means to attain it.
The great theologians believed a few different things about items we may object to. Surely you aren’t appealing to authority to defend a position they cannot answer.
Given the newness of -sexuality as a concept, it is doubtful at best the great theologians would have grappled with what we are grappling with today. Further, given the current critical studies of Scripture, they may not have had the same facts to base such pronouncements on. Yes, knowledge changes and we are given more knowledge. I would assume this is in line with some of the great theologians you mention, such as Augustine and Calvin who allowed science may give us a better understanding of Scripture. I believe as well a catechism dear to the UM’s heart holds that both science and Scripture reveal to us God.
In regards to episcopal authority, I would submit this: Ephesians. Acts. Ignatius of Antioch. Cyprian of Carthage. Augustine. The Church Council as progenitor of the Creeds and Canon. I give to you Wesley’s demand for ordained clergy to administer the sacraments and his desire to never schism from the Anglican Church which he considered under episcopal authority. Without Episcopal authority as a prevenient doctrine we are left without much of what we consider Christianity. I mean, the Articles of Religion are themselves a form of authority, albeit ecclesiastical.
As to your line of questions… since nothing in the Articles of Religion, Creeds, or the Confession of Faith strictly forbid “gay marriage” I guess you should okay with it then, or at least understand it not to be a (Wesleyan) orthodox doctrine? I mean, nothing in the Creeds, Articles of Religion, or Confessions of Faith proclaim marriage between one man and one woman as doctrine either.
And honestly, Tom… a the “progressive ‘doctrine’”? Like progressives even know what that word means…
- Why I’m Against United Methodist Schism (juicyecumenism.com)
- Christ, doctrine, & holiness (johnmeunier.wordpress.com)
- Laity and Doctrinal Practice: A Response to Joel Watts (memphispj.wordpress.com)
- The bedrock of United Methodist doctrine (johnmeunier.wordpress.com)
You can find it here:
A Common Written Greek Source for Mark AND Thomas. By John Horman. Studies in Christianity and Judaism 20. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2011. Pp. viii + 256. Cloth, $85.00. – Watts – 2014 – Religious Studies Review – Wiley Online Library.
I can’t reproduce it yet, but… I found the concept fascinating but deeply flawed. Horman (an independent researcher, which is awesome) has a great theory, but in the end, it is a theory biased on the need to make Thomas more canonical than the other Gospels. I just don’t see it. One thing Horman does (and Francis Watson does) is to de-gnostic-fy Thomas, which is a welcomed feature.
As one who has no problem going controversial, I find that this topic is something I stress about with finding the correct words. I strongly condemn the attacks by Hamas and Israel. I mean, Israel lives with people in their house who have a sworn blood oath to eradicate them. People like to really focus on the current situation with Israel and Hamas without taking into consideration the centuries predating the last 50-60 years. Yet, I’m not sure Israel has the best footing in their attacks on Hamas either. A pinpoint operation should be a pinpoint operation. Further, there should not be a ceasefire until Hamas is gone from Gaza.
Instead of arguing for one side or the other without actually knowing each side, I have stayed out of it. I do not believe an American can rightly suggest to either side the route to take and find it sad when some of my fellow bloggers attempt to craft carefully designed methods for the path to world peace.
I also look around at what is going on in Europe with the increase of anti-Semitic protests and a general feeling that it is now okay to say Jews are the the devil. And I cannot help but to connect it to American sentimentalarians who take the side of Hamas. I have to wonder if there isn’t something ingrained in automatically taking Hamas’s side? Does that tell us anything? But, that would be stepping into something I don’t really know much about.
So, there is tumblr post a Rabbi (who supports Israel) posted this morning. I think it is profound enough to share.
- Israel unrest: Anti-Semitic attacks rise as Gaza conflict continues (oddonion.com)
- How Does the World Look at Israel’s Operation in Gaza? Interview With Jonathan Rynhold (sahrajosephine.wordpress.com)
- Gaza Crisis Exacerbates Anti-Semitism in Europe (foreignpolicyjournal.com)
- Iron Dome Cannot Stop These Missiles (algemeiner.com)