Thinking Out Loud

June 11, 2015

Gay Marriage: When There’s No Room for “I’m Not Sure.”

There are small churches everywhere for whom the pressure to respond to every cultural issue simply doesn't exist.

There are small churches everywhere for whom the pressure to respond to every cultural issue simply doesn’t exist.

It’s hard to be on social media and ignore the dust that Tony Campolo kicked up on Monday in affirming gay marriage. I’m not here today to discuss the actual issue, but a particular nuance raised in an article on Religion News Service referencing Albert Mohler, in which he’s quoted as saying: “This is a moment of decision, and every evangelical believer, congregation, denomination, and institution will have to answer. There will be no place to hide.”

I immediately thought of the four older women who sat in the back row of a church I once attended. They have to stake a position on this issue? They need to have an opinion? He did say every believer. And what does he mean by a place to hide? If it means hiding your position that’s one thing, but what if you just want to hide from this issue?

Furthermore, I’m not sure that I could state my own position on this with clarity because the issue is so terribly complex. It bears on one’s feelings about homosexuality, but even there we find people talking about different degrees of everything from mild same-sex attraction to actual copulation. It bears on one’s feelings about the word marriage, and whether or not one can be opposed to gay marriage but support gay civil union. It bears on your response to sin and whether or not we have to clean up to meet God or if we’re invited to be ourselves; to come as we are. It bears on how one feels about how the church sees itself: As a private club for members only, or as agents of grace and mercy on The Jericho Road.

(My personal take leans toward the ‘welcoming but not affirming’ position; the belief that some people are experiencing something that is good, but it’s good only because it borrows elements of the best.)

The article by Jacob Lupfer cites Mohler’s own blog noting, “For conservative evangelicals, there is no middle ground — no “third way.” Either churches will affirm covenanted same-sex relationships or they will not.”

Maybe it’s ostrich-like of me to believe this, but I like to think that somewhere — many somewheres — there is a church that simply hasn’t done a sermon or held a seminar on this topic; they are quietly working their way through a study of Hebrews, or Mark’s gospel, and they don’t feel the need to respond.

The article was prompted by support for Campolo by Christianity Today’s former editor David Neff. Fearing that this might send a signal that CT lines up with Campolo, current editor Mark Galli is quoted as saying, ““We at CT are sorry when fellow evangelicals modify their views to accord with the current secular thinking on this matter,” he wrote.”

Galli is touching on something important here. As the capital-C Church, we can’t let ourselves and our positions be overwhelmed by what’s happening in the broader culture. We can’t allow the daily news to be the lens through which we interpret scripture and establish doctrine.

But there’s a lesson in that principle for Mohler as well. Just as we can’t allow culture to shape our theology, so also we can’t permit culture to force what constitutes the preaching and teaching agenda of local churches. The rest of us don’t have to call an emergency membership meeting next Wednesday night to sort out our position just because we’re being told we have to have one. Again, this is a very complex issue.

Some will say my imaginary somewhere churches exist in a cultural backwater somewhere, but if they just want to trust God and let these social issues work themselves out under God’s sovereignty, I’m fine with that. True, the gay issue may come home to roost in some of those places, as it might in the families of the blue-haired women on the back row of my former church; but armed with a knowledge of the ways of God that only comes through in-depth study of the Bible, they’ll meet that crisis with a calmness and conviction that’s rooted in Christ, not in the need to declare a position that puts them on one side or the other.

In other words, thanks Tony, Albert, David, Mark; but now can we please talk about something else? We’re allowing ourselves to get oh, so distracted.

 

 

 

December 26, 2012

Wednesday Link List

modern church architecture
The picture: Don’t let padded seat backs stop you from having a place to store your hymnbook. This is North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana.

  • If there aren’t enough links for you here, and you’re into apologetics, the blog Weekly Apologetics offers a weekly link list to topics of interest to its readers.
  • Michael Cheshire explores a friendship with a man that admittedly, other Christians really don’t like.  To put it mildly.  Michael was told by some they would desert him if he reached out to Ted Haggard.
  • Here is the link that was added on Sunday as an update to our short piece on the Newtown/Sandy Hook shooting. Early on, it addresses that the situation is entirely unique to the United States.
  • In all the outpouring of discussion on the shooting, I especially appreciated this one at the blog Shawn in the City.
  • And here’s what a school lockdown looks like from the inside, especially tense in the wake of recent events.
  • In just days, a quarter of a million people have signed a petition to see Westboro Baptist Church officially recognized as a hate group.
  • Candid:  Author R. C. Sproul, Jr. comments on the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death.
  • Here’s a sneak preview of the acoustic version of Casting Crowns’ Praise You In The Storm, from an unplugged album releasing mid-Janauary.
  • Also on video, Matt Papa presents a 10-minute spoken word piece that dares to encapsulate The Story of God.
  • How much of what is shared in a pastoral counseling session should the pastor share with his wife? It depends on the nature of the session, and also on the nature of the wife.
  • And Cody Sanders believes that a church that skirts around the issue of the bullying of gay teenagers that’s taking place in high schools is guilty of what he terms ministerial malpractice.
  • Not sure I fully get the Christian angle on this 105-page book that can be read in well under an hour, so I checked out a few online reviews of Robert Smith’s 20,000 Days and Counting. Like this one. And this one.
  • And how long have you been alive in days? Use the calculator on Robert Smith’s website.
  • New Blog Department: New Songs of Praise recently joined the Alltop Christian list with devotional and Bible study content.
  • New-To-Me Department: The Poached Egg is an aplogetics blog that no doubt takes its name from a C. S. Lewis quotation. Lots of resources to consider and/or share.

We leave you today with a classic 2009 Time Magazine article on what was then considered a growing trend: De-Baptism. “Liberate yourself from the Original Mumbo-Jumbo that liberated you from the Original Sin you never had” But the rebellion wasn’t just against a Christian upbringing: “We’ve had Jewish people write in asking, ‘Can I have a certificate to undo my bar mitzvah?'” Somehow, I don’t think you’ll see these certificates in Christian bookstores.

debaptism certificate

November 10, 2012

Weekend Link List

Weekend List Lynx

Do not ask for whom the link list tolls… as I won’t know what you’re talking about.

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