Thinking Out Loud

July 20, 2013

We’re All Gay Now

In Acts chapter ten, Peter has a vision of many types of animals that the Jews considered unclean.

13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

You can read the whole chapter here.

The purpose of this story is to show that God is about to usher in something entirely new, what theologians might call ‘a new dispensation,’ or specifically ‘the Church age,’ or a time of transition from law to grace, from First Testament to Second Testament.

The 2013 edition

The 2013 edition

Adam Hamilton invokes this passage in his book When Christians Get It Wrong. The book was first issued in 2010 by Abingdon Press. Book and music publishers often talk about “throwing it against the wall and seeing if it sticks.” This book didn’t stick the first time, despite the popularity of Hamilton — who we profiled here the same year — as an author and conference speaker.  So it’s back again with a new cover.

On page 83 of the new edition, we read Hamilton’s take:

Along the way Peter had an epiphany. He suddenly understood: The rules are changing! … So even Peter, who spent three years with Jesus himself, struggled with the Bible and with a God who seemed to be saying that what was written in the Scripture and what the people had interpreted might not actually be God’s will.

That’s the takeaway. The rules are changing. He says this in a chapter devoted to the Church’s response to homosexuality as one of the things we’ve gotten wrong. Now, you’re not going to read many Evangelical Christian blogs that are as compassionate toward the gay issue as this one. Yes, this is an issue that the capital “C” Church has messed up and that some among our numbers are continuing to mess up. I agree with the core premise of Hamilton’s book, and its attempt to find some way to let a broader population know that we know we’ve dropped the ball on some issues.

I always tell people that apologetics doesn’t mean anybody is apologizing for anything, but in this case, someone is apologizing.

So Hamilton takes a view of science that is pro-Evolution theory; a view of world religions that leans toward inclusivism; a view of human tragedy and suffering that detaches God from such breaking news stories and somewhat absolves Him; and a view of homosexuality that emphasizes the need to love everyone.

To repeat, there is some wisdom in trying to meet people on level ground; to have discourse without being adversarial; to be seeker-friendly instead of seeker-hostile. I have had so many views challenged over the past few years — heaven, the rapture, women in ministry, etc. — and I’ve been so thankful that I wrote my doctrines and beliefs on these secondary issues in pencil and not indelible ink.

But where I part company with this book is where he forces the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 to speak something into situations it was never designed to address. It panders to the postmodern mindset that truth is relative and that doctrines are “subject to change without notice.” So yes, the last few years have seen accelerating change in the Church on various issues, but this is not to imply that God is ushering in a new dispensation today.

The 2010 edition

The 2010 edition

Peter’s vision is a microcosm of the “before / after” transition that begins at the cross of Calvary. A new era has begun. This is where the Jewish story that we call The Old Testament is about to open up into a new act that introduces a much larger cast. It’s not a blanket verse that allows for what was inappropriate yesterday to be acceptable today. I didn’t get that memo. Are we all gay now?

In other words, while I might agree with some elements of Adam Hamilton’s approach and be more gay-friendly to his conclusion than you might think; I don’t believe you have to twist scripture to get there. Just state your opinion and tell your stories.

But that’s not the real reason I don’t like this book. I just think that at (barely) 114 digest-sized pages, it’s a rip-off at $14.99 US. And if it didn’t perform the first time, maybe there was a reason.

January 16, 2011

John Shore Launches The ThruWay Christians

You stop watching your favorite television program — play along, you do remember television, right — for a few weeks only to tune back in and discover there’s been a major plot twist, there are two new characters and a key character is off the show. Your reaction is, “Hey guys, I only stepped out of the room for a minute…”

In this case, I got out of the routine of reading Christian author John Shore’s blog over the holidays returning to discover I’d missed all the excitement —  he’s launched a major movement.  Okay, major in the sense that while it only has 300 members as of Saturday, it has the potential to shake things up a bit. Or a lot.

He had me at the opening sentence on the December 16th blog post that launched it all:

We are Christians who find conservative/right-wing Christianity too oppressive and exclusionary, and progressive/liberal Christianity too theologically tenuous. We embrace both the conservative Christian’s belief in and fidelity to the core message of the Gospels, and the liberal Christian’s dedication to inclusiveness and social justice.

Rather than continuing to choose between these two roads, we hereby establish the following, which we recognize and affirm as a thruway running between them.

There then follows a 16-part statement which touches on some current issues dividing the two camps, a manifesto that really comes alive in a 16-part “teen” edition also presented.

“The ThruWay Christians” may sound like an excellent title for a B-movie. Several decades ago, some people we knew despaired over the lack of crossover potential in the term ‘Contemporary Christian Music,’ and sought an alternative to describe music that causes you to reflect on the greater issues of life, coming up with… “Reflecto Music.” Seriously.

That was my reaction here. “They’re mean, they’re tough, they’re worshiping under a bridge near you — The Thruway Christians. Starts Friday. Rated PG-13.”  (Sorry, John, I couldn’t resist.)

Okay; having got that out my system, let me state some reasons why I think there is some need for some middle ground; reasons why I think John and company may be on to something.

A couple of the recent blog posts at JohnShore.com have happened because of correspondence from Christians who are also identify as LGBT.  (The short form for “L or G or B or T,” in case you’re wondering.)  Now I know for some, the idea of LGBT Christians is an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp,” or “honest politician.” But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover people whose desire to follow Jesus is real while at the same time, their sexual identity is different from yours. Or mine. That’s not the point here, and I’m not going to go down the comment trail on that issue.

What is the point is that some individuals’ felt needs are not being met by the church (local) or The Church (universal). Which, I will admit, probably suits some people just fine. That’s because Christianity in the U.S., where John Shore lives, is becoming like politics in the U.S.: extremely polarized.  Issues that are black-and-white. Attitudes that are us-versus-them. Faith without mystery.

It doesn’t suit me. I’m not sure how obtainable the goal of inclusiveness is in the light of scripture that seems to speak strongly to certain issues, but I am impressed with the idea I took away from reading the W. P. Campbell book I reviewed here on Thursday; the idea that the “extremes” currently visible can be best expressed as “Grace with compromised truth” and “Truth with compromised grace.” There is a need for middle ground.  A need for a highway (as we Canucks call it), a dual-carriageway (as the Brits say) or a thruway (as the Yanks say) running through the middle.

(Can’t help but be reminded of Isaiah 40:3 at this stage: A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD ; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”)

And so, first John had the ThruWay Christians Facebook Group.

And then due to a glitch, because Facebook is completely unwieldy, we now have the ThruWay Christians Fan Page.  (Which is why both of the above “links” actually take you to the second one; it’s not a mistake; you can still find the other ! one if you wish.)

And lastly, we have the ThruWay Christians Website. If the idea of looking for something where you feel you identify resonates, check out what’s going on here and follow the developments as they happen.  Right now there are too many people falling through the cracks; there are always going to be, perhaps; but this is about making the cracks a little smaller. (Be sure to click on the forums and visit the “welcome” section where over 300 people have signed in.)

In a weekend post, John says he knows he’s going to take a lot of abuse for this. (I’ll probably get some, too for helping publicize it. )

Publishing the document for ThruWay Christians threatened me. It was not to my personal advantage to do that. It wasn’t ambitious of me. It was the exact opposite. That was me nearly committing career suicide.

…I do encourage you to bookmark or follow or whatever it is you do; the early days of this venture. Is it a tempest in a teapot? Okay, perhaps. But I can’t help but thinking that somebody had to be the first guy in line to use the term “missional.” Or the term “emergent.”

I think there’s something of value here.

I think we should all be listening.

– Blog posts by others about ThruWay Christians:

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