Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Stand Firm Dialogues

After pretty unsatisfactory attempts at clarification and dialogue at Stand Firm, I have invited people from that blog community to TTUD. I welcome your questions, challenges and everything else and will attempt to keep up with my end.
Tom

17 comments:

PseudoPiskie said...

I hope you aren't holding your breath, Tom! For some there are no questions, only their answers. There is no dialogue as others who disagree have nothing relevant to say.

I'll keep checking back hoping for some conversation however.

Anonymous said...

You revisionists confound evangelism and church membership. Evangelism is to be all inclusive, but not church membership (Mt 18, 1 Co 5). You needlessly create "contradictions" and "conflicts" where none exist in the text.

Thomas B. Woodward said...

Anonymous -- First, I don't like being lumped with others as "revisionists." Others you would lump in with me, I'm sure, will disagree with me on major issues as I will with them. It's OK to address me separately.

Second, I think the real revisionists are the Biblical literalists who are leading us towards a morality that is not based on the life and teaching of Jesus. As one who believes in the value of Biblical criticism and in the importance that the church's moral stands are rooted in the life and teaching, I prefer the title of "reasserter."

I'm not sure what you mean about church membership here. I agree that we are called to evangelize everyone. The end of evangelism, though, is not church membership but incorporation into the Body of Christ. That is to be all inclusive. If there is any sorting to do, that is God's to do -- not ours.

In the Episcopal Church we have a mechanism for dealing with issues of church membership. When there is a "notorious and evil liver" in a congregation or someone who is undermining the allegiance to Jesus Christ, we can excommunicate that person. That, however, does not affect his or her membership in the Body of Christ.

Why should we be less that fully inclusive in church membership? Who would you exclude? Do you think God delegates that authority?

I don't understand where you see me or others creating contradictions and conflicts where none exists in the text. Can you help me understand?

Thanks for your comment. I look forward to more.
Tom Woodward

Anonymous said...

When there is a "notorious and evil liver" in a congregation or someone who is undermining the allegiance to Jesus Christ, we can excommunicate that person.
Thank goodness you at least have such a mechanism - I'm not an Episcopalian and assumed not. I'm sorry about that.

Who would you exclude?
Even before unrepentant fleshly sinners (such as adulterers as well as homosexuals), I think that people such as John Spong, Marcus Borg and Robert M Price who are BLATANT atheists should be excommunicated- why allow them to be a witness of your church?

Why should we be less that fully inclusive in church membership? Who would you exclude? Do you think God delegates that authority?
I think He does delegate authority - in Galatians 1: if we or even an angel of heaven should preach to you any Gospel than that which ye have received, let him be anathema. The passage doesn't make sense otherwise. The Word is perspicuous enough so that we can understand it and can make such calls.

We are tempted to spiritual pride and phariseeism if we exercise church discipline. I agree with you there. But we are commanded to do it. There are risks to every action. Not doing it is worse, since it allows children and others to be influenced by false teaching.

Thomas B. Woodward said...

Anonymous -- I hope the church is larger than what you describe. Why would you exclude gay and lesbian people who love our Lord -- and are acting out of a deep love and caring for another person in just the ways St. Paul describes in Galatians 5 as exhibiting the marks of the Holy Spirit? The Christian Church through the centuries has excluded many groups from the church -- women, Black people, gay and lesbian people, only later to discover that we have been wrong. Christians found reasons in the Bible to support slavery, but in the end decided that the overall message of Jesus trumped the experience of St. Paul. The same with women -- and now by listening to and praying with Christians who are gay and lesbian. I know what St. Paul wrote -- but I also know the marks of the Holy Spirit and of the blessing of God when I see them (and when they reflect Jesus' teaching about the morality that matters in the Beatitudes and Matthew 25).

As to Spong and Borg, I hope you will read them. Both have enabled thousands of people to come to Jesus Christ because they talk about the meaning of the central events of our faith -- and don't get hung up with literal details. Spong has been one of the great pastors in the 20th century.

Also, it is not your or my place to exclude these people from the Body of Christ -- our Lord has chosen them and their ministries have been affirmed by the rest of the Body, even though they irritate some.

Please be careful in what you term "false teaching." At different times the Christian Church tolerated polygamy, slavery, the subjugation of women and on and on and called anyone who disagreed with them "false teachers." The church does not seem much interested in talking about the immorality of participating in capital punishment and in armed combat (both ruled out in Scripture).

Our job is to gather, God's job is to sort -- and from reading the teachings of Jesus, he retains a lot more people than you do. Take a look at the generosity of God and the wide diversity of his Kingdom.
Just look at the disciples he chose!

The Underground Pewster said...

"Just look at the disciples he chose."

Looking at the make up of the 12, I don't see the racial or ethnic diversity of the starship Enterprise.

Thomas B. Woodward said...

Great observation!

Do you know the book by William Stringfellow, "Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land?" Bill knows well the Pauline strain which has the faithful as "ambassadors from heaven."
Tom W.

Thomas B. Woodward said...

After being subjected to potshots, broadsides and sneers at Titus One, I offered to continue a discussion on an article I had written for The Episcopal Majority which Kendall Harmon had posted on his blog.

My offer, made several weeks ago, is pretty much without takers -- certainly not the usual suspects from Titus One and Stand Firm. I can only assume they are more comfortable in a toxic environment where every sneer is applauded, often with violent and demeaning language. The biggest problem with such toxic environments is that those who contribute to them most consistently lose sight of just how toxic the environment is.
Tom Woodward

traditionalanglican said...

Why would you exclude gay and lesbian people who love our Lord -- and are acting out of a deep love and caring for another person in just the ways St. Paul describes in Galatians 5 as exhibiting the marks of the Holy Spirit?

Please Father give us a break here. Saint Paul call Sodomy sin, it is very clear. Deep loving and caring are Christian virtues but this does not apply to sexual acts outside marriage of one man and one woman. As to the mark of the Holy Spirit, as I often talk with charismatic Christian, one must always discern what appears to be from the Holy Spirit. If such is in conflict with Holy Scripture one can be assured it is not of the Holy Spirit but from the deceiver.

The Christian Church through the centuries has excluded many groups from the church -- women, Black people, gay and lesbian people, only later to discover that we have been wrong.

With the except of black people, the Church has not been wrong. Even in the case of black people the Church was not wrong rather members were wrong. Men and women are different and have different roles within the Church. People who engage in Sodomy are in open and will disobedience.

Anonymous said...

Posted also at SF. I did as you requested. No holding of breath required.

carl

TBWSantaFe

"I have two questions for you. First, who do you read and who do you talk with in order to understand with respect and compassion the views such as mine."

So let me give a detailed example. I have been watching this story since just before the Windsor Report came out. There was a period of perhaps 18 months where I read every post and every comment on Fr Jakes blog, Thinking Anglicans, and Preludium. It was incredibly valuable to me because I discovered my notions of liberal Christianity were both wrong and naive. But it became tiresome after a while. The law of diminishing returns set in, and the arguments became repetitive and predictable. (And always - ALWAYS - the invectve.) That's when I knew it was time to leave.

Understand however that I didn't go there to be persuaded. I knew beforehand the disagreements were fundamentally presuppositional. They were not going to change my mind. I was not going to change theirs. It was for comprehension and understanding that I spent all that time on Liberal blogs. I read much, commented little, and watched. Today I am pretty good at presenting liberal arguments. Periodically I play the progressive on SF and invariably get pounded by someone who doesn't recognize me.

None of this however should be construed as indicating that I possess either respect or compassion for your viewpoint. Frankly, I don't. One must respect his opponent - not his views. In fact, I despise liberal Christianity and wish nothing but its destruction. Yet I show my respect to you by understanding and fairly engaging your real arguments, and by being up front about my opinions. More than this you cannot require.

But do you see? I am not sure you realize it, but you have given away the store. You said...
"...to understand with respect and compassion the views such as mine"

You want respect and compassion; not just comprehension. And so you admit what I said about "listening" is true. It is that "respect and compassion" for viewpoints that is at the heart of the listening process as you see it. It is why I wasn't "listening" to the liberals during the time I spent on those blogs. It's why Bishop Deng had no interest in "listening" to VGR. The "listening" you desire would occur at the presuppositional level, and (in your view) is intended to bring my presuppositions into question. But that is not going to happen.

That was the heart of my original question, really . Why do you criticize Bishop Deng for consistently acting on his presupposiitions but not criticize KJS for consistently acting on hers? I have yet to hear an answer.

carl

Thomas B. Woodward said...

TBWSantaFe

"I have two questions for you. First, who do you read and who do you talk with in order to understand with respect and compassion the views such as mine."

So let me give a detailed example. I have been watching this story since just before the Windsor Report came out. There was a period of perhaps 18 months where I read every post and every comment on Fr Jakes blog, Thinking Anglicans, and Preludium. It was incredibly valuable to me because I discovered my notions of liberal Christianity were both wrong and naive. But it became tiresome after a while. The law of diminishing returns set in, and the arguments became repetitive and predictable. (And always - ALWAYS - the invectve.) That's when I knew it was time to leave.

Understand however that I didn't go there to be persuaded. I knew beforehand the disagreements were fundamentally presuppositional. They were not going to change my mind. I was not going to change theirs. It was for comprehension and understanding that I spent all that time on Liberal blogs. I read much, commented little, and watched. Today I am pretty good at presenting liberal arguments. Periodically I play the progressive on SF and invariably get pounded by someone who doesn't recognize me.

None of this however should be construed as indicating that I possess either respect or compassion for your viewpoint. Frankly, I don't. One must respect his opponent - not his views. In fact, I despise liberal Christianity and wish nothing but its destruction. Yet I show my respect to you by understanding and fairly engaging your real arguments, and by being up front about my opinions. More than this you cannot require.

I AM GRATEFUL FOR YOUR HONESTY AND GRACIOUSNESS.

But do you see? I am not sure you realize it, but you have given away the store. You said...
"...to understand with respect and compassion the views such as mine"

You want respect and compassion; not just comprehension. And so you admit what I said about "listening" is true. It is that "respect and compassion" for viewpoints that is at the heart of the listening process as you see it. It is why I wasn't "listening" to the liberals during the time I spent on those blogs. It's why Bishop Deng had no interest in "listening" to VGR. The "listening" you desire would occur at the presuppositional level, and (in your view) is intended to bring my presuppositions into question. But that is not going to happen.

CARL, WHAT I WAS ASKING FOR IS THE WILLINGNESS TO TAKE ONE ANOTHER’S POSITIONS SERIOUSLY. AS AN EXAMPLE, YOU ARE PART OF THE BODY OF CHRIST AND THROUGH PRAYER, STUDY, DISCERNMENT AND ENGAGEMENT WITH OTHERS YOU HAVE COME TO CONCLUSIONS DIFFERENT FROM MINE. WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO ME IS NOT THE PROPOSITIONAL STATEMENT AT THE END OF THE PROCESS (YOU SEEM TO AGREE WITH ME ABOUT THAT), BUT THE PRAYER, BIBLE STUDY, DISCERNMENT AND ENGAGEMENT WITH OTHERS IN THE BODY OF CHRIST. WHEN YOU ARE HONEST ABOUT THAT PART OF YOUR FORMATION, I AND EVERYONE ELSE HAS PLENTY TO LEARN FROM YOU.

MY OWN JOURNEY BEGAN IN 1965 WHEN A COLLEAGUE ASKED ME TO JOIN HIM IN BUILDING BRIDGES BETWEEN THE CHURCH AND HOMOSEXUAL COMMUNITIES IN LAWRENCE, KS. I BEGAN READING REFLECTIONS ON THE BIBLE THAT WERE COMPLETELY NEW FOR ME AND I BEGAN LISTENING TO THE LIVES OF MEN AND WOMEN WHO LOVED JESUS WITH ALL THEIR HEARTS BUT FELT REJECTED AND SCORNED BY HIS CHURCH – AND I BEGAN TO SEE CLEARLY THE MARKS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN MANY, MANY GAY AND LESBIAN PARTNERSHIPS. I CONTINUED TO LISTEN TO THOSE WHO BELIEVED THAT SCRIPTURE HAD SETTLED ALL THIS A LONG TIME AGO – AND I LISTENED THROUGH PRAYER AND MUTUAL DISCERNMENT TO WHAT I BELIEVED AND BELIEVE WAS THE AUTHENTIC VOICE OF GOD TELLING ME SOMETHING QUITE DIFFERENT.

That was the heart of my original question, really . Why do you criticize Bishop Deng for consistently acting on his presupposiitions but not criticize KJS for consistently acting on hers? I have yet to hear an answer.

MY CRITICISM OF ARCHBISHOP DENG WAS, IN PART, THAT HE SAYS PROUDLY THAT HE DOES NOT HAVE TO LISTEN TO OTHER PARTS OF THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY ON THESE ISSUES. I DO NOT THINK THAT IS ADMIRABLE, ESPECIALLY WITH SO MUCH AT STAKE. FOR THE RECORD, I HAVE RAISED QUESTIONS PUBLICLY ABOUT PB JEFFERTS SCHORI FOR SOME OF HER DECISIONS. ON THESE ISSUES, HOWEVER, I THINK HER PROCESS HAS BEEN VERY SIMILAR TO MY OWN AND TO THOSE PEOPLE LIKE KENDALL HARMON, JOHN LIEBLER, BOB MAXWELL, BISHOP LITTLE, JEFFREY STEENSON AND OTHERS WHO BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT I BELIEVE.

Thank you, again, Carl, for posting this on my blog as well as StandFirm. I am responding both places.
Tom Woodward

Thomas B. Woodward said...

Response to Greg Griffiths, StandFirm:


I asked you, in #52:
Let’s say that scientists found a gene which caused people to take unreceptive views toward certain people… for example, toward homosexuals.
Would you then say that is an error, or something God intended?

My answer, Greg, is that there is no way I could know if that were an error or something God intended. Humans seem to have inborn propensities for a whole range of things – some laudable and others reprehensible. I believe our task is to resist those we discover are reprehensible. To add to your question: if God intended it, did God intend that we resist it or embrace it? Are we superlapsarianists or supralapsarianists?

Here is an example about things which sure seem to be built into our genetic makeup. If is from the book, “Jesus Christs,” by A.J. Langguth. This is one of many fantasy stories about Jesus which reflect on important notions:

Jesus opened his notebook on the study hall desk. Using the ruler from his geometry class, he drew a ledger’s line down the center of the page. At the top of the left hand column he wrote”Assets” and over the other, “Liabilities.” Under “Liabilities,” he printed in block letters, “Impatient.”

Shielding the page from the girl across the aisle, he added:
Demanding
Self-righteous
Proud
Moody
Suspicious
Filled with doubt
Tend toward arrogance

With some dismay he counted the entries and began to contemplate the “Assets” column. With another look to be sure the girl couldn’t see the page, he wrote, “Son of God.” In better spirits, he closed the notebook and started on the next day’s translation of Cicero.

Unless you hold that Jesus was born with a different genetic makeup than the rest of us (problem with that is that what he did not assume he did not redeem), all those are pre-dispositions that Jesus had to face and to resist. He certainly did have “unreceptive views towards certain people” – whether they came from his culture or genetic makeup is unknowable. An example here is the Syro-Phoenician Woman – Jesus initially seems to see her as sub-human, but she engages him on a level at which he can finally see her full humanity. Yes, there are several interpretations of this event – I have chosen the one based on the plain meaning of the text.

I [Greg] then asked another simple question in #96:
Why, then, is it a profound matter of justice that we change, but it is blasphemy to suggest that gays change?
Why is our God-given trait as regards homosexuality something we must abandon, something we have to “get past,” but homosexuals’ God-given trait something that must be celebrated?
How come their God-given traits take precedence over ours?

I have not asked you to change – and I do not believe it is blasphemy to suggest that gay and lesbian people change. For you to change as a response to my demand would be asking you to disregard your conscience – that I would not do. I would challenge you to better inform your conscience (or further inform. . .), but not demand that you think or believe differently.

I believe the best reason for you to alter your views (or resist your “God-given trait”) is that there is increasing evidence that large numbers of Christian gay and lesbian relationships bear all the marks of the presence of the Holy Spirit as well as the marks Jesus lays out as descriptive of obedience to his vision and life.

I do not believe all homosexual love or relationships are to be celebrated. Some are distortions of everything we know and believe as good and healthy and responsive to God’s intention for human beings. I believe Norman Pittenger had it right in “Making Sexuality Human” when he noted that the proper place to begin is with human sexuality rather than with particular body parts. You and I may disagree about that – but it is Pittenger’s analysis and others which allows me to celebrate some relationships and not others, whether homosexual or heterosexual.

Lastly, it is not a matter of which God-given traits takes precedence – the heart of this is what kinds of relationships honor what we know of God’s will for us through prayer, study of the Scripture, paying attention to the presence of the Holy Spirit where we do not always expect it, Godly consultation and dialogue, discernment of the Spirit and on and on. That is a journey you and I are on, though at this point with different conclusions.

with respect,
Tom

Anonymous said...

TBW

"What I was asking for is the willingness to take one another’s positions seriously."

But I do take your position seriously. Let me give you an example of a position I don’t take seriously – Christian Identity. The racist chuckleheads who think Jesus wasn’t a Jew but was really an Aryan. Beyond the phrase ‘mud people,’ I couldn’t tell you much about their doctrine. Your position I take seriously. I took pains to learn it so that I could engage it intelligently. Again you seem to indicate that ‘respect’ implies a willingness to be persuaded.

"As an example, you are part of the body of Christ and through prayer, study, discernment and engagement with others you have come to conclusions different from mine. What is important to me is not the propositional statement at the end of the process (you seem to agree with me about that), but the prayer, bible study, discernment and engagement with others in the body of Christ."

This is a profound difference, for the doctrine at the end of the study is the important point to me. A Christian is defined by what he believes. He is not defined by baptism, or by Church membership, or by self-identification. I will call any man my Christian brother so long as he has orthodox views on the nature of God, the nature of man, the Deity and Humanity of Christ, the nature of His Atonement, the uniqueness of Christ as the only Way, and the authority of Scripture as the binding revelation of God. I trust you understand that I have collapsed together many concepts in that sentence.

"When you are honest about that part of your formation, I and everyone else has plenty to learn from you."

Yes, but only if we have unity on the fundamental doctrines of the Faith. I can learn from an Arminian or a dispensationalist. But I cannot learn of God from a Gnostic. Nor from a Muslim. Nor from a Universalist. Nor I might add from a Christian liberal as I have seen Christian Liberalism presented many times. I cannot learn of God from people who do not know God. And those who know God will of necessity believe certain things. It is for example a contradiction to claim to know God and then say “But Jesus was only a man.” I should add that I make no claims about you. I don’t know what you believe. The standard of my judgment is listed above.

"I continued to listen to those who believed that Scripture had settled all this a long time ago – and I listened through prayer and mutual discernment to what I believed and believe was the authentic voice of God telling me something quite different."

This is the sentence I would have focused on if I was responding cold to this post, for it contains the very heart of the difference between us. Your experience is not sufficient to overturn the revealed Word of God. To claim as you have the God was “telling [you] something quite different” you first must remove the authority of the Scriptures which say the opposite. And really there is no question as to the nature of the Scripture’s prohibition against homosexuality. The exegetical arguments against prohibition are weak, and contradictory. In my experience homosexual apologists quickly discard them in favor of the real authority in play – experience. And that is exactly the authority to which you appealed.

"My criticism of Archbishop Deng was, in part, that he says proudly that he does not have to listen to other parts of the Christian community on these issues. "

I think you must first prove to Archbishop Deng that VGR is in fact part of the Christian community. You will not be able to do that by appealing to sacrament or experience. You must prove it by doctrine. And then you will have to prove that VGR is a fit bishop according to the scriptural standards in the Pastoral Epistles. If you can get by condition 1 ( and I doubt you can considering that VGR ‘has trouble’ with the Nicene Creed, you will never get by condition 2.

carl

Thomas B. Woodward said...

Carl, I appreciate the care with which you have responded to me.

I don't agree with you that a Christian is identified by what he believes. The problem, if I understand you correctly, is that right belief becomes a work -- or a litmus test. Paul says what is crucial is faith, which is a relationship and not a set of beliefs (like the Christian faith). It is that relationship that is so important -- you and I will not have been able to understand the fullness of God or of God's will, but our relationship to God through faith in Jesus Christ is enough.

It is God's will that all be saved (Colossians, Romans, Jesus in the Gospels) - though that doesn't mean that all will be saved. In our Baptism, God does adopt us and, I believe, enters into a covenant with us that he will never break. That is part of our identity. So when you and I are weak or rebellious in our faith, God holds onto us as his adopted children, just as I hold on to my two adopted children as they have wavered in their own lives.

I think we have a lot to talk about. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

TBW

There was actually a reason I mentioned Christian Identity in that last post. It was intended to set up a final point, and of course I completely punted it. So I thought I would include an addendum because it is important. In my experience, conservatives take liberals much more seriously then liberals take conservatives.

If I make the case against the moral acceptability of homosexuality, I know that I will eventually be called a bigot and/or a homophobe. It is inevitable. Opposition to homosexuality is generally attributed to one of three causes: 1) ignorance, 2) fear, or 3) malice. So if I make the case and demonstrate that I am not ignorant, that only leaves the other two options. This serves as a tactic to avoid having to deal with my actual arguments. And it gets annoying. So I asked: "How do I make the case against homosexuality without being accused of bigotry?" The answer came back: "You can't."

Now you should understand the reason I mentioned Christain Identity. As I look at them, so liberals generally look at me. And once they do so, they dismiss out of hand anything I say - reasoning directly the opposite of what you maintained. One does not respect the position of a bigot, or expect to learn anything of use that is sourced in his bigotry. It allows my opponent to avoid what I say, but it kills dead the very conversation you say needs to occur. I reject his characterization, and he refuses to depart from it. What else is there to say once we have reached this point? This is something the Left needs to address. It changes the discussion from a conflict of ideas into an attack on my character.

To anticipate the counter charge: "But you are calling homosexuality sinful? How is that any less an attack on the character of the homosexual?" Because my authority is clear. Because I am faithfully representing the testimony of Scripture, and because I am bound by its authority. If I am to be convicted of bigotry in this matter, then establish the authority and show me my sin. But bigotry cannot just be presumed because the contrary assumption might offend my opponent. That is to prejudge the very case in question.

carl

Standard disclaimer. I use political terms like Right and Left to describe the competing sides in this argument because they are efficient and descriptive. But they should never be construed to carry political overtones. You would find me quite conservative politically. But I am well aware that conservative does not equal Christian. If I could find better terms, I would use them.

Anonymous said...

CARL said: "Yes, but only if we have unity on the fundamental doctrines of the Faith. I can learn from an Arminian[sic] or a dispensationalist. But I cannot learn of God from a Gnostic. Nor from a Muslim. Nor from a Universalist. Nor I might add from a Christian liberal as I have seen Christian Liberalism presented many times. I cannot learn of God from people who do not know God. And those who know God will of necessity believe certain things."

All I can say to you, Carl, is that whatever you think of as God lives in a little tiny box. The God I know has shown Self to me thru Muslims, Hindus, Tibetan monks, Quakers, nuns, monks, Episcopal Sunday school teachers, Marcus Borg, special-needs children without language.... well, the list is simply, as we say, World without end....

On second thought, maybe it is your heart that is a little tiny box. You might be surprised how much less angry you would feel if you just opened it up to ALL of God's children. In every creature, of God's own creation, there is something to be loved, and especially in the human creations.

For instance, I have never met +Gene, but I can see from the videos and his Lambeth blogs that he is blessed by MY God (is that YOUR God???) and is someone I would love to meet, and join at the Lord's Table. (FWIW: I am NOT LGBT)

There is so much unkindness in the world; don't spoil your world by keeping it in your heart.

A life-long Episcopalian who grieves the so-called "orthodoxy" emerging in the Fort Worth diocese

Anonymous said...

TBW

I made a second post last night and it hasn't showed up yet. Just wondering if it got lost, or you decided not to post it. I can't imagine that anything I said was offense, but if that is the case, i want to know.

carl