Saturday, February 17, 2007

Straining to remember the Bible

In reading the Episcopal News Service report from the meeting of Anglican primates in Tanzania on Friday, I found this section almost comical:

During the final session, the Primates heard from Canon Philip Groves who presented an interim report on the Listening Process, which strives to honor the
process of mutual listening, particular to the experience of homosexual persons.

Groves has been making contacts around the communion and assessing what churches are doing to listen to gay and lesbian people, Aspinall said, acknowledging that there needs to be "established safe ground" for the process to be effective.

He outlined preliminary proposals for the Lambeth Conference and is working on developing high-quality materials that will deal with the experiences of homosexual people, what science can tell us about homosexuality, the legal contexts, the reflection on the Bible, and training resources on facilitating listening.

First, can you imagine listening teams to honor the process of mutual listening, particular to the experience of spousal-abusive persons, or of kleptomanic persons? It always amazes me what legitimacy the sin of homosexual practice receives so routinely in ostensibly Christian circles. Should we give "safe ground" to wife abusers and embezzling treasurers, too, so they can tell their story without fear of repercussions? Some sins--the society-fawned-upon types--get a pass and a pat on the head, it appears.

But second, the wording of the final sentence is amazing. Look for where the Bible fits in the list--AFTER emotional anecdotes, after the apparently superior (and ever-changing) wisdom from overglorified science, and after counsel from lawyers. The Bible, which should be primary, overriding, and authoritative, becomes an emaciated afterthought.

But then look at how what SHOULD be THE authoritative and undisputed reference is treated: "reflection on the Bible." Oh, how sweet! After the Anglicans have heard the highly considered voices from unhappy lives and science and law, they will take a nice little glance at what they feel about what they suppose the Bible might say, however misguided they may find it to be in their superior wisdom.

It doesn't look like they're planning to rigorously exegete texts or submit themselves to the authority of God's Word written, as it transforms their lives. They will instead "reflect on the Bible," much as one reflects on one's childhood or a nice walk in the woods. Maybe they can reflect awhile over martinis, to make it really special.

I can just hear it now: "And now for some reflection on the Bible." It sounds like it should be set to the background music from "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handey on "Saturday Night Live." What an obvious revelation of the minimal role that Scripture plays in such an exercise!

Aren't Christians supposed to be people of The Book?

18 Comments:

Blogger Aric Clark said...

Aren't Christians supposed to be people of the Book?

Actually, from earliest times Christians usually consider themselves people of the Way. The Way being revealed in Jesus Christ as an other-centered, Kenotic Love, a ministry of forgiveness for sins, reconciliation and peacemaking. Later generations of Christians agreed that certain writings because of their apostolic links were accurate and valuable records of God's revelation of that Way, but it was never intended that the book itself come to replace the Way. Just that the Book would be a valuable tool in keeping us on the Way.

It seems to me that whatever one's opinion about homosexuality (I do not hold that it is a sin, nor do I agree that there is scriptural grounds for calling it such) it is consistent with the Way to encourage listening, compassion and reconciliation in all matters. So you ask whether we should give Child-abusers a safe space to tell their stories - yes, absolutely. That we fail to be compassionate in these regards both to victim and to sinner (because we are all guilty of sin to the core) is a far more grave error of faith than whether or not one rightly prioritizes the Bible.

12:47 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...

I agree with the Miner that we are to be people of the Way, but how do we know the Way apart from the Word?

Were the Word just a nice ollection of favorite sayings pulled together by the early church, we could each just proclaim "But I think 'The Way' should be like this, and what I think is all that counts!" With no CANON by which to measure ideas, all is up for grabs. Heck, people could even inexplicably say that they think there is no scriptural grounds for considering homosexual practice sin, although the Scriptures are univocal in saying so.

But we do have a canon of Scripture, given to us divinely and uniquely by God, with God's authority behind it and not anyone's quirky preferences. Since we do have Scriptures, we DO know what God commands about such things as homosexual practice, rendering our little preferences and half-baked notions rather immaterial.

In God's wisdom, attending to Scripture and its loving constraints put on our willfulness is THE most compassionate and reconciling thing we can do as we practice the Way, far better than a thoughtless "I don't really care if you're killing yourself, harming others, and disobeying God. You're perfectly free to do it here with impunity, because, gosh, we look to to the secular world for our moral cues!"

We can practice the Way because we have been provided the way to do so by none other than the Word.

And about child abusers: I said nothing.

About spouse abusers and church embezzlers, the point that I believe the Miner missed is not that we cannot hear anguish, soul-searching, and repentance. By all means we should! But one would be hard-pressed to find people lining up at presbytery microphones to approve a resolution to give serial, unrepentant, and proud spouse abusers and church embezzlers the sheltered right to continue in their sins with the full approval of presbytery.

Jim Berkley

6:14 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Aric Clark said...

Believing that scripture is univocal about anything is a luxury that a serious, critical study of the Bible in it's original languages cannot afford. The Bible isn't univocal about whether YHWH is the only God or just the particular god of the Israelites. It certainly isn't univocal about concepts for which there wasn't even a word in either Hebrew or Greek to describe like homosexuality - a medical definition invented in the 19th century.

But the biblical case has been argued by much more sophisticated thinkers than ourselves and not resolved. See William Placher, Brueggeman, and Robert Coote among other excellent scholars for a variety of views that don't agree with your understanding of scripture. The point I mean to make is that if the best biblical scholars of the 20th and 21st century can't agree about an issue of scriptural interpretation we certainly aren't going to outdo them.

Actually, I find that being overcertain of the meaning of the text is almost a guarantee that I am misreading it and doing violence to the Word. The moment we lose our humility in scriptural interpretation is the moment we are no longer actually attending to the Word, but only to words, dead letters on dead paper with only the capacity to harm and limit, but not to give life.

I cannot see where humility, the admission of our own limitations, the acknowledgment of the historical limitations of the documents which make up the canon, and the acceptance of the historical limitations of the church in which the canon was formed and shaped are anything, but responsible. I feel I have been misrepresented by statements like: "I don't really care if you're killing yourself, harming others, and disobeying God. You're perfectly free to do it here with impunity, because, gosh, we look to to the secular world for our moral cues!"

It is a long jump from, "let us be compassionate to sinner and victim," to the kind of vituperative rhetoric above. Indeed throughout your response I hear demeaning phrases like "nice collection of favorite sayings," "little preferences," and "half-baked notions". None of which suggest to me that my point of view has been considered seriously or that I have been engaged compassionately as a fellow christian honestly involved in the process of working out my own salvation in fear and trembling.

To me it seems, quite honestly, that an overconfidence about one's own knowledge of the meaning of scripture has led you to a way of being quite different from the other-centered love of Christ. I hope it is merely miscommunication, because what I hear are the words of a pharisee not a disciple.

12:00 AM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...

I have two words in reply to Miner: Robert Gagnon.

No one has shown Gagnon's exegesis about homosexual practice to be incorrect--not in any scholarly way that holds up to scrutiny. In fact, those with a different scriptural viewpoint mostly just whistle in the dark, as if Dr. Gagnon had not completely obliterated their assertions with stunning clarity and sheer volume of excellent argument.

Add to that the plain meaning that has been more than obvious to EVERY other generation of Christian--and the Jew before us--and there is no foundation on which to stand and spout moral innovations that do violence to the biblical text. None.

Our era is rife with chronological snobbery, as if we alone know anything. Preposterous! We show only our hubris and folly when we think ourselves so wise that we know better than all the Christians before us.

When there is no good argument against the assertions of another, the normal ruse is to attack the person. You have decided to attack my manner, rather than the substance of which I write. To combat the substance, you would need to battle nearly every Christian who has ever lived, because I share faith and practice with them. I haven't gone out free-lancing either morality or theology. I have stuck with The Book. I would highly recommend it.

Might I also suggest a marvelous short work by Helmut Thielicke, entitled "A Little Exercise for Young Theologians"? (You can find it on Amazon, if not in the SFTS library.) I think it would be just what the doctor ordered for one who has all the marks of being too full of theological disillusionment and too short on fundamental belief. anymore.

Jim Berkley

12:37 AM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger Aric Clark said...

I addressed my remarks before to your manner because it is the way we act and not what we know or believe that makes us disciples of Christ. In the New Testament Jesus uses precisely the same tactic over and over again with the pharisees. It matters little what we say we believe if our beliefs lead us to act in ways that are not compassionate, don't uphold God's justice, or malign God's good creation. I think it is the most basic step toward Christian virtue to approach each dispute with fellow Christians with humility.

I have read some (not all) of Gagnon's work. I find Brueggeman more compelling. This is another reason I avoided this line of argumentation, because it does no good to shout at one another contradicting viewpoints. There is no basis upon which either of us can claim superior judgment or greater freedom from bias. You have your opinion. I have mine. This leads to an impasse.

It isn't an argument to make assertions like EVERY generation of Christian before us was in agreement... First of all, it is historical naivete to suggest that there is anything that is precisely the same from generation to generation. As I pointed out earlier "homosexuality" as we conceive of it wasn't even a concept in the minds of early Christians or Jews. There was no word in the language that was analagous to what we mean by it. Each reference in scripture that comes even close is always talking about specific actions such as "anal sex between married men in the same bed where they sleep with their wife.." prohibitions like those have about as much weight as the prohibitions against wearing mixed fibers, or the command to stone disobedient children.

Even if you could prove conclusively that there was a historical consensus on the issue, so what? Every other generation of Christian and Jew has also been chauvinistic and almost all of them until recently supported slavery - an institution, which has far more biblical support than any condemnation of homosexuality.

Furthermore, you claim the Book as if you owned it or had an authoritative interpretation of it, which is a nice trick, but it won't do. From where I stand the Book's judgment is against you, because Jesus comes precisely to include the Gentile, the Leper and the outcast in God's kingdom plan. Repentance is something we all have to go through, but there is no suggestion that the gentile cease being a gentile anymore than the homosexual should cease to be a homosexual. Our ontological identity is revealed by Christ, not changed.

So far your claims all revolve around words like "univocity", "Every Christian", "plain meaning" - all absolute claims that are simply unfounded. Because there is no room for nuance or self-critique in such a viewpoint there is no possible way it can stand. Hubris and Folly were the accusations you leveled at me, but I haven't made any disprovable claims. In fact, to me it seems that I am the one taking the Bible, the tradition and the history most seriously, because I do not presume at the outset that they all agree with me!

I will look into the work by Thielicke, I'm sure it's in the GTU library.

11:31 AM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...

Dear Readers,

Do any of you need a great illustration of postmodern thinking? The preceding comment has just about anything you need. It's postmodernism writ large.

Paragraph #1 gives us works righteousness, not salvation by faith. And good works get to be defined by what the doer considers important.

Paragraph #2 deals with reasoning by impression. Ya just go with what ya like, and by all means don't do rigorous, logical comparison. It's kind of tedious, and besides, all opinions are equal, so how is one to decide, anyway?

Paragraph #3 is a great example of "we can't know anything anyway" thinking--deconstructionism come home to roost. Never mind that God decided to give us the written Word. Everybody understands it differently, so what good is it?

Paragraph #3 also contains a large assortment of statements that just plain aren't defendable. Read Robert Gagnon to find such assertions pulverized. The paragraph also has a nearly lethal dose of chronological snobbery thrown in.

Paragraph #4 throws out what Christians have believed until now as irrelevant. We must live in the eternal now, I suppose. The red herrings of slavery and chauvinism are also rendered unconvincing as analogies by Robert Gagnon. Read Gagnon.

Paragraph #5: See paragraph #3 on deconstructionism. The fact is that it is not just I who interpret the Bible as I have, but Christians throughout the centuries, until the recent departures. That's not irrelevant! The misuse of analogy here also just shatters reason: homosexual BEHAVIOR is not analogous to ontological STATE, such as being born a Gentile. Wouldn't we expect a Mafia hit man to cease being a murderer?

Paragraph #6 carries the rich irony of postmodernism's self contradiction: There is no possible way for absolute statements to stand. (Present statement excepted?) Or take this: "I haven't made any disprovable claims." (Except for this one?)

And more on paragraph #6: No one should assume that "the Bible, the tradition and the history" all "agree with me." That's me-centered. It would seem that each of us needs to be sure that we agree with the BIBLE, as it has been attested to by tradition and history. Presbyterians have the added help of our confessions. We don't deviate. We don't free-lance, as if in our own gnostic way, we've come up with some mystery no other Christians before us have figured out, because no one else has been quite as clever as us.

No, I am just not postmodern. I don't have any problem with Jesus saying, "I am THE truth." I believe it, and I believe Jesus gives me enough understanding to be able to act on it, too, without forever being caught in a tangle of puzzlement over epistemology.

Some final thoughts for The Minor: Why don't you give us your name? It's rather difficult to be authentic with a pseudonym.

You seem earnest, passionate, and intelligent. Thank you for writing in a way that illuminates ideas rather than flings mud.

However, I hope you understand that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. It appears that you've been wallowing in a single, decidedly theologically liberal Weltanschaung. This may be news for you: there is intelligent life elsewhere, too. Even in previous generations. You may find a lot to learn from those sources, as well.

I wish you well, Miner--whoever you are.

Jim Berkley

1:13 PM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger Aric Clark said...

The pseudonym is not intended to be off-putting it is merely a nickname some of my friends use for me. My name is Aric Clark and I am an Mdiv student at SFTS and an inquirer in the Presbytery of Sacramento, besides being a husband and parent.

As you have rightly pointed out I am clearly a postmodern thinker. I do not dispute that there are problems with a postmodern paradigm, but I find them preferable to the problems inherent in other paradigms. Please don't imagine that I have uncritically accepted and internalized ideas fed to me, or that I have only circulated within liberal or contemporary modes of thought. I consider myself just as much an heir of the tradition as you do, though we find ourselves on opposing ends of this debate. The tradition has never been monolithic and always included internal dissent.

Thank you for your words of advice. This has been an edifying conversation for me.

Blessings.

2:26 PM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...

Aric,

Thank you. May your studies go well and your preparation be full!

I called Sacramento Presbytery home for seven years and still have good friends in the presbytery. I was vice-moderator when I moved to the Midwest in 1985. It's been a sound presbytery over the years.

Perhaps you can breathe a sigh of relief that I'm not still a member of the presbytery to be there when you are eventually examined for ordination, eh? I just might have a question or two. [grin]

Jim Berkley

3:04 PM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger Doug Hagler said...

Leviticus 20:13 - If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

I'm wondering here what Gagnon's justification is for not going out and killing homosexuals. Or at least putting them on trial. Doesn't the fact that this isn't happening indicate that even conservative Biblical interpreters are taking more into account than a bare reading of the Biblical text? Not to mention the hundreds of other commands that occur in the Bible and are ignored by modern Christians.

On another note: I can certainly say that there is no consensus among Gagnon's colleagues in Biblical studies that he has developed the definitive exegesis on the topic of homosexuality. I have read many of Gagnon's arguments and see very little value in them. Since I don't share his bias against homosexuals, his arguments exert very little for me. Even if he is accurately representing the biases of the authors of scripture, we as Christians don't accept those biases as our own without critical reflection. Hence the abolition of slavery and the ordination of women - both are very recent developments, and both were the right thing to do, and both also go against sections of the Bible. I imagine Gagnon supports both of these movements, and I imagine he does many things the Bible tells him not to, and does not do many things the Bible tells him to. We all do this, and in some cases we have good reason for it. The Bible is authoritative, but it cannot be the only authority. If it was, our efforts in physical and social science and ethics and theology would be completely foolish wastes of time. Our calling would be to live as close to Bronze Age Palestinians as we could and leave it at that.

I'm suspicious, though, that our positions don't stem from scholarship inward, but from our own feelings on the matter outward. For example, I have long-term friendships with homosexuals, and none of them practice a "lifestyle". They are homosexual in the helpless way that I am heterosexual. They cannot be different any more than I can make myself homosexual. Their relationships also don't seem harmful, either to themselves, their partners, or to their communities or society. They do experience a great deal of emotional anguish, but this stems from hatred and rejection they suffer from, to my great disappointment and sadness, Christians.

Given this experience, I see no compelling reason why I can support denying anything to homosexuals in terms of rights and priviliges that heterosexuals enjoy. I certainly also have a great deal of evidence in social science and physical science that I can point toward to support my view, and there are many reputable scholars who support my view in the areas of theology and christian ethics and Biblical interpretation.

In short, even if I accepted that the Bible considered homosexuality as somehow intrinsically sinful, I would say without hesitation that the Bible was wrong, just as it was wrong about things like cosmology, the age of the earth, the status of women, and the causes of disease and mental illness.

Doug Hagler

3:08 PM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger Doug Hagler said...

Addendum: I just realized that my post could be interpreted to be saying something like "only conservatives are hypocritical", which I don't mean at all. We on the progressive side have our own hypocrisies which we must face. I'm just wondering about this one because I honestly don't understand it.

3:33 PM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...

Dear Doug,

What is this, the SFTS debating society? And what ARE you folks learning about logic, exegesis, biblical authority, and Reformed theology at SFTS these days? Sigh.

Read The Bible and Homosexual Practice by Robert Gagnon. Or go to his web site: http://www.robgagnon.net/ . Gagnon thoroughly and painstakingly answers questions such as yours. And rather than just deciding not to like what he writes because you think he has something against homosexual persons, try saying, "What is it about his logic, reasoning, and arguments that is not correct? Where exactly is his error?"

I've been watching, and I don't see anybody able to mount a strong case that counters Gagnon's points. People complain about the volume of what Gagnon writes. They gripe about his perceived attitude. But people do not produce the scholarship or precision to counter the case that Gagnon has made. So they pretty well ignore him, keep saying their absolutely demolished theories, and act as if Gagnon hasn't given 21 excellent reasons why they have no leg to stand on.

Before you dismiss Gagnon, you need to prove exactly where he is incorrect. He may say things you don't like, but not liking them does not make them wrong. GOD says things I don't like either. My wife says things I don't like. Even I say things I don't want to hear (such as "You can't eat the chocolate bar you want right now!"). All three sources have been known to be right, whether I want to hear what they say or not. Gagnon is like that. He may be a bitter pill for you to swallow, but unless you can disprove what he has proposed, avoidance shouldn't be your choice.

I'm afraid you lose me when you write: "Even if [Gagnon] is accurately representing the biases of the authors of scripture, we as Christians don't accept those biases as our own without critical reflection."

I would suggest you don't say anything remotely like that in your ordination exams. The idea that the Bible is a compillation of biases of human authors that you can accept or reject is something that should have been tossed out with Marcion's scissors.

Your final paragraph also undercuts just about anything you've written previously: "In short, even if I accepted that the Bible considered homosexuality as somehow intrinsically sinful, I would say without hesitation that the Bible was wrong...."

You know what, it's not up to you to pronounce judgment over the Bible. It's up to you to live under the judgments rendered over your life and thinking BY the Bible.

I love the old line that "The Bible is the anvil that has worn out many a hammer." It will endure your little mallet, as well, I am sure.

Now, I'm going to have to start charging billable hours if I give any more time to this series of postings. Thanks for your thoughts, but let's leave it at this.

Jim Berkley

4:56 PM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger MikeZ said...

We see the effect this debate is having on the Anglican Church, in Tanzania. Rowan Williams is listening to proposals that the Anglicans merge with the big-C-Catholic Church.

I wonder if we should listen to Bishop Spong, who no longer believes in God. Does he have a viewpoint worth considering?

I also wonder if Miner feels, since the Bible is so uneqivocal - or non-univocal - about anything, why bother to cite it or read it at all?

The other issue that seems to be dividing the Anglicans is that of women's ordination. Kenneth E Bailey has settled that fully, as far as I'm concerned. There are hundreds of places in the Bible, Old and New, where women are accepted as equals, as leaders, and only one place (Timothy) where they're told to shut up and sit down.

On the other hand, there are hundreds of places (Gagnon probably knows them all) where homosexuality is frowned upon to one degree or another, and not one place where it is approved.

One point is that yes, we are all human, and there may well be sound biochemical reasons why some are homosexual. If that's the case, I don't think we should "cast them out". But pastors, deacons, elders - even bishops - are expected to hold to a higher standard. Some fundamentalist churches will not appoint a pastor who is not "of one wife" (i.e., single, or divorced and remarried).

Miner wrote, "First of all, it is historical naivete to suggest that there is anything that is precisely the same from generation to generation". Let's not tighten down the word "precisely" so hard it presses the life out of the truth. We all know that in ancient Greece and Rome, homosexuality was accepted and tolerated (though the Greek version would surprise the average person), but when two ancient Greeks or Romans got married, it was a man and a woman. The variants of marriage - polygamy, polyandry - were not there so the women could cuddle, or the men.

Finally, about forgiveness: I can forgive someone who is hurting me, after they stop. If they do it again, I'm supposed to forgive them again - after they stop again. Jesus gave us high standards ("forgive them 70 time 7"); I think these are ideals that mere humans cannot attain - but we should try to keep headed in that direction. So if someone engages in behavior that offends you (but not necessarily me), you can forgive him - but I really think that forgiveness should be followed by repentance.

This is a bad analogy, but it's the best I can do now: if a friend of yours is an alcoholic, you can certainly forgive him, and he can certainly reform. But an alcoholic is drawn (again, apparently by biochemistry) to alcohol. Only by abstaining can he hope to have a useful life. He'll always be an alcoholic, but he won't be a drinker.

6:44 PM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger Doug Hagler said...

Ok, I'll leave it here I guess. But I do feel like I should answer your questions at least. I reject Gagnon because he seems to think that the Bible is an authority unto itself, that it somehow encapsulates everything God has to say, and what I'm learning at SFTS is that this can't possibly be the case. It is a priori not the case. What's wrong with his reasoning? He makes essentialist arguments which are absurd and belong in the 1700s. He is unable to own up to his own social location as one definitive factor of his exegesis and functions under the delusion that he can be objective. So, I don't disagree because he and I have different biases. I disagree because his reasoning doesn't stand up to the standards of the basic texts I've used in Intro to Exegesis.

Gagnon, because his views on homosexuality cause harm (to homosexual persons), has a higher requirement of proof than my views have, since mine do not cause harm He has come nowhere near justifying the harm that his views do.

What are we learning about logic, exegesis, Biblical authority and reformed theology at SFTS? Not to ignore them in favor of Biblical literalism. We're learning that there is no way that your truth, or Gagnon's truth, or my truth, is THE truth. We're learning, ideally at least, to live courageously in a world that does not hand us objective truths but where we must nonetheless look for the movement of the Spirit and live lives that are a reflection of Christ.

I have no doubt that the Bible will survive my "little mallet" as you condescendingly put it, as it will doubtlessly survive your own suffocating straitjacket. As for me, I think that a God who condemns people for something that 1) does no harm whatsoever and 2) is almost certainly outside their control is not just, not good, and not God. That God can be God for someone like Gagnon, perhaps, but will never be God for me.

But I think it is clear where and how we disagree. Maybe some middle ground will emerge, who knows? I commend your blog back to your gentle care :)

1:58 PM, February 21, 2007  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

Oh God help us.

2:36 PM, February 21, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...

Gentle reader,

Behold the product of an SFTS education--Intro to Exegesis (Exit Jesus, in this case) and all!

Momma, don't let your kids grow up to be SFTS students!

This is tragic.

Jim Berkley

3:00 PM, February 21, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...

This is not Jim writing, but rather guest commenter Bruce Byrne:

There is tremendous irony when an adherent of postmodern philosophy argues for anything. Postmodernism undercuts the foundation of all reason, yet the postmodernist attempts to reason from postmodernism. The postmodernist never turns postmodernism on his or her own line of reasoning (or upon the reasoning upon which postmodernism rests). If one did, the game would be up.

The trick of the game is to apply the murk and mire of postmodernism to that which is orthodox, thus forcing the conclusion that the Bible cannot be made to say anything unequivocally, yet, in the next moment, forget the muck and mire and speak authority about what Christianity is really all about. By
shifting philosophical foundations back and forth, it is one moment argued that the Bible provides no
foundation for orthodox thought, yet, in the next, it is used to speak authoritatively against orthodoxy.

The two SFTS students who have contributed to this thread have mastered this maneuver. The Bible is reduced to a collection of Bronze Age documents that are culture bound and, for all intents and purposes, inaccessible, and it is used to assert with concise authority what Christianity is and isn’t. Reading through their remarks with this in mind, one can watch the ebb and flow. That they are unaware of it speaks to the closed environment of SFTS. Such tactics and inconsistencies simply cannot survive in an open environment.

“Sftsexperience” further demonstrates the closed SFTS environment in his comments regarding homosexuality. He writes regarding homosexuality that it "does no harm whatsoever." Of course, the biblical issue is with homosexual behavior, not homosexuality as such, but only willful ignorance or an extremely cocooned environment can account for such a lack of knowledge. The fact is that practicing male homosexuals reduce their lifespans by 8 to 20 years as a consequence of
their behavior.

This will, no doubt, come as a surprise to Sftsexperience (assuming he believes it), but he need not simply take it on faith. Googling “homosexual lifespan” will suffice to begin an awakening regarding the damage homosexuals do to themselves and their partners. An awakening, that is, if Sftsexperience is willing to believe the truth and not only what his community finds acceptable.

Finally, it should be clear to everyone who has given Gagnon’s work more than a cursory, dismissive
treatment, that our two SFTS students have not read him with any seriousness. Gagnon clearly and (as always) thoroughly discusses issues of which they remain completely ignorant.

Bruce Byrne
(brucebyrne@yahoo.com)

11:42 PM, February 21, 2007  
Blogger MikeZ said...

There's a radio talk show host, Tammy Bruce. (You can check her bio at www.tammybruce.com/biography.php)

She's been talking about the bizarre (my adjective) plan by the Texas governor to require all girls 11 and up (or 9, depending on what story you read) with Gardasil - a vaccine intended to protect against cervical cancer. In effect, a vaccine against a condition brought on by behavior (HPV, an STD).

One of the points Bruce made was to compare it to the mass effort to combat AIDS, a disease she says could have been much more effectively combatted by behavioral change than by drugs.

12:03 PM, February 22, 2007  
Blogger Doug Hagler said...

Hey Bruce! Good afternoon!

Man, I wish I was the master you put me up to be. But my use of postmodernism here isn't selective. Unlike you and Jim and Gagnon, I do not even claim authority for my own views. I want to make that clear before you go on saying that I'm doing otherwise. I view my own ideas in the same light I view yours - as necessarily particular, and as perhaps pointing to something beyond the particular. (In fact, my belief is that the best views thrive in an open environment, one devoid of Bibliolatry, for example.)

The comment on reduced homosexual lifespan is a red herring. It seems you aren't arguing against homosexuality to make homosexuals safer. You're arguing against it because you think it is intrinsically sinful. For fun, I did Google "homosexual lifespan", and the top article was an anti-homosexual Christian apologetics site pretending to be scientific. That's a good example of a problem of sources. All sources are biased, but when they don't admit it, they're just lying to themselves and to their audience. The next link led me to a site listing criticisms of the argument you put forth, pointing out problems with the conclusion. Google is so wonderfully postmodern, it is a great source, and I'm glad you recommended it.

Like the comments about Gagnon, who I *have* read and studied before rejecting, this is an example of taking one source or view and then pretending as if this ends the conversation. See, I can read Gagnon and reject his reasoning and conclusions. You seem to think that makes me an idiot, and as a postmodern I say you're welcome to your opinion of me and my ideas.

I don't understand how I am coming from a closed environment when I am making attempts to point out that what you see as a closed case is actually an ongoing conversation and mutual critique. Much like what we're doing here. You critique me, I critique you. Ideally we both grow from it. I feel like I am, though I can't speak for you. It seems like your position is that I am stupid and ignorant, whereas my position is that we both have something to say and that we can respectfully disagree. At least, that's what I want to say. I think I have very solid reasons to reject your anti-homosexual views, but I don't think you're stupid because you hold them. I try to address what you say and respond honestly with why I disagree with what I do.

See, that's one of the strengths of postmodernism, among its many weaknesses. It allows me to respect multiple viewpoints while still holding my own. It frees me to understand that my truth is not the truth, and your truth is not the truth. Even Saint Gagnon doesn't have the stranglehold on truth he seems to think he has. This can be a very scary assertion if what you want from life, or faith, is certainty, or a source of authority over other people, but for me faith precludes my certainty. It pries me open and pushes me to think for myself and open myself to honest challenge. So I'll keep trying to do that - and in the meantime perhaps waste your and Jim's time, in which case I apologize. But I also don't want your comments to stand, as if there wasn't a response.

3:18 PM, February 22, 2007  

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