Friday, February 29, 2008

Where are the moderates?

You know how people keep wondering where the moderate Muslims are? If Islam is such a religion of peace, the thought goes, then where are the voices of Islam to speak up and censure the crazies who blow up children in marketplaces in the name of their faith? Every once in a while, one does hear some super-brave Muslim speak out to condemn the Muslim fanatics who would kill you for even wondering out loud if Islam is a violent religion.

Okay, along the same vein, where are the moderate liberals, the moderate progressives? Where are the reasonable voices from within the progressive camp to speak out when some of their own become crazies who definitely cross the line and give a bad name to fellow progressives?

Take John Shuck, for example. Shuck pastors First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee, a church he describes as progressive. On his own (with far too much time on his hands), he writes a profane, juvenile blog, appropriately named “Shuck and Jive.” He considers it “part of my outreach and teaching ministry.” Whatever.

On February 20, Shuck’s humor consisted of posting condescending photos of rednecks, with mocking captions about renewal leaders, myself included. What a card that Shuck is! Hoo-eee! Deep teaching in this ministry.

But once one gets into the comment section, Shuck turns from immature and tasteless to just plain mean and profane. Speaking of the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission, he writes (and please excuse the language):

You right-wing bastards won't even allow a freaking scruple. Now it is war again. I tell you, if there was a proposal now that would remove G-6.0106b and the 1993 AI and allow congregations to leave with the denomination's property free of charge, I would be for it just to get rid of you SOBs. I feel no affection for you and your Taliban theology. You are destroying our denomination. I despise you today.

Later, in a comment to Viola Larson, one of the most decent and gracious persons I have ever met, he wrote: “As for the lovely Viola, no, I don't hate you phony, hypocritical, pious, ignorant bastards. You just tick me off, some days more than others.

Okay, all the thoughtful, caring, sensitive progressives out there who crave dialogue and value diversity, and who are so concerned about alleged angry conservatives, who is going to stand up and say that John Shuck is a disgrace and embarrassment to fellow progressive Christians? Or do you think it is perfectly okay for him to treat church leadership and fellow Christians this way?

And I’m sure Shuck's presbytery has a Committee on Ministry. Is this behavior well within the standards of clergy conduct and demeanor expected by the presbytery of its spiritual leaders? Does anyone care enough about him and about the church to step in and provide some necessary correction? Does the presbytery have any behavior boundaries? Does it have some guts?

I understand that our denomination espouses a big-tent philosophy. But the big tent is not meant to contain a profane circus.

78 Comments:

Blogger Presbyman said...

Jim,

I wouldn't hold my breath. In my experience (and I am not even talking about John Shuck) you'll wait a long time for "nice" progressives to call out one of their own who isn't so nice, at least if the target is a conservative.

Cordially,

John Erthein
Erie, PA

7:55 AM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Jim,

Dennis Prager has an observation that I think applies here. It goes something like this: (Loose quotation) "Almost all conservatives I meet believe that liberals are wrong, but well intentioned. Most liberals I meet don't believe conservatives are well intentioned. To them we're just greedy or self serving or homophobic, etc."

We (conservatives) therefore fight against misinformed, but essentially good hearted people, while the progressives are fighting evil. (And evil is something the left only recognizes when it comes from the right.)

So within the PCUSA, we conservatives are bigoted, homophobic, ignorant oppressors who want to control the church to the full measure of our intolerance. Given the above, is it any wonder that every now and then some kind hearted pastor like John Shuck, fed up with our pharisaic ways, blows his cork? Didn't Jesus reach a boiling point with the Pharisees of his day?

I don't think a progressive rebuke of Shuck is any more likely than an apology from Shuck.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

8:51 AM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

Bruce's comment sure feels accurate. And from many of the comments on Shuck's blog (not all, but a significant majority), sure seems accurate.

But then I'm a part of the oppressive class... so what do I know.

Dave Moody,
Trinity Church
S. IL.

10:41 AM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

I ask you the same question - where are the moderate conservatives?

Who is balancing the rantings of the more rabid NWAC members? You know - the ones who feel that anybody who doesn't want to leave the PC(USA) is leading their congregation into evil? The ones who use words like "apostate" and "heresy" like they were salt on a pretzel?

It goes both ways.

11:05 AM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger TomGray said...

To Mark Smith
Name any NWAC blogger, representative, or member who speaks like John Shuck does. Considering our enforced marginalization over the decades, I feel that our discourse has been reasonable.
Tom Gray
Kirk of the Hills, EPC
Tulsa, OK

11:27 AM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Chris said...

Hey Jim,

As for contacting the COM, don't count on it doing anything. Mr. Shuck came into the presbytery with a few other, younger pastors who have mysteriously been placed in somewhat high positions. For instance, Mr. Shuck sits on the presbytery council. The chair of my former CPM* came into the presbytery with Mr. Shuck. It was on the basis of my disagreements with Shuck's theology that he politely asked me to leave the ordination process. (Technically, it was: "Discern whether you're called into a church that validates John Shuck's ministry." My answer was "no.")

(*See my candidacy examination in the December 06 minutes, ironically enough held at FPC Elizabethton)

PS: Bruce, I think Prager's quote is more along the lines of "Conservatives think liberals are fools. Liberals think conservatives are evil!"

11:29 AM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Rob said...

As a thought to Mark Smith--you might want to notice that you're posting on the blog of one of them.

2:35 PM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Rob said...

Oops--by way of attribution for the last comment:

Rob Harrison
Winona Lake PC
Winona Lake, IN

2:40 PM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Rastus said...

Jim,
I'm not as think I'm as liberal as John Shuck, so I guess that qualifies me as moderate liberal, though I'm not sure. It's hard to figure which label applies to me, so I don't claim one. It seems that it's always others, like yourself who fabricate the labels that pigeonhole others. And I can see why you do this -- it makes it easier to discount or dismiss them.

It's true that John's blog is, at times, juvenile and irreverant. On the day that he mocked you and and referred to SOB's and bastards, John sounded really angry. But John obviously felt, and to a lesser extent I feel, that a spirit of unlovingness was being leveled against a small minority.
John's anger is not pretty, but it's genuine and I see it as rising from his sense of indignation in response to the excluding actions towards homosexuals. Because John is being genuine, I can tolerate the crudity of his words in this instance. In many other instances and toward many other issues I admire John's passion for justice, inclusiveness, his championing for the underdog, his sense of humor, his ability to be self-deprecating, his sense of playfulness and humor, and certainly for his courage in being willing to speak out for what he feels is right. John is painfully human, and he is not ashamed to reveal himself as such. No small feat.
Your tatics in this case, Jim, are less genuine, less honest. You use several literary devices in your argument against John that are either disingenuous, or are common logical fallacies. John's profanity, on that post, are much more transparent, and hence less offensive.

With all due respect,
R. Jones
Johnson City, TN

10:06 PM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Hey guys,

I'm currently involved in searching for a new church home. We're moving. As far as I can see, my choice is between the Presbys or the Piskies.

My political and social views are more a mix. I'm very pro women's ordination, and affirming of GLBT inclusion in the church, and the blessing of SSU.

However, friends, it's totally important to me that my pastor be a committed Christian believer, able to affirm the unique divinity of Jesus Christ(the reality of the incarnation,) and the work of the cross. He (Jesus Christ) is my Savior and Lord.

Can you share some advice from your perspectives?

How strongly does your denomination feel concerning the lordship of Jesus, and whether church leaders are actually able to affirm and honor their ordination vows?

It would be a real help,I think, to hear from some of you.

Thanks so much, and God bless!

Becky Rome
currently at Hershey, Pa.

4:38 AM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Snad said...

So John showed some real emotion that day. So he was raw in the use of his words. He is a real person. I prefer the occasional lapse into "juvenile" invective and irreverent sarcasm from a man like John Shuck any day over the passive agressive faux beatitudes of people who couldn't find their true feelings with a GPS and voice activated navigation system. That includes Dennis Prager.

5:02 AM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Presbyman said...

Well, Jim, I guess you have your answer.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

5:08 AM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Presbyman said...

Grace wrote:

My political and social views are more a mix. I'm very pro women's ordination, and affirming of GLBT inclusion in the church, and the blessing of SSU.

However, friends, it's totally important to me that my pastor be a committed Christian believer, able to affirm the unique divinity of Jesus Christ(the reality of the incarnation,) and the work of the cross. He (Jesus Christ) is my Savior and Lord.


I am not confident you will be able to find ALL of these qualities in a church or pastor at the same time.

Respectfully,

John Erthein
Erie, PA

5:17 AM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

Tom:

I'll give you one.

Toby Brown:
"Grab and Hold is well on display in this presbytery's arrogant attitude and misleading statement about what the Book of Order actually says about property.

With leaders like this it's no wonder that so many Americans have such a low view of Christianity.

Way to go Heartlessland! Bravo!"

Sounds a bit like Shuck, doesn't it.

I will grant that I haven't ever seen a fart joke on Toby's blog.

12:57 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Toby Brown said...

Jim,

Do you think that the defenders of Marcion hailed his 'honest anger'?

I'm sure they did.

The more things change...

--Toby
Cuero, Texas

1:09 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Jim,

I think what we’re seeing here is a microcosm of the PCUSA and its troubles. We conservatives have to understand that we are dealing with people who have convinced themselves that we are akin to those who fought against the abolition of slavery. From their point of view, our appeal to scripture is similar to those pastors who quoted scripture against Wilberforce and the abolitionists. It doesn’t matter what we say or how we say it, we’re still arguing against the full humanity of their brothers and sisters and the fact that we’re doing so from within the folds of Jesus’ robe, or so we think, makes it all the more reprehensible to them. Their attitude toward us, from within their frame, makes perfect sense.

So what if John Shuck called us bastards? If we really are co-opting the name of Jesus for our self righteous attempts to keep some of God’s children from His presence we deserve worse names than that. Jesus called the Pharisees of his days “open graves” and “white washed tombs”. John Shuck, from a liberal’s perspective, is holding back. Thus a liberal who chastised Shuck for intemperate language would be viewed as someone who chastised Wilberforce for intemperate language. “Let me get this straight,” his response might be, “Everyday families are ripped apart, people are put into chains and stuffed into stinking and festering holds and then, those who survive, are sold into forced labor for life, and you want me to restrain my language because I might offend those who are doing these crimes against humanity.” Don’t waste your time appealing to moderates as they don’t exist within this frame on this issue, as those who have posted comments on this blog have aptly demonstrated. Moderation is simply not appropriate when the issue is slavery or (from their perspective) the denying of full inclusion into the life of the body of Christ of some by some.

As for the PCUSA, the above demonstrates why no PUP-like compromise can ever succeed: Conservatives believe (as do I) that homosexual behavior is a self and other destroying behavior condemned clearly and pervasively within and across the testaments, that its destructive behavior is clearly manifest in its negative impact on the physical and emotional health of most who engage in it and that it therefore is an act of love to stand with scripture and speak God’s truth to fallen humanity (which includes us). The liberals believe, as I have already noted, something quite different. One side must ultimately prevail and impose its will on the other (and then decide how to let the other go and with how much). The fact that we conservatives expect moderates on the other side of this issue is merely an indication that we understand neither how the liberals frame this issue nor how they view us.

Respectfully,

Bruce Byrne

1:35 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger john mcneese said...

Bruce

You write that “One side must ultimately prevail and impose its will on the other.” This won’t happen. Since the beginning of the church, issues come to the front and then subside. They never entirely go away. The conflict over homosexuality in the church reflects the conflict in society. At least for me, a more important impediment to our participation in the coming kingdom of God is our affluence in a world filled with poverty and oppression. On his first visit to America following his election, John Paul II warned America that Lazarus was on our doorstep. We haven’t listened.

Sex and personal purity and holiness, are the least of my worries. Having done my share of stoking the flames, I’m tired of all this arguing. If we continue to think in terms of win and lose, we will all lose. Those escaping into the EPC will ultimately be disappointed, for these controversies will follow them there as well.

2:56 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Viola said...

Jim,
On the note that John Mcneese has sounded, “Those escaping into the EPC will ultimately be disappointed, for these controversies will follow them there as well,”I would like to interject with a comment I made to someone else in an e-mail. I will paraphrase. Anyway, I was writing about visiting John Shuck’s web site way too much. I told my friend that as some one who writes on both theology and history, as I observed what was happening there on his site, I felt I was seeing in microcosm what would undoubtedly happen to the rest of our society unless, and this is a big unless, God intervened. Yes, John Shuck is honest in his anger, hatred and unbelief. That is why one can see the future there.

And I might add, to John Mcneese, these issues may very well follow, but the question remains, will the EPA back down in unfaithfulness as much as PCUSA has? And here I am not saying that our constitution does not hold or our confessions are not still in place. But in too many areas, in too many churches and presbyteries we have ordained those unfaithful to the Scriptures and Confessions, and that is an unfaithfulness that includes both biblical doctrine and sexual immorality.

Perhaps I am to pessimistic; I hope I am.

Viola Larson
Sacramento, CA

3:48 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Viola said...

I meant the EPC! Really.

4:02 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger will said...

Mark - I don't agree that there is anything like balance in this. Yes, 'conservatives' (meaning me, among others) cross the line sometimes. But, apart from people like Fred Phelps, I have not seen or encountered anything near the level of hatred and malice coming from the 'conservatives' as that which comes from *some* 'progressives'. I don't much care if this is genuine or contrived. I do not excuse it when 'conservatives' do it, but I see very few people object when 'progressives' do it.

If I remember rightly, you - to your credit - did respond to the 'redneck truck' incident. And if I'm aware of any of my friends doing something similar - referring, for example, to those who disagree as bastards, s.o.b.s, fascists, 'f'ing hypocrites, etc. or threatening physical violence, or taking delight in the death of 'religious right' (or in their case 'religious left') figures, - I will object. I haven't seen it. All of these I have seen on the blogs and in the comments of self-identified 'progressive Christians'.

I also have not encountered a dramatic difference in persona between comments on the blogs of the 'like-minded' and comments on blogs of the 'other side' among 'conservatives'. I have seen this in spades among many 'progressives' - who then feel quite ill-used when called on it.

This is not an issue of the merits of 'progressive' or 'conservative' viewpoints, but an issue of civility, courtesy, and kindness.

Personally, I think Bruce Byrne's comments are correct in that this grows out of how issues are framed. The fact is, I find a number of these views inherently irreconcilable - and yes, honest 'conservatives' view denials of the deity of Jesus, denials of the resurrection, denials of the existence of a personal God, etc. as an abandonment of definitional Christianity. Honest 'progressives' do view the 'conservative' understanding of LGBT issues as the equivalent of supporting something like slavery. (By the same token, 'conservatives' often view 'progressive' support for abortion in similar terms.)

If one regarded these as minor issues, then disagreement would not pose a great obstacle - but in a non-neutral environment - where the denomination makes particular stands, if a person has strong beliefs on an issue of disagreement, then there are very few options.

John Mcneese in that the controversies will not go away because they are part of the wider culture. I certainly do not have an answer for that - but it doesn't apply only to those who leave. It applies equally to those on the 'progressive' side - who will find that even when they 'win', the conflict will remain.

8:20 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger will said...

Jim - forgot your rule.

That last post was mine.

Will Spotts
North East, MD

8:20 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger john mcneese said...

I didn't know there was a rule. Sorry.

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

9:32 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Jodie said...

Tom Grey said,

"Name any NWAC blogger, representative, or member who speaks like John Shuck does. Considering our enforced marginalization over the decades, I feel that our discourse has been reasonable."

I'd like to nominate Parker Williamson.

1:28 AM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Viola, what is the EPC, and why are conservatives going there?

Becky.

4:01 AM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Also, why does one side feel that it must impose it's will on the other. I don't feel that total agreement concerning this sexuality issue is central to the gospel.

Equally committed Christians might differ concerning the interpretation of Scripture, and agree to disagree concerning the ordination of women, or divorce and remarriage. Why does this issue seem so very different?

Why not allow freedom of conscience in the matter? No church should be forced to call a partnered gay minister, or participate in SSU. But, on the other hand, let those who feel led to affirm this do so.

Everyone can be free to share their honest convictions. Agree to disagree, and trust God. I feel that we need to find our unity in Jesus Christ, around His gospel.

I see no reason why there needs to be schism in the church. I mean my own husband and I don't agree concerning all this, and we're not planning a divorce anytime soon. :)

Hey, God is in control. Jesus Christ is building His church, and even the gates of Hell ultimately can't prevail against it.

God's peace, and blessing to everyone here.

Sincerely,
Becky.

4:11 AM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

"This is not an issue of the merits of 'progressive' or 'conservative' viewpoints, but an issue of civility, courtesy, and kindness."

Will, that's just the point.

Conservatives tend to use "nicer" words, but the attitude is just as poisonous. The other side is wrong, stupid, and beyond contempt.

Nice language, but no civility, courtesy or kindness. Except for the patronizing "we will pray for you until you understand" language.

For the record, I have made some negative statements about John Shuck's views. Not on my blog, but in the comment areas of others.

Mark Smith
Hamilton, NJ
(I didn't know there was a rule either)

6:32 AM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Rev. Jim Sutter said...

Going to your original question of "Where are the moderate Muslims?" You can find thousands of Muslim leaders who have clearly spoken out against violence and terrorism, from just about every country, at http://facts-not-fear.blogspot.com

6:56 AM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Viola said...

Grace,
The EPC is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and some Presbyterian Churches from the PCUSA are going there because that denomination is much more clear and faithful in its Biblical standards both on theology and sexual sin. But I think somebody else besides me could better explain that since I am not leaving the PCUSA.

You wrote this, “Hey, God is in control. Jesus Christ is building His church, and even the gates of Hell ultimately can't prevail against it.”

Well, yes that is true, however, that does not absolve Christians from walking in faithfulness with their Lord. For instance, I could never be a part of John Shuck’s church or some in my own area since they deny some of the most basic teachings of the Bible and the Christian faith including the atonement. For me to worship in those churches would be to be unfaithful to the God I am called to serve. So as Christians we do have decisions we must make.

Viola Larson
Sacramento, CA

8:51 AM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Bill Crawford said...

Any group that calls Toby Brown an extremest self identifies themselves as far to the left.

Anyone that tries to imply Toby or Parker Williamson compare in any form to John Shuck show that their discernment is clearly in question.

John Shuck has been reported to his COM they have investigated and declared him in good order. John Shuck is on Council of his presbytery. This says about all there is to say about the PCUSA these days.

If you go far enough back in John Shuck's blog you will find much more shocking material and a research of his sermons on his church's website will show you clearly that he has abandoned any form of orthodox Christianity.

Those who defend him - honestly - baffle me.

Bill Crawford
Thibodaux, La

9:07 AM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Chris said...

Will & Grace, (apropos, no?)

One of the reasons that there is no neutral territory is because the PCUSA decided that it would be more vocal and strident in implementing decisions about foreign policy, domestic infrastructure, etc. than it would those areas which most especially concerned the Church (theology, worship, evangelism, etc.). Abandoning the spirituality of the church meant that we were going to center our work on the issues of whomever happened to be in control at the time. Welching on the supreme Lordship of Jesus meant that humans were in the driver's seat.

I blogged about this with a lesbian candidate. We actually came to the same conclusion, even though we are in different places theologically, ethically, politically, etc. I ended our dialogue saying "believing and preaching good doctrine doesn't really matter. No wonder we're left with nothing to fight about except bedroom matters and money!" When we decided that getting Jesus right wasn't sufficient to unite us in our differences (and ultimately bring about a more perfected public witness), we spent all our resources on following the latest social topic...and division was the only thing that advanced.

Churches that grow may issue statements about these political and social issues, but never at the expense of an opportunity to point people to Jesus who is God's ultimate YES.

Chris Larimer,
former candidate in Holston Presbytery (where Mr. Shuck pastors)

9:09 AM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

Which is less civil, the off the cuff juvenile pictures and rantings of John Schuck, or the carefully calculated and well financed hostility of The Layman? Which would you rather be called: a "right-wing bastard" or "irretrievably apostate"?

9:36 AM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

I forgot. I'm Robert Morris, Philadelphia, PA

9:37 AM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

Robert,
One can, at the same time, be both an SOB and a Christian. Irenaeus, Nicholas of Myra, and even John Calvin have been called the equivalent, sincerely I am sure, by their interlocutors. I've been named both, on the same Sunday.

However, one cannot be both a heretic and a Christian. And that is the difference.

Which appellation is worse to say? I have no idea how to answer that, given that both might be true.

Which matters more to the church and eternity (you know, 'heaven, hell and all that silliness'- as Shuck would say), would seem to be the more apt question.

sincerely (as that seems to be the great leveler of truth claims for our progressive friends),

Dave Moody,
S.IL

10:55 AM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Toby Brown said...

Ah the hobby of tired liberals: Layman bashing. How passe.

The record of The Layman is almost stunning in how accurate and spot0on it is, for decades of solid reporting. For as often as they have been wrong, they are ten times more often correct.

Just because one does not like the news (or that deeds were brought into the light) does not mean that the messenger is hateful.

But to a denominational loyalist, pointing out any wrongdoing on the part of the denomination is the ultimate sin.

How sad.

You all know who I am and where I'm from,

--Toby

12:21 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Grace,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments and questions. You write: “...why does one side feel that it must impose it's will on the other. I don't feel that total agreement concerning this sexuality issue is central to the gospel.” I’ve already developed (above) the thesis that the left views this issue as akin to slavery, so let me invite you to answer your own question from within that frame. How would you respond to someone who asked regarding slavery and slave ownership: “why does one side feel the it must impose its will on the other?” Or, “Why not allow freedom of conscience in the matter?” Or who said, “Let those who feel led to [own slaves] do so.”

Such questions make sense from outside the liberal frame (the framework of slavery), not from within it. Your framework, although not settled, appears to be one of considering the homosexual issue as akin to the ordination of women and/or divorce and remarriage. And yes, if it is framed in that manner, then I would agree that we ought to agree to disagree and just get along. But the question is, how should this issue be properly framed?

Some frame the issue as akin to slavery and thus no compromise can be entertained. Some frame the issue (such as yourself, at least tentatively) as akin to women’s ordination and divorce. Within this frame compromise is possible. Some frame the issue as akin to prostitution and thus no compromise can be entertained. And those of the “outside” positions view those who hold to the middle as muddled thinkers.

I am a partisan in these matters and I don’t want to imply by my analysis some sort of standoffish “see how the children fight” attitude. I merely want to point out that the middle position from which you appear to be asking your questions is not a neutral place and it is correct only if homosexual behavior is rightly classified akin to women’s ordination and divorce and remarriage, and I think such a classification is mistaken for a variety of reasons.

Hope this is helpful or at least spurs further questions.

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

12:27 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Quixie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:52 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

I agree Viola, that we need to do our best to walk in faithfulness to the Lord. And, I personally would not be part of a congregation where the pastor could not affirm the divinity of Jesus Christ, and had left the gospel.

What would be the point? We are so much more than liturgical unitarians, or just a social action organization with a religious twist.

But, it's possible for people to be even very orthodox, and evangelical in the faith, and disagree relating to GLBT inclusion.

Even if this issue is seen as akin to slavery, I still would feel that we need to realize our unity in Jesus, and work it through together.

How can people be coerced, really, one way or the other? Ultimately, God's spirit has to lead the whole church into truth.

And, Chris, I think you have hit the nail on the head. It's when people really see the oneness that we have in Christ, and come together around the gospel, that there is this greater toleration for social and political differences. There can be racial and ethnic diversity...

But, when a specific social or political agenda, whether progressive or conservative begins to take the place of the gospel, then in the long term the church actually becomes more closed, and less inclusive.

Viola had mentioned this before also. When Jesus Christ is not exalted, and lifted up, something else comes right in to fill that void.

Becky.

7:27 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Debbie said...

I'd like to go back to what Bruce said way earlier, about how progressives and evangelicals view each other. I found his comments very insightful, and I think it's quite true that we don't understand how we are viewed by those in the other camp.

However, there is an objection I would still like to raise. Although I think they are wrong, I can still understand that progressives could view the issue of GLBT ordination/marriage/etc. as an issue of human rights and compare it to slavery (though many African Americans are outraged by the latter association). I disagree with this progressive view, but I still see that progressives who hold this view are altruistically and theologically motivated, though their theology is quite different from mine.

At the same time, evangelicals have explained over and over again that we do not hate GLBT people, that we are not struggling for our point of view out of a wish for power, that our motives are theological and based on a desire for faithfulness to Scripture, etc. I can understand that progressives would find this all wrong and even exasperating and that it could make people like John Shuck angry.

But here is what bothers me: why do progressives continue to insist on calling evangelicals evil people? If they didn't know us at all, they might speculate that we are evil people, though I would find it uncharitable of them to make that their first assumption. But they do know us, some of them quite well, and yet, in spite of our explanations of our motives, they continue to insist that our motives are evil and selfish.

Why are progressives unable or unwilling to be as charitable towards us with respect to our motives as we are to them with respect to their motives?

I would like to hear what some of the progressives who have commented on this thread might say to that.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

8:40 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Quixie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:23 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Please, folks, on your comments, sign your name and give your city and state. Many are remembering to do this, and I thank them. Others, Quizie, for example need to do so, or I will need to remove their postings.

I will not allow anonymous comments, and using only a pseudonym is anonymous. If you think you have something to say, sign your real name to it or don't write it here.

Obviously I've hit a sore point with my posting. I don't think I've heard a single progressive voice say that John Shuck's behavior is inexcusable. Apparently cheap ad hominem attacks and tasteless profanity is all the rage in progressiveland--maybe even admired.

I'm disappointed, but not particularly surprised. I hadn't been holding my breath, waiting for the floodgates of progressive concern to burst with Shuck condemnations. I hoped that at least SOME of my ideological counterparts might actually think that personal morality matters at least a smidgeon. But no. Apparently one can be as mean and hateful and intemperate and undisciplined and abusive as one cares to be, as long as one espouses a progressive political line and directs the hatefulness at conservatives. Going with the current bent of emotional rhetoric for some cause du jour seems to make them commendable in spite of gross interpersonal transgressions.

That's a very sad commentary, and I rue such coarsening trends of unbelief. The church deserves far better than childish outbursts of attention-grabbing rebellion with smirks.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

10:54 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Debbie said...

Quixie--

You didn't read my comment very carefully, and you got off topic.

First, I said that evangelicals are motivated by a desire to be faithful to Scripture. I did NOT say that I thought we were the only ones who were doing that. If you had thought about what I wrote a little bit more, you would see that I am willing to believe that progressives are also basing their beliefs on interpreting Scripture, but that their interpretations are different from mine.

I am not arguing theology in my comment. I am merely asking why, when evangelicals explain their motives, progressives so frequently ignore those explanations and continue to call evangelicals, especially evangelical activists, evil people.

You got off topic by going into politics. This blog is not about politics. It is about Christianity and the church. I am an evangelical but I am not a political conservative, so all that stuff that you were saying about military deployment and welfare and bombs and such is irrelevant to me. Please don't assume that all theological conservatives are political conservatives.

Let me venture to explain why Fred Phelps was the only one put forward as a candidate to match John Shuck. It probably has to do with different definitions of "hate."

For evangelicals, examples of "hate" would include using vicious words such as John Shuck used about Presbyterian renewalists, or expressing contempt for someone as a person (rather than for their opinions), etc. This is the way that Fred Phelps talks, and why he seems hateful to evangelicals as well as to progressives.

However, for progressives, "hate" appears (to me, at least) to include saying that someone's beliefs are wrong or that their actions are sinful. For an evangelical, it is not hateful to say that something someone does is sinful, because it is a way to help that person. It is not unlike when a parent cautions a child about doing something dangerous. The parent is doing this for a loving reason; the parent wants the child to be safe. The same motivation lies behind the evangelical desire that it be known that some behaviors are sinful. Sinful behavior is dangerous to the person engaging in it. If we hated that person, we actually would NOT tell that person about it.

Again, I am not arguing here about whether evangelicals or progressives are right or wrong. I am just explaining our perceptions of each other.

To evangelicals there is a world of difference between saying that someone is advocating beliefs that we believe to be heretical, and calling someone names in foul language. The first is legitimate public discourse (and I might also say, as an academician, that it is legitimate academic discourse); the second is just plain mean and hateful, and offensive as well to someone like me who was raised to avoid four-letter words. But apparently to progressives the first is hateful, and I am baffled to understand the progressive defense of the second that I have found here in the comments.


Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

11:03 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Cameron Mott said...

Maybe we would all be better off not using some one as an exemplar of every one.

Cameron Mott
Paola, KS

5:33 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

"But here is what bothers me: why do progressives continue to insist on calling evangelicals evil people? If they didn't know us at all, they might speculate that we are evil people, though I would find it uncharitable of them to make that their first assumption. But they do know us, some of them quite well, and yet, in spite of our explanations of our motives, they continue to insist that our motives are evil and selfish.

Why are progressives unable or unwilling to be as charitable towards us with respect to our motives as we are to them with respect to their motives?"

I have yet to experience that charity from any evangelical blogger except one - Will Spotts.

I have experienced progressives being called evil (after all - that's what apostate means, right?).

So I would say that with one exception, the situation that you describe hasn't happened.

5:43 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

"I hoped that at least SOME of my ideological counterparts might actually think that personal morality matters at least a smidgeon."

I do, but I don't see conservatives being held to that standard either. Why would I attack someone who agrees with me when so many who disagree are allowed to make their inflammatory statements without correction from their own side?

And for the record, I have spoken against Shuck. Just not here. This isn't the right place for such statements - at the point of a demand from the other side.

5:46 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

'However, for progressives, "hate" appears (to me, at least) to include saying that someone's beliefs are wrong or that their actions are sinful.'

DING DING DING. We have a winner!

Here's why.

The progressive point of view (I'm grossly generalizing here) includes a very central idea that nobody can know the Truth on earth. We might be wrong. We don't think so, but it's possible.

Evangelical statements take the form of "This is the single right answer". Progressive statements take the form of "I believe that this is the right answer." See the difference? (If you don't, you'll never understand the gap.)

The very act of making a belief a requirement rather than a voluntary consensus is what progressives see as legalistic. Legalism is seen as a form of idolatry - the idol is the set of rules/essentials/laws or the Bible itself.

5:53 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Presbyman said...

Mark says:

And for the record, I have spoken against Shuck. Just not here. This isn't the right place for such statements - at the point of a demand from the other side.

It needs to be said by one of the conservatives (me!) that Mark has always expressed himself as a gentleman and he has indeed objected to some of Shuck's more over the top comments.

By and large, like attracts like. having given this question some thought, I think Shuck has a particularly nasty way of expressing himself that attracts some unsavory camp followers. Heck, he holds up killing unborn children as something the church should affirm. That should tell you all you need to know about his moral and mental derangement.

Shuck's camp followers will not denounce him. I mean, why would they? It would be like denouncing themselves.

But as Mark reminds us, that should not be seen to reflect all individuals of a particular viewpoint.

Respectfully,

John Erthein
Erie, PA

5:58 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Presbyman said...

Mark says:

Evangelical statements take the form of "This is the single right answer". Progressive statements take the form of "I believe that this is the right answer." See the difference? (If you don't, you'll never understand the gap.)

I am sure there are things that progressives hold to be "the right answer" no matter what. But from my experience they concern political questions more than anything else. The latest belch from Shuck's blog concerns Jim's role in the dreaded, all-purpose bogeyman the IRD. The root of Shuck's dyspepsia is that the IRD has different political views than he does, and that the PC(USA) may sometime move away from his political views as well (although I don't see that happening anytime soon). There is simply no question in his mind that he is right on these questions and that no one can legitimately work for another set of beliefs. For him, everything about the faith is political. That doesn't represent all self-described progressives but it's not an isolated case either.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

6:05 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Debbie,

I don't consider myself progressive, but rather an orthodox, evangelical who is more liberal relating to the sexuality issue, and in some other contested matters in the church.

I will share with you, though, my understanding in this. Gay and lesbian Christians see their sexual orientation as part of their whole identity. So when that is rejected, they experience this as a total rejection of who they really are as a person, how God made them.

They also feel that this rejection, and labeling same-sex orientation as fallen leads to homophobia, and to real harm, and to discrimination against them.

So from the perspective of many of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters even the love of conservatives feels like hate.

Many are very hurting, and angry inside, so they can lash out.

Becky Rome
Hershey, Pa.

6:38 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger will said...

Debbie - thank you for the helpful clarification. I think you're right about the difference in perception.

I also would re-affirm John Erthein's comment about Mark - in that I have not seen Mark use abusive language in discussions.

That said, I don't find it a workable philosophy. Partly because many 'progressives' I have encountered do, in fact, have non-negotiable views which these treat as objectively right - and anyone who disagrees as stupid or evil for disagreeing. So the issue, for those whose 'progressives' who do - cannot be simply the fact that others believe they are incorrect. (Of course, it *can* be, but that would be a huge and obvious double standard on their part.)

I have met people who operate under the philosophy Mark describes - at least behaving consistently as if objective truth is unknowable and applying the same standards to themselves. This has, however, not been my experience of a large number of self-identified progressives. There are almost always specific issues or ideas that appeal to right/wrong objective truth models. Even if this is only the objective truth of the lack of objective truth.

[For example, the use of the word idolatrous implies there is something objectively wrong with idolatry - something to be avoided. I would concur with that - but I've met very few self-identified progressives who have had problems with real idolatry - as if it were objectively wrong. Instead, in many cases idolatry is trotted out because its purpose is to assert hypocrisy. Specifically - by holding views one believe to be true - when conservatives do it - and by holding as one of these views a rejection of idolatry - conservative are therefore seen as inherently self-contradictory. They worship idols by the idolatry refusing to worship idols.]

My point here is that the philosophy itself runs into an intellectual problem for me. I'm not saying that people who hold it or attempt to hold it are bad people. I just don't see how it is supposed to work. I also encounter far too many either / or options - that are unavoidable - so that the both / and framework often claimed by many progressives is simply impossible - even for the progressives who claim it.

Will Spotts
North East, MD

6:44 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

I concur with Will - there ARE progressives who are also "my way or the highway" with respect to their beliefs.

Both sides have their extremists.

7:23 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Hey, guys,

I'm back to ask a question relating to discussion at Shuck and Jive.

Do you agree that many conservatives in your church would see someone who disagrees with traditional Scriptural interpretation in this whole sexuality issue as an apostate from the Christian faith?

Can we talk about this together?

I would like to hear everyone's opinion.

Sincerely,
Becky Rome
Hershey, Pa.

9:44 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Debbie said...

Mark, you have exhibited the very gulf in understanding that lies between progressives and evangelicals by continuing to define words differently from how evangelicals define them.

First, no, "apostate" does not mean "evil." It means holding theological views that depart from the theological views of the church. Merriam-Webster says apostasy is "renunciation of a religious faith" or "abandonment of a previous loyalty." I don't expect you to agree that some progressives are apostate, but I hope you will see that evil is not part of that definition. To my sorrow, my son is currently apostate, but he is not evil, and I love him tremendously. So, when evangelicals describe some progressives as apostate, they are not implying that those progressives are evil. Some progressives, however, actually use the word "evil" to denote evangelical renewalists.

Second, you like my statement that progressives think that saying that a person's statements were wrong, or that their actions were sinful, was hateful. But then you go on to say that you agree with that because you think that evangelicals shouldn't think that they have found the truth. But I had just explained that to evangelicals, hatred is expressed towards a person as a person, and not towards ideas expressed by a person, or towards actions done by a person. By your answer, you once again illustrated the unwillingness that I have found in so many progressives to open the mind up to the reasoning behind what conservatives say and why it is not hatred. As I said before, a parent can tell a child that that child's behavior is wrong without hating the child, in fact, the parent does so out of love for the child. Evangelicals motives are similar towards persons engaged in sinful behavior. Do you see the difference between the progressive concept of hatred and the evangelical concept of hatred? If not, YOU will never understand the gap.

It is critical, for understanding to arise in our church debates, for progressives to stop accusing evangelicals of evil and hatred. John Shuck in particular is a catalyst toward more hatred rather than less.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

10:28 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Anne-Marie said...

I am a liberal. I find John Shuck's comments - at least those quoted - to be immature and inappropriate.
I wonder why conservatives give him such press? I would not even know about him except for the Layman site. As to trying to find and condemn every one who is liberal and over the top (or beyond the pale, take your pick) - I'm too busy doing ministry.
If I took offense at every conservative snide remark and swipe, I'd dissintegrate. Try doing ministry with some of that outrage currently being put into self-righteous indignation.

10:42 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Christine said...

Interestingly, no one has yet raised the "it's my blog" argument in this discussion. I have seen more than one conservative Presbyterian blogger, when criticized for intemperate, vituperative language or tone, respond with a defense along the lines of "it's my blog" or "my blog is like my living room" or "get your own blog." Fairness would seem to dictate that Rev. Shuck may also avail himself of such a defense. Presumably he has the right to use profane language in his own living room, no?

Christine Kooi
Baton Rouge, La.

10:46 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

Debbie,

What you have just said is that in order to talk to you, I have to accept and use your definitions of words.

No, I won't. For much the same reason that you won't agree to talk to me using my definitions.

We can try to form consensus definitions, but without that talk is meaningless.

What you've just told me is that I have to accept your definitions for your words AND your reasoning behind that. In other words, I have to agree with you before you'll respect my disagreement with you.

Evangelicals try to use THEIR concepts of belief, faith, the world, and even the words that are used in order to define the discussion. They are unwilling to compromise even to the point of understanding the alternate meanings behind the words that their counterparts use ("the music behind the words").

You're right. The gulf is impassible. Where would you have us go now?

I don't know why you have such animosity for John Shuck. What really dismays me is that you apparently do not see the difference between him and me. Other conservatives have told you here that I act as a gentleman - but you persist in labeling all progressives based on Shuck's actions.

10:47 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Rastus said...

Grace,
In response to your question, I refer to an above comment from Presbyman who states that "By and large, like attracts like...Shuck...attracts some unsavory camp followers."

The conservative perspective promotes doctrines of exclusion. It would have the righteous be on guard against associations with the "unsavory," the unrighteous. The conservative voice seems easily inclined to use terms like "apostate," for this term provides a rapid, surgical-like separation of unsavory camp-followers from the main body of correct believers. Separation by proclaiming apostacy certainly applies to issues of sexuality, and it also applies to many other issues.


Jesus was criticized for his association with the unsavory by the conservatives of his day. He was crucified for being apostate, and for being unapologetically offensive to the status quo in the temple.
John Shuck is in good company.

R. Jones
Johnson City, TN

10:49 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Chris said...

Jim,

Are you going to leave "Jodie"'s anonymous comments up?

Also, since he/she/it brought up Parker Williamson, I would love to compare Parker's record on social justice to any of his critic's.

Chris Larimer
Louisville, KY

10:56 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

Grace,
Good question... I'm not an authority, so others may jump in, if our blog host allows. It is his blog... we just visit.

In a word no. If someone, departs from the biblical standard for good God blessed, God designed sex (within the covenant of marriage between a woman and a man), that is not apostasy (be it hetero or homo sexual sex). If one agrees this is wrong, against God's word and the church's teaching, but does it anyway--its just good old fashioned sin- for which Jesus came to make right. Those persons, if christian- will perhaps initially experience no ill effects- but, over the mid-long term, I suspect will be miserable, their prayers will be ineffective, they will feel guilt and shame, a sense of alienation from the God of scripture, let alone other more tangible effects (physical, relational, etc.) ... not the life Jesus wants for his own.

Now, if someone- other wise orthodox in who Jesus is (100% human/100% divine), what happened on the cross (victory over sin/price paid/satan defeated) and his resurrection (bodily), but teaches its ok to engage in activities scripture warns us against (sexual, ethical, whatever)- that person would be teaching heresy (abandoning specific teachings, but not the whole cloth). Heresy or Heretic would be the accurate label.

Now- if someone were to teach that the Bible is merely the story of certain people's experiences of their perception of God- that Jesus were say, the equivalent of a guru, sage, social radical- but that was it. That, if he was divine, it was only in the sense of a raised consciousness, a more evolved sense of humanity, but he wasn't any different from the rest of humanity. All have that potential in them. Nothing 'happened' as a result of the cross, outside of another good man being crucified by 'the man.' And that his corpse rotted in the ground, and in dust today, that is a different story. We're moving away from heresy- which is about specific doctrines-- into the realm of apostasy. Which is a more formal renunciation of the whole cloth of christian teaching.

Grace, you ask great questions. I hope this has been of some help, and use to you, as you journey with Christ.

grace & peace,
dm

10:57 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

oops..
dm = Dave Moody

and, I should add Grace, as long as one is alive, there is the opportunity to repent (turn around) and ask forgiveness. And- live a freed up life here and now- enjoying and glorifying God, here and now as salt and light.

11:06 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Debbie said...

Mark, you have misread what I said. Please read it again more carefully.

I never said you needed to accept my definitions in order to talk to me. But I did say that it is charitable and helpful for progressives (those who do this) to stop denouncing evangelicals for having evil and hateful motives once those evangelicals have explained why their motives are not evil and hateful, according to their definition of hateful. Some progressives may continue to believe that the effect of what evangelicals are doing is hateful and evil, but those progressives should not continue to call those people, as persons, evil and hateful, with consciously chosen evil and hateful goals.

I also never, in anything that I have said in any of my comments, said that I don't respect your disagreement with me or with evangelicals in general. You have not read my comments very carefully at all if you have inferred that. You are, as you wrongly accuse me of doing with progressives, lumping me together with some other evangelicals who may have wrongly tarred all progressives with the same brush.

In that vein, if you read what I wrote in my previous comment, you will note that I often said "some progressives." I did not say "all progressives." Nor did I ever say that you were like John Shuck. From what I have observed of you, I do not think that you are at all like John Shuck. I hope that you don't think that the mere fact of my disagreeing with both of you means that I can't distinguish between you.

Now, are you willing to do what you want evangelicals to do? Can you hear the music behind the words, and stop saying that all evangelicals are just the same, as you did in your 5th paragraph?

I have no animosity for John Shuck, but I think his theology is bad, especially his rejection of Jesus as Resurrected Savior, and I think his behavior is rude and unbefitting for a minister of the gospel. To you, apparently, my opinion of his theology and behavior amounts to hatred. To me, it does not; I feel no hatred.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

11:13 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Chris said...

Hey Debbie,

Per Mark's comments, how are those Merriam-Webster royalties from your definitions? Rolling in? Are you now able to single-handedly fund the diabolical, word-changing schemes of the IRD?

Just (sanity) checking...

Dave - GREAT ANSWER!

Chris Larimer
Louisville, KY

11:15 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Mark,

You wrote:

“The progressive point of view (I'm grossly generalizing here) includes a very central idea that nobody can know the Truth on earth. We might be wrong. We don't think so, but it's possible...

"

and

"...Evangelical statements take the form of "This is the single right answer". Progressive statements take the form of "I believe that this is the right answer." See the difference? (If you don't, you'll never understand the gap.)”

After initially thinking that you had provided a key insight into the differences between Evangelical and Progressive thinking, I no longer do so. Here’s why:

According to your generalization:

The Evangelicals says with certainty, “We know (because the Bible tells me so), that those who practice homosexuality are in danger of missing the kingdom of heaven.”

The Progressives says, “We’re not so sure what the Bible says about homosexual practice. We might be wrong. We don’t think so, but it’s possible.”

So what should the Progressive position be if your generalizations hold? Consider:

You’re the operational manager of one of those companies that implodes buildings. It is one of your responsibilities to make sure that no one is still inside the building when you press the button that sets off the explosives. Which would best describe your decision-making process:

When uncertain (about whether someone is still inside), don’t push the button.

When uncertain (about whether someone is still inside), push the button.

My point is twofold: First, that uncertainty often requires a more conservative response(!), and second, that Progressive positions on both the homosexual and abortion issues cannot therefore be characterized as springing from a philosophical uncertainty regarding truth. Let’s walk through the homosexual issue:

The plain meaning of scripture (as understood by the vast majority of Jews and Christians down through the centuries), is that homosexual behavior (along with, of course, many other behaviors) is sinful and therefore puts those who engage in it in danger of eternal separation from God. The Progressive, holding to the impossibility of knowing ultimate Truth, ought to respond something like: “Well, I don’t know if all homosexual behavior is condemned in scripture and I’m not sure that all of scripture is relevant to me today, but since I might be wrong and since the stakes are so high, I’d better err on the side of caution and not seek to overturn or undermine the plain meaning of scripture.”

The Progressive response, in reality, does not reflect a tentativeness regarding truth. Progressives seem to be certain that the bible doesn’t speak against all homosexual practice, that Jesus would embrace loving, consensual, homosexual bonding, that Paul may be dismissed as a homophobe, that the church ought to bless homosexual marriage and that homosexual practice ought to be no barrier to ordination--all of which seem to fly in the face of scripture. And so I reject the idea that a proper uncertainty regarding truth is central to the difference between Progressive and Evangelical thought.

The question remains, where to Progressives derive their certainty on these matters?

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

11:34 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Al Sandalow said...

Mark Smith said:
I concur with Will - there ARE progressives who are also "my way or the highway" with respect to their beliefs.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

All too true. Are you the same Mark Smith who got removed for moderating the old PLGC thread on Presbynet because you dared to suggest that dialogue and understanding of the other side should be a part of that electronic medium?

11:47 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

Bruce Byrne,
I don't know you... but you do the best CS Lewis riff I've read in a very long time.

May your tribe increase.

grace & peace,
dm

11:57 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Debbie said...

Chris, re-read my posts. I never said that everyone had to use my definitions. I merely ask that people not accuse other people of having motives that they explain that they don't have, according to their own definitions. That is, allow people to define themselves and their motives. You are still free to find people's beliefs and actions wrong or even
reprehensible, but don't call the people themselves evil if they have explained their thinking.

I need to stop taking time away from what is owed to my employer, so I won't be posting again till this evening.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

12:02 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

"Now, are you willing to do what you want evangelicals to do? Can you hear the music behind the words, and stop saying that all evangelicals are just the same, as you did in your 5th paragraph?"

You're right. I apologize. I should have more accurately said "Most evangelicals that I have interacted with".

12:07 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

Bruce,

I'd go look in the building to see if anybody was in there.

The difference between this scenario and discerning God's will is that two sane observers seeing the same building are likely to agree on whether or not there's anybody in the building. The evidence is obvious. (Well, maybe Schrodinger's cat is in the building, but he was gonna kill that cat anyway.)

With God's will and scripture it's not so certain. There are very few burning bushes these days (at least of the Godly-unconsumed variety).

You and I are likely to look at a banana and agree that it is a yellow fruit containing lots of potassium. On the other hand, we can't just walk up to the writer of Leviticus, Paul, etc and ask them what they meant by their words.

You said:
The Progressive, holding to the impossibility of knowing ultimate Truth, ought to respond something like: “Well, I don’t know if all homosexual behavior is condemned in scripture and I’m not sure that all of scripture is relevant to me today, but since I might be wrong and since the stakes are so high, I’d better err on the side of caution and not seek to overturn or undermine the plain meaning of scripture.”

What I actually meant was something like:
“Well, I'm pretty sure that all homosexual behavior is not condemned in scripture. But I might be wrong, so I'd better be careful to couch my belief as my belief and not an absolute statement.”

Clearly you and I look at the same scripture and come to different conclusions. That's been going on since the beginning of Acts and I don't see it stopping any time soon.

12:18 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

"Are you the same Mark Smith who got removed for moderating the old PLGC thread on Presbynet because you dared to suggest that dialogue and understanding of the other side should be a part of that electronic medium?"

Wow. You're the first person to make that connection in the 2 years that I've been blogging on religious topics.

Yes, but I was not removed. I removed myself and handed the reins over to someone else in an orderly manner. I had realized that my ability to contribute to the organization was marginalized by the accusations of homophobia.

The fact that I still support their position after going through that should say something of the depth of my convictions on this matter.

12:29 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Presbyman said...

Mark,

You were accused of "homophobia?"

Now I've heard it all.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

12:47 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

It's true.

12:54 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Debbie said...

Chris, I see that I misunderstood what you wrote and that you were actually supporting my position on word definitions. Sorry about that!

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

1:26 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

Apostate. Not a word you often hear in casual conversation (“Honey, I see the apostates are back from vacation”). But in the view expressed by some comments above, a word that Christians might well use in referring to others whose views on theological matters differ. So that if I were to speak to those others, Christian believers, faithful participants in my church, and call them “apostate”, that is pretty much just the same as referring to them as “wrong”, theologically speaking. Not hate driven at all, not uncivil, an entirely appropriate word in the circumstances, certainly not as mean as those horrible four letter words we were all brought up never to use, and that that obscene man John Schuck should be called to task for.
Well, John Shuck should be called to task. His rantings and pictures don’t advance the debate, they create ill will, and hold up his position to ridicule.
He’s one little guy, running his own little website, and what he says has had, I would suggest, precious little influence on the breakdown in communication between partisans in our beloved church.
That’s in marked contrast, I maintain, to the long-term pervasive and intentional corruption of civility which has been the intended program of the highly financed, professionally maintained media organ of the Presbyterian Lay Committee. When the Layman, after careful consideration and with cold political object, referred to the body of elected representatives of our church that constitutes the General Assembly as “apostate”, they meant that word to have an impact far different than calling them “wrong”, “mistaken”, or even “stupid.” What they meant was that by the actions of the Assembly the participants had renounced their faith.
My views on whether ordained Presbyterian ministers should be barred from officiating at same sex “weddings”, or whether an ordination candidate should be barred if he is involved in a homosexual relationship, differ from those expressed in the Layman.
But for them to tell me I have renounced my faith by virtue of this view is, to my perception, far more offensive, far more obscene, and yes far more hateful, than if they just referred to me as a “left-wing bastard” or posted silly pictures of me.
There are voices of uncivility and hate on both sides. Some have been at it longer and do it more professionally, and with more funding, than others.

I'm Bob Morris, Philadelphia, and I approved this message.

2:05 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Mark,

A few thoughts:

You are correct to note that in my scenario involving the destruction of a building, two sane observers can agree on whether or not there’s anyone in the building. My point is, given uncertainty as to whether or not there’s anyone in the building, such uncertainty warrants a conservative response. You stated that uncertainty was a “very central” characteristic of Progressive thinking. I’m pointing out that this is not apparent in the Progressive thinking regarding homosexual behavior.

You write: “You and I are likely to look at a banana and agree that it is a yellow fruit containing lots of potassium. On the other hand, we can't just walk up to the writer of Leviticus, Paul, etc and ask them what they meant by their words.”

Granted, but how does uncertainty regarding the precise meaning of Paul’s writing (for instance) justify the opposite of what Paul seems to be saying? Going back to the building demolition analogy: If you were about to push the button and one of your team reported that they may have picked up a voice on their headset shouting “I’m inside.”, however you interpret and respond to this bit of data, it ought not bolster your conviction that the building is empty. However garbled the “I’m inside.” message may be, it cannot be understood to suggest that no one is inside. Nor can scripture (Leviticus, Paul, etc.) be understood to support the Progressive program, even granting, for the sake of argument, that the texts in question are unclear.

You write: “Clearly you and I look at the same scripture and come to different conclusions....”

Yes, I read the texts and conclude that all homosexual practice is sinful; you read the texts and conclude what? That homosexual practice ought not bar one from ordination? That the church should bless homosexual marriage? That junior highers should be taught in their youth groups that homosexuality is as normal as heterosexuality? How can the texts in question possibly be made to support any of these things? Perhaps they (the Progressive’s positions) are all right and true, but they do not follow from scripture and are not rightly concluded from scripture. Uncertainty as to a text’s meaning does not argue for the converse of its plain meaning.

Progressives, contrary to your earlier assertion, seem to be very confident regarding their understanding of homosexual behavior. I think I’ve demonstrated that this confidence cannot be derived from scripture. My question remains, where to Progressives derive their certainty on these matters?

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

3:25 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Thanks for everyone's sharing.

I'm thinking it best definitely not to use these words like apostate, and heretic lightly. It seems to me that at best this is likely to trigger someone's defenses, and probably cut short the discussion. What does it accomplish??

Imagine if we shared the gospel the same way. Start right out with, "You hell-bound sinner you." "Turn or burn."

God give us, and the church wisdom, and balance.

Becky Rome
Hershey, Pa.

6:21 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Hey, Dave, I just wanted to come back, and also thank you for expressing your concern toward me.

I'm wondering if you've ever had a chance to check out some of the websites, such as "Evangelicals Concerned," or "Inclusive Orthodoxy?" Are you open to looking at how some orthodox, evangelical Christian people interpret the Scripture in a different way relating to this sexuality issue?

If you do get a chance to look at the Bible studies on these sites, I surely would like to hear your, or anyone else's opinion.

God bless.

Your sister in Christ,
Becky Rome
Hershey, Pa.

7:09 AM, March 05, 2008  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

Grace,
I am aware of the arguments on those websites, I would be happy to look at them again, if it would engender genuine conversation and dialogue.

However, in order to do that, it would be helpful if, instead of assuming I'm sincere but just well, riding on the short bus, and don't understand- as per your comment to Alan on John Shuck's blog. You might grant me the dignity of assuming I am at least semi-competent in biblical exegesis, Christian theology, and the interpretation and application thereof. I may even have a bit of experience ministering with folks who struggle in areas of brokenness, sexual and otherwise.

Otherwise, any conversation/dialogue we have would be disingenuous.

I gave the dictionary distinctions between heresy and apostasy (neither one of which is good, but the latter being perhaps less so than the former, and yes- neither one should be bandied about lightly- I am guilty of that in an earlier comment, mea culpa), in good faith, as you asked an honest question.

If you are serious about genuine dialogue in this arena- where we can look at what scripture says- calls us to be, then yes- lets have a conversation.

I would say- in fairness to you, that right now I think Bruce Byrne has stated the position I would take, and the argumentation I would make, and has asked the question that will inevitably emerge as the question. From where does authority come?

I would be happy to host in on my blog, once I get it up and running again (had a computer meltdown last month, lost all my files). Jim has been a gracious host, and I wouldn't want to bog him down in this.

grace & peace,
dm

1:27 PM, March 05, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Dave Moody has made a good point. I think this has pretty well run its course.

Let's take private banter among participants offline now. Chatter to your heart's content, and I hope some good dialogue occurs. But this thread is getting stretched out at this point.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

1:55 PM, March 05, 2008  
Blogger pschmid0 said...

Here are some of the references that Grace is talking about in the Bible:

Romans 1:24-27

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,

25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural,

27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
(RSV)

Some common translations of

Leviticus 18:22 include:

KJV: “Thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

NIV: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”

Living Bible: “Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin.”

Timothy 1:8-10

“Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…” (RSV)

Paul Schmidt
Johnson City, TN
Former Elder and member in the Holston Presbytery

9:32 AM, March 06, 2008  

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