Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Church, the Culture, Tolerance, Repentance and Love

Crowning, June 2013
I've been disappointed in much of what I have read online the past few days in the wake of the Supreme Court's historic decision to legalize same-sex marriage, which was handed down two days after the 20th anniversary of my own marriage and the 2nd anniversary of our Crowning in the Orthodox Church.  The disappointment is directed more toward the fringe extremes on both sides of the issue, though the same concerns seem to seep into the more murky middle as well.  The following encapsulates my specific concerns, and my thoughts on the issue as pertains specifically to the Orthodox Church.

To those disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision, I understand your concerns.  However, the tone and tenor of some of those concerns are both overblown and frankly ill considered.  I have seen everything from calls for like-minded states to secede from the Union, to claims that clergy will be "persecuted" by the government, to claims that our nation is now beyond hope, to claims that our country has abandoned God.  My response: settle down.  It seems to me a call to secede only goes to further the (IMHO, false) claims of those who slander those opposed to same-sex marriage by claiming they are no different than racists in the 1950s who opposed integration.  It also is quite an apoplectic response to what just happened.  Likewise the claims that clergy will be persecuted for not performing same-sex marriages.  In addition to suggesting the free exercise clause would forbid this, allow me to also submit that this country knows of no real persecution based on religion.  Our brethren are currently being beheaded, raped, burned and drowned in the Middle East.  And you feel persecuted because the government might remove your tax exemptions or people might shun you or treat you poorly based on your beliefs?  If the Church can withstand the pre-Constantinian Roman Empire, Islam and the Bolsheviks, we'll manage just fine in this brave new America.  Let us be glad to be so "persecuted" for the sake of Christ.  As for the claim that the country is now finally spinning down the tubes, this is the straw that broke the camel's back for you?  Beginning with the Court's decision in Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942), the Supreme Court has steadily increased Federal power at the expense of the state and local governments and the individual.  This is simply another extension of that ever growing power.  Beyond that, as a society, we have sanctioned the killing of our unborn, no fault divorce, sexual liberation to include cohabitation and, let's just be honest, serial bed hopping.  And all of this by heterosexuals.  Do you really think allowing same-sex couples to get married is the one thing that finally will send our country into the moral sewer and violate the sanctity of Holy Marriage?  Christians have been looking the other way as sexual sins go on right under our noses for decades now.  I would suggest this outcome is a natural result of our society's lax views on marriage and sexuality, not to mention the sin that infects us all.  And honestly, I don't think this is the end, but merely a step along the way.  The same logic that commands same-sex marriage to be recognized will inevitably lead to polygamy and polyandry, or simply polyamory.  It could easily lead also to at least some forms of incest being allowed (after all, there may be quite good reasons why I cannot marry my sister, given the potential for harm to our future offspring, but such concerns in no way argue that I shouldn't be allowed to marry my brother or uncle).  Not only is this not the last straw, it might be barely the first.

The most ill considered of all of these concerns, however, has to be the notion that our country has "abandoned God."  In the first place, we were founded largely by deists who were not Christians except in the most nominal sense.  Thomas Jefferson was a rank heretic.  Washington, by all accounts, did not commune in his Anglican parish.  Adams was a Christian, but he is more an anomaly than representative.  Putting "In God We Trust" on our money and "under God" in the Pledge does nothing to save our pluralistic, watered down civil religion from its own trappings.  Put simply, we are not a Christian nation, and we never were.  Further, our system of government is set up precisely to avoid making Christian doctrine into law.  And for good reason -- as an Orthodox Christian living in the heart of Evangelical and Teetotaler country, I have no desire to let the majority Christian denominations determine what I may and may not do.  I am not, and ought not be, bound by their doctrine.  Thankfully, we have the establishment clause, which forbids government from legislating based on religious doctrine.  I've long said that if the only argument against same-sex marriage is that God disapproves, then it not only ought, but must be allowed in the United States.  If that's the best argument that can be made, then prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is unconstitutional, and every Christian ought to support the Court's decision, since the alternative is to have your religious beliefs trumped by the religious beliefs of others.

This brings me to those elated by the Court's decision.  First, congratulations.  In our country, we make our arguments, we vote, we submit our laws to the courts and we agree to abide by the outcome, whether it is through the direct democratic process, representative legislation or Court decree.  The Court has ruled.  There are reasons for all of us, you included, to be concerned about how the Court got to its decision, but the simple fact is you won.  Your arguments carried the day.  

I have seen far too many of you, however, dancing on the proverbial graves of those you defeated.  Including callous and frankly intellectually dishonest suggestions that everyone who disagrees with you is bigoted and evil.  I've seen this from a lot of sources, but this one from Gawker (I refuse to link to it and support the author with web hits) might be the worst (warning: severely foul language follows):

I can’t help but be happiest, though, about the defeat of the anti-marriage equality crusaders. The defeat of people who signed up to lose, who wasted their time and ours on a platform of animus and contempt. The defeat of people who put principle over the practical, who fought to preserve their limited understanding of an already imperfect institution over the actual human lives that would benefit from it. The defeat of people who did what bigots do: discriminate, vilify, fear-monger, argue irrationally and without respect to human dignity, and then bristle when they’re called out for what they are (bigots).


The jig is up. The world has turned and left you fuming, seething, weeping. Fuck you, Mike Huckabee. Fuck you, Bryan Fischer. Fuck you, Maggie Gallagher. Fuck you, Ben Carson. Fuck you, Fox News. You should all feel like assholes because you are all assholes. And now you’re also, definitively, losers. And it feels incredible.

Thus, "tolerance" dies (more on that infra).

While this language and forceful hatred is unusual, the sentiment is not, and I would like to see such nonsense stop.  There are people who have real, honest concerns about same-sex marriage, particularly in light of how we got there, determining that childbearing is no longer related to government's interest in marriage.  And you too, dear reader, might find yourself on the wrong end of that stick one day.  After all, it has not taken very long for "keep the government out of our bedrooms" to meld into "we want the government to sanction our private relationships."  You may live to regret that decision down the road.  Those who had concerns about the path that took us here are not all your enemies.  They are not all "bigots."  They are not all evil.  Some of them (many of them) simply disagree with you and have concerns. Please refrain from lumping them all into the same box with the Westboro Baptist Church (we mainstream Christians despise them too, after all), the better to flog them with your derision and hatred.

Which brings me to "tolerance."  The scare quotes are intentional.  Tolerance means being willing to live alongside those who disagree with you.  The greater the disagreement, the more tolerant one is to abide it.  What passes for "tolerance" anymore, however, is better described as "agree with me or else." The most intolerant, bigoted, hateful comments I have seen following the Supreme Court's ruling, and honestly preceding it, are those which claim that no dissent is legitimate.  No concern is honest.  All disagreement on this issue is bigoted and hateful.  This is not tolerance.  It is hateful.  Shame on those of you who think, speak and act this way.  You are what you pretend to despise.  And when your own rhetorical smears are turned against you on an issue you care about, you deserve whatever you get, because you set the rules of debate.  Be careful the poison you pick.

So ……… how does the Church deal with all of this?  I would submit, no differently than it ever has.  The Church does not and will not bless same-sex relationships with the Sacrament of Marriage.  Full stop.  Those who think that given enough public shaming and name calling and so forth, the Church will do an about face on this issue are sadly mistaken.  And while I cannot speak for the Roman Catholic Church, I feel quite comfortable saying the same is true of that communion, and collectively, we comprise roughly three-quarters of the world's Christians.  Both communions believe, and have always believed, that Christ, the Apostles, the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers taught that same-sex activity is sin.  The Church has held the same view on this issue for 2000 years, and it is not in the Church's nature to change its doctrine.  Given the fact that our aforementioned brethren in the Middle East are willing to have their heads sawn off rather than denounce Christ and His Church, it is unlikely that rude manners and petty childish behavior will bend the Church to change on this issue.  Given our ecclesiology, where each bishop is bound in love to his brother bishops, to teach the truth as handed down and never change the doctrine he received, those hoping for the Church to come around on this issue will be waiting into eternity.  This is what we believe, what we have always believed.  Get used to it.

However, steadfast though she is, it must be said that the Church does not condemn homosexuals, nor advocate hatred toward homosexuals.  As Father Andrew Stephen Damick has said:

When my gay friend asked me whether I was required to hate her, I told her no. She asked me why. I told her it’s because, even though I see homosexual activity (though not identity) as sinful, I believed my own sins were far worse than hers. It’s true. I really do. And I am (by choice) bound by my faith commitments to believe that, to see myself as the “chief of sinners.” I confess that every time I am about to engage in the most central act of my faith—receiving Holy Communion.

Father Andrew refers to the pre-communion prayer all Orthodox Christians pray before going to the chalice:

I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who didst come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
So while we do say homosexual conduct is sinful, we do not condemn homosexuals, even practicing homosexuals, much less condemn them to eternal damnation.  Instead, we place them behind us as sinners.  This is something that is not well understood, so much so that I have had lengthy discussions with people who, after literally hours of discussion, remain outraged that we see homosexuals as "sinners."  Well, get in line.  Behind me.  We see everyone as a "sinner."  No one escapes that judgment.  Nor do we pretend that those with same sex attraction are qualitatively different than we are, other than of course being lesser sinners than me.  Same sex attraction or activity is no different than the sin I commit every time I linger my eyes on a woman other than my wife.  Except, of course, that my sin is worse.  Worse because I am betrothed and wed to another.  Worse because I do it more often than I should.  Worse because I hold a clerical office in the Church.  Worse because I am to worry about my own sins and not those of my neighbor, so I commit the sins of self-love and pride when I judge my neighbor and excuse myself.  Moreover, we believe that sexual activity or attraction within heterosexual marriage can also be sinful.  Both when we seek out that activity selfishly and when we selfishly deprive our spouse of that intimacy.  So when we say we are worse sinners than you, please believe we mean it.  Because we really believe that we are.

The practical application of this within the Church is one of pastoral concern.  Meaning, for the most part, the communion status and standing in the Church of a gay Orthodox Christian is to remain between him or her and his or her priest and, by extension, his or her bishop.  It is to be dealt with in confession and with guidance by a competent spiritual father.  We do not interfere in that relationship between priest and penitent any more than we would interfere in any other person's relationship if we were aware they were greedy, or lustful, or prideful, or vainglorious, or whatever.  I do not ask my priest why so-and-so is allowed to commune while he/she does this, that or the other sin.  I will not ask my priest why one of my gay brethren is allowed to commune either.  It is none of my business.  The state of repentance of the homosexual is something for the homosexual to sort out with his spiritual father.  I have my own concerns to deal with, my own sins to confess and repent of, and I hope no one goes behind my back asking our priest why I am allowed to commune, chief of sinners though I be.

In short, the charge for us as Orthodox Christians is to remember our place in the world.  We call all to repent, and to get in line behind us in that endeavor.  We see ourselves as chief among sinners, and we are to defend and speak well of our neighbor instead of slandering him.  This means that when my neighbor is slandered for being a homosexual, I must defend him.  I must stand between him and those who accuse him and lay my own sins bare, for they are worse than his.  I must speak well of him and demand that others do the same.  I must refuse to allow him to be mistreated, or marginalized, or slandered.

And when he comes to me asking what he must do to be saved, I must point him to the Church and invite him to repent.  Lord grant that he will love me as much if I am ever able to put aside my pride and ask the same of him, for my sins are worse and my need is greater.  Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

39 comments:

Dee Dee Robertson said...

Best thing I've seen written about the subject so far!

David Garner said...

Thanks so much for the kind words!

Eleni said...

Thank you for wording this so well! This is the same discussion I was trying to have with my teenage daughter yesterday, and I will refer her to your article. Thank you, and God bless!

Anonymous said...

I will refer my own granddaughter to your excellent(although verbose) script as well. I only hope she can remain focused as she reads it. She just turned 14 years old. Thank you for your time.

Elisa said...

You are so very welcome! May God bless you and His Holy Spirit continue to Guide you.

TroyW said...

GREAT work! You've wonderfully articulated so many point on this issue that I've been mulling over for so long. THANK YOU.

Frederica Mathewes-Green said...

David, I've received an email from an FM radio station in Pittsburgh that would like to interview you tomorrow (Weds) about this essay, which they like very much. It is a Christian station and I have been on it many times. What would be the best way to have them reach you? You can email me at fmg@frederica.com, or just contact John Hall directly:

John Hall
Producer and Co-Host
The Ride Home With John and Kathy
Weekdays 4 to 6 p.m.
101.5 WORD-FM
Pittsburgh
www.wordfm.com

Phyllis Manton said...

wow so in addition to being a lawyer you are a theologian. Some of your points are nice I guess, but you might want to read up on world history. King David coveted and lusted over Bathsheba, he raped her and had her husband Uriah murdered. Lot's daughters, believing that the end was near had sex with their father. Incestuous marriages are in the bible. We find them reprehensible and disgusting. We have separation of state and religion in place for a reason. The ancient Greeks had separation of relgion and state. If you don't like the US Supreme courts' ruling move to another country. The Bilbe was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, then translated and among those translations are many versions. I am Greek Orthdox born and bred. I love my faith. I just celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Archbishop Demetrios. I have walked among the churches and venerated relics of our churchs's saints. I read the scripture. Jesus' greatest commandment is to Love one another. He charges us to look at ourselves and not to judge our siblings in Christ. He also wants us to mind our business, many times He said to His disciples, "what is that to you" regarding others. One of my brothers is gay. I love him and I want him to be healthy and well. God created us all. As for the persecuted clergy in the Middle East, what are you doing to help them besides whining about the marraige equality decision? People don;t choose their sexuality they are born with it. And if we hold to the belief that we are God's children then that is good enough for me. Go find a theocracy to live in, maybe the Vatican has room for you. Pope Francis might find your priggish attitude a challenge. And how long have you been Orthodox? You speak for yourself only as I only speak for myself. I understand there is intolerance from both sides. There is intolerance and then there is self-righteousness and you have a huge dose of self-righteousness.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! In private conversations I've tried to have similar conversations with friends and have failed to articulate what you've said here so well. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

And thank you to Kh. Frederica for posting it and drawing my attention to it.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful article and a good reminder "that I am chief among sinners"

David Garner said...

Phyllis, I'm not sure what you were reading, but your comment makes little sense in light of my post.

Anonymous said...

Great, balanced article. And Phyllis, you're Orthodox? Could have fooled me. You should go find a liberal Protestant church to join as it seems you have decided you have a better understanding of Christianity and church history the Church fathers and all the Saints.

Stephanie Garner said...

Phyllis....I believe you may have read the first half of this article, for if you had read the second half of the article you would have found this quote:

"The practical application of this within the Church is one of pastoral concern. Meaning, for the most part, the communion status and standing in the Church of a gay Orthodox Christian is to remain between him or her and his or her priest and, by extension, his or her bishop. It is to be dealt with in confession and with guidance by a competent spiritual father. We do not interfere in that relationship between priest and penitent any more than we would interfere in any other person's relationship if we were aware they were greedy, or lustful, or prideful, or vainglorious, or whatever. I do not ask my priest why so-and-so is allowed to commune while he/she does this, that or the other sin. I will not ask my priest why one of my gay brethren is allowed to commune either. It is none of my business. The state of repentance of the homosexual is something for the homosexual to sort out with his spiritual father. I have my own concerns to deal with, my own sins to confess and repent of, and I hope no one goes behind my back asking our priest why I am allowed to commune, chief of sinners though I be."

Also, this quote:

"In short, the charge for us as Orthodox Christians is to remember our place in the world. We call all to repent, and to get in line behind us in that endeavor. We see ourselves as chief among sinners, and we are to defend and speak well of our neighbor instead of slandering him. This means that when my neighbor is slandered for being a homosexual, I must defend him. I must stand between him and those who accuse him and lay my own sins bare, for they are worse than his. I must speak well of him and demand that others do the same. I must refuse to allow him to be mistreated, or marginalized, or slandered."

Greg Morrison said...

I have read many articles recently that refer (as yours does) to the fact "that Christ, the Apostles, the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers taught that same-sex activity is sin." But I'm having a hard time finding material that explains the basis for that statement. To my knowledge, there are only a few references to homosexuality in Scripture—some from the Old Testament, which calls many other behaviors sinful that we now view as acceptable; and a few references by St. Paul, always among a litany of other sins. Although Christ referred to Genesis in addressing the Pharisees' question about divorce, he never addressed same-sex activity. Am I correct that this is the extent of the basis for the Church's position? Would you be willing to write more extensively about the basis for this position, or could you direct me to material that does more than simply state it as a matter of fact—as "truth handed down"?

Evan Lygeros said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. What wisdom could you offer regarding Orthodox friends who are gleeful that this law passed? Other than ignoring the rainbows everywhere, what is a good thing to say?

Greg Morrison said...

Thank you for your response, Evan, but it does not address my question. There is no reference to homosexuality in the passage you quoted. I assume you consider it to fall under "sexual immorality," but this is my point: there has been a conflation of homosexuality and promiscuity. Although this is somewhat understandable, it would not seem to apply to two people who wish to commit themselves to the same kind of lifelong, monogamous, mutually self-sacrificial love that comprises a traditional marriage.

Phyllis Manton said...

Wow way to hide anonymous I will never leave my faith. Perhaps you should

Phyllis Manton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phyllis Manton said...

You're way off base....why don't you reveal your identity anonymous. I have and always will be Greek orthodox. I love my faith and its traditions. If you know Greek, dropei sou. If you dont, learn and read church writings in their original language, I have.

Phyllis Manton said...

You're way off base....why don't you reveal your identity anonymous. I have and always will be Greek orthodox. I love my faith and its traditions. If you know Greek, dropei sou. If you dont, learn and read church writings in their original language, I have.

mary jo said...

Thank you for this article. I'm an Orthodox Christian. I have friends and acquaintances who are gay. I love them, respect them, and don't feel adequate to judge them. In search of balance and tolerance, I've been reading quite a bit online, and mostly have been disappointed in both sides. If we could ALL just love one another and put aside pride. Your article has been very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Temperate and well written. You are right about the milepost but far too sanguine about the trend. Christian denominations have been falling like dominoes with regard to what sinful man wants. Presbyterians, ELCA, Episcopalians, etc. have rolled over for homosexual union and other clearly defined biblical prohibitions. The trend is obvious for anyone to see. It is likely that the US will see empty Christian churches across America in only a few generations just as Europe has seen. I don’t think our sinful nature is much different from theirs. Jesus didn’t ask rhetorically, "When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” for no reason.

David Garner said...

Phyllis, I'm still not following how anything you have written is relevant to anything I wrote. You also seem to have a pretty one-sided view of things, given that you seem to miss that referring to people as "judgmental prigs" and having a "priggish attitude" is, well, a judgment on your part. I'm not following your demand for my "qualifications," but this blog sets forth whatever standard you wish to use to render further judgment well enough. In addition, I am not a sola scripturist and have not claimed to be nor given any reason in my writing, especially in this post, to think I am. I would respectfully request that you re-read my post and, if you have further comments, please be specific about what your concerns are instead of simply throwing out ad hominem and invective. I do not heavily moderate comments here, but I am disinclined to let the discussion be derailed by accusations and demands from someone who demonstrates with every comment that she is not comprehending what I have written. Specifically when that person is demanding to know my qualifications while simultaneously touting her own, such as they are. And while I am pleased that you are a lifelong Orthodox Christian, and that you have celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Archbisop Demetrios, I do question what relevance that has to the discussion. I assume you don't presume to speak for His Eminence, so this seems like a rather naked appeal to authority, and a flimsy one at that since he is not a party to the discussion at present and therefore is unable either support your comments or rebuke mine. Forgive me for speaking bluntly.

Greg, I can only point you to what the Church has always taught, for we are a Church that follows Holy Tradition. Novelty is not well received in the Orthodox Church. I may have time to provide some citations and examples later, but for now I have to leave to attend the Divine Liturgy of Sts. Cosmas and Damian.

For the rest of you, thank you for your kind words.

Phyllis Manton said...

You know what I'm sorry. I was mostly reacting to anonymous who is a coward and hides his/her name. I do not agree with you and that is what makes life interesting. I was reacting to anonymous'assertion that should switch churches.
What I know is Christ came into the world to save my sinful soul. I think you are judgemental but you are right that I am doing the same. I also know that Christ healed the sick and suffering, he made disciple of rough and tumble men and women. We are created in the image and likeness of God. He loves us. I refuse to single out a gay person and think about their spiritual life and not look at the log in my eye. The world had always been a corrupt place. Timessage change but human nature doesn't.
As for tradition as a novelty, I beg to differ. Holy Week services are an example of our Holy Tradition and of course scripture.
I will look to my Redeemer and I will answer to him when my time comes. I will also take my own advice and remember that your opinion is yours and "what is that to me", nothing as mine is to you. Kyrie Eleison eimas

David Garner said...

Phyllis, you are most certainly forgiven, and please forgive me where I have caused offense. For the record, I didn't say tradition is a novelty, I said we cling to Holy Tradition, and we therefore reject novelty.

Efraim Shultz said...

Greg: I think this is some of what you are looking for:

St. Augustine [354-430] Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. In Sermon # 162 he said "As persons become involved in the great abomination of fornication or homosexuality, they cannot think or attend to anything else. That individual eventually becomes a captive of violence, lust and carnality. He or she becomes a slave to the body. This preoccupation drives out the proper reason for being that is, to function as the temple of the Spirit of God. When this temple is defiled by sin, it is abandoned by God, and mankind is left to his unworthy preoccupation."

St. Basil the Great: Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. In his book "God
is not the author of evil" he said that homosexuality is an "ignominious life
style which changes the natural processes into those which are unnatural"


Taking from ANTE-NICENE FATHERS, VOL. 2, THEOPHILUS TO AUTOLYCUS, Translated by the Rev. Marcus Dods, A.M., BOOK I, p. 93 and from, Early Christian Writings, Theophilus of Antioch, http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/theophilus-book1.html , “But to the unbelieving and despisers, who obey not the truth, but are obedient to unrighteousness, when they shall have been filled with adulteries and fornications, and filthiness, and covetousness, and unlawful idolatries, there shall be anger and wrath, tribulation and anguish, and at the last everlasting fire shall possess such men.
Rick Rogers translates: "To the unbelieving, who despise and disobey the truth but obey unrighteousness, when they are full of adulteries and fornication and homosexual acts and greed and lawless idolatry, there will come wrath and anger, tribulation and anguish, and finally eternal fire."

In his fourth homily on Romans,[5] St. John Chrysostom argued in the fourth century that homosexual acts are worse than murder


Tertullian: “The coupling of two males is a very shameful thing” & “Cursed is every man who clothes himself in woman's attire” http://www.catholicapologetics.org/moral/homosexuality.htm

- Efraim Shultz

ericruthford said...

I've heard many people say they fear that the pro-gay movement is going to try to now prove that America is a "gay nation" the way that the evangelicals promised to "take America back for Christ" 40 years ago and prove we're a "Christian nation." I don't think this is an immediate concern.

Anonymous said...

I believe you haven't read the article and suggest that you do because it is the opposite of what you assume it says.

Phyllis Manton said...

K

Phyllis Manton said...

You're still hiding your identity. Who are you? I read some of the previous blogs and I read where anonymous wrote something to the effect that the Greek church is too ethnic, too nationalistic, too ethnic, the language, etc is off putting. My name is Eriphylle Panagiotakopoulos, my grandfather changed our name to assimilate however he and my family remember, honor and maintain our ethnic heritage. One cannot separate a Greek from his faith, the 2 go together. Your crass comment that I should find another church is insulting. Furthermore Christianity grew out of Hellenism, its roots are in Hellenism, the Liturgy was first written in Greek, the Russians adopted Orthodoxy 1000 years after it was established. You can look down on my too ethnic church all you want and feel superior. Find some humility and get over yourself. Peace out dude

Ioannis said...

This is the theology of Orthodoxy. Sticking to what we know with humility and charity for all. I wish we had better answers for some that do not include a self-lacerating Stoicism but few seem to be willing to submit to the medicine of asceticism to find the Church's answers. Our refusals are the reason there are so few obvious saints among us. Yes, I was talking about our sins, not those of others.

Evan Lygeros said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

Efraim, thank you for your answer to Greg's question (and Greg, thanks for the question). I notice that none of your sources come directly from the Bible, but rather from (forgive me if I get this or any terminology wrong, I am not a religious scholar) writings in the Apostolic tradition. But there are many Evangelical Christians who are not in the Apostolic tradition and would believe these writings are not part of the Scripture or teachings of their faith. Do you have any idea how someone with a sola scriptura mindset gets from "sexual immorality" to "homosexual acts"?

My personal opinion and beliefs aren't incredibly visible among many Christians or many of my friends in the LGBTQ community. For context, I am Episcopal, raised Roman Catholic, and a lesbian. I don't believe homosexual acts are immoral but my path is still to not have sex before committing my relationship before God (now that commitment can be marriage). In case any of you were wondering, there are many stages between being LGBTQ and celibate and being totally promiscuous. Most of us fall solidly in between the two, even the non-religious.

Thomas K said...

I have some questions for Mr. Gardner as follows:

(1) Do you believe that America is on the whole better or worse than other countries such as China, Russia, France, Iran, and Cuba?

(2) Do you believe that American Orthodox Christians should celebrate the fact that America has liberated more people from tyranny than any other country in history? Or do America's moral sins blot out the good that America has done in this regard?

(3) Do you believe that "soft persecution" of Christianity by the government, where citizens are hounded by the state, harassed by lawyers, and forced to close their businesses, solely because of their religious beliefs, can be just as insidious, and therefore just as evil, as overt persecution such as what is going on now in the middle east?

(4) Do you believe that significant military power ought to be used to confront ISIS and its evildoers? Or should we allow ISIS to continue slaughtering Christians? If you believe military force should not be used, what is your solution to stop this evil?

(5) Do you believe in the Judeo-Christian values that made America great - "In God We Trust," "E Pluribus Unum" and "Liberty"? Or do you believe those words no longer have any meaning and we should remove them from our currency?

(6) Which is more important - the enormous good that Thomas Jefferson actually did (e.g. by drafting the Declaration of Independence), or the fact that his theology (or lack of theology) may not agree with yours?

(7) Do you believe you are wiser and have more insight into human nature than America's Founding Fathers? Have you read the Federalist Papers?

(8) Do you believe that once the Supreme Court makes a ruling that it cannot be changed, even via a Constitutional Amendment or by the appointment of justices who approach the task of jurisprudence differently than their predecessors? If you don't, then instead of saying "the Court has ruled" and "you won," why do you not exhort people to begin the process of changing this verdict?

And yes, in case you're wondering, I too am an Orthodox Christian.

Thank you,
Thomas
http://billwall.phpwebhosting.com/thomas

Thomas K said...

@Jennifer - Forgive me but as I was just talking to someone about sola scriptura yesterday, I would like to try to shed some light on this. I was an evangelical for 20+ years before converting to Orthodoxy a number of years ago.

St. Paul's admonition in Romans 1:18-32 is a pretty strong statement about the sinfulness of homosexual acts.

If we leave Romans aside, then in the New Testament I do not have an answer for you. But that is precisely my point. Sola scriptura loosely means - and forgive any disrespect because none is intended - "The Bible means what I (or my church) want it to mean, I feel God, and have a nice day :-)" simply because there is no higher authority to tell me (or my church) otherwise.

But are you committed to sola scriptura? I ask because you said "...part of the Scripture -OR- teachings of their faith." The Apostolic Tradition is part of the teachings of the [Orthodox] Christian Faith. So if you accept that there can be "teachings of the faith" in addition to Scripture, then you accept that there can be a source of authority in addition to Scripture, and hence you're not strictly sola scriptura.

Practically speaking, of course there are sources of authority outside the Bible. Your pastor is a source of authority. Your Bible Study group leader is a source of authority. Your parents may be sources of authority. You may consider your very close friends as sources of authority in the sense that you carefully consider what they have to say and their opinions may sway yours. Biblical commentary that you read can be sources of authority.

One difference between those who hold sola scriptura and those who don't is that, for those who don't, there can be other sources of authority other than the words of the printed pages of the Bible. That is why it is important to have creedal statements like the Nicene and Apostle's Creed, because they help you separate what is theologically important from what is not. For example, that Christ is fully man and fully God is theologically important to Christians, but whether Christ was born on December 25th or on some other day is not.

David Garner said...

Thomas, I find your questions to be more assertive than inquisitive. I'll stand on what I have written and decline to answer a series of questions that do not appear to me to have much to add to the discussion, and I'll leave the questions stand here so your point can be made.

paula said...

Garner is his name

Renal Ke said...

αβsolutey!