Is the guideline of building all doctrine on necessary rather than possible inferences a good guideline?
How does this guideline apply to three specific situations of the past where the church changed its interpretation of some passage of scripture? (E.g. the Earth moving around the sun; whether slavery is permitted or should be prohibited; whether it is OK for Christians to charge modest interest on loans.) How do you believe this hermeneutical principle should apply in some or all of those cases?
Are the Bible’s statements on the relative movement of the earth and sun of the same nature as its statements on what is morally good about human sexuality and whether modest interest can be charged? Is it possible that with respect to the movement of the heavenly bodies the Bible uses language that humans at that time would have understood, perhaps language that was not strictly speaking correct in all regards? Does the Bible command the existence of slavery, or does it acknowledge its existence during biblical times?
What do you think about these two views?
A co-author of the Grand Rapids East Report states: A significant number of people made in God’s image are not clearly male or female (and those definitions have changed across cultures and time), so exegesis of Scripture related to gender roles starts from a very complicated premise; so I approach that exegesis with a spirit of extreme humility, considering science, culture, history, and, most important, the arc of Scripture–the work of the Holy Spirit and the radical love and inclusion the Gospel represents.
In response to this Dr. John Cooper, professor emeritus of Calvin Theological Seminary, had the following to say:
The GRE Report also appeals to this material as a reason to reconsider our understanding of “normal” gender and sex. But it is a logical mistake and inconsistent with biblical-Reformed doctrine to suppose that current biology, psychology, and sociology can alter our normative understanding of sex, gender, and marriage, as the Report does.
The logical mistake is the is-ought fallacy, which confuses what is normative with what is statistically “normal”. One cannot infer how things ought to be from the way they currently are, even if they are universal. Racism and sexism are wrong even if all humans believe they are right. Cancer and genetic defects are “fallen” even if they inevitably affect everyone. In the same way, sexual disorientation, ambiguity, and confusion might be “normal” but not normative in a fallen world.
What do you think about these two views?
Affirming scholars point to the hermeneutical principle of considering the good, or the harm, that is caused by different interpretations. Affirming scholars would argue that the interpretation of Romans 1 and other passages given in the CRC Synod’s 1973 Report (i.e. that same-sex inclination is not a creational variant but is a result of the Fall, and that all same-sex behavior including life-long committed relationships are forbidden) causes harm.
Dr. Cooper’s response to this point in the Grand Rapids East report:
Experience that runs counter to Scripture could be a reason for reconsidering what the Bible teaches. But if Scripture teaches traditional Christian sexual boundaries, then people who disagree are simply mistaken and self-deceived even though they sincerely believe that the perceived benefits of such behavior indicate God’s approval. The GRE Report has not made a plausible Reformed case that Scripture is unclear or misunderstood, and it does not take account of possibly mistaken self-evaluation. Thus its appeal to the testimony of Christians in same-sex relationships carries no weight against the traditional view.
What do you think about these two views?
Can a two-page summary document help to maintain focus on the main aspects of the same-sex marriage discussions? If the best argument(s) from both sides are summarized along with a critique of them, will that help to determine which side is biblical?
Check out the executive summary document and share your thoughts.
This came up as a proposed comment in the blog. Rather than post it there it was decided it really should be sent as one of the emails where everyone will be able to see it.
Pastor Bill White:
Recently I was part of a conversation with several LGBTQ Christians, a couple of whom are conservative and hold the traditional perspective, and a couple of whom hold a more progressive perspective – all of whom love Jesus and submit to Scripture. As the conversation turned towards the idea of welcoming LGBTQ people at evangelical churches, the number one advice that ALL FOUR of these believers had was to use Church Clarity and get your church ranked. Each of them felt it was important for churches to be clear about their practices related to LGBTQ Christians being able to attend, being able to be members, being able to be leaders, and being able to be married there. Again, this was both the conservative and the progressive LGBTQ Christians who were advocating for clarity. That way, as LGBTQ people check out your church online (the best practice is to have a link to your ChurchClarity.com score on your home page or the “Your First Visit” page), they can know what your approach is as a church. As my friends said, clarity is loving. And if you lack clarity, you lack love. That’s because so many LGBTQ Christians have shown up at churches and can’t figure out what their approach is to an essential aspect of who they are (again, whether conservative or progressive) – creating an awkward sense of not knowing whether this community is a fit for them or will not be a fit for them. So I beg of those of you who are reading this, be clear and loving in your welcome to LGBTQ people.
Comments by Herb Kraker:
I agree that each congregation needs to be ready and capable of letting visitors know where their congregation stands on this in a kind, welcoming manner. I think it is safe to say that all people feel vulnerable when, as strangers, they visit a new church.
My concern here is that any congregation which holds to the historic understanding of marriage being between one man and one woman will be labelled as “non-affirming.” That is a negative term. It is pretty much in the same category as someone who is a segregationist, bigot or is intolerant. And, as quickly as social norms have changed in the last 10 years, the term non-affirming is likely to take on a stronger negative meaning in the near future. Should congregations holding the historic position be pictured negatively? As people created in the image of God, as we all are, LGBTQ people need to be treated with respect, they need to be welcomed. In my opinion no church should take on a label that is negative in this regard. It is important for each congregation to lovingly communicate their position and conservative churches need to be able to do it in a way that does not put them in a bad position. In keeping with the comments in the last blog, it could be suggested that congregations post on their website that LGBTQ people are welcomed to worship with the congregation. Each congregation could decide how best to proceed from that point. The important thing is that all people are treated with the dignity that all those created in the image of God deserve.
Wouldn’t it be more productive for a congregation to make a good, substantive contribution to helping individuals understand what they believe God’s will is in this regard? We are all agreed that what God considers good will be good for every person, right? Isn’t it also safe to say that both sides cannot be in accordance with God’s will, saying that only one man and one woman getting married is God’s will and two people of the same sex marrying is also God’s will? The church is to be the city on a hill, the light to the nations. We need to get this nailed down so we know what is in fact light and we can make it shine to all around us.
In commenting on this blog with Reformed pastors one matter that could well merit consideration is the question should a congregation “fully affirm” same-sex couples, for example, by marrying them when that congregation’s denomination is not in agreement with that?
Immediately below this click on “Leave a Comment” to comment or on “X Comments” to leave a comment or read existing comments (X being the quantity of comments at any given time).
The following is part of an email received recently from Pastor Bill: