Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s DOMA hearings have prompted the Evangelical blogbuddies to gird their loins and defend the ranks of the faithful few; that is, those who have not “rejected the faith of historic, orthodox Christianity,” even when all others (including many apparently poser-Christians) just didn’t have the stamina. Joe Carter, blogger for the Gospel Coalition, has graciously reminded his fellow believers that even in the face of conflict, such orthodoxy is worth fighting for.

The only problem is that it doesn’t exist.

At least, that is, not as Carter is presenting it. He would have his audience believe (and, I can attest, much of it does, my former self included) that Christianity is an eternal and monolithic entity, whose doctrine and practices—what’s important or central about them—has remained unchanged since the Pentecost. Now, it is quite clear that the doctrine and practices of the Christian church today (in all its forms) have been inherited from some form of historic Christianity, but the real questions here are how much of it, and which parts.

For example, many Christian churches today would affirm the Nicene Creed (though there’s some debate about the “c” in “catholic”), whether or not it is affirmed weekly in their worship. Creedal points like the coeternality of all three persons of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, or the Resurrection of the Dead (among others) have been proclaimed and celebrated by Christians throughout the centuries. But Carter’s blog post argues not simply that Christianity has maintained its heritage through these broad strokes, but also in some of its finer points, such as the role of Scripture, down to even the most minute, like the definition of idolatry and (for Carter) by extension, marriage.

Don’t get me wrong here: the Bible has been a very important part of the Christian church in almost all of its forms, but claims to inerrancy (not only the term, but also the concept) are a relatively new, and therefore relatively late, conviction of certain churches. For example, Augustine believed the Bible was an authority, but that its authority and (most importantly) its interpretation was given by the Church, which stood as the greater authority. Evangelicals today argue that he had it backwards, that the Bible should be judge over the church. My point is not to take sides in this debate, but to note that such a debate exists: not over some ‘secondary’ doctrine, but over the source of that very doctrine with which we begin.

Carter accuses many American believers of having “exchanged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the God of faux-love, cultural acceptance, and open theism.” Presumably, he excludes the Gospel Coalition from this accusation, but his selection of American Christianity’s failings is revealing. It seems to escape Carter that he has communicated via blogging (vs. say, an encyclical), or that Evangelicalism/the Mega Church movement has succumbed to the American culture of the commodification of everything—from flashy book deals (have you seen some of those covers?), to sermon-series and conferences that look like corporate ad-campaigns (does it matter if people fill your pews for the same reasons they purchased Coke over Pepsi—something sexy told them to?), to worship session rock-concert-laser-light-shows (guitar solos for Jesus). There are many more examples that could be employed, and my goal here is not to condemn the Evangelical church, but only to make clear that it, too, is largely affirming of the culture and ethos of 21st century America. We cannot lament that “what is considered sin changes based on the fickle attitudes of Americans” while wearing swimsuits that make the 1920s blush and clothing made in southeast Asian sweatshops. Christianity, like the cultures in which it takes form, is tradition that, like all traditions, changes.

The problem, then, is not that Evangelicalism has failed to resist American culture, but that it pretends that it has resisted. It pretends that it has not surrendered to the “the secular liberal-libertarian conception of freedom” while picking and choosing those Biblical commands which ought to be followed, and those which can be safely ignored. We can endorse our neighbors’ decisions about divorce and remarriage, we can support companies that make a profit exploiting the poor, or wear braids in our hair and jewelry around our necks . God didn’t really mean those ones.

I take issue with Carter (and much of the Evangelical church) not for simply taking a stand, but for taking a stand on this issue while refusing to ask the harder questions. If today’s church affirms marriage as God has always ordained it, why is its position on divorce so similar to that of 21st century America? Why does the ordained, marital sexual relationship look so much more like the one displayed in our pornographic culture than those of “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?” If Carter is right that marriage proposed by “the God of the Bible, a God that is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” has always been amenable to a “clear and concise definition” (which he does not provide), why does it often look so different from Evangelical conceptions of marriage today? Why does Jacob get two wives? Why does God “give” Saul’s wives to David (2 Sam 12:8)? Why does Peter consider the marital relationship analogous to that between slaves and masters (1 Pet 3) or that between Christ and the church (Eph 5)? Surely, even the more complementarian marriages endorsed by mainstream Evangelicalism today do not function with such radically unequal modes of authority and submission.

The point of all of this is that marriage, like Christianity, has never been a monolithic, eternal entity (or even concept) that transcends the movements of cultures throughout time. In fact, one of the few things we might be able to call ‘unchanging’ about the Christian tradition is its very ability to change—to adapt and evolve—and this is a very good thing. A Christianity that can meet the needs of its surrounding society (think Jesus eating with the sinners despite the protestation of the Pharisees, or Paul’s being weak to save the weak) is a Christianity that has shown up in its own, individuated ways, under different sets of particular circumstances; and it is a Christianity that will continue to show up a little bit differently every time. My Christianity is in some ways similar, but in some ways radically different than the faith of Augustine, whose practice of Christianity was different than Calvin’s, whose is different even than Paul’s. And this is not something the church should try to hide. But this is a Christianity (yes, one among many forms) that I want to be a part of.

I am not, and cannot be, a member of the unchanging stream of historic, orthodox Christianity, because such a thing does not exist. I am a Christian that affirms the radical love of Jesus Christ, who defended the weak and stood up for the oppressed in the face of all the protesting by the surrounding religious elite. I am but one piece, one thread, of a tradition that, praise Jesus, has been adapting and evolving since the minute it began. And thus, I don’t need to make a theology that claims to be identical with 2000 years of a tradition. I am not a Christian of the past 2000 years. I am a Christian in the 21st century.

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Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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42 Responses to I am a Christian in the 21st Century

  1. Adam Caress says:

    As a Catholic, this article doesn’t make very much sense. I’m not sure why pointing out that Evangelical claims to orthodoxy are untenable (which is true, but not exactly anything new) means that ALL Christian claims to orthodoxy are untenable. For instance, Augustine’s view of the relationship between Holy Scripture and Church authority isn’t philosophical so much as it is historically factual: The Church had existed for centuries prior to the codification of the Canon of Scripture, and it was a Church council (during Augustine’s time–in the late 4th century) that ultimately decided what was in and what was out. Thus, the Catholic Church has ALWAYS and consistently held that the idea that “the Bible should be the judge over the Church” is heretical. The Catholic Church has always been consistent on this issue, just as it has on ALL the issues you claim have “changed” over time, including the orthodox Christian view of marriage (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c3a7.htm). This, too, has not changed since Christianity’s inception. The fact that Evangelical teachings have come under the influence of 21st Century American culture does not mean that orthodoxy doesn’t exist; it just means that the Evangelical church is not orthodox. Would you mind explaining how you get from the fact that Evangelical Protestantism isn’t orthodox (which isn’t exactly breaking news) to the idea that orthodoxy itself it a myth? This is the gaping hole in your argument. As a Catholic, I still say the same Nicene Creed on Sundays that has been said every week since the first ecumenical council at Nicaea in 325 AD.

    • Jonathan Povilonis says:

      Adam, thanks for your comment. Like you said, this article is focused almost entirely on the Evangelical claim to orthodoxy and not that of Catholicism. What I know of Catholic theology is quite limited, and thus I may not be able to quiet your concerns. However, I will try.
      The operative words in my criticisms are “monolithic” and “unchanging”–there presence in any claim to orthodoxy (Catholic included) is what I would argue are untenable. I avoid applying the term “myth” to orthodoxy in my article, but I think I would say that it is not orthodoxy that is a myth, but that it would be a myth to say it is monolithic and unchanging. For example, you are wrong to claim that you say the same Creed each Sunday as that which was established in 325. Overlooking the fact that its been translated into English and thereby is subject to a considerable amount of ‘slippage,’ the Creed of 325 is substantially different than today’s version. Not only was all theology of the Holy Spirit absent, but also that of the catholic church, resurrection of the dead, and baptism. Included in 325 but now absent was a series of anathemas. Most strikingly, though, was the absence of the Filioque (that the HS proceeds from the Father “and the Son”) that was added in the sixth century. Wikipedia summarizes this all quite nicely. And ironically for our discussion, this move (significant for Trinitarian theology) caused the Eastern Church to reject the Roman claim to orthodoxy and favor their own.
      Again, Adam, my point is not that orthodoxy is a myth, but only that a presentation of orthodoxy as unchanging or monolithic is simply dishonest. In this regard, Catholicism might have the upper hand on Protestantism because of its much more detailed canon law, but (IMO) at least equally problematic is its refusal to adapt to the needs of a changing world (i.e. contraceptive ethics and AIDS). That brings up a final point: talking about “the Catholic Church” as if it is a monolithic entity in which each member (lay and clergy) agrees with each point of doctrine is also untenable. The statement “the Catholic Church has always believed” seems a bit too generous when we take into account all of its internal (and external) protestations throughout the centuries.

      • Jonathan Povilonis says:

        Oops. Please excuse the typos.

        • Joseph Martin says:

          Is it monolithically established and unchangeably certain that Christianity will change? And if so, is this not to be at least the first orthodox tenant of Christianity? But then, will not this change for future Christians? Are we to expect those who come after us to believe what we believe? More specifically, are we to believe that those who come after us will believe Christianity to be unchanging? Why should I teach others that Christianity is changing, for doesn’t this seem to go against the very charge that Christianity is changing? That seems like a harder question to ask myself, than whether or not I can have multiple wives.

          • Joseph Martin says:

            Don’t excuse yourself for typos, as they are just part of the ‘slippage’ of language that will change over time.

          • Eric says:

            I fully claim my non-expertise about this topic, but. . .

            Isn’t ‘change’ just about the only constant in the universe? That truth seems to have no problem replicating itself down through the epochs of human teaching on almost any subject.

            I don’t know if your question about change being constant is a specifically Christian, as much as it fundamentally human—a symptom of finite existence.

            Maybe a better question is why not change? What prevents the change?

            Also, maybe there are different kinds of truths, ones which do change, and ones that probably couldn’t change; ecological, logical, cultural, mystical, gastronomical, musical, ecclesiastical.

      • Adam Caress says:

        Thanks for the response Jonathan…

        Your opening says “The problem is that [historic, orthodox Christianity] doesn’t exist.” Your opening salvo doesn’t say orthodoxy is not “monolithic” or “unchanging;” it says orthodoxy “doesn’t exist.” So that particular opening thesis statement, which you expand on throughout the article, is what I took issue with.

        But let us say that you were only denouncing the idea of “monolithic” or “unchanging” orthodoxy, rather than orthodoxy itself. There is a sense in which you would be right, but there is a larger sense in which you are wrong. To explain…

        Catholic doctrine has been continually refined and supplemented over the last two millenia. Each council adds to the canon law, and so it is not surprising that there is simply MORE doctrine than there used to be. For instance, the section in the Catechism on marriage is much larger and more nuanced than the doctrine would have been 1000 years ago. Same with the Nicene Creed. But if, to use your example, you look at the Nicene Creed from 325, there is nothing in the original version that is contradicted by the current version of the creed (or any other part of the canon law). All that is there in the original version has been continued to be believed by the Church since that time. And all that was in the original version is affirmed by the creed that I say weekly at mass. But the creed (like much of the doctrine) has also been refined and supplemented, usually to deepen and clarify a specific point in reaction to a particular heresy.

        So, to say that Catholic doctrine “changes” is not exactly true. It’s not like there has ever been a time when Catholic doctrine advocated the idea of two wives or the giving of one’s wife to another (to quote your examples). These are things that happened in the Old Testament narrative, but that doesn’t mean the Old Testament writers condoned them. And it certainly doesn’t mean those conceptions of marriage have ever been a part of orthodox Catholic/Christian doctrine and teaching. Orthodox Christianity has ALWAYS defined marriage between one man and one woman, and to imply otherwise is simply not true.

        And there is a reason for this. The orthodox teaching on marriage (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c3a7.htm)clearly defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, and all of the assumptions/teachings, etc. are bound up with that fact. For instance, the essential “complimentarity of the sexes,” the participation with God in the creation of human life, the unique ways that men and women are called to serve each other within marriage—all of these are at the heart of the Christian understanding and definition of the marriage covenant, and they all assume (and are dependent on) that bond being between one man and one woman. If you strip away everything in the doctrine pertaining to the bond between opposite sexes, you strip away a lot that is absolutely essential to the Christian definition of marriage. The Christian idea of marriage is FAR deeper and more complex than simply “two people loving each other.”

        This does not meant that people in same-sex relationships should be discriminated against financially or otherwise. Even while defining marriage as being between one man and one woman, the Catechism also clearly states “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible… They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

        I am dwelling on the marriage question because it is clear that it was the impetus for your article. But the more general idea that orthodoxy must change “to adapt to the needs of a changing world”–or to the whims of popular opinion (as is the case with same-sex marriage)–is a fallacy on a number of levels, perhaps best exposed by G.K Chesterton (http://www.chesterton.org/discover-chesterton/selected-works/the-theologian/why-i-am-a-catholic/). Like Chesterton, I am a Catholic because I believe Catholicism is true. “It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age,” as Chesterton puts it.

        Finally, when Catholics say “the Church has always believed…” they are referring to to the doctrine of the Church, not the various individual opinions of its members. Any internal or external protestations which contradict that doctrine are called heresies.

        Anyway, there are infinite further points that could be made here (including the clear refutation of your offhand remarks about contraception/AIDS by the leading UN and Harvard based studies), but there is only so much time in the day…

      • AC says:

        I slightly disagree with Adam, the authoritative books of the Bible were already understood by the early church before canonization…..so inerrancy of Scripture has always existed & never defeated as understood in context

      • AC says:

        Jesus says it best (when taken as a whole scripture is pretty clear on divorce, fidelity, homosexuality, etc)

        3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

        4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

        5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

        6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

        7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

        8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

        9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

        Just because we’re unfaithful & complicate matters doesn’t make Biblical truth any less absolute

      • C. Hanzo says:

        The addition of “Filioque” was not an addition, but a clarification of the dogma that had been held since before the Nicene creed. Hardly the world shattering change you think it is.

        ” at least equally problematic is its refusal to adapt to the needs of a changing world (i.e. contraceptive ethics and AIDS).”

        The reason the Catholic Church is still around is because it has resisted the fashions of every age. I’m not sure how mimicing the current liberal ideology will somehow improve it, especially considering the demographic disaster that’s resulted from the contraception approach to the AIDS crisis.

        The fact that dogma has bee protested against does not invalidate it, it only shows people are ficle.

  2. The points you raise in the post are very good. My own work has been focused on the significance of seeing the Holy Spirit as playing a proactive role as the church manages cultural influences and adaptations. If the church is sensitive, we have fewer fights over who track their position back to which authority figure.

  3. All due apologies to the Catholic commenter, I took Jonathan’s intention to be to actual think about the things we believe and confess, rather than simply to rhyme off what we believe is going to plug us immediately to the truth of things. And though I am not a Catholic myself, the account of an eternal unchanging tradition doesn’t actually accord with the better portion of Catholic reflection on the nature of doctrine through the 19th and 20th century. Cardinal John Henry Newman’s Essay on the Development of Doctrine and Christoper Dawson’s Christianity and Culture come immediately to mind. Whereas the theme traced out in the response are suspiciously Protestant and text-literal…or more broadly, Evangelical.

    I wonder Jonathan, instead of fighting against the specter of an eternal tradition, if you might not turn and think about how to articulate temporal continuity with the Christ and the Apostles and the Early Church Councils. Your conclusion, standing in solidarity with ‘Jesus Christ, who defended the weak and stood up for the oppressed’, is a good place to start. Though if you are going to articulate a temporal continuity, you will also have to find a way to live in and with the imperfect arrangements of any human community.

    • Jonathan Povilonis says:

      Thanks for the constructive comment, Richard; I appreciate the attempt at a discussion. Where are you seeing “temporal continuity with Christ…” show up? Is it from the title? or the line about Jesus’ love? As you noted, my focus on this article is dispelling misplaced notions of continuity. Continuity can only ever be partial, especially if you have 2000 years to gather up. As I see it, this ‘specter’ needs a good bit of resistance at the moment. But you are right that more must be done, lest we create a vacuum (see Joseph’s elusive, but pressing comment above). I am currently living in ‘imperfect arrangements’ of human community and open to ideas on how to proceed (with continuity).

  4. Peter Larson says:

    Mr. Povilonis would have us believe that there is no such thing as Christian orthodoxy – that all has been fluid and flexible over 2,000 years of history. This is the same faulty pseudo-theology that has given us Dan Brown and the DaVinci Code. Like Gnosticism, it masquerades as higher learning, sophistication and enlightenment but it is actually ignorant of history, the Bible and Christian tradition. Christians have, at times, disagreed, but there are central truths of the faith that all Christians have affirmed. However, the orthodoxy of Athanasius, Luther, C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton (among others) is an “inconvenient truth” for those who wish to discredit, dishonor and disobey the Word of God. May God preserve us from the hip and trendy “Church of what’s happening now,” which was an old Laugh In skit with Flip Wilson.

    • Jonathan Povilonis says:

      Peter, thanks for your comment; behind your sass I am willing to believe there is genuine concern, so I will attempt to respond. In my article I did not deny the existence of orthodoxy, nor did I state that everything was fluid and flexible.
      First, I disagree that my theology is, as you have said, “ignorant of history, the Bible and Christian tradition.” In fact, I would argue that lumping those four figures into a single orthodoxy (under the conveniently ambiguous title, an “inconvenient truth,” no less) marks a failure to pay attention to the finer details of their thought. Ironically, each of those figures ushered in their own version of what you are calling “the hip and trendy ‘Church of what’s happening now.'” That’s just how a tradition works: every new addition is a hip and trendy version of that which came before. Yes, they maintain many of the central theses, but they change a lot too (see my paragraph about the Nicene Creed).
      Second, part of my thesis was that every Christian disobeys the Word of God (if by this you mean the Bible, which wasn’t a hip and trendy name for it until after the Reformation). It presents many different (and often conflicting) modes of life and flourishing, making it impossible that it be obeyed entirely by a single person. I am arguing that its simply dishonest to say that everything we need to live can be easily accessed right on those pages; both Christianity and life are way more complicated than that.
      Also, I’m quite curious how my article “is the same pseudo-theology that has given us Dan Brown.” I’d love to have you make a case for that! And, finally, you didn’t quite say it, but I figure I ought to address it: nothing in my article substantially opposes the orthodoxy of any those figures.

  5. Peter, I’m not sure Jonathan claimed ‘that there is no such thing as Christian orthodoxy – that all has been fluid and flexible over 2,000 years of history.’ I’m all for rooting out heretics. That said, there isn’t enough in this specific post to make your charges stick. You do know what the bit about the ‘radical love of Jesus’ means, right? It’s means love that goes all the way down–the sort of love that only God has and can give.

    I understood Jonathan to be taking issue with the idea of an eternal tradition. Which makes good sense, if you are a Christian, and more specifically an Augustinian Christian. God became man; eternity enters time. Which means, if you are still filling your heads with eternal truths, you’ve actually failed to follow God’s assumption of our humanity and his willingness to taking that to the cross.

    I suggest you read Lewis’ Miracles and Chesterton’s Everlasting Man once more if you think they are talking about anything other than eternity divinity sharing in time of human life. I say this because I don’t see any evidence in your summary condemnation of Jonathan’s position that you’ve wrestled with the doctrine of the Incarnation, or that you appreciate what the Gospel of John might have meant when it said ‘the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’.

    I’ll stand with Jonathan on this one…even if his language is not entirely to my liking. (See my question above.)

  6. Ryan Groene says:

    Hello Jon, I read your article, and I have a number of comments to make on it. I think that it gets a lot of things right, but there are parts of it that seem incomplete or even misleading. I think I will start on the parts that I agree with.

    It is true that Christian belief has changed and evolved over the years, and while, in some cases this has meant a clarification and deepening of old ideas, it has also meant the contradiction of old ideas. I do believe that many human traditions that are not rooted in Scripture (such as the strong influence of Platonism) have skewed how theologians have seen things. Of course, all of our perspectives are skewed by our culture (or our response against our culture and attempt to be counter-cultural), but it is nonetheless something that we should be conscious of as we seek to understand God’s revelation. I understand that a lot of the main ideas of Luther and Calvin did not exist (at least not in that form) before the Reformation (even though I would argue that they were present in the writings of Paul). I understand that modern Christian piety is very much different from that which was practiced by the early church fathers, the monks (throughout every generation), the Reformers, the Puritans, etc. And I don’t even think that Roman Catholicism has remained the same. Catholics would, of course, argue that that their distinctive doctrines developed from the trust given to the apostles, but that it did not contradict it. I believe that there are problems with this claim, but it is outside the scope of my response to get into that. I too have found it odd and inconsistent that Protestants are willing to use the historical argument (this is how Christians have seen it since recently) against homosexuality, but are unwilling to apply it to contraception (which only began to be accepted in Christian churches in the 1930’s) and even the idea that pleasure and intimacy are actually positive aspects of marriage, rather than just necessary evils (you know, until recently, just about everybody interpreted the Song of Solomon allegorically). I do think that we need to question past traditions and ways of interpreting the Bible and that the Holy Spirit is and has been continually revealing truth through Scripture (which, ultimately points to Christ, the eternal Word of God) and that we need to avoid both the extremes of traditionalism (automatically rejecting any idea that is not in keeping with past tradition and thus elevating the authority of tradition to the level of Scripture) and anti-traditionalism (refusing to learn from the labors, experience, and study from Christians in the past, which actually represents the leading and the guidance of the Holy Spirit).

    That being said, the problem that I have with this article is that I fear it may undermine the very idea of Scripture as final authority (or of having any final authority above human opinion). I view Scripture as simultaneously human and divine, and I believe that it is inerrant with regard to its divine intent, which is in line with the original authorial intent even though it is not limited to that (there was a lot of light shed on the meaning of the OT, for instance, that the original writers probably were not aware of). If somebody wants to argue that there are minor historical errors, inconsistencies between parallel accounts, numerological errors, mistakes in genealogies, etc., I am not going to make that much of it as this does not really undermine the intent of Scripture to teach us about sin, righteousness, and salvation. Given that I believe that God’s saving work is rooted in history, if one were to claim that the biblical writers were generally inaccurate, then I would begin to have problems. As to the article on the Gospel Coaltion, I have only skimmed over it, and while the tone is not overly irenic, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with the claim that it is idolatry when the church capitulates to its surrounding culture. Now, granted, it is just as idolatrous when the church capitulates to some past culture or society or when they come up with views that are merely reactionary, but when I see Christians today saying either that the Bible does not actually condemn homosexuality or that, even if it does, that is just cultural bias on Paul’s part, I do have problems as this actually deals with the moral teachings of Scripture. I have (relatively briefly) looked into some of the alternative interpretations that some people have given for passages like Romans 1:26-27, and they just don’t seem convincing to me. While I don’t want to judge anybody’s motives, it really does seem to me that such “exegesis” is more motivated by an outside agenda than on an actual attempt to discern what Paul meant when he wrote these things. And, don’t get me wrong, I can definitely understand that. I think that the way the church has interacted with the gay community has often been uncharitable and counterproductive. It is not sufficient just to love people; it is also necessary that we communicate love to them (that we are reflecting before them the light of Christ). I think that all of us are guilty of reading our own theological agendas into Scripture, but this is something that we need to work against.

    You said, “A Christianity that can meet the needs of its surrounding society (think Jesus eating with the sinners despite the protestation of the Pharisees, or Paul’s being weak to save the weak) is a Christianity that has shown up in its own, individuated ways, under different sets of particular circumstances; and it is a Christianity that will continue to show up a little bit differently every time.” I think that here we need to make a really big distinction between the form itself and the expression of that form. While Paul did everything that he could to remove stumbling blocks (aside from that of the Gospel itself) that would be barriers to reaching out to the world, he did this without compromising the central content of his message or his actually views of holiness and righteousness. We definitely do live in a different culture, and our mode of outreach today probably will not look like that of people in the first century. But this doesn’t mean allowing the teaching of Scripture itself to capitulate to the surrounding culture. Christianity is supposed to be counter-cultural and to have the power within itself to critique and even transform the surrounding culture even as our understanding of God’s Word is transformed as we study it and experience it together as a community. An extreme example of the dangers of cultural conformity can be seen in the liberal Protestantism that existed in Germany in the earlier part of the 20th century. It was customary to accept whatever ideas and philosophies were generally accepted at the time, and, for the most part, they were ill-equipped to counter the teachings of Nazism, which began to permeate even the thinking and the teaching of professing Christians.

    Other, miscellaneous Observations:

    * It is often the case in church history that certain doctrines are never emphasized or defined until somebody begins to question them. It is true that the whole inerrancy discussion wasn’t even on the radar for Christians throughout most of history because everybody just took for granted that it was God’s revelation to them. As to whether it was true in all of its historical details, I think that this was more or less a non-issue; in fact, there were some Christians throughout history who denied or at least ignored the original, literal sense of the passage in favor of allegorical, spiritual meaning. Augustine did see the church as the highest authority, but this says nothing of how he would have felt about “inerrancy.” Catholics have always said that the Bible is true in all that it teaches, but that we need the Church to interpret it.

    * As to the elements that you mentioned that reflect aspects of modern evangelical culture, I am disturbed by a lot of what I see as a consumer-driven mentality, which, I feel, tends to cheapen the sacredness of Christian truth by turning it into a product that we are trying to sell. While contextualization is not always a bad thing, the modern insistence on “relevance” as it is very possible that, in the process of reaching out to a culture, God’s revelation can actually be made subservient to cultural ideals and thought patterns. That being said, there is a difference between presentation and content, and there are often many ways to present and articulate the same biblical truths.

    * This is a minor point, but I wanted to mention it nonetheless. I really don’t think there is any passage in Scripture that (even according to its original intent) qualitatively prohibits wearing jewelry. I think the verse in 1 Timothy is talking about extravagance, and in that societal context, it probably means the wealthier members of the congregation taking pride in their social status and flaunting their wealth before those who are less fortunate. The verse in 1 Peter (I think that’s what it is) is simply saying that we should not seek to be characterized in terms of outward appearance, but rather in terms of inward holiness, manifesting itself in good works. As to some of those other points in that same paragraph, could make some other comments. While it is debatable whether Scripture allows remarriage after divorce (in the case of marital unfaithfulness), I don’t know of many Christians who would say that divorce (in most circumstances) is not sinful to some degree. As for companies exploiting the poor, this is a more complex issue. As to giving money to fund corrupt organizations, God’s people were commanded to pay taxes to the government, but when we’re talking about businesses, we get into even more complex issues, which are outside the scope of this response.

    * You said, “the point of all of this is that marriage, like Christianity, has never been a monolithic, eternal entity (or even concept) that transcends the movements of cultures throughout time.” I would agree with this insofar as it is talking about marriage as it is practiced in human society, but I believe that marriage in and of itself was created and designed by God (and, of course, it can take a variety of different expressions). I think that polygamy, like divorce, was allowed in the Old Testament because of the peoples’ hardness of heart, but it definitely seems contrary to the original paradigm laid down in the first chapters of Genesis.

    I could say more, but I feel like I’ve already said more than enough. I hope my critique did not come off as too harsh. I do think that it was a good article in some respects, and it was very well-written.

    • Jonathan Povilonis says:

      Ryan, thank you for your comments; I appreciate your concern. I know you are always willing to pay intimate attention to the details. I will certainly not attempt to address all of them, but I will try to write again soon to clarify more of my position.
      Let’s start with what you called a ‘minor point’ because I think it will really reveal where our differences lie. There are passages in the NT which explicitly and rather clearly forbid the wearing of jewelry. Of course, your interpretation makes sense, but what you have done is said “No, the most straightforward meaning is not what Paul meant here, like he did when he said sexual promiscuity was a sin, or men loving each other is a sin. In those cases he meant what he said straightforwardly. But in this case, Paul is really getting at some idea BEHIND jewelry, e.g. that its really about not bragging about one’s social status.” I would argue that this is significant interpretive move, presented not by the Bible’s authority, but by the Christians’ (either individually or corporately). Here, the Bible did not tell you what it means, but you had to *decide*, and rightly so: your experience in today’s America, in which the wearing of jewelry seems commonplace and harmless, no doubt led you to believe that Paul simply COULD NOT MEAN what he actually said, but instead, some other thing that was MOTIVATING him to say it.
      Secondly, I don’t believe you can draw as hard and fast a distinction between Christianity/culture or human traditions/Scripture as you have, and your argument hinges on this. For example, you condemn the Platonic influence on Christianity, and yet yourself employ the Platonic distinction of the “form itself” and an “expression of that form.” My own honest reading of Scripture, especially when one compares books with one another, and the OT with the NT, concludes that each text is severely embedded within a human tradition. Many Evangelicals admit this when they say “it was written in Paul’s voice but still with divine plenary inspiration, etc.” Scripture is a product of a human tradition, of many human traditions. There is no reason to make this problematic, because nothing about it excludes divine inspiration. It just accepts the tautology that our human modes of thinking about God, even those presented by God in Scripture, are, of course, human. These influences include Platonism (John is soaking in it), but also many others. This is nothing to lament about, but it does mean that we can’t just look at a text (or anything, for that matter) and parse out what came from God and what came from humans. This is the very distinction that I think is most problematic.
      The notion that there is a transcendent ‘form’ of Christianity that we need to access if we are to be legitimately Christian is, in my opinion, a fantasy. Instead, we all work to abstract from previous traditions what we find centrally important and then work to discover it anew in our own ways. You said that Paul’s being weak to the weak was always done without “compromising the central content of his message or his actually views of holiness and righteousness.” I agree that Paul did this. But a major point of my article (see the paragraph about the Nicene Creed) was that there is reason to debate what this ‘central content’ is! Would Paul have worn jewelry to reach the rich, even though he condemned it elsewhere? Probably: it doesn’t seem that central to (Luther’s reading of Paul) justification by faith alone. So the question the article probes is why some Christians are so sure that marriage and sexuality is something so central to that message of justification by faith alone. My employment of different Biblical marriage customs was to show how fluctuated, how multifarious are the views of marriage displayed and promoted in the Bible. If marriage is part of the central, unchanging ‘form’ of Christianity, then why did it change so much in the Bible? Surely, you have argued that an ideal was set in Genesis and breached by many Biblical figures. But I argue that those marriage customs are not condemned, but actually supported by God (esp. David and Saul’s wives). Regardless, many people were considered ‘faithful’ (Heb. 11) while practicing marriage in a way different than the ‘ideal’ of Genesis 1-2. If this is the case, how can we argue that marriage is part of that central content?
      And so, here we are again: a disagreeing about what the Bible is presenting and what it means for us, or what’s the fixed meaning BEHIND the text. My point is that deciding which formal content should be kept and which can be discarded is always an open question, and into which no one has easy access (say, through the Bible). Even if “Christianity is supposed to be counter-cultural,” this still doesn’t answer the question: Culture is too complex! Should we side with the conservatives and reject gay marriage because *part* of our culture believes being gay is okay? Or should we side with the liberals because *part* of our culture is disgustingly homophobic and has a history of oppressing those who are different? In my opinion, Jesus’ life reflected a lot more of the latter. But the whole point of my article is that being a Christian in the 21st century means that this is an open question.

      • Ryan Groene says:

        In the example of jewelry, holding all of Scripture to be inspired actually would contradict a view that forbade all jewelry because, for instance, God told the Israelites to plunder jewelry from the Egytpians in the Exodus. So, even without appealing to anything external to Scripture, I have shown this to be the case. However, I do think that it is obvious that we cannot interpret Scripture without appealing to anything external to it. The most obvious example is the meaning of words and grammatical structures, but language and culture cannot be entirely divorced from one another. To say that this passage, in its plainest sense, condemns jewelry is to read it in an overly literalistic sense (similar to saying that Jesus actually meant that we should literally guage out our eyes if we are tempted to lust). In the ancient world, it was even more common to use hyperbole or to say things in dramatic or absolute terms for the sake of emphasis, but even so, the description of jewelry given in this passage is a description of extravagantly expensive adornment, which is not at all analogous to having a couple of ear-rings or a necklace today (or even then, for that matter). And, furthermore, Paul is addressing specific issues in this letter involving people’s behavior and appearanceas in corporate worship in that cultural setting. I do think that learning and studying the cultural and linguistic contexts in which the biblical books were written is very helpful in understanding their meaning, which is why the work of certain scholars like Ben Witherington are very helpful even if I don’t agree with all of their soteriological views. But, in any case, this is much more complex than just saying “it couldn’t possibly mean that,” so, therefore, it doesn’t. A lot more goes into the analysis than that.

        Ths issue of homosexuality is different in this regard. It’s in the context of a moral denunciation of man in rebellion against God (though largely written as a polemic against Gentile culture) as opposed to a point that is written to a pastor addressing the specific issue of behavior in corporate worship.
        Sure, it’s true that committed homosexual relationships like those in existence today didn’t exist then (or, at least, were extremely rare), but the emphasis in Paul’s language about homosexual behavior ITSELF being a negative consequence (and even a divine judgment) of idolatry and of this behavior specifically as being a perversion of the natural order seems clear enough and explanations that I’ve read to the contrary just don’t seem convincing. It’s not that I would be unwilling to look into it further, but I certainly wouldn’t be willing to simply say “Well, it seems okay to me, so the Bible MUST not really be saying that.”

        As to what you said about Platonism, I did not say that every aspect of Platonism was evil. I was speaking more specifically of certain elements like the denigration of all physical desire as being something that is inherently flawed, inherently antagonistic to spiritual desire, and to be overcome as much as possible. I was commenting more specifically on the dualistic way of thinking about sensory/aesthetic perception vs. intellectual/philosophical/spiritual perception. And I think that Platonism affected Christianity in other ways too that have probably skewed the way we look at things, and I think that we should be mindful of it. In some cases, it may not even be that it’s wrong as much as that it’s incomplete. For instance, I believe that the whole concept of systematic theology is influenced by a Platonic way of thinking and that, while it is useful for understanding and making sense of biblical teaching, it is not complete in itself.

        One last thing…on marriage in general: There is a difference between saying that our understanding of marriage has remained unchanged since biblical times and saying that certain aspects of it have remained unchanged. And, furthermore, I think that it is possible to discern the ways in which marriage was practiced from the biblical ideal, though it is not necessarily easy. The understanding of marriage as a type for Christ and His church presented in the NT clearly precludes polygamy. The places in the OT were marriage is specifically praised do not talk about multiple wives (yes, I know Solomon had multiple wives, but that idea is not present in the Song of Solomon ITSELF). And we don’t see any signs of polygamy in the ideal presented in Genesis 1 either. That and a number of other factors lead us to think that it is unlikely that polygamy is God’s ideal for marriage. In the case of homosexuality, for one thing, this is an example of a way in which Israel and the church were DIFFERENT from the surrounding culture, where homosexual practice was more common. Genesis 1 and every place that Scripture idealizes marriage presents it between a man and a woman. The analogy of Christ and His church does not seem to make sense in the case of gay marriage. And, yes, I do think that the relationship between a husband and a wife is much MORE egalitarian (though I do still hold to a form of complementarianism) than the relationship between Christ and the church, but that’s because it’s just an illustration; it is not meant to be alike in every way. And, yes, people in the OT who practiced polygamy were faithful to the level of understanding that they presently had, but nobody’s perfect.

        I’d also like to note that I agree with you that, in a lot of cases, our culture condemns gay marriage simply because it’s something that they cannot relate to and which seems strange to them. That’s not why I’m opposed to it. I’m opposed to it simply because it is contrary to what God designed. We are a part of His grand masterpiece and marriage, while beautiful in itself, is supposed to illustrate God’s relationship with His people in very powerful ways. If it weren’t for the fact that I believe the Bible says this, I would have absolutely no problem with it. I certainly do think that we should be very sensitive and loving to people like this. As somebody who has Aspberger’s and OCD, I definitely know what it means to have struggles which seem so much different from everybody else’s and to have other people seem obvivious of your experience and perspective. While parts of these things, may simply be aspects of how God designed me, it is clear that certain aspects of my personality and nature are contrary to God’s design. To some extent, we will not be able to overcome certain tendencies or inclinations until the resurrection of the dead because our bodies are affected by the fall, and I am willing to believe that there are some people who will NEVER be able to have a healthy, heterosexual relationship. But I don’t think that sexuality is as much a part of our identity (how God designed us and who we are in Christ) as we have made it in our sex-obsessed culture. It is something that won’t even exist on the new earth (if I understand Jesus’ words correctly) and it is not an aspect of the Imago Dei according to my understanding. Paul himself actually says that celibacy is a gift and a calling to some people.

        Okay, this post was meant to be much shorter than the last one, but whenever I start typing about something, I just can’t stop. I don’t expect you to respond to all of it, but I hope that this is a clearer presentation of where I stand. At least, I think it is *a little* shorter than my first post.

    • Neil Wilson says:

      You have laid out your view quite plainly and that is fair enough. But how would you respond to the following argument as it is the real issue: Religious belief should be entirely a private matter. America is a secular country with freedom of spiritual belief and practice and not a Christian theocracy and this was the clearly stated intention of the Founding Fathers. However, until the last 20-30 years America has been run by church going white male Christians who ensured that US law and practice reflected their Christian belief and in practice there was little separation between the state and the church. Nowadays America is a multifaith, multiethnic community and while the largest group are white Christians they are nominally so and really should be considered as secular cultural Christians. They certainly don’t want to be told what to do by religious people of any type. On the other hand conservative fervent Christians live in a magical world of angels and demons not dissimilar the medieval Europeans and they honestly believe in a God that will send punishment on America if the laws are changed to allow such things as gay marriage. They are impervious to any argument as they have ‘faith’ and they ‘know the truth’ because ‘God told them it is so’. They are adamant that what they believe is applicable to all Americans and must be enforced on all even if most of citizens think it is errant nonsense, or in fact are of another faith (which fervent Christians would consider as nonsense). Christians in 2013 have seen in the results of the last election that they are a small minority view are extremely fearful, but no-one is trying to tell them what to believe and they can get together with like minded consenting adults and form churches but they have to learn that the days of forcing others to do what they think is right are over. As to gay marriage – the only legal partnership should be civil union and it should be for all. If religious groups want to add on their own restrictions and own religious ceremony for members of their group then that is okay, but it must have no extra legal significance.

      • Ryan Groene says:

        What I was saying here really had more to do with my view of the morality of homosexual marriage from a biblical perspective than of the legality of it. If gay marriage is accepted, that will be a reflection of the changing views of our society, but I don’t think that very many people base their desire to be in a homosexual relationship on whether or not it is recognized by the law. In other words, the point is not whether or not we *should* legislate morality; I think that it cannot be done unless, of course, we want to make homosexual activity actually criminal, which I definitely wouldn’t favor (and I don’t think many others would either). I’ve always thought that the fact that the government had *anything* to do with marriage is problematic.

        However, as to your comment that “Religious belief should be entirely a private matter,” I would have to disagree with that if you mean that Christians should not be able to express their opinions about religious issues in conversations (public or private) with others or if you are saying that religious ideology should not influence one’s political views at all. In fact, such a view would be logically inconsistent with a Christian view. If one’s religion is foundational to somebody (i.e. their worldview), it will have a wholistic effect on how they see every aspect of the world around them. It makes little sense to say that religious people are free to have their worldview affect entirely personal matters, but that when it comes to politics, economics, ethics, etc., they must operate from a naturalistic or secular worldview.

        • Neil Wilson says:

          Thanks for the thoughtful reply. My comments were made precisely because there is a strong belief in US fundamentalist circles (I don’t like the term but cannot think of a better one) that there is an imperative to legislate their version of Christian morality. It is the very reason Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority and I heard it from his lips at a sermon I attended. Due to the highly judgmental and negative political campaign this type of fundamentalist has successfully run secular America thinks this is what Christianity is all about and are turned off by both the messenger and the message. On the other hand I totally agree that believers (of all faiths) should be able to freely express their views ‘in the marketplace’ and for their faith to inform their individual voting in local, state, and federal politics.

          • Ryan Groene says:

            Thanks for the clarification, and I just wanted to say that I did not intend to read too much into your statement about religion being a private matter…I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page because I feel like there is a tendency to today to avoid talking about religious issues as this causes too much tension, and I can see where it comes from, but I think a better solution is to seek civility and to listen to others’ points of view even though this is admittedly difficult for people who passionately disagree with one another.

          • Ryan Groene says:

            Also, I think that we agree somewhat on the whole Moral Majority thing. I agree that it ultimately did more harm than good and that you can’t change peoples’ beliefs or attitudes simply by passing laws.

  7. Richard Greydanus says:

    So…I am going to jump into the conversation once more. The question about the Christian idea of marriage actually obscures what is really at stake. I am willing to concede that Christians have always everywhere, at least nominally, consented to the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman. The unaddressed question behind contemporary discussions about the nature of marriage is the relationship between the marital relationship and the legislative authority of government. That relationship has always been changing. The consequence is that the marriage, even if its only ever been between a man and a woman, is changing as well.

    I blogged about this in a little more detail here: The Real Question Behind the Question of Gay Marriage .

  8. Neil Wilson says:

    A lot of the Christians who consider themselves true to the Bible as to what marriage is all about should perhaps take the time to really find out what the Bible actually says. A good start would be reading scholarly studies of the issue such a “Unprotected Texts” by Jennifer Wright Knust an American Baptist pastor and a scholar at Boston University.
    In Old Testament times marriage was a property right of a man over a woman and had nothing a priori to do with sexual morality or religious belief. It reflected the reality of the physical power of males over females and that the female sex was considered as valuable in being a potential baby making machine (and as a worker in the household). All marriages were arranged as property deals essentially. Love between a man and woman was not the reason for marriage and in fact at times the Old Testament makes a special comment that such and such man ‘loved’ his wife and therefore did something unusual rather than just treat her as a goods. Romantic and erotic love certainly did happen – the Song of Solomon shows that but it was not the basis for marriage. A woman was always some male’s property – either of her father or her husband and if her husband died she became the property (in every way) of his brother. One man might have many wives and indeed it meant he was a rich successful man. All slaves male and female were considered as property and both sexes could be used by the master for his pleasure. Relationships between men and men did occur (probably the best example is David and Jonathan) but there was no need of marriage since free men were equals and did not own each other – unless one was a slave.
    Traces of this attitude remained right to the Founding Fathers, the only voters in the early US were property owning white males, women were legal minors in so many ways.

    • Ryan Groene says:

      Just a quick reply here…Nothing here is new to me. I know that was the case in the ancient world, and I know that change did not happen right away, but I do think that the Bible was instrumental in bringing it about over time. For instance, while many people object to Paul’s comment about wives submitting to their husbands, the part that would have been more controversial and counter-cultural then was the command for husbands to love their lives as Christ loved the church. Jesus’ teaching on divorce also seems to indicate that He viewed marriage as something more sacred than just owning property, and Paul’s comment in 1 Corinthians 7 that not only does a husband have authority over his wife’s body, but a wife also has authority over her husband’s body seems to go against the ideal that a husband can view his wife as mere property.

      • Neil Wilson says:

        My comment was made because at this time of the Supreme Court hearings on gay/lesbian marriage there is a lot written and said by more fundamentalist Christian commentators about ‘Biblical marriage’ and one would think that it has always been the one man and one woman love match idealized in many churches today. The idea that for example; polygamy was once a biblical model is airbrushed out.

        • AC says:

          I guess you can say Polygamy was tolerated in the OT by God but He never encouraged or endorsed it – however, Jesus has the final word on the matter in Matt.19 when he endorsed traditional marriage – you have to read Scripture as a whole & not cherry pick, to get a full understanding of the true Christian perspective

          • Neil Wilson says:

            That passage in Matt (and its equivalent in Mark) are all about divorce which Jesus condemns except in one setting, the adultery of the woman- and even then the other partner may never remarry while the women is still alive. I would like to see Christian traditionalists writing about a campaign to repeal divorce laws and laws allowing remarriage as they are very clearly not Gods will.

  9. AC says:

    For a Conservative Christian perspective on current events & the wide road to destruction we are swiftly traveling click on the link to all my commentaries for the Western Journal, God Bless!


  10. AC says:

    PS, there are Black, Spanish, Female & even ‘Gay’ Orthodox Christians….I know it throws a monkey wrench in the harsh mischaracterizations of the White Male Christian but if you really search unbiased perspective you may want to acknowledge this reality.

    Peace to all the Truth Seekers, stop trying so hard & accept Gods Sovereign Will

    • Neil Wilson says:

      In the end it all comes down to whether people actually believe in your God. As Richard Dawkins has said ‘we are all atheists’. There are around 700 ‘Gods’ in the world today so your are an atheist about 699 of them. Belief in a higher being is self referencing and from a scientific point of view unprovable: I believe in God because the Bible says he exists, I believe in the Bible because God says so. All believers have is ‘by their fruit you shall know them’. The average Joe and Jane citizen looking at fundamentalist Christianity in the US today sees that it is primarily a collection of haters.

  11. AC says:

    People often argue that we should just let same-sex couples do what they want, since they’re not hurting anyone. What do you say to them?

    We actually are allowing them to do whatever they want. What we’re not allowing them to do is redefine the institution of marriage to be a genderless institution. We’re not allowing them to take over the primary institution of society, which defines parenthood and defines the relationships between the generations.

    Many arguments around this issue are confused between the personal, private purposes of marriage and the public purpose of the institution of marriage. The public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another. It’s an issue of justice that everybody in society recognizes, that these two people are the parents of the child and nobody else is. Not grandma or the babysitter or a previous boyfriend, or all the people who might possibly show up wanting to be the parent. No. These two people are the parents of the child. That’s what marriage is designed to do: to attach to the biological mother the man who is the father of her child. And the marriage institution has social and legal norms of sexual exclusivity and permanence attached to it. Those are key features of marriage.

    If you look at same-sex couples, both at what they say and their behavior, neither permanence nor sexual exclusivity plays the same significant role. In other words, if you’re in a union that’s intrinsically not procreative, sexual exclusivity is not as important. Once you start thinking like that, you’ll see that everything people offer as reasons why same-sex couples should be “allowed” to get married—all of the reasons are private purposes. Sometimes it’s nothing more than how it will make them feel. It’s not the business of law to make people feel a certain way. When you see that redefining marriage is going to, in fact, redefine the meaning of parenthood, removing biology as the basis for parenthood and replacing it with legal constructions—then you see that there is quite a lot at stake in getting the definition of marriage right.

    -Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute

    • Neil Wilson says:

      Sorry but there is a lot more to what marriage offers a couple in law than its role in procreation and ‘attaching children to a parent’. If that is what it is all about then why allow heterosexual couples who cannot or will not have children to marry?
      The other and perhaps more fundamental issue is this – who are you to solely define marriage at a civil society level? Conservative Christians are a minority and while they can make their own rules and definitions about marriage for likeminded consenting adults who join their denomination, they cannot do so for the wider society. Yes they can express an opinion and vote based on that, but ultimately cannot force it on everyone.

  12. AC says:

    1. Neil, your article was pretty good, I could tell you spent a great deal of time & thought on the subject 2. You’re right Christians have failed to set an example & uphold a Biblical view of marriage, shame on us! 3. Should we hold society to a standard in which we often fall so short? Valid point. I think we want to because we feel it best for us AND them, but like you said, it they are hardened against it, it becomes a battle of wills.

    So far you got me on the ropes, personally Id like to rewind back to a time when most of the American population were of a like mind morally, ethically & spiritually …..but it will never be.

    The one area I think you are most challenged and is the one you glossed over, is the quote from Jennifer Morse of the Ruth Institute, I think we has a very lucid, compelling case for the benefits tied to traditional family….I think if we start messing with that, it becomes extremely complicated…. I’d like to hear you speak more to that, what are the civil/state benefits tied to traditional marriage (and what was the origin/purpose of this form of state recognition) and would it require tweaking with the inclusion of SSM

  13. AC says:

    Neil, bottom line- freedom without God is anarchy.

    As we lose God we lose the country.

    Look at all the evils & miseries the godless actions of both parties have gotten us.

    We need more God, not less

    I call for a great awakening – God is the only source of true change

  14. AC says:

    Stages of Democracy – Where’s the U.S.

    1. From Bondage to spiritual faith;

    2. From spiritual faith to great courage;

    3. From courage to liberty;

    4. From liberty to abundance;

    5. From abundance to complacency;

    6. From complacency to apathy;

    7. From apathy to dependence;

    8. From dependence back into bondage”

  15. Allen says:

    After reading this article, I could hardly disagree with many of your points anymore than I do.

    First, you make mention that Christian belief has changed as time continues. In your studies, have you spent any time studying the immutability of God? Focusing on logic, if God Himself is objective, His truth is objective. Whether or not man realizes it doesn’t make it any less true or evident(Rom. 1:20). If God uses nature to display His power and character, why wouldn’t He communicate these things to us? If God esteems His word more highly than His name, would this God of Grace that we preach and seek not want to provide a clear path to communicate His truth (Ps 138:2)?

    I’ll state that evangelicalism has changed- that is clear, as people who write blogs like these would not have been given the influence you have, 30 or 50 years ago. But I digress. What I absolutely do not agree with, is that Christianity has changed. I’m not talking about the way it’s packaged or presented, I’m talking about its fundamental truths that have the power to save men, provide grace to those who realize they’re under the law, and empower them to preach the gospel. To this point I also ask, “If Christian belief and morals have changed over the centuries, what authority do you have to state that the love of Christ is a good thing?” How do you even know what Christianity is? Apart from the word that was preached to you, reading from the compiled word of God, you would be extremely limited to His truths.

    While I don’t contest that the Bible’s inerrancy is “new”, due to the fact that its cannon and compilation were of man’s construct, the word contained within it, collectively and isolated, are in fact inerrant, as 2nd Tim. 3:16 says, “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”. With what would you contend to disprove that? There is no scripture that would say otherwise, certainly none of inspiration.

    Logically, we conclude then, that God esteems His word more highly than His name, so much so, that even the base existence of creation attributes His power and glory for what made them. So then, it is safe to say that man, being God’s specific, favored creation, would know Him in a way they can understand (John 1 tells us that the Word was made manifest to men that they might know God as He is, in a way they could finally behold and grasp), and why not choose men to pen the words He so earnestly seeks to reveal to men in continuing generations? The Bible’s very existence, having 39 authors to pen it, without collusion or contradiction (given proper context).

    Secondly, you stated marriage in Christianity has never been monolithic. To that I say, where have you been? The first man and first woman were set, one to one, cleaving to one another due to the fact that Adam’s rib had become Eve’s so as to create a union of matrimony that was performed by God Himself, rather than those appointed on His behalf (as we see now). This was the design God had intended, one man, one woman. This concept was established at creation, and Lamech’s decision to marry multiple women is clearly a digression of a sinful culture (in this case being of the heir of Cain). In the OT, we saw numerous men of God taking multiple wives, but we also saw slavery and execution of entire peoples. Does this mean God wanted these things? Not at all, but He allows man’s evil to exist and be used in ways that ultimately demonstrate His power. For example, the Canaanites were a wicked people, but as some of these people were taken captive, they were shown the truth and the true God through Israel’s consecration. Would Joseph have been 2nd in command, lest slavery was a common Egyptian practice? Would the Israelites have even sought to settle in Canaan, unless the Egyptians became cruel task masters? The point of all that is this, the cross omits, affirms, or modifies commandments of the OT. Many of the commandments were, in fact, for Israel; however, marriage was to be upheld as one man and one woman.

    One of your arguments is saying that aversion to homosexuality is moot because the church has become accepting of divorce. This doesn’t make either OK. I think I can easily close this argument with, “two wrongs do not make a right.”

    Christianity continues to transcend culture not because it changes, but because its truths are immutable and therefore transcend culture itself, not being conjured or created by our society. Will gravity have less relevance in sixty years from now? Even if people choose to disagree with it? Of course, not. Will electricity cease to continue having the same electrical properties today because we choose to disagree with it? Of course, not. These constants transcend soceity because they were not made by man, but exist as a part of objective truth. We can attempt to change their properties to make them more relevant, but the fact is, they too are immutable in the contexts with which they exist. All we can do, is choose to accept its truth and benefit from it by harnessing its power. The immutable Gospel is exactly the same thing. We can choose to accept its truth and benefit from it by harnessing its power, and we’ll see God change lives.

    I submit to you, that the answer is not to lower our standards to meet the needs of the lost, it’s to align ourselves ever closer to the standards of the Creator, so that we too might see His grace become real in our lives, and the lives of those whom we reach out to. Holiness and consecration will get you the change you so earnestly desire; but you must conform to His image, and grow in His word.

    Let me save you some time here, unless you intend to back up your points with scripture, I have no intent to discuss anything further, because you have no reasonable objective authority to backup what you’re saying.

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