Thursday, October 20, 2005

Evangelical Churches: Homosexuality and Good News?

Part III

The Resurrection

Finally, if we are going to call ourselves evangelicals, we must remember that it’s all about the good news that God has reconciled the world to himself through Christ, and that Jesus is indeed Lord of the world. That mastery is working itself out slowly and surely in our lives, for our restoration and our good, and the consummation of it will be the complete renewal of the whole creation. This kingdom movement is indeed good news.

Unfortunately, the good news about Jesus is talked about in terms of bad news about hell, or that all kinds of people shouldn’t have sex – or partners – ever. I find that more than a little confusing, and I promise you that the rest of the world “out there” finds it plainly ridiculous.

So what is the good news we have for homosexual men and women?
I imagine it would have to be that Jesus offers a positive, livable alternative to… everything. But in order to say that to someone with any credibility at all, one must ask, “Do I really believe that life with Jesus is better than any other thing I could want or hope for?”

I leave this open for debate now, but one more point, relevant to anybody of whatever faith commitment or whatever flavor of personal brokenness: if anyone can be called away from the things to which they look for security, and to let go of happiness and fulfillment as they understand it, it’s going to be out of sheer love for and devotion to Jesus.

Now how are you going to get close enough to people in order for them to know him that well?


Expax said...

The only two viable options I really see is either Christian Stoicism or Christian Hedonism. I tend for the latter.

One of the greatest theological truths that I have learned in my life that has born much fruit in me was to spend time in learning of joy. There are two great books I would highly recommend that give a fairly complimentary view: Heaven: The Heart's Deepest Longing by Peter Kreeft & Desiring God by John Piper. They argue that the greatest joy one can know is in God. That joy itself is a foretaste of God. That the joy we now have is only a shadow of the joy to come. That joy is partly the heart of heaven. Due Note: They both, in a long history of theologians, seperate joy from happiness. Happiness is in their work is defined more or less as an emotion; where as joy is expressed more as an experience. Good stuff.

"The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
--The Westminister Catechism

"To know God is to love God; To love God is to know God"

"There is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious."
--C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Expax said...

By the way I am meaning Christian Hedonism as a blend between how C.S. Lewis used it and John Piper used.

Basically in short: The individual should seek maximum joy for their. Joy is manifested in the person of God and experienced in his works. To seek maximum joy is to seek God personally.

IN OTHER WORDS: when I am seeking God I experience joy, when I am seeking joy I should experience God.

JHearne said...

“Do I really believe that life with Jesus is better than any other thing I could want or hope for?”

A good summation of the central point. It will be my thought for the day.

Kyle said...

Bless you, Ben, and thank you for keeping up with the conversation, but I find Piper offensive at best, and anti-Christian at worst.

Those ideas are not found in Scripture or the Tradition of the Church and have everything to do with making up pseudo-philosophical systems and trying to fit Christian doctrine into them. Not to mention the incredibly pastorally retarded attempt to tell people how they ought to feel and whether and how they should experience God.

And no, that's not up for debate in this space, at least not by me.

Have a good day, Josh. ;0)

+ Alan said...

Uhm Kyle, you said retarded.

I think one important point that may make this a slightly different conversation is the fact that the whole "Christian" thing, our salvation in Christ, etc. is NOT about individuals primarily. Now, this may very well kick me out of the "evangelical" camp but I was going to ask that questioin anyway: what if we're not going to call ourselves evangelicals?

If not then I believe we have freedom to say a few more things. Oh, and the only alternative to not being an evangelical is not to be a "liberal." Right then...

So, the entire thing is not really about your individual salvation. It's not about your individual positive and happy experience of God and His "benefits." I mean to say that the "Good News" (and yes I do believe it is Good) to you or me or someone else, for our own selves in many ways, may not seem very good at all. It may indeed seem crazy and unbearable. Why? Because we are broken, as Kyle said. We don't know what it means to be a Human Being. We really don't. We don't know what the world and the universe is really supposed to look like. The only thing we have to go on is what we've experienced, and that alone, is a poor judge of things.

So, to bemoan the plight of homosexuals not being able to have sex or partners or of, and this is hyperbole - please, someone who has a built-in propensity toward killing people in horrible ways not to have their killing. I'm trying to make a point. For me, and angry person, not to have my leave to release my anger in any way I see fit cannot be viewed as unbearably restrictive.

Why's that? Because in all these cases, it's not about ME. It's about the Kingdom of God being restored in all people, in the whole world and universe. Now, we have a part in that - a part, not the whole. And if our experience of our part of that restoration is not altogether pleasant, OK, like I said, it's bigger than your happy feelings.

And there are some who actually believe that God intends and is ready to make things the way they should be, and that He is able to do so. If we simply, out front dismiss this possibility and come to the conclusion that "it will never happen" it is we who have given up, not God.

It's all quite more complicated than "I trusted God and nothing happened, so I guess I'm supposed to be this way," or "looks like I'm never going to change for some reason so can someone please say it's OK for me to just do this anyway and stop hoping and not have to hurt any more?" We all hurt. We all have broken crap in us that seems like it's never going to change. We all have to just look up and offer ourselves to God with trusting abandon in favor of the Kingdom. Is it US or the Kingdom? That would be the question.

I know people who don't like being with people, at all. That's just the way they're made. That's not being sexually broken but it's certainly broken, perhaps more broken than someone who is oriented as a homosexual. Should we give way for them to never have to be with people? If we do, as I see it, we have given way for them to never be transformed. But they'll feel better because they're being who they are. But that's what matters to us, in general - how we feel, that we are comfortable. We really have no idea.

OK, I've written enough. Hope I didn't ramble too much. I tried to keep it cohesive. Peace.

Expax said...

Hey Kyle I'll try to write up a series soon to why I defend the concept of joy being beyond emotion and as a good evangelical (who teeters on inerrancy at times). Also I will argue that there is substantial support in church history from all sides, from orthodoxy to heresy... from catholicism to orthodoxy... from protestants to protestants. So keep a watch for it. =)

Glad to of been a part of this conversation Kyle. Keep up the good work. Blessings.

Oh by the way generally I do find Piper to be sickening at best, but from time to time, as in this case, I find that he occasionally has someting good to say... though I only agree with him partially. Thats why I recommended it to be coupled with Peter Kreeft's Heaven.

Kyle said...

Ben, I'll simply wish you luck on that. Thanks for playing. ;0)

Kyle said...

Alan, I think you may present a helpful re-framing of the question in this.

First, my challenge in these terms has been to evangelicals specifically, but I will be the first to point out that such labels at this point in time serve as dividing lines rather than unifying principles, which was kind of the point of evangelicalism in the first place (see Marsden and McGrath).

Second, I find your hyperbole unhelpful at best, so I'm going to ignore it. Love you, though. :0)

Now here's the bit I really appreciate:

I think there's certainly a place (nor would I expect you to disagree with this) for a committment to Jesus that's made on the individual level. I mean, duh. However, this is meaningless outside of a committment to the Christian Community itself. Otherwise, as Paul once said on the Areopagus, you've got a good idea here, but you don't really know who you're worshipping or what the whole thing's about.

The Christian story is never about the fulfilment and happiness of individuals, but rather the restoration of the entire Creation to God. Sometimes the experience of this does indeed suck in some ways, and we must experience things and make decisions that seem evil and painful to us, but are ultimately for our health and redemption as the new humanity in Jesus Christ.

Newbigin says that the christian Community exists as a witness and sign of God's restoration, a people who receive the gift and offer it to the world at large. What's the practical difference between the completion of our redemption and the restoration that the Holy Spirit will work in individuals who live in the Community here and now? That's an open question, and a scary one? How do we live in such a way that we take stock of the differing conditions of community members but bear witness to that redemption, awaiting its completion as we experience and offer the Spirit's power? These are the questions we can only answer with our lives.

So here's the challenge according to this reframing of the question, in addition to the content of my original post:

This overall story of the world's redemption and the restoration of individuals through the communion of the Christian Church remains good news. It is the first step the New Testament takes on the basis of the proclamation that the crucified Jesus has been raised and vindicated as the Lord of all.

How can a Christian community articulate fully both in word and action this calling to men and women who are called for the sake of holiness and dedication to Christ to give up the basic understandings of happiness and fulfilment as their experiences have defined the concepts?

That's a central question for any endeavours in mission or "evangelism," not only to homosexual persons and divorcees, but to the broader culture with its dreams of material success, self-sufficiency, and any number of strange myths.

Expax said...

Just launched the preface to my new series called "Happiness, Joy, & The People of God." Thanks for the inspiration.

lizcreech said...

Hey Kyle!

God, knows I can't compete with you and Alan with your big words and deep expresions so you will just get this little snippet from me:

I was just thinking that we are a society based around instant gratification and quick fixes.

We do not know how to survive the long haul or rather don't want to wait.

Kyle said...

Because, after all, whether something works out quickly and smoothly isn't an indication as such of whether or not that's what God has in mind.

thanks for chiming in!

Kyle said...

(I left this comment up because it is germane to the discussion, even if that discussion has lain fallow for a year. Do realize, my dear blog guest, that everything about your blogger profile makes you look like a spammer.)

I'm not sure I understand the argument implied by your anecdote; I disagree with your assessment of habitual pre-marital sex to be praiseworthy. Why should the Church be expected to bless and uphold a way of life that is blatantly against all Christian teaching regarding sex and relationship? Of course, it shouldn't.

Sex and cohabitation do not offer good ground for a Christian marriage.