Reply to SS 2

Hi SS. No need to worry about the tone of our discussion, I am confident that our discussion is in good spirits, even though that can be hard to convey in plain text :)

And thankyou for your response, I appreciate it. One of the most discouraging things for me lately has been finding myself surrounded by fellow believers who refuse to enter into any kind of dialog, particularly in matters of living as Christians in a secular world. I do imagine we sit in different corners of this room, and we may not find ourselves shifting our positions any time soon, but it is of great importance to engage with our faith and exercise the brain-words we use to convey our beliefs to people, both Christian and not.

I come from a perspective of a seasoned churchgoer painfully aware of our ongoing failure to reach unchurched or ex-church people. From that perspective it becomes apparent there are hidden failures in many aspects of the Christian experience that we, broadly speaking and in my opinion, choose to be wilfully ignorant of. If this is an accurate assessment, it defeats the purpose of us being Evangelicals.

I concede that I have made some sweeping statements about Christianity which cannot be true across the board. As a Christian I wish I did not have to relay these criticisms, but they are serious and widespread enough that we ought to take the charge seriously, even if we don’t think they apply to us personally.

SSM is particularly pertinent because the church’s reaction to it most certainly has had an increasingly net negative effect on the reputation of our Lord.

I’d like to offer my response to your 4 points:

1. Does a Christian have any responsibility to stand for God’s purpose and design outside of the church? I would answer with a resounding Yes. Does that mean we should defend marriage as between a man and a woman? Arguably, sure. But not before addressing the world’s countless issues of social justice with the proactive love of Jesus. There are real goods and there are abstract goods. Jesus shows us God’s will in action in reality. The Biblical authors often deal with the abstract, which can be useful for growing in wisdom. But as faith without works is dead, so abstract good is nothing without actualised good. There is a case to be made against SSM based on Scripture, but in the public sphere, Christians must be seen to be a force engaged with reality. To my mind, building relationships with gay people is the way forward, and that cannot happen while we Bible bash them and deny them recognition.

2. I don’t intend to suggest that the Bible contradicts itself — I have confidence that the truth of God is found in Scripture. My point here is that we find it so much easier to default to tradition than to open ourselves to a fuller revelation of it. It is this Tradition that we find ourselves fighting for when an issue like SSM is on the table. It is an illusion if we believe our tradition (whichever arm of Christianity we find ourselves in) is an adequate and unfailing representation of the truths of Scripture.

3. Sin is a reality of the human condition. As with other Biblical concepts, there is wisdom to be found in understanding it. However our obsession with sin is maybe The most devastating aspect of Reformed theology. Some people find sin and the concepts developed around it to be necessary in understanding the nature of God. But it would appear that to the majority of our nation the doctrine of sin is anti-gospel. Everybody’s heard the Gospel expounded as it relates to sin. But the Gospel of Christ is so much more! We know, as Christians, just how deep and wonderful the love of God is. Surely everybody can look to Jesus and find the same purpose and liberation that we have, right? But still our society rejects the message. I believe we are responsible for this failing. The love of God is not being adequately conveyed. Preaching sin does nothing to entice, welcome or retain believers to/in our churches. Christ’s message is liberation from sin, not doctrinal bondage to the concept.

4. Marriage is one of those traditions that we are at serious pains to define. There are few concepts as ambiguous as marriage when it comes to the Bible. Classical marriage as we know it is the result of thousands of years of historical influences and loosely-pieced fragments of Scripture. It takes some serious theological gymnastics to attempt to bring it around to a concept based in Scripture, as Christopher Ash demonstrates all too well.

I still have barely touched on the reasons why I’d support SSM rather than classical marriage alone, but that’s not really what I’m here to argue. My concern is how the church appears to be concerned with the validation of our own religious beliefs at the expense of living out the principles Jesus himself set forth most explicitly.