Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Where Orthodoxy is Optional . . .

The Winnowing Of Christianity

By Rod Dreher
The American Conservative


Last night I rode with a traditionalist Catholic friend down to New Orleans to attend a Requiem mass featuring the music of Gabriel Fauré. It was deeply moving, and ravishingly beautiful. I’ve loved Fauré’s Requiem for years, but I have never heard it performed as part of worship. On the drive back, we talked about the travails in the Catholic Church now, and what ordinary faithful Catholics should do when there is so much confusion coming from the church’s leadership.

We talked for a bit about why it is that Evangelicals, who lack the ecclesial structure of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, have an easier time than the rest of us do holding to the orthodox biblical position on contentious moral issues of our time. Nevertheless, Evangelicalism is undergoing a similar winnowing over the issue of how to respond to homosexuality. Denny Burk, a Southern Baptist pastor and seminary professor, writes about it on his blog. Excerpts:

I was just rereading an essay I wrote about six years ago on what the bible teaches about homosexuality. That essay begins with a discussion of Brian McLaren’s then recent affirmation of committed homosexual relationships.

It is strange to read that essay now and to consider in retrospect how quickly McLaren faded from evangelical view. At the time, the emerging church still had some purchase within the evangelical movement. Now that entire project is defunct and so are its major proponents. They pushed the very edges of the leftwing of the evangelical movement until they pushed themselves right out of the movement. Many of them did so by adopting unorthodox positions on sexuality.

The ascendancy of Emergent seems like ancient history, but it really wasn’t that long ago. How quickly its heterodoxy doomed it to irrelevancy and demise. Evangelicals no longer look to the McLarens, the Tony Joneses, or the Rob Bells for sound guidance on the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
Burk highlights a really good piece by Ed Stetzer, who observes that all kinds of Evangelical organizations — even those that are fairly progressive on race and gender — are reaffirming the traditional stand on gay marriage. From Stetzer’s essay, this important and often overlooked point:

Ironically, some of the loudest post-Evangelicals (who protest Evangelical organizations making clear where they are on marriage) advocate for marriage to be an “agree to disagree” issue. In doing so, they often cite gender roles and baptismal views as similar categories where evangelicals agree to disagree. However, to be fair, this is a bit disingenuous. If you believe, as many do, that same-sex marriage is a justice issue, you don’t want to “agree to disagree” with someone that discrimination is acceptable. You want to persuade him or her. That’s not agreeing to disagree—that’s just the step before we all are to change our views.

In other words, this is a core issue for people advocating for same-sex marriage and the appropriateness of same-sex relationships, not just for those who take the traditional view.
He’s right, as about half a second of reflection reveals. The “agree to disagree” people have no intention of stopping there. That’s the camel’s nose under the tent. They take LGBT issues so seriously that they believe there can be no compromise on it. And frankly, I don’t blame them: if I believed what they do about homosexuality, I imagine that I would insist on changing the teaching too. The lesson here, though, is for Christian moderates and conservatives not to be taken in by the invitation to “dialogue” on whether or not the Biblical teaching is true, and to “agree to disagree” about the issue. It is always and everywhere a trap. Denny Burk nails it. Excerpt:
I have noticed a pretty consistent progression among those who eventually embrace gay marriage. It goes like this:

(1) Oppose gay-marriage: Everyone starts here, or at the very least they appear to start here.

(2) Oppose taking a stand on the question: Persons in this stage are becoming aware of how offensive the traditional view is to those outside the church. Their initial remedy is to avoid that conflict by not talking about the Bible’s teaching on this subject. In Brian McLaren‘s case, he urged evangelicals to observe a 5-year moratorium on talking about gay marriage. For Jen Hatmaker, she advocated going “into the basement,” where we don’t talk about these things but just love people. Choosing to avoid the question is never a final answer for anyone in this stage.

(3) Affirm gay marriage: At some point during the “we’re not talking about this anymore” stage, those who used to oppose gay marriage find grounds to affirm it. Some do it by questioning the Bible’s truthfulness. Others do through revisionist interpretations of the Biblical text. In either case, proponents end up affirming what the Bible forbids.

(4) Vilify traditional marriage proponents: Persons in this stage not only affirm gay marriage. They also view traditional marriage supporters as supporting invidious discrimination against gay people. They will adopt the rhetoric of Christianity’s fiercest critics to describe believers who hold to the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality.

There’s more — read his whole post.

This is how it always works. It’s the general dynamic behind the Law of Merited Impossibility (“It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it”), and the specific dynamic behind Neuhaus’s Law: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

If your church or religious organization is at the No. 2 stage, it’s probably time to start looking for the exits. Can anybody recall a church that has formally refused to take a stand on the issue (in other words, that has agreed to disagree), and that has successfully resisted being pulled to the left by activists within the church?

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