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In this article, I'll argue that there is an enduringly progressive mindset in the CRC. This mindset was operative in the women in office debate and it still operates in the LGBTQ debate. Though the individuals have changed, the mindset is the same. It is crucial for ministers of the CRC to identify this enduring way of thinking if they are to lead the Lord’s church effectively. We must do our best to abolish "third way" thinking. Though it's part of our DNA, it may rear its ugly head and tear us all apart

The Three Minds

John Bolt identifies “three minds” in the history of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). From most conservative to least, they are the “confessional reformed,” the “separatist Calvinists,” and the “American Calvinists.” [1]

Generally speaking, the confessional reformed desired to restrict the majority of the implications of theological dialogue to the church. Famously, separatist Calvinists shouted, in response with Abraham Kuyper, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” [2]

American Calvinists enthusiastically cheered this thought, carrying it forward to a robustly ecumenical degree. This ecumenicism is most prominently seen in the parent denomination of the CRC, the Reformed Church in America (RCA), such that, “Many RCA congregations have taken in members from nearly every Christian tradition.” [3]

This American Calvinist “mind” is obviously the most progressive and is not limited to the RCA. Bratt says, “In the case of what I am calling the ‘progressive Americanizing tendency’ there is a strong version of it in the RCA and a weak or lite version in the CRC.” [4]

In what follows, I want to trace the thought of this third progressive mindset as it manifests itself in recent CRC discussions. Specifically, I want to examine the tendency in the CRC to embrace “third way” reasoning which is most easily (though not exclusively) aligned with the latter, more progressive type of thinking. This “third way” thinking takes the shape of entertaining third options in originally binary situations.

Famously (or for some, infamously) the CRC exercised this option in the women in office debate. Though all agree that Scripture must either condemn or condone women in office, most people in the CRC are comfortable allowing individual churches making that decision. [5] In other words, rather than deciding yay or nay, the CRC has opted for a “local option.” Those in the CRC who rejected women in office, folks who tend to live on the more conservative side of the CRC spectrum, “were deeply saddened and troubled,” but those on the other side “were jubilant.” [6]

Like the dialogue of yesteryear, interlocuters in the LGBTQ debate find themselves in essentially two camps—one that holds to a historic view, and another that wants to make space for a progressive one. However, many if not most of those who used to be in the “progressive” camp now find themselves in the more “traditional” one. [7] Many have called the decades long women in office debate “the ping pong years.” Though the players have moved to the other side of the table, it seems the game must go on.

The Third Way

Today, there is a group within the CRC that opts for another local option akin to that of women in office. This group is called Better Together: A Third Way. Their vision statement says that Better Together “allows for disagreement on ethical issues that do not determine our salvation, such as same-sex marriage and more (e.g. divorce), for the purpose of unity and mission together within the Christian Reformed Church.” [8] 

There was some recent controversy over The Banner accepting an advertisement from this group. Proponents of LGBTQ inclusion (e.g. All One Body) and those of historical sexuality (e.g. The Abide Project) were rejected since including their ads would violate Synod 1998’s guidance to The Banner stating that: “Advocacy advertisements that take a position on issues being debated in the church will not be accepted.” [9]

However, at least initially, the “third way” reasoning was accepted as permissible for The Banner advertising. Better Together was granted a full page ad on the back cover of the most recent print edition (May 2023). The Banner did decide to not publish their advertisements in the future, but not because they are in violation of Synod’s guidance. Rather, the reason was stated this way: “based on the negative reactions we received for the May ad, it seems that we might have misconstrued the public’s perception of the group. Given these perceptions and out of courtesy to our readers, we feel it is prudent at this time to pull Better Together’s second ad that we had originally accepted in conjunction with the May ad.” [10]

Note that Better Together’s “local option” stance (which is analogous to the women in office stance of the CRC) is seen by The Banner as permissible.

While the quotation above is merely from the editor in chief of The Banner and it cannot be attributed to the CRC in general (what individual statement could be?) it is indicative of a certain type of thinking at least shared among The Banner staff, and others (see below). Namely, to allow for two opposing positions is not a position. The editor does not say that The Banner pulled the ad because Better Together sought an advertisement “that take[s] a position on issues being debated.” Rather, the ad was pulled out of courtesy to public opinion.

In a similar way, Neland Avenue stated in its response to the in loco committee tasked with shepherding its response to Synod 2022, “It is important to realize that Neland does not have a ‘position’ as a church on same-sex relationships. We have disagreement, but we have worked for 10 years on creating ‘Generous Spaciousness’ as it applies to our LGBTQ+ siblings in Christ.” [11]

There is a growing trend in the CRC to think it is not a position to pursue “spaciousness,” or allowing for two opposing views. The “third way” is not so much a position as the refusal to choose, and to allow choice on an individual level (whether classis, council, or individual Christian). In the eyes of some, this is a movement a pace with that of American culture which often rejects authority in exchange for personal expression. Commenting on this trend in other areas of the church, Schaap says, “In our world, as in our churches, personal choice reigns supreme, even in Saviors. We have become the ultimate authority for our decision-making, and that kind of major cultural shift jeopardizes all denominational life, not just that of the CRC.” [12]

If the decision to allow for women in office was a concession for a “third way,” is this third thinking functional in the LGBTQ discussion? In his white paper entitled, A Cause for Division? Women in Office and the Unity of the Church, John Cooper demonstrated that both the affirming and opposing views on women in office are demonstrable from an orthodox view of Scripture (as infallible/inerrant) and a reformed hermeneutic. [13]

According to Cooper and the CRC, either view is allowable since both see Scripture as inerrant and both use reformed hermeneutics to arrive at their conclusions.[14] Champions of women in office—and even most detractors—agree that a high view of Scripture and a reformed hermeneutic can lead one reasonably to either conclusion. For example, the review of the decision regarding women in office makes multiple concessions to the women in office proponents within the sections that argue for the opposing view. When exegeting 1 Corinthians 11:3 (“Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God”) the authors—who reject the women in office view—admit that a definitive interpretation is difficult to come by: “Paul uses the term for the male (anêr) that can mean either ‘man’ or ‘husband’ and the term for the female (gynê) than can mean either ‘woman’ or ‘wife.’ In what sense are they intended here?” [15] Both sides note that the text is difficult to understand in regards to the question of women in office.

The committee that produced the Human Sexuality Report (HSR), however, has come to a different conclusion regarding the issue of human sexuality. The HSR repeatedly makes the claim that the affirming view is unscriptural. For example, the HSR says: This survey of relevant biblical texts has shown that Scripture teaches in a clear, consistent, and compelling way that homosexual acts of any kind are sinful and not in agreement with God’s will for his covenant people. The debate about same-sex sex, therefore, is not a situation in which there are two equal and opposing interpretations of the biblical evidence. [16]

The point that the HSR makes repeatedly is that the LGBTQ affirming exegesis is poor. In the words of Cooper, “there are biblical texts affirming female leadership, and ordaining women can be defended from Scripture using the standard Reformed hermeneutics...but there are no texts supporting same-sex rela­tions, and none of the dozens of recent new interpretations is consistent with our approach to Scripture.” [17] Though this is the majority and synodically-approved stance right now, many CRC members like those in Better Together and All One Body want to change that.

The importance of this observation is the parallel it has with the women in office debate. That is, there is a precedent to make the argument that the CRC should allow for LGBTQ affirmation as a local option. Though Synod 2022 and the HSR reject this option, the argument is still being made post-Synod 2022 by groups like All One Body: “All One Body continues to advocate for Christian leaders who desire the full participation of confessing LGBTQ+ Christians within God’s Church.” [18]

In addition, multiple faculty at Calvin University have publicly expressed their disagreement with Synod 2022’s decision. [19] Though they agree to refrain from teaching their personal views, it is clear that their ability to teach at the University while disagreeing with the CRC’s stance is a modified version of “the third way.” That is, one may disagree with the official stance and/or confessions, so long as one does not propagate his or her views. [20]

In the conclusion, we will see that this “third way” thinking may be gaining steam.

The Third Point—Conclusion

It remains to be seen whether LGBTQ affirming groups will prosper in the CRC. For the time being, the fact is that they are active members in the denomination. At least three things indicate that these groups will not only stay in the denomination, but have the chance to prosper.

First, the “third way,” or “local option” style of thinking is well rooted in CRC culture. The CRC is very accustomed to “agreeing to disagree.” To be sure, Synod 2022 declared that LGBTQ affirmation was unbiblical. But many Synods did the same thing regarding women in office from the 1970s to the 1990s. One synod or committee declaring a certain position to be “unbiblical” does not—as history has shown us—guarantee that following synods and committees will agree. It is not outlandish to imagine that Synod 2030, for example, will entertain reports of new committees with new information that point in the opposite direction of the HSR. We might be experiencing the initial serve of a new era of “ping pong years.”

Second, the denominational magazine, The Banner, seems to think that the conversation is still occurring. The editor and staff seem to think that LGBTQ affirmation—so long as it is the “unifying but not uniform” position—is not only something that the CRC may discuss, but proponents can advertise. So long as one does not argue for LGBTQ exclusion or inclusion alone, one may theoretically advertise their “non-position.” For now, The Banner will not advertise such positions. However, this is not due to a fault in the position or the fact that the issue is settled, but it is based on “negative reactions” and out of “courtesy.” What is “prudent at this time” might not be so desirable in the future.

The third and final point is in regards to gravamina. The HSR has demonstrated that the Heidelberg Catechism rejects LGBTQ affirmation: “To refuse to uphold Christian teaching on sexual immorality would signal that the Christian Reformed Church in North America is deviating not only from Scripture but from the shared confession of the historic and worldwide church.” [21] This added layer of argumentation may seem to bolster the CRC’s current position. That is, if one needs to make not only a Scriptural argument but one must also emend the confessions, the uphill battle gets steeper. But, this added difficulty is not insurmountable in the eyes of many. The words “gravamen” and “gravamina” occur in the Agenda for Synod 2023 an astounding 280 times.

For example, Maranatha CRC has submitted an overture “as a confessional-revision gravamen” that would effectively undo the decision of Synod 2022. [22] Without going into the appropriateness of this overture as a confessional-revision gravamen specifically, the point is that some members of the CRC are poised to seek to revise not only the decisions of Synod 2022, but the confessions of the CRC. Just as many, if not more, are ready to reject these proposals.

Though the dust has settled after the women in office debates, there are signs that a new debate is on the horizon. Though the CRC may only have a “lite” version of the progressive mindset that the RCA has in spades (as Bolt says in section one), it seems clear that this mindset endures and speaks today (and plans to speak tomorrow). Proponents of women in office argued for a “third way” or a “local option.” Proponents of LGBTQ affirmation seek the same situation. Though the exegetical arguments are distinct, the situation sought is the same.

The “ping pong” years of the women in office debates were debilitating and exhausting for many. Is the CRC gearing up for a new, perhaps decades long, round of the same old game? From what can be seen in the agenda for Synod 2023, it seems the delegates are lacing up their sneakers.

In an age of rampant pastoral burnout one can only pray that a new fight is not on the horizon. [23] But if God’s providence does not smile on that request, may our feet be shod with the readiness to share the gospel of Christ—the Word, the Light, and the Truth. We must do our best to abolish "third way" thinking. Though it's part of our DNA, it may rear its ugly head and tear us all apart. 


[1] John Bolt, For Truth and Liberty: The Story of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (Calvin Theological Seminary: Unpublished Manuscript, 2015), 25.

[2] James Bratt, A Centennial Reader (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 488; cited in: Roger Henderson, “Kuyper’s Inch,” Pro Rege 36.3 (2008): 12.

[3] Reformed Church in America, “An Ecumenical Mandate for the Reformed Church in America” (RCA, n.d.), 5, (accessed 5/12/23).

[4] Bolt, For Truth and Liberty: The Story of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 27.

[5] Scott Hoezee, Grace through Every Generation: The Ongoing Story of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (Grand Rapids, Mich: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2006), 92–93.

[6] Hoezee, Grace through Every Generation, 89.

[7] This is simply the logical conclusion of Synod 2022. If the (large) majority of delegates voted to maintain the church’s historic stance on sexuality, and the majority of people in the CRC are open to women in office (see footnote 5), then it stands to reason (though not infallibly) that many or most of the people who are for the traditional view on sexuality are also for women in office. Scare quotes indicate that “progressive / traditional” are loaded terms that cannot be unpacked in this short paper.

[8] (accessed 5/12/23)

[9] (accessed 5/12/23)

[10] (accessed 5/12/23)

[11] Agenda for Synod 2023, In Loco Committee Report,” 328.

[12] James Schaap, “What about a Bicentennial? Mr. and Mrs. CRC.” In Grace Through Every Generation: Remembering, Rejoicing, Redirecting, 56.

[13] John W. Cooper, A Cause for Division?: Women in Office and the Unity of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin Theological Seminary : Distributed through CRC Publications, 1991), 13–14.

[14] It is essential to pay attention to the fact that modern proponents of LGBTQ affirmation make the exact same claim. Though the HSR and Synod 2022 disagreed with the claim, it is being made nonetheless. The fact that some LGBTQ proponents make non-reformed claims (i.e. that Scripture is fallible) is beside the point. The question is whether Synod will continue to make the same pronouncement regarding the claim that LGBTQ affirmation can be made from a reformed hermeneutic.

[15] Agenda for Synod 2000, 358.

[16] Agenda for Synod 2021, “Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality,” 112.

[17] John Cooper, “Not Like Women in Office: Scripture, Hermeneutics, and Same-Sex Relations,” Calvin Seminary Forum (2015): 5.

[18] (accessed 5/15/23)

[19] (accessed 5/15/23)

[20] The US Army implemented a similar stance in “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Of course, this was short-lived as full inclusion followed shortly thereafter.

[21] Ibid (emphasis mine).

[22] Agenda for Synod 2023, 431.

[23] (accessed 5/15/23)


Seriously?  Third Way thinking that might hold us together is to be abolished? 

I'll quote the same line Steve Mathonet-VanderWell quoted: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold." 

How can a path of separation (tearing us apart now, on purpose, with lots of subsequent custody battles) be better/easier than an approach ("ugly head") that seeks unity?  My observation is that divorce usually makes both parties poorer.

See my comments on Steve's post for more antidote to this destructive way of thinking: Third Way? Meh | CRC Network (

Dear Dale, thank you for your comment. As the CRC prepares for Synod 2023, we should look to Synod 0001. Paul recounts it in Galatians 2. He says that Peter was enacting a “local option.” He thought it was OK for Jews to eat with Gentiles, but when the Jews came to town, he would capitulate to their doctrine that it was not OK. He would eat with the Jews and let the Gentiles eat alone. If Paul were like so many in the CRC, he would allow for Peter’s position, or the Jewish position, and say “let’s have a conversation about it.” He would be afraid of hurting the feelings of Peter and company. But, Paul wasn’t like that: “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned” (Galatians 2:11). Paul strongly opposed Peter’s local option because the Jews and the Greeks must be unified—they need to eat at the same table. They should be so unified that individuals should be willing to restrict their diets, without theological necessity, so that they can all sit together. There was no “local option” because local options divide. Paul commanded that all Christians should believe the same thing.

If ever there was a valid ‘slippery slope’ line of argumentation this is one. We are to transform the culture as far as it is possible, not conform to it. To defer the exegesis of moral passages of scripture to regional authority as if that itself is in keeping with scripture is absurd. I believe this issue is what has and will define the sheep from the goats as the leaven of the homosexual agenda works its way into the mainstream of the church. Beyond sad that it’s even up for discussion. 

Ah yes, thank you Jim; now I get it.  Fear of slippery slopes is why people don't like the Third Way.  So therefore it's better to tell people to abolish the thinking of those who want to hold us together (because it will eventually tear us apart) so that those who want to tear us apart can do so now...a bit circular / double-think-ish, but I do understand the emotion (fear).  I also hear Jesus urging us to "be not afraid," so I've tried to consider that as I've done my own wrestling with this issue.

Some tips from someone who's had to overcome fear of new ways of thinking:

1.  This parable cautions against self-righteousness: Luke 18:9-14 NIV - The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax - Bible Gateway

2.  This passage tells us we're saved because of Jesus' righteousness, not because of ours.   Romans 4:23-25 NIV - The words “it was credited to him” - Bible Gateway   We're NOT saved by being right about all of our theology and biblical interpretation.   In my own journey I read books and listened to podcasts from folks who made plausible cases for acceptance of committed same-sex marriage.  I still have reservations, but it's clear to me that the traditional reading of the five "clobber passages" is inadequate.  The Third Way - Better Together group gives us all time and safe space to process (which is how most of us change - through personal encounters and time and safe space).

3.  This book was life-changing for me, opening my eyes to the limits of reason (the rider on the elephant) and to the moral taste buds that shape how we lean politically and in debates like we're having in the CRC.  (And it gave me understanding/respect for all the flavors - they can all bring something positive/good to the table...if we don't become tribal and shut some of them out).  The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion: Haidt, Jonathan: 9780307455772: Books

4.  This book I'm currently reading.  I really like her idea that we can choose to become "scouts" vs "soldiers" for our tribe.  It helps take the pressure off; we don't need to be right; we can instead always be on the lookout for the truth, for a better, truer, more accurate way of seeing reality.  The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't: Galef, Julia: 9780349427645: Books   I think the Third Way/Better Together group has some "scout" in their thinking and that kind of thinking should be encouraged, not abolished.  (Reformed and always reforming.)

Thank you for this detailed article. I'm not really keen on Better Together, except that I believe it is significantly better--morally, spiritually--than one more denominational schism. I am "cautiously affirming" after lots of study and experiences with LGBTQ people as a pastor in three Canadian CRCs. 

I believe those who voted for Synod 2022's decisions did so from deep conviction and are honourable servants of God. I don't know, however, if they weighed the cost of sending painful messages to gay people and the cost of trying so hard to be pure and right that they never thought of dozens of musicians and artists who are gay, Christian, married and in other churches or in none at all. Do those faithful Christians really believe God will condemn them eternally--unless they repent of who they are and how they live trying to be faithful to Christ? Perhaps Synod 2022 made a hasty judgment that was also dubious procedurally. 

The biggest problem with Synod '22's decision on retroactive confessionality based on a very stretched re-interpretation (more precisely addition) to the Heidelberg Catechism is that it played fast and free with Church Order and thus tried to prevent further decisions on ratification in the following year. Synod's C.O. expert's advice was flouted several times during the two-day debate. The 2023 Agenda is filled with overtures for and against 2022's decision. I'm no longer any good at real or metaphorical ecclesiastical ping-pong, but do believe it's better to play ping-pong for some years than split again into every tinier churchettes; there's more pain in schism than in  continuing to talk as sisters and brothers in Christ. We are unfortunately better known for our meanness and not our love and winsome presentation of the Gospel of Christ. 

Lost in so much of the last years' arguments and print is that the issue of sexuality has become the crazy, powerful tail that wags the ever-weaker dog. Being declared an issue of salvation, sexuality--to mix metaphors--has turned CRC theology upside down, trying impossibly to dance and balance the whole on the head of the tiny, tiny pinhead of sexuality.

I grieve what might well happen and how many more people of all genders will run from the CRC because of this obsession that borders on heresy.

Dear James, I understand your sentiment here. I certainly agree we should think hard about how we send our message. But, we also should think hard about whether we get to alter the message God sends. If God says certain types of sexuality are sinful, we should think about *how* we send *that* message. Not whether we should send it at all. I think the reason we are in this boat is because we have forsaken true Christianity for its Satanic counterpart—cultural Christianity. For too long we have believed and taught that Jesus is a supplement to our lives, rather than the Savior. If Jesus is just a "tack on" then He can't determine my every move. But that is not Christianity. Rather, “No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Cor 9:27, NIV) “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Romans 6:6, LSB) “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20, LSB) “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24, LSB). In light of the multitude of passages like these, is it really so hard to believe that God wants SSA people to deny their sexual desires? If we are to be crucified to the world (Gal 6:14) does that not include our sexual activity? Is sexual orientation so foundational to who we are that God doesn't get to determine how it is used? After Jesus experienced the white hot wrath of God for our sins, is offering up our sexuality in grateful response too much to ask of us? Is there anything that is "too much"? He deserves everything. Including what we do with our genitals. 

Except the "offering up our sexuality" looks VERY different for cis straight people than it does for the LGBTQ community. It's a bit rich for a married pastor to say "I get to have sex within my loving committed marriage but YOU don't!"'

Furthermore, I have yet to find a reasonable argument that answers the question why "God wants SSA people to deny their sexual desires" other than because it's what some people think it's what the Bible tells us.  If you are going to tell people that they are at risk of burning in Hell for eternity because of their Same Sex Marriage, there better be a good ACTUAL reason that shows their marriages are causing harm or showing evidence of sin. I've read the HSR and this evidence of sin is seriously lacking.

Anton, unity isn't unanimity. Just because we all (should) believe that we should offer up our sexuality, doesn't mean we will all do so in a unanimous way. We all have our own struggles and temptations. Just because I don't have a struggle with SSA, doesn't mean I don't have different struggles which are just as deadly. Also, many SSA Christians reject your line of reasoning. Many say that their decision to give up a SSA lifestyle is *not* a bigger sacrifice than what a cis gendered person has to give up. I think you think that way because you've bought the cultural lie that your sexual orientation is the most important thing about you. It isn't. There are many SSA voices out there who disagree with you. Are you listening to them as well? Watch this video in which three SSA Christians argue against living homosexual lifestyles:

Rosaria Butterfield, Becket Cook, Mary Lee Bouma are all names of SSA Christians I have listened to and read.  Their voices are valuable, their experiences are important. I will never criticize their choices or the lives they feel called to lead.  There are other people who make different choices based on their experiences and calling and those are just as valid.  There are christian straight people who feel called to be single.  There are christian gay people who feel called to be married. Why is nuance here out of the question?

I am not claiming, nor do I hear it claimed by many of the Christian LGBTQ voices that I listen to, that sexual orientation is the most important aspect of who we are.  But it is an important, beautiful part of who we are.  That goes for all of us.

Hi Anton,

The argument that human harm or damage must be identifiable in order for something to be sin misses the vertical component of sin.  Sin is not first and foremost against other people, but against God.  When David confesses his sin in Psalm 51 he realizes that though he has used and abused a woman and killed a man, it is first and foremost against God that he has sinned (verse 4).  

Sin is any thought, word, or deed that violates God's holy standard, whether we can see damage or not.  Suppose that I privately worship idols.  Nobody is hurt.  There is no external damage.  But it certainly is sin against God.  Or suppose my wife and I are into spouse swapping with another couple who also consents.  Where is the harm?  We might even say that it strengthens our relationship because it teaches us unconditional trust and helps us explore our truest desires.  Your line of reasoning would seem to render this arrangement acceptable.  

Hey Eric,

OK.  If a straight married couple tells you that their marriage facilitates their individual relationships with God and as a community you see their love blossom and be a blessing to those around them and while they are not perfect you see that they genuinely love each other and God; you would NEVER question the legitimacy of their claims about their spiritual life and marriage.

But a gay married couple demonstrates all of the same qualities and they tell you using their words and actions that they have a strong, healthy relationship with God, you reject that claim despite all the evidence?  They are telling you their marriage does not damage their vertical relationship, but you discount it?

I am going to ignore your other example because it's a diversion.  That is not what we are talking about.  If there becomes a time in the CRC to discuss open marriages and relationships, we can talk about it then. But this is not the conversation the CRC is having right now.

Hello Anton,


Thanks for responding.  I am glad to have conversation with you.  You start your response by asserting something, but you place the locus of my purported judgment on the human testimony or judgment, which I reject.  I would reply with the words of Isaiah 8:20 - "To the law and to the testimony."  This is the crux of my pushback to you.  I would judge each marriage not first or primarily on the testimony of the partners, but on God's testimony concerning his righteous standard.  

The other scenarios I bring up are not distractions at all, because they help illustrate that the "lack of perceived harm" standard for determining sin cannot be relied on as our standard.  An even more poignant example can be found in the fall in Genesis.  Scripture records: "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate."

Notice how Scripture describes the apple in humanly appealing terms: good for food, delight to the eyes, and desired to make one wise.  It's just fruit and it has all these benefits!  What's the harm?!  That question was asked to me on the floor of Synod last year, with the same implication that you have, that if I could not name some human harm then I should reconsider Scripture (again).  If God says it damages our relationship with him, that is all that matters.  We don't get to trump God on this.  Notice that Satan also made the same appeal that contrary to damaging Eve's relationship with God (you will not surely die), eating of the fruit would make Eve like God, knowing good and evil.

In the end, then, it is not that I am taking the testimony of a straight couple over that of a gay couple.  Rather, I trust that God knows best, even when it strikes us a terribly difficult.  Yes, that applies to me first and foremost.  I must continually look at my life and see what things I may be allowing to remain that God has said must be put to death.  I may enjoy them.  I may think I am not doing any harm.  I may even find that they are deeply personal and embedded.  But God comes to me in my weakness and promises strength through Christ to achieve victory, even though the struggle will never be over this side of the grave.  I proclaim with the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:25 - "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Thanks again for engaging.

Glad to engage Eric, but we are reaching the point of it no longer being beneficial for us to continue to go back and forth with one another.

Please correct me if I am misinterpreting you;  you seem to be saying "Scripture saying what it does leaves us no option to re-evaluate based on any earthly evidence we have."

My response to that is simply "because of all the earthly evidence we have we are now obligated to re-evaluate scripture."

Like I said, maybe I am missing some other point you are making but I don't think I am.

Thanks for the conversation.


Hi again Anton,

I think you are close to what I am saying, but I would phrase things differently.  First, I would note that I am always willing to re-evaluate (on a personal level).  Such evaluation and re-evaluation is kind of an ongoing process for many (most? all?) people as we struggle our way through life.  But official re-evaluation for doctrinal statements cannot be an ongoing, never-ending process, or our life together will be chaotic.  Second, I would say that what I am really driving at is that perceptions of harm are insufficient for understanding sin.  There need not be an identification of harm in order for something to be understood as sinful.  It is enough for God to declare something sinful, even if we do not understand why or see what we believe are harmful repercussions.  

I would note further that in light of what many believe is earthly evidence the CRC has just re-evaluated Scripture.  But, as noted earlier, that re-evaluation cannot be unending for the sake of the health of the church.  A re-evaluation does not mean that things necessarily change.  Sometimes we confirm what we have always believed.  

I am grateful for the opportunity to converse with you and will be glad to hear of further thoughts you have.  I think we may be on the same page in a recent statement I saw you make in another context: "I sometimes wonder if it's better to skip the niceties and state the obvious. The CRCNA is not prepared to make space for those who will continue to view things differently than Synod 2022."  I agree with that statement with caveats.  May God bless you and keep you.

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