#CRClistens: Our Disagreements are Nothing New
April 4, 2016
Updated February 27, 2018
1 comment 383 views
David Gushee recently wrote a couple of blog posts noting how the issue of inclusion of sexual minorities in the church is redefining the evangelical landscape. It is putting the squeeze on communities to such a degree that it is permanently reshaping institutional and relational boundaries. Synod 2016 will feel that pressure.
I want to invite you to ponder the following. While this squeeze feels new, difficult conflicts like this aren’t.
Consider the obvious. We as a community claim the following:
After all of this we find questions of human sexuality to be an insurmountable stumbling block of faith?
I would like both sides to have some compassion for the squeeze Gushee referred to:
These dynamics of a "sociology-of-knowledge" worked on believers in the early centuries of the Christian church as it does today.
What difficulties did that early church face by virtue of their cultures?
Love your enemies, even the Christian ones. Today, by virtue of Christianity enjoying cultural dominance some of these sociology-of-knowledge dynamics have been reversed. It has been unprofitable and even dangerous to try to swim upstream against some Christian beliefs and customs. Christianity asserts that adversaries too are image bearers of God and even Christian enemies are to be loved.
Christians are often flaky. It is also true that Christian beliefs ask sacrificial things of all. Right from the start Christian performance of these asks were occasionally inspired but more often wobbly or betraying. Christians asserted that faithfulness to their Lord obliged them very hard things, like being obedient slaves to abusive masters, to caring for plague victims while sane pagans fled infection, and loving people who are ruining their lives especially when breaking bonds would be an easy way out. Christians were supposed to exemplify the kind of love and generosity towards their adversaries that Jesus modeled on the cross. Some fulfilled this call gloriously while many others flaked.
The Christian church has always had hardliners and accommodationists. After waves of persecution the early church was split over martyrs and flakes. Donatist churches wanted to draw a hard line against impure priests who gave over holy books to be burned. They wanted to preserve a pure church of those who didn’t crack. Conflict between Donatists and Catholics would be so intense new martyrs were made by Christian hands. It took the church multiple generations to get beyond this schism.
Where does this leave us?
What we are in the middle of now is normal. This is the work of the church. By these struggles and divisions the church has stumbled, learned and been purified. What we struggle with now will likely NOT be resolved or settled within any of our lifetimes.
May these observations impact our perceptions so that we do our work prayerfully, patiently, with gentleness, with generosity, with confidence and with kindness.
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Thanks Paul, for this important reminder.
In the same spirit, I wonder if our churches, and synod, would be well served if, prior to any discussion about potentially divisive subjects, we all commit to an exhaustive study of Philippians 2, the familiar kenosis passage, which Paul (the other Paul) introduces by saying: Have this mind amongst yourselves...
Would that be helpful?
PS Doing justice to the depth of that passage should take at least two years, no?
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