Posted in: Whose Report Do You Believe?
This is a wise and helpful reflection - thank you for offering it. As a delegate to Synod 2022, I share your observations, and feel as if much reporting has skewed toward an emphasis on distrust or suspicion, when there was much to observe that ran counter to this. Going into Synod one of my commitments and greatest anticipated joys was to seek out and interact with people of widely varying perspectives. God graciously granted me those opportunities, beginning with my airplane flight into GR, and I can say that those opportunities were wonderful to experience and formative for me. There was much to celebrate together in unity. Thanks so much for offering an encouraging reflection.
Posted in: Whose Report Do You Believe?
Posted in: Talking About Human Sexuality With Love
Beyond what you note there, Anthony, the authors include the anecdote that ends with this quote: “The first truth about God is this: God is love. And God loves you as you are.”
It is hard to square that quote with an assertion that they are not atttempting to impact the outcome of discussions.
Posted in: The Real Question in the Abortion Debate
This article is a very poorly reasoned.
To begin, as Josh has already noted, the question (if there is one single question at stake) in the CRC is decidedly not what the author posits, namely: “When does a fertilized egg in its development acquire, in the view of the state, the status of a full human being deserving constitutional rights and protections, like any other person?” The CRC has a clear position that from conception on life is worthy of protection.
Beyond that, the article is not well constructed or reasoned. The author engages in question begging when he posits an open question and then goes on to assume a conclusion that has not been established in his argumentation. Specifically, the author repeatedly speaks of a “potential human life”, which assumes that the developing person is not actually a person, the very question at stake.
The author does make attempts at challenging the notion of personhood at the earliest stages of development, but they fall flat as mere assertions. The author states that such a belief “defies biological realities and is legally untenable” but does not actual demonstrate either of those things to be true. As for biology, the author makes no attempt to interact with three biological realities. First, a developing baby is alive. Saying that the developing baby is "biologically interdependent" does not change this fact. Place a newborn baby on the sidewalk and see how well the infant can fend for itself. Does the dependence of the baby on others for its existence lessen the fact that it has rights, including the most basic right to life? Biology does not answer that question, but it does tell us that the developing baby is every bit as much a living entity as is the newborn baby. Second, a developing baby is human. It is not some foreign matter or a different species, but it is from its earliest stages uniquely human. Third, a developing baby is genetically unique from its mother. Despite the gestational (and post-gestational) dependence of the child upon its mother, the child has its own unique genetic makeup. The child is not a growth on the mother, but a unique being. So, biology tells us that we are talking about a unique living human from the earliest stages of development. The author interacts with none of this, but simply posits that somehow “interdependence” biologically rules out personhood and rights. Morally, the author shows such a lack of awareness as to not acknowledge that this argument (though incorrect on its face) can equally be used to justify infanticide. Are we supposed to learn from this person with such a poorly developed sense of moral consistency?
On the legal side, the author fails to acknowledge and interact with the fact that 39 states have fetal homicide laws, 29 of these states acknowledging the right to life from conception on. Nor does the author acknowledge the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which is “a United States law that recognizes an embryo or fetus in utero as a legal victim, if they are injured or killed during the commission of any of over 60 listed federal crimes of violence. The law defines "child in utero" as "a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb."” Oops, so much for being “legally untenable”. The author is either ignorant of these facts, or he is dishonest about their existence. It is likely that the author is aware of such laws, but finds the language that they contain to be inconvenient because the language exposes our national moral schizophrenia regarding unborn children.
I live in Minnesota, where I can be prosecuted for and convicted of murder for causing the death of an unborn child at any time from conception on. Minnesota Statute defines unborn child as “unborn offspring of a human being conceived, but not yet born” and goes on to list penalties for the murder, manslaughter, and assault of an unborn child in the first, second, and third degrees. Yet a few words in the statute nullify all the moral righteousness of the preceding: [The prohibitions on murder, manslaughter, and assault of an unborn child] do not apply to any act described in [section of law describing legal abortion procedures]. Such a law is echoed broadly across states and in the national legislation and it demonstrates two things. First, contra the author’s assertion there is broad societal support for the protection of unborn children from the earliest moments of development on. Second, despite this natural tendency, societally we are so caught up in the cult of autonomy that we would simply dismiss this good and proper conclusion based on the desirability (or lack thereof) of full pregnancy and birth. Such a milieu is morally untenable and is worthy of the authors reflection, but we get not a hint of willingness to interact with this sticky moral dilemma.
What a shame that this article would be deemed worthy of publication here, in direct opposition to the stated position of the CRC and full of such shoddy argumentation.
Posted in: Why Youth Don't Like New Worship Songs
Posted in: Why Youth Don't Like New Worship Songs
I think the focus on "old" versus "new" is the wrong focus. There is nothing inherently God-honoring (which is the purpose of our worship) about songs that are old or wrong with songs that are new, nor vice-versa. It seems to me that songs that we use in corporate worship should be (among other things):
2. Focused on God
3. Conducive to public worship (this includes being singable, understandable, teaching, not ear-splitting, able to be followed, etc.)
4. Inclusive (not tailored solely toward one demographic nor designed for performance/solo singing)
5. Modeled after Biblical praise and worship (inclusive of depth of theological truth)
6. Beautiful/our best (certainly much and varied judgment involved here)
7. Not simply what I prefer
Certainly other worthy attributes can be listed. There are a host of older and newer songs that can and do possess those qualities. I think we do well to avoid a modern or anti-modern bias and focus on stimulating deep, heartfelt, meaningful worship. There will no doubt be differing opinions on the proper balance to achieve that end, but if we avoid focusing on trivialities we will achieve greater like-mindedness.
Posted in: Vaccination Status of Church Volunteers?
A curious phenomenon is occurring in the CRC and more broadly in the N.A. church. Namely, we see simultaneously the relativizing of moral commands in the Bible and absolutizing of man-made commands. More and more we hear calls for "unity amidst diversity" on how to read and apply specific moral prohibitions in scripture. Yet, the generalized command to "love neighbor" is made to be specific and absolute to the ways in which certain people choose to love. So we see here (and loads of other places) that people are told that if they do not love in the way that certain people (or classes/groups of people) love, then they are not showing love. "If you chose not to get a vaccine, you are not showing love". Yet, of course, the Bible makes no such specific claim. What happened to unity amidst diversity? Unity is not encouraged by the pharisaical approach of layering man-made laws upon God's moral laws and demanding adherence, lest one be shunned. We see the same in other areas, particularly of progressive fascination. If you don't advocate for certain immigration policies that I prefer, you are not welcoming and loving. If you don't advocate for certain environmental policies that I have baptized, you are not loving your neighbor. If you do not make certain lifestyle choices as I do, you are not loving your neighbor. If you don't support this certain advocacy group, cultural slogan, or academic fad, you are not loving your neighbor. The list can be multiplied. It is particularly hard medicine to take such moral pronouncements from those who cast doubt upon numerous of God's moral commands that are out of vogue in modern culture. Again, I struggle to see how such moral judgments will promote unity in the church.
I've comfortably received my vaccine at the earliest opportunity. I hate needles (at least the ones aimed at me) and my body reacts such that I faint when getting shots, but I was happy to receive protection and at peace that I would be less likely to sicken someone else. When asked, I have counseled others in the wisdom of receiving a vaccination. But may God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I stand at the door of the church as an elder and bar God's people from worship or service in the church based upon their unwillingness to make all the same judgments and balance factors just as I have on matters never dictated in God's word in any direct or necessary way. If we can and should make such extra-biblical demands in the name of absolute physical safety, then I would posit that there is no level of control that we cannot justify under that rubric.
"Why the classification of white people and people of color dehumanizes us all"
What happens when it is the institutional church that continues to classify people based on skin color? The solution to malevolent classification based on skin color is not benevolent classification based on skin color. The church must model a better way forward than the world, and that better way forward is not to proliferate the same unbiblical classifications/separations only with good intentions. Physician, heal thyself.
I'll take this opportunity to put in a plug for Crossroads. They are currently making a push for more mentors. This is a very worthwhile ministry and tangible way to put into practice what we learn from our Lord in Matthew 25. We can indeed "visit" prisoners in a very real way through this ministry.
I would urge all brothers and sisters to prayerfully consider whether God is calling (and equipping!) you to come alongside prisoners as a mentor in the faith, encouraging and helping to sustain them.
Posted in: Homosexuality and Our Missional Calling
It seems to me that Goheen made a much more nuanced argument about the historical and worldwide church than you are attributing to him. I find it hard to read Goheen saying "That is why we need the testimony of brothers and sisters in other parts of the world and in other times in history who do not share the idolatrous spirits of our culture" and to believe your implication that he is saying we should go " with the 'majority' simply because it's the majority." Goheen goes on to say "It may be true, of course, that the Western church in the late 20th and early 21st century finally got it right." Is it not more fair to read Goheen not as simply bowing to precedent but rather noting that the 21st century Western church may have cultural blinders and a hubris that is unhealthy? It has been said before: Scripture alone, but not alone with Scripture. It seems to me that Goheen is not arguing against Sola Scriptura but is rather arguing against cultural and chronological snobbery. It is also worth noting that the Reformers were arguing for a return to historic understandings before they were perverted over time by the Roman Catholic Church. They did not seek to promote an entirely new invention, but they were binding themselves to a historic understanding insomuch as that understanding comported with Scripture.
Interestingly, your warning against the "culture of opinion" is equally applicable to those who seek to change the historical understanding of Scripture (and it's not just surrounding the ethics of sexuality, but biblical anthropology as well). There is a modern popular "culture of opinion" that undeniably influences that effort. As a matter of fact, proponents of revision openly embrace and reference the modern "culture of opinion" in their effort to reverse historical understandings of scripture. It's part of their appeal to "new understandings" and "new discoveries in social science" and their appeal that the church is loosing the acceptance of and appeal to the popular culture because of its insistence on the sinfulness of homosexual practice.
Posted in: Homosexuality and Our Missional Calling
One does not need a legalization of marriage to observe committed homosexual relationships, though I will agree that legalization does proliferate their visibility. Many scholars have shown (contra modern critical scholarship) that committed homosexual relationships were actually known and not particularly rare in Paul's time.
Also, the word "flourishing" in your plea needs some sussing. Frankly, I can make a very compelling argument that I am flourishing when I engage in all sorts of sin, depending on how one defines (or perhaps more accurately who defines) flourishing. In the end, to begin by positing that homosexual couples are flourishing is begging the question if one defines flourishing as living within God's will and not some notion of living the good life.