Jonathan Fitzgerald responds to my point about the conversation that we cannot have:

So then, does my calling for “a moratorium on debates over what qualifies as sin in other peoples’ lives” translate into a call for the end of conversation on the morality of homosexuality? Yes. Insofar as we have open, public—even civil—conversations about the sin of people we do not know, then yes, we must stop having this conversation. Though, this is not exactly what Anderson thinks it is. Am I requiring that all Christians believe that homosexuality is not sin? Of course not. Within any community there are always variations on belief, and I don’t see this is as a problem. What I do think is a problem is the urge to identify and then judge the sins of strangers.

Let me clarify: it seems to me that if I were gay, the morality of my sexuality would be a central question. Further, if a close friend and fellow believer asked me to consider with him whether sexual sin exists in his life, we would of course have the conversation. This is not strange—we all have close friends, sometimes we refer to them in Christianese as “accountability partners”—who have invited us to speak into the intimate details of their lives. But when I read scripture, particularly through the Gospels, I don’t see any invitation to issue judgment about the sins of people we do not know. I see Jesus do so in such instances when he says “Go and sin no more,” but I also hear Jesus saying, “judge not, or you will be judged,” and that business about twigs in people’s eyes.

I’m fine with being proven wrong on this, and the last thing I’m trying to do is prooftext with the Bible. I really don’t believe that’s the way we are intended to read it. A different approach, then, is to look at the spirit of the Gospel, to look at its earliest implementation in the first century church, and ask myself whether making pronouncements about people’s particular sins seemed to be a priority. I submit that it did not. That it still should not. I took this question to my friend, the priest of my parish, and he wisely pointed out that sin in the Bible is hardly ever talked about in terms of this or that action, but rather as a state that we all live in. In that way, it’s not the kind of thing we identify in others’ actions because it is more than that, it is our very nature.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

32 Comments

  1. Mr. Fitzgerald selectively highlights portions of the Gospels that conform to his 1960s “live and live” ethic. His response to Mr. Anderson is an example of Biblical Prooftexting 101. When Jesus says to the woman “Go, and from now on sin no more,” he’s acknowledging the sin of adultery – not calling for a moratorium on whether extra-marital sex is right or wrong. When Jesus says “Judge not, that you be not judged,” it comes at the end of his Sermon on the Mount, in which he equips his disciples to render moral judgment on sinful dispositions and conduct: anger as well as murder; lust as well as divorce; oaths as well as swearing falsely; retaliation; hatred of neighbor; self-righteous almsgiving, prayer, and fasting; material acquisitiveness; and anxiety about future provisions. If we were to follow Mr. Fitzgergerald’s logic, none of the aforementioned sins would be named sins. I would encourage Mr. Fitzgergerald to carefully reflect on the best argument that I have read so far on this topic:

    Themelios, Vol. 35, Issue 2 (July 2010)
    Why Evangelicals Should Ignore Brian McLaren: How the New Testament Requires Evangelicals to Render a Judgment on the Moral Status of Homosexuality
    by Denny Burk

    Reply

    1. Christopher, thanks for this reply. I obviously disagree that my response was an example of Biblical Prooftexting 101 (I can’t help but imagine this course actually exists somewhere, SBTS?), I might actually say you prooftexted my response, or at least didn’t read it thoroughly enough. I address the fact that Jesus has the authority to say “Go and sin no more,” as he was the given the power of judgment by the father. A power, I believe, is solely his. And I think you’re right about the sermon on the mount, with one important distinction, he is telling his disciples how to recognize sin, indeed, but in their own lives. This is the reason why understanding the relationship between anger/murder, lust/adultery is so important. It internalizes sin and makes it not about specific actions, but a fallen state. It seems to me that this point further emphasizes the idea I was trying to communicate, certainly if sin starts in the heart and mind, it is not something that we should attempt to point out in a stranger in any other way but the acknowledgment that it is a condition in which we all live.

      Thanks for the link to the article by Burk. I saved it to my Instapaper and will read it on my way to work this morning. And thank you again for the thoughtful way in which you interacted with my response.

      Finally, hi Joe, where’ve you been?

      Reply

  2. If we apply Fitzgerald’s point more boradly it seems we can’t even speak out against the murder of the Ugandan homosexual rights activist, since we can’t discuss the morality of strangers’ actions. We can’t speak out publicly about murder, extortion, or even racism. We can’t call those things sin in a public context…because those committing them are likely strangers. I guess William Wilberforce was wrong in crusading against slavery…judging all of those strangers.

    By the way, if the reports form Kenya are accurate, his murderer was no antigay Ugandan but his own homosexual prostitute that he owed money to.

    Reply

    1. Casey, thank you for this response. I have to admit, it gave me pause. Your point is correct, if taken broadly one could come to the same conclusion you did. Though, I think it is clear that this is one of many cases where applying a point more broadly as a means of discrediting it doesn’t hold up. I would argue that in the case of murder, extortion, racism, and slavery the requirement there is not to “call sin sin” as the saying goes, but to identify and fight against injustice. As a sinner, Jesus would tell me, I’m no better or worse than the murderer, so to presume that I can judge the sin of a murderer is still outside of what I am able to do. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t speak out against injustice.

      I’m really happy you brought up this point because I think it is an important distinction, even when we stand up for the victims of injustice we’re not acting as judges of the victimizers, but advocates of the victim. Does this make sense? I’m eager to hear a reply because I think we’ve stumbled into a very interesting discussion. Thanks again for commenting.

      Reply

      1. It should be noted that the word “justice” does not appear in the New Testament. The Greek terms used are the same “righteousness.” For obvious reasons, we tend to translate the meaning as justice, since we moderns don’t like the idea of righteousness. (Can you imagine a “social righteousness” movement?)

        Unfortunately, we also tend to sneak in our own denotation to the term so that we can make it palatable to our surrounding culture. We prefer justice since it implies that we have an obligation that we can take upon ourselves. Righteousness implies that all people have an obligation to act in a certain way, and that smacks of moralism.

        But we can’t get around the fact that God calls us to be righteous—not in our eyes, but it his. If God says that homosexuality is not righteousness in his eyes (a point that is made crystal clear in the Bible) then it is not for us to lead people astray by saying that we are not to “judge.”

        The prohibition against judging is a warning against self-righteousness. It is setting aside God’s judgment and replacing it with our own standard of moral conduct. We can do that when we condemn others and overlook our own sins. But we can also do that by replacing God’s standard with our own, more humane, loving,and culturally acceptable standard.

        We should never forget that the call to love our neighbor is the second greatest commandment. The first is that we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We cannot love and refuse to let him be our guide to what is and is not sin. Similarly, we cannot love our neighbor when we turn a blind eye to the destructive nature of sin.

        I know its popular to think that accepting homosexual behavior is compassionate. But it is not. It is one of the most hateful things we can do a person since it requires telling them a lie about what God expects of us as human beings.

        Sin separates us from God. Homosexual behavior is sinful. Ergo, homosexual behavior separates us from God. The Bible makes that point rather explicit. If we go around telling people that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality then we are not only lying to them, we are actively trying to separate them from God.

        I know I’m often harshly critical of you and realize I shouldn’t be. Unlike some of your cohorts, I think that you actually put your faith ahead of cultural conventions. Some of them are willing to discard the Bible or the faith if it requires taking a stand that would make them unpopular. I don’t think that is the case with you. That is why I simply cannot fathom why you take the position you do. It would be one thing if you outright rejected the Bible and the teachings of Christ. But you appear to be trying to reconcile your position with orthodoxy in a way that can’t be done.

        I hope you’ll reconsider the issue and let the light of the Word guide your conviction.

        Reply

        1. Thanks for the kind words, Joe. I’m not sure how your point about justice changes anything, other than to once again express your distaste for that most liberal of words. Also, I appreciate that you recognize my desire for orthodoxy and I think you might mischaracterize my personal belief about the morality of homosexuality. The fact is, I’m trying to live by what I see as my Biblical responsibility to not judge the sins of others and therefore have never (I don’t think) publicly taken a side. Finally, rest assured, my views are not predicated on what’s popular as you (so consistently) assert.

          Reply

          1. The fact is, I’m trying to live by what I see as my Biblical responsibility to not judge the sins of others and therefore have never (I don’t think) publicly taken a side.

            As others have already pointed out, you seem to be proof-texting based on your interpretation of one passage rather than considering the full counsel of Scripture. Doesn’t it give you pause that no major theologian in the history of the church has taken the position you do? Shouldn’t that be a sign that just maybe you are reading it wrong?

            On of the most basic hermeneutical principles is that “Scripture interprets Scripture.” So how are we to read Paul in light of your claim? In 1 Corinthians he says that he has “already pronounced judgment” on a person engaged in “sexual immorality.” Did Paul fail in his Biblical responsibility not to judge others?

            have never (I don’t think) publicly taken a side.

            In your post you say, “Am I requiring that all Christians believe that homosexuality is not sin? Of course not. Within any community there are always variations on belief, and I don’t see this is as a problem. ”

            But that is indeed a problem. You are essentially saying that it is perfectly acceptable to disagree with a clear teaching of the Bible. You are essentially saying that even where a moral teaching is perspicuous in Scripture, that Christians can disagree with it. That’s not promoting irenicism, that’s promoting idolatry.

            There is also no variation of belief within orthodox believers about the sinfulness of homosexuality. There never has been in the history of the church. Until twenty years ago no one on either side of the debate would dispute that. And it’s difficult to imagine how anyone who has ever read the Bible could do so now.

            There is no shame in being unaware of what the Bible says. But to deny a clear teaching is as if we are all free to make up our mind about what is and is not sin is deserving of the greatest condemnation.

  3. Mr. Fitzgerald,

    I don’t think your distinction holds. “Injustice” is almost definitionally the result of people sinning against other people. (Do you have a different definition in mind?) Thus, on a practical level, how can we stand up for victims without judging their victimizers in the process?

    Maybe what underlies the distinction you’re trying to draw is a beefed up version of Mill’s Harm Principle, i.e., we should only make moral judgments when one person harms another. Is that a fair characterization?

    Whatever our working definitions, I don’t see any way to justify a distinction concerning the applicability of Jesus’ command not to judge. All of us have taken more than our fair share of some proverbial pie. If our status as sinners prohibits our passing moral judgments on the nature of sin, wouldn’t our status as less than perfectly just in all our doings prohibit our fighting against injustice?

    Warmly,

    Reply

    1. Joe, I have seen you hide behind the claim that no theologian has ever agreed with X before. Do you mean no evangelical theologian, or are you taking into account the full scope of Christian theology across the traditions. I don’t actually think understanding the explicit direction to not judge is a particularly new or radical concept. That being said, I wholeheartedly disagree with your claim that I am prooftexting on the very grounds you accuse me on. The “full counsel of scripture” as you say favors my perspective over yours. Like I said, it takes some tricky interpretations to justify the desire to be judge of others; sins. In fact it takes wresting authority out of the hands of Jesus.

      I envy your ability to talk about “clear teachings in the Bible,” for it operates on an assumption I long ago and sadly parted with. That any text, particularly text that is thousands of years old and subject to many translations can be clear seems an impossibility. And yet this is the very root of my respect for scripture, that this is the way God chose to reveal himself to us speaks volumes about his character and his expectations of us.

      Reply

  4. @Mr. Fitzgerald: I believe you’re mistaken when you say that only Jesus was given the power to render moral judgment, and all the rest of us are, presumably, consigned to silence. In the Sermon on the Mount, he’s conferring authority upon the disciples to recognize and name sins – inward dispositions and outward conduct – in their own lives but also in the lives of others. If lust is a sin in the life of, say, James the son of Zebedee, then it’s also a sin in the life of his brother John.

    It seems you’ve misread Jesus’ instruction “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Mt. 7:1) as a prohibition against all kinds of judgment. Look carefully at the next verse: “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (7:2). The disciple is not supposed to pronounce judgment with condemnation, lacking forgiveness and overlooking his own faults. But the disciple is equipped to pronounce judgment with mercy, discerning belief from unbelief (v. 6). The method of discernment is given in verse 16: “You will recognize them by their fruits.”

    You write: “To presume that I can judge the sin of a murderer is still outside of what I am able to do.” This is an abdication of the conferred authority that Jesus has given his disciples to render moral judgment. It’s as if you stand before a diseased tree that bears bad fruit and shrug your shoulders. Is this posture really merciful? Or does it reveal a cruel indifference to the health of a person’s soul?

    Reply

  5. Christopher, thanks for this thoughtful response. Unfortunately, I can’t see it your way. I don’t see Jesus conferring authority on the disciples to recognize sin in the lives of others in the sermon on the mount. I can’t square that assertion with his announcement that sin lives in one’s heart, before in one’s actions. Nor can I see how you can make this claim when it all builds to his pronouncement about not judging. I don’t see any way to find a loophole in the assertion that I can’t see the speck in someone else’s eye until I’ve cleared the plank from my eye…presumably because I can’t ever be rid of my plank.

    Additionally, it seems you’ve pulled the “fruits” bit out of context. Jesus is talking about the fruit of false prophets, not of sinners. Thus, I don’t see me abdicating authority I was never given.

    Further, I can’t see the impetus behind the strong reactions attempting to hold on to the right to judge. It seems clear that all kinds of interpretive cartwheels need to be performed in order to justify the ability to tell others what they are doing wrong. Does this not seem to violate the spirit of the Gospel, the very reason why Jesus came? If we needed human judges of morality, why not just leave the pharisees in place? And why condemn their actions so frequently?

    Reply

    1. @Mr. Fitzgerald: Thanks for politely continuing the conversation. Both Joe Carter and I have made similar points. We’re asking you to recognize that Jesus’ instruction “Judge not, that you be not judged” is not a prohibition against all judgments but only against self-righteous judgment. A refusal to exercise righteous judgment – based on God’s standards and not ours – is a failure to love what God loves and abhor what he abhors, and secondarily a failure to love the neighbor. What I hear in your response is a peculiarly postmodern ethic of “judgment without judgment.” How can we – “the royal priesthood” – minister to each other if we’re afraid to pronounce sin qua sin?

      You’re right to point out that the passage on a tree and its fruits concerns false prophets, but this is relevant to our discussion. Jesus confers authority upon his disciples to “recognize them by their fruits.” When Christian leaders (Brian McLaren, Andrew Marin) call for a moratorium on whether homosexuality is a sin, they are bearing bad fruit insofar as they refuse to name what God names sin. Therefore, their teaching is false.

      Reply

  6. Jonathan,

    Thanks for engaging and the irenic tone. Out of curiosity, what do you make of Matthew 16:19/18:18? Same gospel as the Sermon on the Mount. Do those verses count as a specific transfer of moral authority to the disciples of Jesus?

    Best,

    matt

    Reply

    1. Honestly, Matt, I don’t know. What do others think about this? To be honest the bind and loosing has always been a bit elusive to me.

      Reply

      1. Well, if there’s such a thing as a “plain sense” of Scripture I think it would be against your position that only Jesus has the authority to judge sins. It seems like the message of the Kingdom is precisely the opposite–that we have been given all the authority and power of the King, including the ability to recognize and confess sin *as* sin. I think if you’re going to make the case that we don’t have this authority, you need to come up with a really clear explanation of what kind of authority we’re getting in these two verses and how it’s different than Jesus’ authority.

        In other words, be careful when you start accusing others of “interpretive cartwheels.” : )

        One other passage to think through: 1 Corinthians 5. There Paul says specifically that we are to leave judgment of those “outside” to God, but that we are to judge those “inside” the Church. Does that mean that Christians should stop speaking of homosexuality with the language of sin? I think there’s an interesting question there about what’s at stake for Christians, our ecclesiology, etc. But I think the passage pretty strongly stands against you’re suggestion that we’re supposed to give up judging sin altogether.

        matt

        Reply

        1. Matt,

          I guess the first thing is that I don’t believe there’s a “plain sense” of scripture, so that might be part of what is making this conversation difficult. But, aside from that I disagree that if there was such a sense, it would disprove my thesis. In fact, I think the opposite is true, you’re holding up these two verses about binding and loosing, with no reference to sin or judgment and, in one of the cases, it is addressed specifically to Peter. To pull these verses and say this is the message of the Kingdom seems a stretch. The message of the Kingdom, in my view, reorients us away from what we can or should do, to what Jesus began and continues to do. And if that is the lens through which I view the Kingdom message, calling out individual sins seems a rather low priority.

          You bring up a great point about 1 Corinthians because, as I said in my initial response, there are undoubtedly different rules within the church body. Both Jesus and Paul set up protocol for addressing sin within the Church. And this is a result of the kind of relationship he wants believers to have with one another. But even then, that protocol looks to address the condition more than the action, to reconcile as opposed to judge. If there can be any agreement…and I’m hoping there can be as this day has been as difficult as it has been gratifying…it should be that when Jesus talks about sin it is almost always a condition from which we cannot escape, as opposed to a checklist of things we do wrong. In light of that, and in light of each person’s own sinfulness, how can we imagine we have the wherewithal to judge?

          Reply

          1. Jonathan,

            Here’s the preceding context of Matthew 18: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

            I think that’s a pretty clear statement that “binding” and “loosing” are directly related to sin and its judgment. And if true in Matthew 18, then almost certainly true of Matthew 16 as well. I think it’s incumbent upon you to give a competing interpretation.

            Again, the question of *whose* sin we are to “judge” and how we judge are separate from whether we judge. From what I can tell in your post and subsequent discussions, you are arguing that Christians have no authority even within the church to make moral judgments about people’s behaviors. That seems wrong, however.

            “In light of that, and in light of each person’s own sinfulness, how can we imagine we have the wherewithal to judge?”

            When you say ‘judge,’ what do you mean? Do you mean hate? Reject? Scorn? Despise? If so, then I agree. The Biblical language of judgment seems to be far less….emotional than those. I think something like “discern,” “discriminate,” etc. comes closer to the mark. Legal language isn’t exactly the language of protests and placards.

            Do you think Christians have *that* ability, the ability to tell right from wrong actions within the church? I think clearly answering that question would help a lot of folks understand where you’re coming from.

            Best,

            matt

  7. Matt,

    I most definitely am not saying that “Christians have no authority even within the church to make moral judgments about people’s behaviors.” I think that verse you point out shows that there are ways to confront sin in our brothers and sisters. I am sorry if I haven’t been clear, but I tried to make this point several times, in the original response and in my last reply to you here: “Both Jesus and Paul set up protocol for addressing sin within the Church. And this is a result of the kind of relationship he wants believers to have with one another. But even then, that protocol looks to address the condition more than the action, to reconcile as opposed to judge.”

    So, yes, within the church there is a process for identifying and reconciling sin. This is an important distinction and one I labored over in my initial response, hence the insistence on “Strangers.” My point from the beginning has been that undirected, public judgment of sin in the lives of people we do not know, who are not members of the body, is not within the realm of our responsibility as followers of Christ. That he will judge the sin of the world, not us, seems abundantly clear.

    Reply

    1. @Mr. Fitzgerald: I’m not sure you caught my last response on the need to distinguish between self-righteous judgment (unacceptable) and righteous judgment (acceptable), and on the need to recognize the (good or bad) fruit of Christian leaders.

      Because you acknowledge that “Jesus and Paul set up protocol for addressing sin within the Church,” why are you reluctant to apply that protocol when it concerns false teaching promulgated by the likes of Brian McLaren and Andrew Marin? A refusal to render moral judgment on homosexuality within the church is bad fruit. I anticipate that you will respond by saying that the biblical witness on the sin of homosexuality is equivocal.

      To make this practical, what should a pastor do when his congregation inquires about whether homosexuality is a sin? What should he do if a person within his church confesses a struggle with same-sex attraction?

      Reply

      1. Christopher,

        I think your questions are taking this conversation in a different direction, but I’ll attempt to give a quick answer to each in the spirit of continuing the conversation. I have said nothing that should indicate that we can not reproach church leaders who are guilty of false teaching. As I’ve been saying, there is protocol for identifying sin within the body, this includes leaders. And though I’m not familiar enough with Marin to address him, you may or may not be surprised to learn that I am an admirer of McLaren and his writing has been important to my Christian education.

        As for the hypothetical example that you propose, a pastor can obviously address sin in the life of his/her congregants. If a person within the congregation asks specific questions about sexuality, it is absolutely the pastor’s prerogative and responsibility to address that in accordance with his/her understanding of scripture.

        Reply

  8. Mr. Fitzgerald,

    Thanks for persevering here with such a gracious tone and demeanor.

    I agree that there is a difference in how Christians address and judge sin and moral issues within the church vs. outside of it. However, I still don’t find the support to say the correct response to the world is ‘silence’ on matters of sin.

    The church’s public witness to the gospel must contain within it a call to repentance. Calling anyone to repentance acknowledges sin in their life.

    Perhaps I could agree with you to some degree in that I don’t think my church should place a PR memo in the city paper that simply says, “Homosexuality is a sin against God, thank you…such and such church.” But should the issue arise in some public forum on STDs, red light districts, murdered rights activists, etc. the church shouldn’t hide its (Biblical) convictions on things. How’re the sick to get better without a diagnosis?

    If the church is to take a public stand on some issues of justice there is a direct correlation to the sins of the unjust. I’m very glad for Christian organizations like IJM who fight to put child sex traffickers behind bars in efforts to free the children from this life. I can’t cry against the injustice of a murdered victim without publicly procaliming the guilt (sin) of the murderer, explicitly spoken or not.

    I think the church’s role in speaking on sin to the world is an issue of tact, motive (heart) and context…but to make a case that it just shouldn’t be done goes too far, I think.

    Reply

  9. I am in the process of committing Colossians 3 to memory right now. In it, we find two sets of “sin lists” and commands given regarding them. Now, I recognize that all moral imperatives are grounded in the Gospel (“since then you have been raised with Christ…”), so don’t take this post as moralism. These sin lists and their commands are as follows:

    1) Put to death…sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed…

    2) You must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips…

    A simple reading of this text should have all Christians agreeing on a couple of points: Paul isn’t Jesus, Paul probably doesn’t suffer from all these sins, Paul is calling these actions sin, and Paul is telling other people not to do it. Therefore, almost all of Mr. Fitzgerald’s qualifiers, on the content of Colossians 3 alone, are null and void.

    Put more simply, it seems I have a responsibility to exhort other Christians to live a holy life. If a person is a non-Christian, then I have the responsibility to winsomely present the Gospel. People besides Jesus can render appropriate judgments on sin, which is BOTH a condition and an action/thought in the Bible.

    Reply

  10. RE: Mr. Benson’s most recent response to Mr. Fitzgerald. I’m a pastor, and I got this statement in an email from a gay Christian on Sunday who has come to terms with thinking it’s okay to act on one’s homosexual tendencies. This is a direct quote:

    “Do you believe it is okay to be gay and Christian? Do you believe being gay is sinful? Do you believe being gay is a choice? If you believe being gay or acting on same-sex attraction is sinful, then what exactly is a gay Christian to do?”

    I hope to respond with grace and clarity, even though I don’t know this person well (he’s a “stranger”). I confess that Mr. Fitzgerald’s suggestions leave me wanting.

    Reply

    1. Thanks for weighing in. I’ll just say that you’ll notice that several times I try to make it clear that I understand that within the body of Christ we have a responsibility to identify sin in fellow believers’ lives. My point has been that the rules change for those outside the body, those are the ones I refer to as “strangers.” This should answer, I hope, both of your responses in that your reference to Colossians is an example of Paul talking to fellow believers and the person that emailed you also identifies as a believer. That being said, I don’t envy you your position. God bless.

      Reply

      1. Mr. Fitzgerald,

        Allow me to engage in a bit of prooftexting:

        When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? … Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:1, 9-10)

        Sure sounds like Paul–in the process of teaching and exhorting other believers–identifies sin amongst “strangers.” Paul’s aim in this passage is not to engage with or convert unrighteous “strangers,” but to instruct the saints in holiness. Wouldn’t such speech be prohibited by your proposed moratorium?

        Reply

  11. Well said, Dave. We needed to hear a pastoral response, and you gave us a wise and caring one.

    Reply

  12. Mr. Fitzgerald,

    Yesterday, in response to “casey” who correctly noted that your interpretation of the Bible seems like an invitation to moral anarchy, you said the following:

    “I would argue that in the case of murder, extortion, racism, and slavery the requirement there is not to “call sin sin” as the saying goes, but to identify and fight against injustice. As a sinner, Jesus would tell me, I’m no better or worse than the murderer, so to presume that I can judge the sin of a murderer is still outside of what I am able to do. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t speak out against injustice.”

    I’m surprised no one asked you the obvious follow-up question: how do you know what is justice and what is injustice? Should the Bible be your (and our) guide?

    Personally, even though he’s a heathen (just kidding — I like to josh around with my brothers and sisters in Christ who fell away from the one holy and apostolic church!) Joe Carter was on the money at 11:58 AM on Feb. 8th. I think even the Pope would approve Mr. Carter! Obviously, hanging around Father Neuhaus did you some good!

    Great all around discussion and I obviously salute everyone who had the patience to respond to Mr. Fitzgerald with grace and logic.

    Reply

  13. Let me thank you all again for engaging in this conversation and for keeping it respectful and constructive. I have a policy about not getting engrossed in comment-debates for more than a day so I am going to gracefully bow out having learned from each of you and having been challenged in many ways. Thank you again for taking the time out of your busy lives to meet here and converse.

    Reply

  14. I know Mr. Fitzgerald has bowed out, but I just wanted to say that I appreciate his ever-clarifying remarks. I’m Reformed and may disagree slightly with how we might apply certain issues in the public realm, I feel he acquitted himself well in the comments and how he’s clarified his arguments. Often, the good, Christian, and loving work is in the follow-through and nuanced conversation, which is a step removed from more abrasive and polemic comments.

    Reply

    1. Co-sign. Thanks, Jonathan, for engaging here. And thanks, readers, for again proving that Mere-O is the place for civil and intelligent dialog on contentious issues.

      matt

      Reply

  15. Mr. Fitzgerald:

    Which one of the doctors of the church have you consulted on this matter? For they are far more wise than any of us.

    Here’s the way I think about it: if I trust my sustainability director on campus to tell me the proper place for each piece of garbage, I certain extent the same expertise deference to my predecessors.

    I think what you fail to appreciate is that without male-female complimentarity the relationship between Christ and His Church become incomprehensible. Consider just these examples from Scripture:

    And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:15 -NASB, cf. Mark 2:19, Luke 5:34)

    He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him re-joices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice So this joy of mine has been made full. (John 3:29 – NASB)

    For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. (2 Corinthians 11:2 – NASB)

    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25 – NASB)

    “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32 – NASB)

    “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7 – NASB)

    And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2 – NASB)

    Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:9 – NASB)

    The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. (Revelation 22:17- NASB)

    The proper ends of our sexual powers within the bond of matrimony is integral to the Christian narrative. To remove it would be to emasculate the Gospel. This is, of course, very, very difficult for many in our culture to accept, for they have been nurtured by an instrumentalist understanding of our sexual powers, that their purposes are whatever we will them to be consistent with our desires as long as all the participants consent. Each generation has its challenges. I am sure Christians who held views of racial inferiority had a tough time accepting that “image of God” did not depend on skin color. The secular pieties of each age–whether it is the eugenics movement or the gay rights movement–are deeply attractive, since they claim to be moral, scientific, and intelligent. We, as Christians, have no choice but to be Christians, and that may mean suffering persecution for rejecting the pieties of our age. However, we also have an obligation to love, to suffer with dignity, and to continue to offer Christ to those who choose death and think it is liberation.

    Time to pick up your cross and follow him.

    Reply

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *