Saturday, June 28, 2008


First to my homosexual friends: I love you. Those of you who fight the good fight against your desires to sin, I honor you. You are better people than I am. Those who think you behavior is given by God, I disagree with you but I love you in Christ nevertheless.

I like weird sounding words. OK, that makes me weird too, I know. For good or ill I have passed this trait on to my daughter. She likes the name of a Philadelphia suburb, Conshohocken, because it sounds strange. Go figure.

Anyway, when I was taking Greek in seminary I learned the word "splankna." It literally means guts: intestines, livers, all the yucky stuff. When used as a verb, "splanknizomai," it actually refers to compassion. It can also refer to anger. When Jesus looked at the crowd before the feeding of the 5,000 he had compassion on them splanknizomai, (okay I got the person of the verb wrong).

But that isn't the point of this story. I think splankna sounds neat. It's kind of like squish. So of course I taught it to my two younger brothers who are just as weird as I am. Worse, they were in high school and junior high at the time.

One Sunday as Mom brought the meat to the dining room one of my brothers took a look at it and said, "Oh no! Splankna again?" And then of course we were in trouble, he for what he said and me for teaching him the word.

All of which leads me to the General Assembly. I don't use the work splankna here in its verbal form like compassion. I'm too angry for that today. I use it like my brother did. I've eaten this dish before. I ate it in 1996, 1997, 2000, (or was it 2001?), and in a different form with the PUP report in 2006. I've eaten it too many times and I'm tired of it. We are going to have the battle over G-6.0106b. And on top of that the GA has done an end run around the constitution again, like it did in 2006 by interpreting the constitution to say that behavior can be scrupled and a presbytery can say it isn't essential. This, of course is to overrule the GAPJC which said that behavior cannot be scrupled, at least not about G-6.0106b. So it looks like a lose - lose situation. If the presbyteries, as they likely will, vote against the amendment to change G-6.0106b the Authoritative Interpretation theoretically will let presbyteries ordain who they want no matter what the constitution says.

What should be really interesting is whether the GAPJC rules that the new AI passed by the GA is an improper interpretation of the constitution.

Anyway, I'm tired of eating the splankna that GAs keep dishing out. The pro homosex crowd just won't let it go. I want to say you lost, shut up, sit down. Let's have some peace for a few years. But they aren't going to do that. They see this as a justice issue. They will bring it up and bring it up until they win. I hope they are prepared for the long haul because I suspect they won't win, at least about G-6.0106b, for at least 10 years. Also, no matter what they say about letting sessions and presbyteries make their own decisions I am certain that in the long run a requirement will be inserted in the Book of Order that says we all have to ordain people who do varying sexual practices. It will be in the section about diversity in congregations and again in the sections about required diversity in governing bodies. After all, it isn't just for homosexuals to be discriminated against in my congregation or presbytery is it?

But splankna is on the menu in my presbytery for January 2009. I have to eat it. Well, I could stay away but I can't do that. I'm a good presbyter, I am. So, to mix metaphors, I say as Tibault said to Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, "I am for you," meaning I will fight the fight.

And just so those who agree with me and those who disagree with me know where I really stand, let me make it clear. The Bible says homosex behavior is wrong. It isn't just the 7 passages that make direct references. There is a Biblical theme of heterosexuality that arcs from Genesis to Revelation, ("God created the human in God's own image, in the image of God God created the human. Male and Female God created them." and at the other end of the Bible, "And I saw the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven adorned as a bride for her bridegroom.") Just try to find a reference in the Bible that even uses a metaphor of homosexual relationships! Where does it say that God is the husband and Israel is the husband? Or Jesus is the wife and the Church is the wife? They aren't there are they?

But of course the Bible really isn't the issue is it? We have friends, they have feelings, they don't know where their feelings came from but they think they've had the feelings since birth (and maybe they have) so the feelings must be from God. It doesn't matter that the science is equivocal on the subject. And it doesn't matter that there are lots of other feelings that are wrong and sinful whether we choose the feelings or not. They are people, we love them, so their feelings must be given by God!

But isn't it possible to love people whose feelings are not given by God, feelings that are sinful?

Oh, and besides we know so much more than those ignorant people who wrote the Bible! Sure we do! We know how to make atom bombs too. The argument is that the writers of the Bible didn't know anything about sexual orientation so therefore they must be wrong. It must be God given. This argument fails on two grounds. Just because something feels like it's always been there doesn't make it right. I have lots of feelings that I've had all my life that aren't right. I've been jealous as long as I can remember. Does that make the feeling right? And second, Paul knew about sexual orientation. The ancients weren't stupid. They could see that some people wanted to have sex with the opposite sex and some people wanted to have sex with the same sex. Check the ancient literature. It's there.

So to finish this rant let me introduce another Greek word. scubala. Paul uses it in Philippians. The RSV cautiously translates it as rubbish. RUBBISH! The word means dung, only it is dung in the vulgar sense. The word means shit.

I am tired of stepping in this scubala! I am tired of being accused of being homophobic, unloving and all the other things people accuse me of because they disagree with me! (My friends who disagree with me but love me please ignore the last sentence.)

But once again we have to wade through the scubala. And if it doesn't pass this year it will come up again in 2010. Those who push so hard for this don't care if they split the church. They just want what they want.

And I will be there to fight the fight. With love I hope. It's very difficult to feel loving today. Maybe by January I will be able to forget my favorite Greek words and calmly argue from the Bible.


May God's will be done.

Pastor Bob


Anonymous said...

From a popular theological dictionary:

1. [Hyper-Calvinism] is a system of theology framed to exalt the honour and glory of God and does so by acutely minimizing the moral and spiritual responsibility of sinners . . . It emphasizes irresistible grace to such an extent that there appears to be no real need to evangelize; furthermore, Christ may be offered only to the elect. . . .
2. It is that school of supralapsarian 'five-point' Calvinism [n.b.—a school of supralapsarianism, not supralapsarianism in general] which so stresses the sovereignty of God by over-emphasizing the secret over the revealed will of God and eternity over time, that it minimizes the responsibility of sinners, notably with respect to the denial of the use of the word "offer" in relation to the preaching of the gospel; thus it undermines the universal duty of sinners to believe savingly in the Lord Jesus with the assurance that Christ actually died for them; and it encourages introspection in the search to know whether or not one is elect. [Peter Toon, "Hyper-Calvinism," New Dictionary of Theology (Leicester: IVP, 1988), 324.]

Pastor Bob,

I was told once by a Calvinist pastor that it does not matter what I try to do to become saved and become a child of God, unless I have been "elected" by God from the foundation of the world, I'm lost and I'm going to hell when I die. Whether I repent, pray, plead, beg, ask earnestly and humbly for God to save me and whether I believe in my heart that Jesus Christ was sent to this earth to suffer and die for my sins, Calvinism suggests that unless God has elected me from the beginning of the world, I am lost.

I ask you to be direct and honest and try to reply in very simple terms without a long winded explanation, as a Calvinist, is this what you believe?

Pastor Bob said...

First, sorry for posting this late and then answering late. I fell off my bicycle last Saturday, got a concussion broke 6 ribs and have been in the hospital ever since. If the quality of my typing is any indication that concussion is still having its effects.

In any case . . . I'm note sure why the blog would produce this response but let me keep my answer simple: Nope.

Of course being a pastor I can't write a sermon that short.

I think that, from a temporal point of view God is at work in the repenting and praying of the person seeking forgiveness. I think that God elects people to righteousness, (actually I preached on this recently), but that one can see the action of God in the faith of the believer.

Election is not intended as a doctrine of fear. It is intended as a doctrine of comfort. C. K. Barrett calls it the most comfortable of doctrines. He means that we do not have to depend on our actions to be receive the loving forgiveness of God. God gives even belief as a gift.

God's choice is not that of a distant unknown being. God's choice is that of a loving Father who calls to a child, "Come to me, sweetheart," and even if the child runs away the Father scoops the child up and hugs her.