Generous Orthodoxy  

Friday, May 15, 2009

A "Modest Proposal"

Whoa. "Things fall apart" (Yeats). The Church of Scotland, that former bastion of all things Presbyterian, biblical, and evangelical, hits the news with this story about the hysterically anti-gay clergyman The Rev. Ian Watson:

Granted, no point of view should be judged with reference to its most manic advocates, but there should be far more "conservatives" speaking out against this vicious sort of thing than there have been.

Let's imagine something, for the sake of the argument (in the traditional sense of the word argument). Let's imagine that those opposed to the ordination of active homosexuals and the use of the term "marriage" to describe same-sex unions laid down their arms and acquiesced in the whole array of items on the human-sexuality agenda, a proposal that conceivably might accord with what God is doing in our time.

Would that then mean that the severe divisions in the mainline churches would be healed? Would we be able to reunite and go forward with the mission of the church (our "missional" identity, in the current lingo)?

In a word, no.

One reason for this is that we have not had a serious theological debate in the churches about the sexuality question, but let that go. The other reason is that there is a whole host of issues at stake that have not been addressed in a mutually respectful and probing fashion for a long time; sides were drawn up decades ago and the two camps barely speak to one another. Take for example these foundational matters of doctrine:

--The uniqueness of Christ as the Only-Begotten Son
--The nature of the Trinity
--The definition of the gospel
--The power of sin
--The nature of the demonic
--The doctrine of revelation
--The Bible as the Word of God
--The active agency of God in the world
--The relation of faith and obedience
--The nature of baptism
--The definition of salvation
--The meaning of Christ's death on the cross
--The reality of the resurrection
--The significance of non-violent resistance
--The corporate nature of the Body of Christ

On these issues and many others, the differences between the--what shall we call them? liberals? revisionists? progressives? and the--ouch--conservative regressive traditionalists (can we say evangelicals?) are so vast and have been held tightly for so long that it is hard even to imagine how the conversation could begin. But let us hope and let us continue to bear witness to the promise that with God all things are possible.