Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Sinners in the House!

AJM responded to my earlier post on homosexuality. His response was thoughtful and utterly logical, as expected. I appreciate. I reply here to his first response.

AJM wrote:

"The Accipiter . . . has, as usual, raised several good questions concerning both sin and homosexuality. Some can be dealt with quickly: the Church ought to refuse to ordain clergy who engage in any extramarital sex (or, in the Catholic church, any sex at all) regardless of their sexual orientation and not as a "punishment" for being homosexual (I realize this begs the ultimate question, which I will attempt to address later); the fact that many Christians find homosexual sin more offensive than other sins is a mark against Christians, not against Christ, and reflects our own sinfulness and ineptitude at sharing His grace; the sinful nature of homosexual acitivity does not depend upon homosexuality being learned, rather than inbred; that an alcoholic is more readily tempted to drunkenness does not make drunkenness any less sinful."

Many Christians do find homosexual sex more offensive than other "sins." They are offended by it because it's different than "normal" sex, it's "gross," and it's associated with what many people discern to be culturally distasteful (too-effeminiate men; women with men's haircuts, etc.). I suggest that these reactions are more culturally based than they are scripturally based, however. I say again, I don't think the Bible is particularly clear on this. Especially in light of the difference between Old Testament legalisms in chapters such as Leviticus and the embodied spirt of the law in Christ of the New Testament. And that's saying nothing about what seems to be an eternal conflict regarding the inerrancy of the Bible (but that's a different posting that I won't get into, especially with a Christianity scholar like AJM).

But the bigger issue to me is why--if all sins are equal in God's eyes--humans can use any of them to preclude someone from being a member of the clergy. I don't think they can. Since all humans are sinners, and all sin is "equal," why allow any human to hold a clergy position? The obvious answer is that humans are all we have. God Himself doesn't take the pulpit every Sunday. While he might bless the words, it's Preacher Dave or Pastor Finnegan who's leading the flock. And the Church can't allow just anyone to preach or be a clergyperson, right? "Everybody stand and welcome John. He just killed his neighbor for borrowing his weed whacker and failing to return it. He'll give the message today."

Absurd, right? Well, maybe not. I'm just not sure where to draw the line. Or--more importantly--if the Church has any business drawing the line. If I lust in my heart, no one can see that, so they can't hold that against me. If I am a homosexual and keep it "in the closet," they can't hold that against me either. If I'm caught with my hand in the offering basket and bills are coming out, not going in, that's a problem. But where does the Church find its support for holding ANY sin against anyone who wants to participate in the celebration of God?

Perhaps it's because if the sin is known by others--if it is apparent--that person is not "fit to lead," being morally suspect. But that makes no sense. The given state of humanity is that everyone is morally suspect (at least for Protestants; Catholics play with that notion within their hierarchical system).

And who is to say sinners--sometimes the "worst" ones--aren't good teachers, leaders, and--in their approach to dealing with sin--Christian examples?


Blogger ajmac said...

As always, excellent questions. Indeed we are all sinners. The line that the Bible calls us to draw is between the would-be church leader who sins because he is human and the would-be leader who deliberately and continuously lives in sin.

The Apostle Paul gave strict qualifications for would-be leaders of the church in I Timothy 3: 1-13:
"Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer,[a] he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, selfcontrolled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus."

Paul looked especially badly on those who intentionally indulged in sexual immorality. Upon hearing of a sinful sexual relationship in the Corinthian church, wrote:

"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. ... What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you."
I Cor. 5:1-3, 12-13.

This is the same Paul who wrote this:

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. ... Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."
Rom. 1:20-21, 26-27.

2:29 PM  

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