Those who know me well, know certain things about me know certain things. First, I tend to think, and think a lot, sometimes too much, oftentimes I tend to overthink. I don’t like when I find things are not in agreement and try to find agreement. I value education. I value honesty. I value frankness. I do not tolerate fools well (okay, I don’t tolerate them at all). One thing that truly bothers me is for educated people to practice intellectual dishonesty. In church circles it is often called hypocrisy but my definition is a little more broad.
Intellectual dishonesty manifests itself in many ways. One is when you use one argument that you agree with to support your position but ignore other, similar arguments often found in the same document. I simply cannot stand for it. It is dishonest and it is a lie. And quite honestly, it makes me sometimes question the intellectual abilities of some people. Could I be wrong about them? Could they not be as smart as I think they are?
Our church is in schism and it is not pretty. While there are many reasons for the schism, I think straw that broke the camel’s back was the PC(USA) stance on the ordination of homosexuals. The denomination allows it but each congregation and presbytery can decide what it wants to do and it is not mandated. Those who left the PC(USA) were either adamantly opposed to that position or simply wanted to stay with the property regardless of denomination.
They are convinced that homosexuality is ungodly and then cherry pick scripture to support that position. If you, dear reader, are interested in a more thorough treatment of the subject, I highly recommend reading The Bible’s Yes to Same Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heartby Mark Achtemeier. I found it to be well-argued and researched. Of course, if you are not at all ready to entertain the possibility of having your mind changed, don’t waste your money.
I tried to have discussions with some of those who left the denomination but found most uninterested. And what bothered me was that they did not want to look at the whole picture, just the few pixels that interested them. For example, I tried the argument of assuming homosexuality was a sin (I didn’t say it was, I just said for the sake of argument assume it is). I then tried to get them to agree that sin was sin and that while we could argue there were various degrees of sinfulness (murder is worse than stealing a piece of candy), in God’s eyes all sin was wrong. I then pointed out that homosexuality was not explicitly called out in the Bible (see Achtemeier’s book) but other sins were explicitly mentioned and some even made it to the top 10 list (the Ten Commandments). The Bible is clear on what constitutes a Biblical divorce. It also specifically mentions the sin of adultery.
Of those who left the PC(USA) many were divorced and remarried which, according to the Bible is committing adultery. Further, many of those who were divorced got that way because they committed adultery against their previous spouse. Additionally, one of the leaders of group that left the denomination had left a previous Presbyterian denomination because they would not ordain (would not even nominate) one of his children for elder because the child was divorced. So, apparently it is okay to commit the sin of adultery, get divorced, and then remarry all contrary to what scripture clearlysays, yet other sins in their eyes are simply intolerable.
So, you see, that is the intellectual dishonesty I cannot tolerate. The arguments simply do not hold up and those who espouse them are essentially engaged in self-justification of their sin. Ultimately, the former church joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). The EPC is certainly anti-homosexual. They are even anti-divorce but allow people to join and hold office if they “seek now, through sincere faith and genuine repentance, to live in obedience to the Scriptures and empowered by the Holy Spirit.” Yet I have not heard any of those who left our church confess their sin or even admit their adultery. They also make no room for similar such actions by homosexuals unless they try to be “un-homosexual”. So again, it is okay sin through adultery and divorce and if you are really sorry about it, you can even continue in that sin. However, no such allowance is made for same-sex couples. See the disconnect? It just doesn’t make sense.
I was speaking with a minister about this a while back and he mentioned that he often allowed one woman to read the scripture during worship service. She had been reading the scripture for quite some time and she only read what he asked her to read. In other words, she was not choosing what to read but was simply reading what had been picked out for that week’s sermon. Eventually it became known, through gossip, that the lector was a lesbian. She had never mentioned this in church, it just became known.
Following worship one Sunday, an elderly woman came up to the minister and said she could not “subject herself to the teachings” of the lector. The minister said he was sorry about but and pointed out that she was merely reading scripture, not preaching. He asked if there was anything he could do. The elderly woman said if the lector confessed her publicly and agreed to sin no more, she would not leave the church. The minister responded that he could probably make that happen and asked if she could wait a little while because it take a few weeks to make that happen. The elderly woman asked why it would take a few weeks the minister responded that first he would need to publicly confess his sins, then others in the congregation would need to confess theirs, and that she would also need to confess hers. Her response was that “she had no sins that needed to be confessed”. How many who are anti-this or anti-that think they too have no sin or that their sin is not as sinful as someone else’s?
Here is the EPC position statement:
Human Sexuality Position Paper. God helping us, we shall continue, within our churches and in the public arena, to teach against and to refuse to condone or participate in any sinful form of sexual practice30—including sexual abuse,31 pornography,32 sexual lust,33 extra-marital sex,34 adultery,35 polygamy,36 unbiblical divorce and remarriage,37 homosexual conduct,38 same-sex union and marriage,39 and gender reassignment.40 At the same time, we resolve to continue to love those who have committed these sins and/or suffered from them. And we shall wait with eager longing for the day of our Savior’s return, when all shall be made right with us and the world. In the name of Jesus, our compassionate Savior, we tenderly welcome all—regardless of their beliefs or lifestyles—to attend our churches. Further, we invite into the membership of our churches all those who—bruised and broken by the fall—seek now, through sincere faith and genuine repentance, to live in obedience to the Scriptures and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
25 2 Corinthians 7:10
26 Romans 8:1ff.; 1 Peter 2:9-12
27 Romans 5:3-5; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; James 1:2-4
28 1 Peter 1:18-19; Ephesians 5:25; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 29 Colossians 1:13; John 12:46, 1 Peter 2:9-10
30 Romans 13:13, 14; Ephesians 5:3
33 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5; Colossians 3:5
34 1 Thessalonians 4:6
35 Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:20; Deuteronomy 22:22; Proverbs 6:32; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:9 36Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4, 5; 1 Timothy 3:2
37 Malachi 2:13-16; Matthew 5:31-32; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14.
For more, see the EPC “Position Paper on Divorce and Remarriage.”
38 Genesis 19:1-29; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:10; Jude 7 39 Matthew 5:13-16; Romans 1:32; 13:3-4; 1 Peter 2:14
40 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; Galatians 5:19-23; Philippians 4:11-13
31 Deuteronomy 22:25-27; Ephesians 5:28-31