Sunday, July 19, 2009

Homosexuality and Orthodoxy

Here is a video of a press conference (scroll down a ways to find the video) given by two orthodox bishops in The Episcopal Church, William Love and Peter Beckwith, after the disasterous votes last week to endorse active, unrepentant homosexuals for the office of bishop in spite of warnings from the Archbishop of Canterbury that doing so would split the Anglican Communion even further. They look devastated, especially Bishop Love of Albany.

But if you take the time to watch it, one of the points that is made effectively is that the issue is not really sex; it it is Christology and Scripture. This got me thinking about how best to frame the real issue plaguing most liberal Protestant denominations today, a major symptom of which is sexual permissiveness. How is the sex issue a symptom of the theological drift?

I came to the conclusion that to endorse homosexual behaviour as normal and good is to deny all three articles of the Creed.

If you look at the Apostles' Creed, you notice right away its Trinitarian character. Article one deals with God the Father, article two with God the Son and article three with God the Holy Spirit. It shocks me to think that the 90 + bishops of The Episcopal Church who voted for normalizing homosexuality recite the Creed every week. I find that difficult to imagine. Here is why.

Article One: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth."

This article expresses the doctrine of God as Father and the doctrine of creation. We are not random accidents of impersonal forces. We are creatures of a wise and loving Father. We are designed by God, as Scripture teaches clearly, to be male and female. I don't care what your views are on six-day creation or progressive creation or theistic evolution. The point is that if you no longer believe that men and women were designed by God for marriage and procreation, then you have denied the first article of the Creed. The mechanics of how God created are utterly beside the point. All Christians agree that He did create. And Genesis 1-2, Matthew 19 and Ephesians 5 are clearly unanimous in teaching that marriage is part of God's creational design.

Article Two: "And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell On the third day rose again from the dead, ascended to heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father almighty, thence he will come to judge the living and the dead;

This article is Christology. It teaches the virgin birth and death, descent into hell, resurrection, ascension and future second coming of Jesus Christ as historical facts (cf. the reference to Pilate). It teaches that Jesus now reigns as Lord. This is a basic thumbnail sketch of biblical and orthodoxy Christology as has been taught in the Church since the time of the first apostles. Jesus Christ is the God-Man who died for our sins and rose again trimphantly.

To believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord is to believe in the need for humanity to be rescued from sin by the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus did something for us that we could never have done for ourselves. Therefore the Gospel preached by the early Church from the Day of Pentecost on was "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins." (Acts 2:38)

The Episcopal Church, officially, no longer believes in preaching the biblical Gospel to homosexuals. But it is not really discrimination. Most of the clergy of that denomination, along with many other liberal Protestants of many denominations, no longer believe in the message of sin and salvation for anyone. They must think Peter just got it wrong on the Day of Pentecost and that the real message should be the social gospel or liberation theology. I think it is fair to say that the Millennium Development Goals define mission for The Episcopal Church. As the Presiding Bishop said in her opening address, the gospel of personal salvation is a heresy. From her vantage point it is, for she has moved beyond Christianity into a new liberal culture-religion.

Article Three: "I believe in the Holy Spirit . . . the forgiveness of sins, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Holy Spirit fills and empowers Christians for sanctification and discipleship. Christians know that homosexuals are not the only sinners; we are all sinners. All of us are lost apart from the incredibly generous grace and forgiveness of God offered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The only one whose sin cannot be forgiven is the one who refuses to ask forgiveness, perhaps out of a conviction that he is not really a lost sinner in the first place. The Pelagianism of liberal Protestantism is the basis of a works righteousness that strives for a Christian life without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Since only the Spirit of God can help us overcome deepseated sins, to deny that such sins can be overcome is a denial of the Spirit.

To call homosexuality (along with other sexual sins like fornication, adultery, divorce except for adultery, etc.) good is to deny all three articles of the Creed. It is deny the doctrine of creation, the doctrine of Christ's saving work in dying for our sins and the need for the power of the Holy Spirit. The split in the Anglican Communion (and other Protestant denominations) is not over trivial matters or even over questions of ethics. It is over the Gospel itself.

Orthodoxy is more than a matter of reciting the creeds in worship; it is a matter of believing them and living according to the Holy Scriptures out of which they arise. Our prayers should be with those orthodox members, clergy and bishops of The Episcopal Church who continue to stand for the biblical Gospel.


Nathan said...

The vote was announced during the sermon in our congregation. It seemed particularly ironic during the creed to affirm the "one holy catholic and apostolic church" while having just finished reflecting on the schism effectuated by the General Convention.

Craig Carter said...

Is your church an Episcopal Church?

Nathan said...


Craig Carter said...

So is your bishop a Windsor bishop? In you parish evangelical? What is the future for orthodox laity and clergy in your diocese?

Nathan said...

We are currently between bishops, having only an assisting bishop as an interim. Our previous bishop I believe supported the traditional orthodox viewpoint. There is some diversity in the diocese, so I would not be surprised if some parishes make alternate arrangements (ACNA or somesuch). Our congregation will probably maintain the status quo. As for me and mine, I am not sure what the future holds.