Saturday, July 18, 2009

N. T. Wright Tells It Like It Is on Homosexuality and the Gospel

I have found N. T. Wright to be a bit hard to figure out at times during the crisis in the Anglican Communion, but this article in the Times of London is hard-hitting, clear and unapologetically orthodox and Evangelical. He writes of the actions of The Episcopal Church in passing a resolution that says that active homosexuals are eligible for ordination:

"Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of TEC knew exactly what they were doing. They were telling the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other “instruments of communion” that they were ignoring their plea for a moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops. They were rejecting the two things the Archbishop of Canterbury has named as the pathway to the future — the Windsor Report (2004) and the proposed Covenant (whose aim is to provide a modus operandi for the Anglican Communion). They were formalising the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the Primates’ unanimous statement that this would “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level”. In Windsor’s language, they have chosen to “walk apart”".

He is obviously frusterated by the obstinance of the Americans after all the meetings, all the drafting of reports, all the dialogue and all the efforts expended by so many in good faith to hold the fractured Communion together. He would certainly be justified in feeling as if a dirty dish cloth had been flung in his face by Jefforts Schori and the extremist liberals who now run The Episcopal Church. I especially liked the way he dismissed the lame arguments put forward by the revisionists showing them the contempt they deserve from reasonable people:

"That wider tradition always was counter-cultural as well as counter-intuitive. Our supposedly selfish genes crave a variety of sexual possibilities. But Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse. This is not (as is frequently suggested) an arbitrary rule, dualistic in overtone and killjoy in intention. It is a deep structural reflection of the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people (who carry forward his purposes for that creation).

Paganism ancient and modern has always found this ethic, and this belief, ridiculous and incredible. But the biblical witness is scarcely confined, as the shrill leader in yesterday’s Times suggests, to a few verses in St Paul. Jesus’s own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behaviour outside heterosexual monogamy. This isn’t a matter of “private response to Scripture” but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition."

I don't think it is accidental or just excessive rhetoric to refer to "paganism" in this context. The Episcopal Church has not just embraced a liberal Christian position, but has admitted pagan sexuality into the Church. The religion of the Canaanites that Israel was to exterminate, but which infected the people of God in the Old Testament, is now being welcomed into The Episcopal Church by vote of the bishops.

The "new morality" is nothing new. What is new and revolutionary in history is the Judeo-Christian sexual morality that ties sex to marriage and child-rearing. It is this ethic that has made Western civilization possible and which now is being tossed out by the late modern West in its decadent phase.

Finally, Wright does not fail to get at the heart of the matter by tying the permissive attitude to various sexual perversions and sins to the Gospel itself when he writes:

"We must insist, too, on the distinction between inclination and desire on the one hand and activity on the other — a distinction regularly obscured by references to “homosexual clergy” and so on. We all have all kinds of deep-rooted inclinations and desires. The question is, what shall we do with them? One of the great Prayer Book collects asks God that we may “love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise”. That is always tough, for all of us. Much easier to ask God to command what we already love, and promise what we already desire. But much less like the challenge of the Gospel."

At the end of the day, the Gospel is a call to repentence, faith, forgiveness and sanctification. It is the good news that sinners can change. It is the counter-cultural faith that we, as creatures made in God's image and endowed with reason and the ability to make moral choices may, with the aid of Divine grace, face up to our sins and not simply sink under the waves of immorality. No one is perfect and there are many kinds of sins, not just sexual ones. But the good news is that Christ died for our sins and the Spirit's power is available to all of us in our great need. There is hope in Christ for all sinners - even the currently fashionable ones.

All orthodox Christians the world over owe Bishop Wright a vote of thanks for acting like a true bishop and telling the truth. Most of all, we commend him for preaching the Gospel even when the truth is unpopular.

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