My Mind Didn't Change (part one)

I am beginning a new series with this post.  At the recommendation of dear friend, I purchased and read a book by the author David P. Gushee entitled "Changing Our Mind."  I guess you can deduce from the title of this series that my mind didn't change.  Gushee chronicles for his readers how his own mind changed in regards to whether or not the Bible specifically forbids same gender romantic relationships and same gender sex.  He offers many well prepared arguments and he shares what is clearly an extensive research project to try and bring his readers to the same "paradigm leap" that he himself has made.

I don't doubt his sincerity, his belief in his own convictions, or his academic prowess.  I did however find his conclusions to be misplaced and his arguments at times to be poorly constructed.  Maybe I am just intellectually obtuse.  I will leave those conclusions to you!  I do recommend the book because I believe we must be diligent in reading the views of those we oppose.  We must not be intellectually lazy, especially with issues that are shaping our culture.

I think the best way to approach this review of sorts is to simply share my perspective on bookmarks and highlights I made as I was offer, if I may, a running commentary.  If you have questions about sections to which I did not respond in this series, feel free to communicate those questions and I will do my best to respond.  Some highlights and bookmarks I may group together and others I may address individually.

The first comes from chapter two entitled Our Moment: A Church With A Problem.  Let me say I agree, that any church has a problem if they are mean spirited, hateful, and dismissive.  Or, as the author later shares in chapter twenty, has contempt for anyone in the LGBT community.  We must find our way forward in the path of Christ which is to speak the truth in love.  As I shared in a recent sermon reflecting on the text in John 1:14, our words too must be full of both grace and truth.  Grace without truth is flattery and truth without grace is an accusation.  Unfortunately the author is right in his observation that too many churches historically have lacked grace in sharing the truth of their convictions.

It will be difficult for me to give you a page number because I read this book on my iPad and iPhone!  This is towards the end of the chapter referenced above and he writes, "...the Church at least can demonstrate the capacity to live in community with each other even if we find full agreement impossible on this question."  I categorically disagree with the conclusion that a church must be inclusive in order to be gracious.  If a church feels that a matter of lifestyle is immoral and that conclusion is reached through an honest and clear process of Biblical interpretation, then a church should not be condemned if that said moral boundary is taught and is used to bring accountability to those who willing attend.

I will speak to our church specifically.  I wrote a series on this blog entitle LGBTQI that details my position on many of the issues addressed by Gushee in his book.  These are also the beliefs we teach at our church (City Life).  These are the beliefs we use in caring for people who have questions.  Our weekend worship services are open to anyone, whether they agree with us or not.  But in order for people to become a member or if people are going to serve in ministry we seek some agreement on issues of morality and a willingness to begin to take steps to align their lives with those beliefs.

There must be allowance for divisive doctrines.  I have a definition I teach for unity.  Unity is when absolute commonalities transcend relative dissimilarities.  Gushee would prefer churches to categorize same gender romantic relationships and same gender sex issues in the category of "relative" meaning lets give people the freedom to believe what they choose.  He would say we can be dissimilar on these issues and because they are relative (up to the person) let's not sacrifice unity.  I would argue however that the belief in a Biblical prohibition against same gender romantic relationships and same gender sex is an absolute and requires common acceptance, agreement by everyone.  If we place every belief in the category of "absolute" then we create an unBiblical, legalistic environment.  However, if we place every believe in the category of "relative" then we create an unBiblical environment of permissiveness.

If Gushee has any divisive beliefs, meaning that there is any doctrine he holds that he believes should be a requirement for someone to join a church in which he held a position of spiritual authority, then he must champion every church's right to hold divisive doctrines.  He is being hypocritical to imply that a church is uncaring if they believe in a Biblical prohibition against same gender romantic relationships and same gender sex and holds that belief as a divisive doctrine.  Exclusivity is a necessary component of Christianity.  Exclusivity makes us nervous, understandably so.  Excluding others has been a tragic part of history in a manifold of circumstances.  But we cannot let the abuse of others delegitimize the fair and honorable use of exclusion.  Unless Gushee is a Universalist, he must acknowledge that exclusion is a necessary aspect of the Christian experience.  If he is a Universalist, then I should be writing a blog about his heresy.

Looking forward to exploring this book in greater detail with you!

Pastor Fred