A careful, nuanced and loving engagement with the issue and its complexities…
For the life of me I have a hard time dealing peaceably with certain orthodox leaders who seem unable to or, worse, refuse to distinguish between wolves and sheep, between those who devour and those being devoured. For these leaders, false teachers need compassionate care, nuanced conversation, patient understanding, while those they lead blind into the pit are ignored and forgotten. A few weeks ago Stephen Kuhrt illustrated this maddening characteristic in an article I diplomatically described as, “weak, passionless, powerless, passive, compromising, institutionalist, impotent”
Since that exchange, Jon Kuhrt (I am not sure whether Jon and Stephen are related) has stepped forward to defend Stephen Kuhrt in an article posted on Fulcrum.
Below is my response to his response:
“I have watched with interest the reactions to Stephen Kuhrt’s article about the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCAUK) and its role within the controversies about gay and lesbian relationships within the Church. Stephen called for “a careful, nuanced and loving engagement with the issue, its complexities and the human beings that it involves”.”
Stephen suggested that those ordained leaders who teach that homosexual behavior is acceptable within the pale of orthodoxy are to be given a hearing within the Church and that those who assert otherwise, those who argue that such advocates are heretics, are responsible for “polarizing” the church.
I certainly understand and agree that a kindly pastoral approach is not only appropriate but necessary toward those non-ordained Christians and non-Christians caught up in sexual or any other sort of sin.
But for the unrepentant, defiant, clerical advocates of perversity; for those who lead the Lord’s “little ones” into sin, there is only one appropriate response and that is to defeat, defrock and drive them out of the church, away from the flock, without conversation, compromise and especially without the sort of vain, preening, self congratulatory appreciation of the “nuanced” fog of heterodox “complexities” advocated by Stephen Kuhrt and his defender Jon.
“In response Matt Kennedy on the Stand Firm in the Faith website www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/24813 described him as “weak, passionless, powerless, passive, compromising, institutionalist, impotent”.
I was careful to describe Stephen, personally, as a faithful brother in Christ. It is his response to damnable heresy that is “weak, passionless, powerless, passive, compromising, institutionalist, impotent”
“Rather than simply being weak many evangelicals have a deep and genuine concern for humility in their approach to issues of sexual behaviour – not least because of their awareness of their own frailties and weaknesses.”
It would be nice if these “many evangelicals” who are so deeply and genuinely and (lest we not get the point) so very Publicly and Noisily, “concerned for humility” would also be half as deeply and genuinely humble before God’s own Word written as they are before those clerics who openly defy it.
“Humility is not weakness.”
Not at all. It is a strength.
“Indeed followers of Jesus should always take a humble approach whenever we discuss the behaviour of others.”
“God’s grace shows us how we can all be selectively orthodox in our interpretation and application of Jesus’ teaching. The issue of wealth and greed is a good example to discuss.”
Strange. I was not aware that there were Anglicans explicitly rejecting biblical injunctions against greed whilst advocating greed from the pulpit. Are there Anglican clerics calling members of their congregations to “come out”” and live unrepentant greed filled selfish lives?
“Unlike gay and lesbian relationships, wealth and greed is a subject about which Jesus spoke a huge amount. There are so many clear teachings of Jesus which - if we are to take scripture at its face value - show the incompatibility of following him and being greedy. Examples that immediately spring to mind are the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19), the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13), the Rich Ruler (Luke 18:18) and the clear instruction that you cannot serve both God and Money (Luke 16:13). There are plenty of others – and you can’t read Luke’s gospel for long before unearthing many more.”
“But as this perceptive song points out, Jesus’ example and teaching is not always reflected in the lifestyles of his followers:
The cars in the churchyard are shiny and German
Distinctly at odds with the theme of the sermon
And during communion I study the people
Threading themselves through the eye of the needle”
The song rings true because we know how tricky the issue of wealth is within the church. Many Christians are continually wrestling with the challenge of how much they should spend on their cars, holidays and home furnishings. Many vicars and Bishops feel genuinely uncomfortable with the scale of their houses and are concerned about the consistency between the Church institution and the challenge of Jesus.”
Yes, there are many sinners in the church pews and behind the pulpit. I am one of them. So are you. Greed, gluttony, pride, vanity, malice etc…we to varying degrees, by grace, do battle with them all .
But I was unaware that these behaviors had the benefit of any clerical advocates…any collared promoters? Is there an organization, are there ordained leaders, within the church advocating gluttony? Malice? Vain pride?
If such organizations or clerics exist, I would hope that Kuhrt would name them so that we might engage in, “careful, nuanced, loving engagement with the issue[s]...and the human beings [they] involve…”
“I believe the size of the mortgage we take on is the most spiritually significant decision we make. But we have to ask ourselves how often in Church culture are we truly honest about how we use our money? Is Jesus truly Lord over our bank accounts? For many Christians our relationship with money is the love that dares not speak its name.
I wonder what the proudly evangelical churches in the City of London actually say about the greed, reckless lending and massive bonuses within the banking world? They might be hot on issues of personal moral conduct but are they ‘biblically orthodox’ on the issue of corporate wealth and greed?”
Good questions all…of course they are utterly irrelevant to the question of whether the church ought to tolerate false teachers but these are, indeed, fine and thoroughly convicting questions. Evangelical ministers in wealthy London congregations should, indeed, speak up about greed
“Neutering the challenge of scripture
Christians have developed some worrying ways of neutering these straightforwardly radical and demanding areas of Jesus’ teaching. We say things like ‘it was not the wealth of the rich ruler that was the problem but that he loved his wealth more than Jesus’. Instead of a demand which ‘amazes’ the disciples, we turn it into a gentle statement on priorities that would shock no one. It leads to us consoling ourselves that if we really mean it when we sing and worship God then it justifies a massive house and multiple cars. This kind of thinking is rife in middle class evangelical churches.”
The reason most good preachers say that it was not the wealth of the rich ruler that was the problem but that he loved his wealth more than Jesus is because it was not the wealth of the rich ruler that was the problem but that he loved his wealth more than Jesus. Had he loved Jesus more than his wealth, he would have given it away when Jesus called him to do so. But his money was his idol. He claimed to keep the last six commandments but he broke the first and greatest. During the exposition portion of a sermon on the text in question, the religious and social status of wealthy devout men in first century Palestine and the assumptions that the disciples would have likely embraced with regard to wealthy devout men would be crucial to bring out. But it is a more than fair application of the text in question to talk about idolatry in general especially if the congregation to which you minister is blue collar, poor, or idolatrous in some other way besides wealth. Of course, if your congregation is wealthy, it is also a great opportunity to slam home a point about the love of money.
And yet to suggest that the failure to do so on the part of more timid and fearful pastors is in any way comparable to, say, the actual promotion of greed from the pulpit and/or the explicit rejection of those biblical passages that condemn greed is quite a stretch.
“The process of domesticating Jesus’ challenge around wealth starts very early. My kids have a cute book of Stories Jesus Told which says that the ‘eye of a needle’ was a really small gate in Jerusalem which required a camel to take off all his packs before entering. But according to many scholars this is simply a myth developed in the medieval era.”
True. But I remember hearing the “small gate in Jerusalem” story when I was young. The sermon I heard represented a simple call to repent and let go of all the stuff, wealth included, that hinders our obedience to Christ. It was a good message even though the exegesis was flawed.
But I have no idea what the connection might be between those clerics who get their exegesis wrong and those clerics who understand the various texts well enough but advocate same sex behavior anyway.
“Most of us know that any honest reading of scripture show that the life, teaching and example of Jesus clearly show us that following him will mean embracing simplicity and costly generosity.”
“On the subject of wealth, Jesus said to the money-loving Pharisees: “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money….what is highly valued amongst men is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:13ff). As Tony Campolo has written in an essay called Can a Christian own a BMW? ‘The rich know that if they take the biblical Jesus seriously, they will have to do a lot more than get their priorities right…Jesus calls us to abandon the things of this world, use our resources to feed the poor and take up the cross.’ Rather than simply condemining people with a weakness for German engineering, Campolo challenges us to think about how we steward what God has given us.”
Yes. All this is very nice and true and utterly unconnected to the point at issue.
Whenever I have raised this issue in church discussions, people often say things like ‘But we must not be judgemental’ and will often point to the gaps and inconsistencies in their own life (or mine!).
Exactly. Now that really is being biblical.”
Not so sure I agree. In preaching against greed, one is not being “judgmental” one is simply announcing a judgment that God has already revealed. A good pastor cannot, in good conscience, refrain from making such an announcement should it come up in his text.
“Increasingly I believe that Jesus’ radical example and the costly nature of discipleship should simply drive us to our knees in humble repentance. And it is in this humility, in fear and trembling, that we discuss the attitudes and behaviours of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Examining the logs in our own eyes leads us to humble acknowledgement of our own sin and failings. This is a place of humility where we develop a nuanced and loving response to people of great wealth.”
Yes, this is all, again, very nice and true and, again, unconnected to the point at issue. We are not talking about people caught up in homosexual behavior. When addressing people caught up in sexual sin or sin of any sort directly, we must certainly do so with an attitude of humble repentance—recognizing our own deep sinfulness.
But, again, that is not what is at issue at all. We are not talking about people caught up in sin. We are talking about those clerical wolves, charlatans, liars, and heretics who do the catching—the “angels of light” who teach doctrines that originate in hell and lead the people Jesus died to save away from the light and into the darkness.
“We have to recognise that the wider world sees very clearly when the Church sits light to Jesus’ teaching about greed and money.”
“So when we talk harshly about gay and lesbian people we easily appear as hypocrites who are selectively orthodox and who love pointing the finger at others.”
Kuhrt’s solution to this problem, apparently, is to be really really nice to those who are leading gay and lesbian people to hell while preaching more social justice sermons so that non-believers will like us.
“It is easy to assume that it is fear or hatred of homosexuality that is the real engine room of this concern for Biblical orthodoxy on this issue when they see us sitting so light to other areas of Jesus’ teaching.”
Christian orthodoxy must be defended and proclaimed both in a broad sense and directly at the point at which it is being attacked. When heretics attack the Doctrine of the Trinity, the Church ought not to respond with a ponderous conversation on the benefits of chastity. We respond by defending the Trinity. When they attack the Virgin Birth, the church should not respond with a nuanced discussion of tithing. We respond by defending the Virgin birth. And when heretics attack the Doctrine of Marriage we do not respond by talking a lot about social justice and having tea over careful loving conversations with heretics, we defend the Doctrine of Marriage and condemn all challenges to it.
That may make those outside the church believe that Christians are focused on sex. There is not much we can do about that and frankly, it’s not our responsibility to change skewed perceptions of non-believers. It is our responsibility, and Kuhrt’s too, to defend the faith and to uphold Christian doctrine.
“So I do believe that followers of Jesus should take a ‘careful, nuanced and loving position’ when it comes to discussing issues of sexuality – because this is what we need to do whenever we discuss the behaviour of others.”
How strange to define “humble” in such a way that publicly and willfully defying God’s own charge to the leaders of his Church to guard the flock, to drive away wolves, to not even give basic hospitality to false teachers (2 John 7-11), fits the definition of humble while applying biblical commands is somehow pharisaic.
The most “careful” position possible for an ordained leader in the church with regard to homosexual behavior is to proclaim God’s own judgment which has been clearly revealed in Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:18-33 and 1 Cor 6:9. Ordained leaders are not at liberty to impose their own nuances or warped understandings of “love” onto that revelation, nor are we at liberty to consider challenges to it on the part of other ordained leaders as valid, legitimate or as anything other than hellish lies.
“All of us who want to be ‘Bible-people’ during these current controversies need to reflect deeply on Jesus’ challenge to the judgmental religious leaders of his day…‘Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.’ Luke 11:39”
Indeed. And all of us who are ordained leaders need to reflect deeply on Jesus words to the church in Thyatira:
“I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works…” (Rev 3:19-23)
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