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Response to Steve & Kathy on FB re Remit B

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Thanks, Steve and Kathy (and hardy lurkers)

Here I am continuing the conversation around remit B.

SB “I could throw this question right back at you and say, how do we know it is *not* the work of the HS?”

Exactly. How do we know anything is the work of the Holy Spirit when it comes to informational content?

This, hands-down, is the issue facing our denomination. The real danger is not whether we rupture or divide or fragment. The real threat for us as communities of Christ’s disciples is that we block our ability to hear from Jesus.

DANGER DANGER DANGER how do we know that the informational content of our ideologies and practices comes from the Holy Spirit?

And if we can’t know, then why don’t we pack it in and take proper training for social work rather than pretending that we can proclaim the Kingdom of God?

Some of the things I’ve been hearing from our colleagues amounts to ‘we know we’ve got the Holy Spirit’s information when the GA speaks because we have earnest clergy and elders.’ This borders on (I’m giving wiggle room in using ‘borders’ I think it crosses into the reality, but hey, that’s just one sinner’s opinion….what does Jesus have to say about it?)

This borders on equating the decrees of the Church Courts with the voice of the Holy Spirit. And that is an extraordinary place for reformed denominations to end up because well… it’s one of the epistemological problems we had with renaissance Rome where the consensus of the magisterium is taken for revelation from God (and that was solidifying around infallible ex-cathdera pronunciations of the pope.)

No matter how sincere a group of teaching and ruling elders, how can they discern God’s Word to us? We’ve been here before in Church history, and we thought we learned that it doesn’t serve very well to keep our doctrine and practice as God’s people in line with the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

I’m concerned beyond the hints of our Roman roots, however. I am concerned that the process is seen to reveal the teaching of the Spirit because unconsciously, by default, many of our elders, both teaching and ruling, may have come to view God as being in process. That is to say, unconsciously believing as if God is learning from experience to become a better wiser God. As God learns, God is progressively sharing neato tidbits of ‘new’ wisdom along the way. This is undoubtedly a philosophical option. But is it really an accurate description of Jahweh the Holy Triune God, Creator of Heaven and Earth? God is who God is. God is neither a construct nor a projection of our best thoughts about life, the universe and everything.

I am concerned that in looking to the process, in talking about people’s supposed attempts to ‘derail’ the process, there are those among our colleagues who take questioning the process to be something close to grieving if not blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

And this attitude neither bodes well for our continued denominational integrity nor for our ability to actually hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church.

(By by integrity, I mean many senses of the word from structure to character.)

Please, Jesus, give us ears to hear and eyes to see!

As to your sentences regarding shunning, welcoming Moabites, Samaritans, Job, eunuchs, foreigners, the Ethiopian eunuch, and the Roman centurion Cornelius, yes, okay, as far as we are not going very deeply into them.

FB posts cannot do justice to all the nuances of these stories and examples from scripture.

Yet, with my penchant for writing booklets in FB posts, I’ll try to sketch something out.

IN each of these cases, folks can dig down to the roots, put them in context, map them out from Genesis through Hebrew and Greek Testaments to Revelation. There are many places where things appear to change and where they do change. But how are they changing, why are they changing? What is the context of these changes?

All things come from Adam and lead through Christ. Moab’s curse is very specific, and the ethnic curses and even the genocidal holy war instructions to slaughter the Canaanites recorded in places in Deuteronomy and Joshua could always be avoided by repentance and obedience to Jahweh.

Incidentally, those ‘ban’ passages are tough ‘clobber passages’ that really get people itching to take out Marcion’s knife and whittle away like Benjamin Franklin (or was it Jefferson?). We are not really talking about them much in our current debates around human sexuality. However, they, too, are an authoritative part of scripture that we have to exegete in order to understand who God is and what the Lord may require of us. Jahweh can be very dangerous, especially for those who, for lengthy seasons, harden our hearts against his revelation and replace it with our own wisdom.
Jesus IS Jahweh. To meet the Son is to meet the Father. There is no God behind God. And God is not a pet construct of our best religious idea.

Ill-informed, sloppy or outright misinterpretation of those Holy War passages can lead us into justifying terrible things like the Terra Nulla and Discovery doctrines or human rights violations against contemporary Palestinians in the “occupied territories.”

But we are not at liberty to ignore them or to discount them as the Word of God because it’s easy for us to get them wrong and use them to ‘bless’ our own idolatrous religious imperial projects.

None of the changes you’ve glossed impacts the exegetical work regarding same-sex marriage. None of them presents a convincing expository argument in favour of blessing same-sex marriage in the name of Jesus.

SB “God occasionally changes THE RULES. Rarely does he seem to say “exclude more people.”

True. I can meet you on those grounds. But it’s not really about rules. Nor is it really about excluding or including.

It’s about how can we know what God is doing or saying?

How do we know what “the rules” are?
How do we know when God is changing “the rules”?

(Incidentally, by their own admission (and by God’s), “the rules” of the Sinai covenant were only ever provisional in working out the meaning of the covenants with Adam, Noah, and Abraham. Thus, despite the multitude of impossible rules under the Old Covenant, the New Covenant has been there all along. The New Covenant has been in the background since before the fall. It has not been fully revealed until the death and resurrection of Jesus. And it will not be fully revealed to ‘the world’ and ‘the spirit realm’ until His physical return. Thus, while the rules have appeared to change in history, there’s never really been CHANGE in God’s grace; in God’s eternal purpose; in His love; in His design of humanity (including marriage). )

How do we know that God includes people?
How do we know that God excludes people?
How do we know the nature of that exclusion or inclusion?

HOW DO WE KNOW?

The danger is not so much that we freak out at each other and insult each other after sermons or blow up and go our separate ways with some of us following Brian’s sandal and some of us following Brian’s staff.

The danger is that we intentionally muddle the channel by which we hear the voice of our only King and Head, our Prophet Priest and King, Jesus Christ.

And that in doing that we grieve the Holy Spirit and we harden our hearts we and thus, damage our ability to hear.


SB: “The problem as you describe it seems to be one of wanting to take the right path, of being frozen at a crossroads where the one road is labelled “change nothing,” and the other is labelled “change greatly.” We desire to take the “right” road, and if that is the way of change, well, it’s bloody terrifying and SOOOOO much easier to keep doing what we’ve been doing!

Yes, we want to take the right path. Sometimes we seem to be frozen particularly because some people aren’t getting what they want, and many are objecting to our 1994 statement of human sexuality. The current challenge to the post-1996 PCC status quo is timed after significant changes in Canadian Society where the courts, the legislatures and the executive branches of all levels of government are proclaiming same-sex marriage between two adults as legally equivalent to what has traditionally been defined as marriage.

This is all well and good for Casaer and for human rights and freedoms. But what does it have to do with blessing behaviours and relationships in the name of Jesus?
As a follower of Christ, I’m not concerned about changing or not changing. Of course, I have my own opinions and preferences and biases and comfort zones and things that I think I know better than others. But I don’t ultimately care one fig about all that stuff. (Although for a season, even for a long season of seasons that might amount to my remaining time on this planet, I’m quite capable of caring too much and constructing an idol around my concerns. Jesus, PLEASE smash our idols.)

I’m concerned with being faithful to Jesus, even if it means ‘hating’ the people that I love and for whom I wish well. Jesus himself uses that hard word we translate as ‘hate’ and people abandoned him because his demand seemed harsh. There’s a clobber passage I’m tempted to cut out. Hey Benjamin Franklin, lend me your pen-knife!

It’s not about changing or not changing, or the ease of doing things the way we always have.
The issue really is the following:

How do we hear from Jesus?

As for Remit b being only a starting place. Yes, okay. But refer back to my comments on that. Oi Vey, what a starting place. Because it does not logically parse, it can mean whatever we want it to mean. Thus, IT IS A NUCLEAR BOMB that blows away Living Faith and our ordination preamble and vows. We are in a situation like the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, where we are about to prove that white is black and black is white only to be killed at the next zebra crossing. God will not disappear

in a puff of illogic, but the Presbyterian Church
in Canada might explode.

What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
What does it mean to be Christ-centred?
What does it mean to honour God?

I’ve been reassured by a ‘traditionalist’ who was involved in the informal session that brought Remit B to the floor of the final exhausted, shell shocked, sederunt that those things are equivalent to my preferred phrase:

“Sincere Christians seeking to honour God.”

But, really, are they synonymous?
How do we know if the phrases are truly synonymous?

It strikes me that, despite the fact that Remit B provides an outright logical contradiction, it has the useful function of buying us time for sober discussion and prayer about a genuine way forward. However, it was not ready to go down under the barrier act. And yet, in its exhaustion and desperation, GA 2019 sent it down under the barrier act. And, however the Holy Spirit may or may not have been involved, God allowed it to be so, and it will turn out for our good no matter how bad it is.

Rather than use high faluting but meaningless theological language that calls on the persons of the Triune God, it makes more sense to me to use a more humble phraseology that is guaranteed to accurately describe our current situation. (Which seems to be, even if Remit B passes under the barrier act, a default Former Moderator’s Committee Option D).

Yet the explosion, the rupture, of our denomination isn’t even the real danger.

The REAL danger is around the question of How do we know what God is saying to His people. IF we can’t know that, then how do we even know that we are his people?

SB “Wow. I don’t mean to sound callous, but I imagine there was a similar passion when the debate was raging about ordaining women sixty years ago. To do so would shatter the reality of the Church as we know it… and it has…”

You don’t sound callous. Don’t worry about it.

I don’t agree with you that the decision to ordain women to teaching and ruling office “…shattered the Church as we know it…” for all that there were departures and passion around it.

The thing is, as much as one can get an idea of office out of the New Testament, one can place women in teaching and administrative functions based on EXEGESIS of scripture.

The exegesis of scripture that allows for the following:

1. abolition of chattel slavery;
2. ordination of women to teaching and ruling offices;
3. allowance for divorce and remarriage (in some instances, clearly adultery but possibly by extension, others related to violation of covenant)

is evident, and arguably better, than the exegesis of THE TEXT of scripture that was used to bolster the ‘outdated’ previous tradition.

Another way to put it is the textual arguments against chattel slavery, in favour of the ordination of women, and allowing remarriage of divorced persons is based on data in the text itself.

One does not have to break the canon or bring in extra-canonical materials in order to correct the previous tradition.

Experience, Tradition, and Culture are all secondary sources for doctrine and practice that provide context for exegesis from scripture. However, one can reach our denomination’s current doctrine and ‘best’ practice on all those fronts from scripture alone without exalting any source above the Primary Standard of the Holy Spirit speaking in the text of scripture.

There is a problem, however.

In these three cases, while the ‘goal’ of liberating slaves, ordaining women, and allowing certain divorcees to remarry can be reached exegetically, that is not what we have done as a denominational culture.

As a denominational culture, we have tended to approach these issues sociologically. While we have used scripture as a source, we have not used it as the authority. We have addressed our previous tradition according to changing Canadian social norms rather than according to a more accurate reading of the text of scripture and how it hangs together among the various ‘books’ of our biblical canon.

The results have looked the same as if we had addressed it from the text, but the driving spirit has been one of this age rather than the Holy Spirit speaking in scriptures. That driving spirit has been able to hide because the results are similar, but the attitude towards the text of scripture is not similar at all.

We have become sociological, not exegetical, beasties. We have learned to listen to the spirits of this age and are growing deaf to the Spirit speaking in the text of scripture.

AND now, with the social, emotional, relational pressure of Canadian Society having shifted towards practically requiring us to bless same-sex marriage in the name of Jesus or be ostracized as exclusive, homophobic, heteronormative JERKS, we are approaching the exegesis around homosexual practice from a sociological rather than an exegetical process.

And so we do things like play games with the Wesleyan quadrilateral where we incorrectly but conveniently assume that each of the sides or vertexes is equal in authority for discernment of the voice of the Holy Spirit and use arguments from Experience, Culture (including science (which by its own admission is provisional and ever reforming…seeing only darkly and partially through its instruments and philosophical world views….), and Tradition (well most of Catholic (Rome Included) Apostolic tradition is too heteronormative to be of use but we have some minority reports and ancient Queer traditions to attend to, maybe…we think…)

To trump the clear text of scripture, to call explicit passages clubs and to bend passages about love and inclusion away from their roots in Genesis and from their destination in Revelation, is EXACTLY the consequence of eating that odd fruit in the Sunday School story. We replace the word of God with our own Jaweh-independent wisdom. We make ourselves king in place of Jesus and we do what is right in our own eyes, and that leads us East of Eden into the realm of the serpent.

The vertex or side of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral that is marked ‘Scripture’ actually has primacy over Experience, Reason, Tradition and Culture….weird that….

{Wait that’s five vertices. Have we shifted from Wesley’s Quad to Jorna’s pentagram? ….dun dun dun…. I’m sure the pentagram is not original to me.}

God will always continue to talk to us. But HE does withdraw when we show continued unwillingness to stop and listen. God does not totally give up. But He does allow seasons of ICHABOD. He even allows genocide. He allows captivity and exile. He allows cherished institutions to turn to ash. He is not always an ‘easy’ customer. Jahweh is who Jahweh is. And Jesus is the full manifestation of Jahweh in human flesh. If we see the Son, then we see the Father. If we see our own reflection as we listen to the spirits of the progressive fashions of this age, do we see God?

God will talk. The very stones will shout out. The trees of the field clap their hands. The mountains shall sing for Joy.

The danger is not so much that God will stop talking, as that we will harden our hearts and not be able to listen to anything other than the sound of our own Experience, Culture, and Tradition.

Where is the Word of God? How do we know when we hear it?

As to loving our neighbours….

Every day we suck…. it’s impossible…only the life of Jesus in us can love our neighbours…we must become less that he may become more….

Can we love our neighbours by blessing something in the name of Jesus that Jesus does not actually bless? (For all that Jesus may bless many other things in our neighbours’ life, as he blesses us in so many areas, despite the fact that we are in process and still have stubborn antichrist darkness in some of the chambers of our soul, Jesus does not bless the sin.)

Is it really CONDEMNATION to withhold a blessing when Jesus does not bless? Would not a false blessing be condemnation?

Judge not lest we are judged…YES….this is about community discernment and honesty before God and one’s brothers and sisters….

Who says that homosexual activity necessarily in all cases leads to doomed to hell…does gossip or financial sin necessarily in all cases lead to damnation…

Sin comes from hell and leads to hell…we are dead in sin….

However, long seasons of sustained patterns of homosexual sin or any other sin do not NECESSARILY lead to damnation, since nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus. However, sustained patterns of sins ARE are manifestations of sin….

Sin is not so much our sins as it is our deadness before God, and the working out of our salvation involves a constant submission to Jesus. Some seasons of a saints life may look very very much like that of people in this world….but the life of Jesus in us will not tolerate the sinful nature…..He will deal with it…..IT is nailed to the cross and dead in Jesus, Who became sin for us….

None of this means that we must bless same-sex marriage in the name of Jesus because we ourselves struggle with besetting sins….

What does it mean to be a person?
What does it mean to be a gay person?
What does it mean to be a straight person?

Who told us whether we were straight or gay?

(Yes, I’m back to that pesky story of the fruit again…)

How do we KNOW anything when it comes to doctrine, ideology, language, ideas?

Yes, we struggle. The struggle is good. We struggle against the one who crippled Jacob’s leg even as He blessed Jacob and provided an example of those who take the kingdom of God by violence (as Jesus said, not a call to Jihad…but in need of competent exegesis. We need to be so desperate for Jesus that we press in and take His kingdom over us by force, as Jacob wrestled with the Man.)

And, yes, I am a divorced and remarried sinner who has sinned sexually….
None of my sin is blessed. None of my sins are blessed.
And really this whole issue is not about homosexual or heterosexual…
It’s about blessing, sin, and obedience, AND HOW DO WE KNOW what Jesus is saying to the saints?

It’s one thing for me as a sinner to say, “hey, sinner you stink! Go to hell! I don’t want to hang out with you because I’m a jerk who likes his own sin and hates yours!”


It’s another thing to faithfully proclaim what Jesus is actually saying….

HOW DO WE KNOW?

Remit B threatens to destroy the struggle

outright by allowing us to project whatever we want onto the will of God….

And I don’t know about you, but despite the fact that I don’t like reconstituted drink crystals…Jorna town would not be a nice place….and given my family connections, it might even be in the jungle….

Thank you, Jesus, that you are King, and we are not.

KRB – thanks for the tea sister, I’m parched!

I agree with your risk assessment of the dark spirit and the Holy Spirit. But its not really about false Christians or real Christians in leadership….

It’s about how any of us can be preserved from being false Christians….How do we really
know the voice of our Lord….

WE could just be playing arrogant games of churchy tiddlywinks and doing some good stuff in terms of keeping each other company and feeding each other….

That’s okay, but how is it from Jesus, how do we know?

How do we mitigate our risk to hedge our bets towards the Holy Spirit and avoid the dark spirits?

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