Friday, April 16, 2004

Liberal Christianity

Old Post: My previous post was here.

John Zimmer at Letters from Babylon commented on my post on the progressive church:
I found the statements about welcoming those groups not traditionally associated with Christianity (like homosexuals) particularly notable. It seems to me that the positions espoused by these "liberal Christians" are born of a commendable desire to extend the love of God to all. Indeed, it is desirable for the Church catholic to be as welcoming as possible, just as Jesus was to the traditionally unrighteous people of his day, like the tax collectors. But how do we strike the right balance between the desirable unconditional acceptance of people and the diligent adherence to the teachings of Scripture (e.g., homosexual practices are sinful)? How do we make it clear that we strive for the holiness of God but also accept all people who, like we, are failing miserably in that pursuit?

Perhaps part of the problem is labeling in our minds some sins as more abhorrent than others. For example, we may not consciously hold the idea that homosexuality is a greater evil than pride, but we often behave as if we did believe so. We should denounce both with the same spirit.

I think it is true that we have a tendency to denounce certain sins as greater than others, and the actions of various Christians in regards to homosexuality has done much to hurt the cause of the Gospel. What caused Christians to take such offense at homosexuality was not the perceived abhorrence of the sin itself, but the desire to normalize it, to say that there's nothing wrong with it, that there is in fact something wrong with you for thinking there is something wrong with it. The homosexual movement has been quite successful in this effort, so that in Canada a pastor can be charged with a hate crime for publishing an ad saying that homosexuality is sinful.

But homosexuality is hardly the first or the last sin to be normalized. Certainly extramarital sex has long been so, and only "prudes" in "fundamentalist" churches say otherwise. And what of greed, envy, and pride, are we not so inured to the appeal to them in each television commercial that we rarely recognize the sin anymore? The Church has almost always functioned in a society that doesn't believe in the wrongness of the things the Church says are sinful, and in some ways I think it is better that way. In a society which agrees too closely with the Church, we're less likely to recognize those sins our society fails to recognize.

New Post: More above.

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