Monday, July 7, 2008


I have not yet touched the Third Rail of Mainline Protestantism on this blog, nor do I intend to give it any sort of full treatment here; it is a subject I have given much thought to, not least because the many rifts it has caused in the Church are I think symptomatic of the more fundamental differences between the Christian and Modern worldviews. I would like just to post a few observations from a rather typical blog exchange I ran into today.

1. Some of the arguments of the blog entry linked to above rely on a proposition something like this: "Certain aspects of Jesus' teaching are historically bounded, and therefore can be discarded." This is an incredibly dangerous proposition because it hides behind it the great Platonic error, that the true person is bodiless, immaterial, and outside of history. To this the Christian replies that the truest existence, indeed the Existence by which all things exist, became flesh and walked about on the earth. It is perhaps the most important thing theologically to come to terms with the fact of the Incarnation. A human being like us all, Jesus existed in his historical context, spoke the language(s) he spoke, knew the terms he knew, and yet we Christians confess that he, body, historicity and all, was the Word/Reason/Discourse (all meanings of the Greek 'logos') of God, and that it was not through him but in him that God acted. To begin to explain away teachings of Jesus by appealing to the 'true' message buried beneath all the inconvenient materiality is a very tricky, if not altogether pointless, enterprise.

2. Beneath the blogger's 'love ethic' lies another troubling assumption, which he shares with many, if not most, namely, that sin exists only as a series of discrete moments where we made the wrong choice. Even before we would get into the matter of 'something is wrong only if it hurts someone' (or, as I call it, dripping with scorn, Enlightenment Bourgeois Individualism 101), this assertion is problematic. Under this framework, the Christian needs only to make the right decisions to avoid all sin. Put another way, the human being is sovereign over vice and virtue, even if he is rather silly and often makes the wrong choice; the human being, qua human being, is sinless, and spotted only by his mistakes. Yet such a view hardly accounts for the failure and mediocrity that comprises most of human life, or the immediate dissipation that follows hastily upon the glory of the rest. This fundamental inability to the do the right thing, this unreality and impotence of the human condition is the state of being (in Paul's words) 'under sin:' it is the ever present and essential way in which we as human beings fail to be the image of God we were created to be. It is an existence and not a choice.

This opposition is important because I have found one of the central lines against the sinfulness of homosexuality is that being homosexual is an essential part of a person's individuality, that to deny the expression of that essential character would be to deny the full and total existence of that person. But Christianity does not hold that, like a seed, human beings hold all the potential for their right existence within themselves, and require only the proper circumstances to grow, or that a person's innate characteristics are necessarily good. On the contrary, there is poison from the very birth, which is why Jesus taught that we must be born again (John 3:3) and must lose our lives to save them (Matthew 26:24-26; Mark 8:34-37; Luke 9:23-25). The certainty of death, the wages of sin, is not to be underestimated: here is a thing which human being will do, bar none; it is as essential as the breath and the heartbeat. Yet even death, the cap and captain of all the sin that is in us, will be overcome in the end if Christ is with us, and lie discarded like all the other essential parts of our current existence which do not conform to the image of God.