Theology Matters Jan/Feb to Nov/Dec 2011
The Priority of Authority: Holy Scripture and Human Sexuality, by Robert P. Mills. Mills is a PCUSA pastor and is currently teaching at LIberty University, Lynchburg, VA.
Author Robert Mills begins his article by quoting the common mantra of liberals explaining why there has been such division in the church over sexuality, “We all agree on the authority of Scripture. We just disagree about interpretation.” Mills then exposes the fallacy of this mantra saying, “It is the first half of their statement, ‘We all agree on the authority of Scripture,” that is so obviously absurd. For the chasm dividing evangelicals and liberals in their understanding of the authority of Scripture is, if anything, greater than that separating their interpretation of specific passages.”
Mills explains the church’s historic meaning of revelation and its relationship to Scripture, “Theologians use the term ‘revelation’ to describe God’s communication of divine truth to his human creation. A good, short definition of revelation is ‘the significant self-disclosure of God to man.’”
Enlightenment thinkers attacked the church’s doctrine of revelation because they rejected “supernatural revelation.” Mills writes, “Enlightenment philosophy is the source and substance of liberal theology. Rejecting as “unenlightened’ the very possibility of divine revelation, mainline liberals have followed Enlightenment philosophers in degrading the Bible from God’s self-revelation to a mere collection of human reflections on the religious experiences of certain groups of individuals. For such liberals, the Bible is not, nor does it contain, the Word of God. Therefore, it has no more authority than a novel or a magazine article.”
Historically, orthodox Christians sought to understand the original author’s meaning of the text becuase the text is the revelation of God, and then they applied that meaning to their situation. Liberals reject the text’s authority given by the Author. Instead, for liberals, the reader’s meaning, not the original author’s meaning, is authoritative. Whatever insight the reader gleans is authoritative for him/her, regardless of whether it agrees with what the text says. The shift is from the meaning of the text as a revelation of God given through human authors, to the reader’s meaning of the text even if that meaning is in direct opposition to the words of the text. The reader’s meaning is now authoritative.
Mills explains the result of this erroneous liberal thinking, “I once heard an Old Testament professor acknowledge that there is no question that the plain meaning of the Old Testament Hebrew is that homosexual behavior is sinful in God’s eyes. However he concluded, ‘The Bible is simply wrong at that point.’”
A Consistent Biblical Ethic by G. Thomas Hobson, Ph. D. Hobson is a PCUSA pastor and adjunct professor at Morthland College in IL. Hobson carefully explains the link between OT interpretation of the Law and the NT interpretation. Hobson writes, "In contemporary ethical debate, it is common to hear commands from the Bible being indiscriminately lumped together. We hear people say, “The Torahforbids homosexual behavior, but it also forbids wearing mixed fabric, and eating leavened bread during Passover. It’s all a hopeless jumble, useless as any reliable source of ethical guidance.” Many are those who claim that the Bible teaches no consistent sexual ethic, but endorses polygamy, concubinage, prostitution, and even incest." He continues, "Every Torah command that carries a death penalty, is reaffirmed by the NT as a binding moral principle. The NT does not command us to execute incorrigible teenagers, but it does affirm the command, “Honor yourfather and mother.” Commands in the Torah that do not carry a death penalty, such as the kosher food laws, are not reaffirmed in the NT, and may be taken as commands that are just for Israel."
A Letter from the Board of Directors of Presbyterians for Faith, Family and Ministry declaring that there are some doctrines present in the church which represent a counterfeit Christianity.
The PC(USA) Through the Lens of Jeremiah by Elder Lisa Van Riper, Board of Directors of PFFM. Jeremiah spoke strongly to the false prophets of his day. There are many lessons to be learned for our current situation in the PC(USA). p.l 4
Ambassadors for Christ by Rev. Dr. Mark Atkinson, Board of Directors of PFFM. Atkinson examines 2 Corinthians to understand the role of the church and its leaders in this time of crisis. p. 7
The Counterfeit Gospel by Rev. Dr. Randal Working, Board of Directors of PFFM. Working looks at the source of this counterfeit Gospel which at its heart is a rejection of the authority of Scripture and a substitution of one's own experience. p. 10
Fight the Good Fight of Faith by J. Gresham Machen. This final sermon to the students at Princeton Theology Seminary in 1929 was a call to the students to stand firm and preach the Gospel against the tide of modernism which was undermining the authority of Scripture. p. 13
There is NO May/Jun issue of Theology Matters
The Board of Directors of Presbyterians for Faith, Family and Ministry held their Board meeting in early June to discuss their response to the passage of Amendment 10-A that removed the "fidelity and chastity" requirement for church officers from the Book of Order G-6.0106b. Their response to the action appears in the Sep/Oct issue of Theology Matters. Therefore, we did not publish a May/Jun 2011 issue of Theology Matters. Look for the Sep/Oct issue of Theology Matters to be in the US mail by the first week in August.
Suffering Redeemed: A Reformed Argument Against Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia by Rev. Steven D. Aguzzi, Ph.D. candidate, is associate pastor at Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian Church and instructor of theology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Aguzzi argues that "whereas Jesus worked to alleviate suffering, there was a kind of suffering which he modeled as a way of approaching death for those who were to follow him, this involves a lifestyle consistent with the surrendering of one's death to the will of God for the sake of a higher purpose." Aguzzi looks at Catholic and Reformed teaching on the meaning of suffering. He then examines the PCUSA 1981 document, "The Nature and Value of Human Life." Aguzzi concludes by looking at the "Redeemed Nature of Suffering and the Reintegration of Discipleship and Witness in the Reformed Tradition by examining Paul's writing in Scripture and Calvin's view of discipleship. "According to Calvin, it is not the hastening of death that brings healing, but God, who '...confronts us and subjects and restrains our unrestrained flesh with the remedy of the cross.'" p. 1
Position Statement on Euthanasia by Presbyterians Pro-Life, p. 10. Their position is based on Scripture and concludes that Christians should act to alleviate suffering, but not at any cost. "Christians must follow their Master in humbly serving those who suffer and acting to alleviate their suffering." They conclude, "as followers of Jesus Christ we cling to our hope that the Holy Spirit has given us a lively faith in our precious Lord, and that through His blood our sins will be forgiven and we will be welcomed into His glorious presence where there is 'fullness of joy [and]...pleasures for evermore.'"
I Want to Burden My Loved Ones by Gilbert Meilaender, reprinted from First Things Journal, March 2010, No. 201, p. 25-26. Having attended conferences on "advance directives," Meilaender has observed a common theme of people wanting to avoid being a burden to their children as they approach the end of their lives. So,Meilaender examines this fear head-on. He observes that being a burden to others is part of our claim upon each other. The question that caregivers must answer as they face the end of life of a loved one is not, "What would he have wanted?" but rather, "What can we do to benefit the life he still has?"
What Was Lost: A Christian Journey Through Miscarriage by Elise Erikson Barrett, p. 14. This is an excerpt from her book by the same name published in 2010 by Westminster/John Knox Press. While in seminary, Barrett experienced the loss of their unborn child and struggled with questions of faith when the God she proclaimed allowed this to happen. Her spiritual journey of searching for answers is comforting and revealing. She includes liturgies for memorial services for the child. And she has practical ideas of what people should and should not say and do. We encourage readers to share this book with study groups and parents who have lost a child before birth. Barrett is a Methodist minister.
Homosexuality and the Church: Moving Through and Beyond the Debate by Rev. W. P. Campbell, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Hendersonville, NC. Campbell challenges conservative Christians to continue to proclaim Scripture's call to holiness while also demonstrating God's love for gays and lesbians through ministry. At times, according to Campbell, evangelicals have failed to proclaim and demonstrate "the love of a Savior who leaves ninety-nine sheep behind to pursue the one." Campbell examines the ministry to sexually broken people that evangelicals often overlook; the barriers that must be overcome; clarity and complexity about change. He also examines the Debate: Our Tone: Our Perspective: Defending the Truth. Campbell includes a chapter from his recent book, Turning Controversy into Church Ministry: A Christlike Response to Homosexuality. Additional resources can be found at ChurchReflections.com.