I had an interesting conversation

I had an interesting conversation with a man seated next to me on one leg of my flight back to New York, yesterday. He noticed the book I’m reading (Easter) on my lap while buckling in and asked me about it. He went to Asbury Seminary and is now pastoring a “Missionary Church.” I’ve never heard of that denomination, although he said it is Wesleyan. Anyway, he asked me what I thought about the recent happenings within the Episcopal Church, which got us off onto a whole variety of topics, most specifically homosexuality and the Church’s response to the whole issue. He is opposed to homosexuality and the Church’s acceptance and inclusion of gays in relationships.
He made a number of statements that were typical (typically incorrect!), and a couple that I thought were interesting (although not unexpected). The statements confirmed that really there is no compromise between those who believe in inclusion and those who do not – the only thing that will change peoples’ minds is confronting, face-to-face, people who do not fit into their neat categorizations or stereotypes.
At one point, he said that we Christians get ourselves in trouble when we begin to use philosophy to explain our beliefs – he is apposed to Christians using philosophy. Of course, theology is simply the philosophy of God. I understand, I think, that he believes that relying too much on philosophical arguments will lead to relativism or disbelief.
He talked about the plain reading of scripture. I agree with the idea, in theory, but the problem is that the plain reading can only really happen in the original languages when they were written. When we get into the art and science of translating ancient languages into modern languages, we are engaged in interpretation. I can read an English Bible, but what I am reading is an interpretation, not the “plain” script of the original language. Moreover, of course, if depends on which English translation I read. I have read numerous times, which I really have to do some research to confirm, that the actual word “homosexual” did not appear in an English translation of the Bible until the mid-50’s. Before that, the world could not be found. The plain reading prior to the 1950’s would not have included the word “homosexual,” whereas the plain reading in various English translations after the 1950’s does. Finding the word “homosexual” in scripture is not the primary rational for the sinfulness of homosexuality, however.
Then, of course, he could not conceive that I have a high-view of scripture because I did not agree with him (and truthfully with the force of interpretative history and tradition of those few verses used to condemn homosexuals) on the meaning of the few verses or pericope that are said to pertain to homosexuals. Because I came to a different interpretive conclusion (not based on my own want but from study), I could not view scripture as authoritative. Because I did not agree with his interpretation, I was deceived or at least refusing to acknowledge the “plain-reading” of scripture. In his comments, he always kept coming back to his acceptance of scripture as authoritative, which I always had to remind him that I held the same belief. He didn’t believe me. He would allow for difference of interpretation with other things, such as between Calvinism and Arminianism, or between Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals, but not with the issue of homosexuality. To him, I am a biblical relativist.
He does not believe that conservative and liberal (the terms never fit and always confuse the issue, frankly) can remain in the same Church. Even as I tried to explain the ethos of Anglicanism – that despite the differences, there remains unity and an allowance for difference of opinion – he just didn’t get it. In order for the two groups to live in integrity, they had to split apart. Of course, it all depends on where one’s focus is directed. If there is a belief that Christ can be seen in others who disagree with us, then unity is possible. If there is an allowance for God to determine who is in and who is out, if there is an allowance for legitimate interpretive differences and a saying of “I don’t know for sure,” then there can be unity.
While I recognize that pride is an ever present companion, I am amazed at the self-righteous pride that has developed within Evangelicalism. Why do any of us think that at this day-in-age, that we suddenly have it all correct, when throughout the 2,000 plus years of Christians history, there has never been unanimity of belief! We don’t have all the answers right now, nor will we ever. We see in part, we understand in part, as looking through a glass dimly. Only when we are face-to-face with Jesus will we know. Why, then, do Evangelicals find it increasingly necessary to demand that they now know everything pertaining to God’s truth when that has never been the case throughout history?
I just don’t know where to go with all this stuff right now. There is so much more I need to know and learn before I can make any type of honest and legitimate argument.
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