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Friday, March 24, 2006

A Touchy Subject

One of the most controversial responsibilities that we face as the Church is the task of administering discipline. Some say the idea is archaic while others won’t take part with an assembly that doesn’t demand strict adherence. There are presently many efforts under way to pressure the Church to fellowship actively practicing homosexuals and there are numerous arguments in favor of doing so. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but I take great pains to avoid pointing out anyone’s sin, as I believe that is not my place. You may also have noticed that I am very devoted to an ecumenical fellowship. I am offering my thoughts here in order to explain my beliefs concerning Church discipline in the hope that my position will not cause a division with my brethren who don’t share in my understanding.

Zeke at One for Truth first personally confronted me on this subject and we exchanged several Emails. Zeke and I fall at the extreme ends of this conflict but we have never let that interfere with our love, fellowship or respect for one another. I hope and pray that I can maintain my relationships will all my brethren who oppose my position. I felt that the exchange between Zeke and I clearly illustrates our opposing views and he was kind enough to give me permission to publish them here. I have debated for some time whether or not to address this but recent events seem to be pressing me to state my position.

The exchange began with a comment I had posted on Zeke’s blog. I have replaced his real name with his blogger pseudonym. Please feel welcome to challenge my thinking but I am only persuaded with scripture. If you do not believe the scripture is clear on this subject then feel welcome to offer your doubts. If you simply reject the scripture you are welcome to post your opinion but I cannot engage it. I intend to use your comments as the basis for future articles on Church discipline.


Kc wrote:

I suspect my previous comment taken alone could cause serious harm. By “this grace” I was referring to the implication that we as believers should overlook any sinful practice, meaning an unrepentant habitual sin willfully committed and defended as just by a professing believer. I know those who have read my writing are aware that I believe the grace of God, which is through faith in Jesus Christ, is more than sufficient to redeem even the vilest of sinners including child pornographers and me.I honestly strive to judge no one but myself and to that end my question persist. I am seeking your understanding of the scripture for our edification, not for the judgment of others however since it is off topic I will withdraw it here. Zeke I apologize for steering discussion away from your selected subject.

--
Posted by Kc to One For Truth at 10/18/2005 02:27:03 PM

From: Zeke

Kc, maybe I’ll just reply directly then. The scripture in 1st Corinthians where Paul lists those who are wicked (see chap 5): “sexually immoral,” “greedy,” “idolater and slanderer,” “drunkard or a swindler,” to which Paul adds to the list in chap 6: adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexual offenders, and thieves. Two issues arise out of this list: 1) who among us is free from sin of the heart and mind of all these sins? Not all but one or two, but all of them. 2) I have found in my research (and as a writer posted in this thread) that the original Greek for “homosexual offenders” is arsenokoitai, for which there is no clear translation. To assume that Paul meant all those who engage in gay sex may not be justified. It could well have applied to activities more specific and exploitative. See http://catalystresources.org/issues/222dodd.html. My point with gays is that it is not such a cut-and-dry case Biblically as a straightforward reading of Scripture would suggest as to what we are supposed to do with gay believers. Not with whether or not gay sex is sinful, which I think actually is pretty clear in that the only form of sanctioned sex, reading Jesus and Paul, is between a previously unmarried man and woman or a widowed man and woman. My conviction is that we enter into fellowship with them and allow the grace of God to prevail. Certainly, the course of the evangelical church has been just mad in my opinion. Destructive and reckless.

Casey wrote:

Zeke, thanks for the response and for sharing your understanding. With respect to 1 Corinthians 5 I'm concerned that if I strain at the specifics as to who Paul was referring to that I'll become legalistic in my approach when my heart tells me that what Paul was teaching is critical to the welfare of the Church. I do not find that he intended this toward an erring brother but to those who are persistent.
Plainly put I'm asking this; do you understand the scripture to teach any Church discipline at all?

From: Zeke

Of course, Casey... I just think that there is enough room for doubt with regard to sexually active gays as to whether we are commanded to exclude them from communion that I think the appropriate response is to engage and fellowship with them. Not to claim that there is no sin in it, but to fellowship with them as we would with divorcees and others who are struggling with other issues but sincerely seeking Christ. Obviously, child pornographers should be turned into the police let alone excluded from the communion table. That's a given.

Casey wrote:

Zeke thanks again. Then it comes down to defining "who" and "when" as opposed to "if". As I said before I honestly believe that is a personal matter in that we each have to answer to God for our decision. With respect to the determination of "who" we seem to agree concerning a child pornographer but again it seems you consider divorce and remarriage categorically similar to the act of homosexuality and in that we differ. I believe my reasoning varies because of my perception that divorce and remarriage are each singular acts and not persistent or reoccurring. In that light I can understand the struggle, as for myself it's settled by virtue of my own understanding of Romans 1.

I would appreciate knowing your conclusions on this. For the record was it not for my understanding of the scripture (not meaning my vast knowledge but my interpretation) I really would prefer to fellowship with all believers. That is much more in line with the desire of my heart. I am also very sympathetic to the plight of anyone overtaken in a fault as I find myself there more often than I wish. ;-)

From: Zeke

Yeah, that's the whole point. Why not assume, so that you can better understand them, that gay believers can be sincere and worthy of fellowship with? Why not trust God and grace on this issue?


Casey wrote:

Zeke,

I have studied and considered their plight. I cannot be empathetic but I assure you I am sympathetic, not only to them, but also to others who have deviant desires. My decision is not by virtue of any homophobia based on fear. It is by faith based on my understanding of scripture with particular emphasis on repentance, grace and judgment.

If I allow myself to become the judge of what is moral for others I open myself to the judgment of men. We will be judged as we judge. If I accept the judgment of God concerning this activity I am judged of God. While I agree that all immoral behavior is not clearly defined in scripture, the homosexual act is eluded to numerous times and specifically and clearly condemned in Romans 1. If I then give grace to any who openly defy God then I become their judge and a god to myself. Let them rather seek the grace of God, which is sufficient for their sin.

God requires repentance to obtain mercy and escape judgment. Repentance is not an act to itself, but is a change of heart, mind and will; in essence it is a new attitude. This attitude is reflected in the life of a believer by their behavior and they no longer seek to justify their sin but will strive to avoid it.

If one would then continue to justify their sin it is apparent they are unrepentant and their argument is with God, not me. I cannot justify myself, let alone them. As for me I must follow my conscience as His Spirit guides me in accordance with my understanding of His will in my life.

I have shared my understanding not to convince you to do as I do, but to help you understand why I do as I do. I do not condemn you in your search. I commend you. My real concern is involves the necessity of Church discipline and the way it is applied as many today seem to use it to establish their will by their own judgment in either condemning or allowing in the things they desire.

I very much appreciate the dialog and I do encourage you in your study.

Casey

Labels: , ,

25 Comments:

Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I believe it is a fundamental biblical principle that we msut separate from evil.

We have a clear scriptural duty to put away those who continue in sexual immorality.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

3/24/2006 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger curious servant said...

Thank you for sharing the dialogue.

Interesting reading.

3/24/2006 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

"I believe it is a fundamental biblical principle that we msut separate from evil.

We have a clear scriptural duty to put away those who continue in sexual immorality."


Do you mean all evil, or are you just referring here to sexual immorality? Are you saying that we should break fellowship with people who are divorced and remarried?

3/24/2006 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Divorce and remarraige is a complicated issue in which Christians hold varying views as to the circumstances in which remarriage might be justified.

If a couple were re-married and the assembly judged their re-marriage to be an evil, I think they might exclude them if their was no sorrow or recognition of their moral state.

I would not advocate making restoration dependant upon the divorce of the re-married couple. A further divorce would be only a further evil.

Nevertheless, the Scripture is clear that we are to 'put away that wicked person'.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

3/24/2006 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

I don't think divorce/remarriage is all that complicated. It is largely condemned by scriptural law. Not long ago, it was also condemned from our pulpits. That is, until it came home to roost in our churches. My own pastor was such a man until one of his daughters separated from her husband in what looked like an impossible situation (that did NOT involve infidelity). Suddenly, the pastor came up with all sorts of rationalized arguments supporting the dissolution of the marriage. When people we love are involved, then suddenly, we're not so quick to want to send everyone to hell, and rightly so, I think.

I have observed a few very conservative men who are active in ministry, and who have been confronted with a son or daughter who struggles with sexual identity. While once these men preached hard against "those dirty sodomites," I notice a marked change in their approach to the subject. It's as if they say "I know this is wrong, but I love you too much to cast you aside."

I think too many Christians have a "head-knowledge" of grace, but in practice, fear it looks like excusing sinful behavior. Not so. Not so at all.

I don't excuse sexual sins, but neither am I willing to exile my brother who is stuck in a battle to find congruence between his faith in a Christ and his orientation.

I think a discussion of church discipline ought not only to focus on sexuality. Gossip, rebellion, pride and religion are all far greater threats to the Body of Believers than sex.

Thanks KC and Zeke for your love as well as your candor.

3/24/2006 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger Hugo said...

I think many times we tend to focus exclusively on sexual sins. If we are to "seperate from evil" then we should not have fellowship with those who harm the environment, or with those who are economically unjust, or with those who are not peaceful, or with those who are not kind, or with those who are not Christian . . . it just seems to lend itself to a Christian elitism. On teh other hand, Jesus always hung out with the sinners of his time - I think Christians could learn much bu emulating both his actions and his teachings :-)

Blessings & Peace,
Hugo

3/24/2006 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Well, Hugo, Jesus gave unambiguos teaching about excommunication from the assembly.

'Harming the environment' would be difficult to make a matter of church discipline because of the necessary scientific questions involved in determing responsibility. I suppose a man who dumps rubbish illegally ought to be put out.

'who are not peaceful' I am not sure quite what you mean. If a believer is violent and abusive, then, yes, Christian should keep no company with such a person.

Assembly discipline is beneficial to the person invovled if it is carried out rightly. The guilty individual learns the severity of their sin and their need to repent, like the one that Paul delievered over to Satan.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

3/25/2006 05:29:00 AM  
Blogger nathaniel adam king said...

Hey, remember when we were discussing Spurgeon and Calvinism?

I just commented upon my blog, but thought I'd say it here so that you would definately see it:

Kc, I just ran across this quote from Spurgeon:

http://fide-o.blogspot.com/2006/03/do-not-cower-from-preaching-limited.html

That, I think, would be embraced by all Calvinist as a good description of Limited Atonement, even if the Calvinist (semi-Calvinist) does not believe it to be true.

3/25/2006 07:53:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

"Assembly discipline is beneficial to the person invovled if it is carried out rightly."

I agree. I believe that this is a primary intent of discipline, not so much the purity of the assembly. But it also occurs to me that such discipline tends to be less effective in contemporary church culture because a great many (majority, even?) of our assemblies do not place the very highest priority on community and relationship.

Without relationship, attempts at correction easily end at the beginning, when the offending party simply moves to the church across town. Without relationship, you have nothing to lose.

DF, can you point me to Christ's teaching about excommunication? Maybe it's because I'm only on my first morning cup of coffee, but I'm coming up blank. All I can think of is Jesus' warnings about religious people.

3/25/2006 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Matthew 18
'15 ¶ Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. Lk. 17.3

16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. Deut. 17.6 ; 19.15

17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.

18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'

3/25/2006 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

Of course. Thanks DF.

I think this passage is a good example of the relational nature of not just the gospel, but a healthy ecclesiology.

3/25/2006 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

I appreciate the thoughts from everyone and I think there are some excellent points here. I agree concerning that our focus should not be exclusive and especially not selective.

Whenever I talk with someone about Church discipline it almost always comes down to "what" is worthy of discipline and most want to base their arguments for or against discipline on moral grounds. This would require that we all agree concerning which actions are "good" and which are "evil". I don't think it's that complicated and I don't believe that is what the scripture teaches us to do. I agree with Dorsey that the point in discipline is relational but I think it not only applies to interpersonal relationships but also applies to our relationship with God as the Church. I think the model for discipline that we've been given, which Matthew pointed out, when properly applied will resolve every aspect of this issue.

3/25/2006 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger H K Flynn said...

I'm reading an excellent book called "Questioning Evangelism", where the author advocates using questions to "answer" people's sometimes hostile questions.

He has a whole chapter on homosexuality because the topic (and our supposed intolerance) comes up in evangelism, which has also been my experience.

It's important to be wise and compassionate when dealing with this issue, and with church discipline, but the church should ultimately have the backbone to maintain healthy boundaries with intentional evil.

Very helpful post :)

3/25/2006 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Jodie I would love to leave the topic of discipline for someone else because it can lead to division. I pray God will grant me the grace to present this in accordance with His will.

3/26/2006 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger Herobill said...

I really shouldn't but...

Zeke thinks a word pronounced "arse in coitus" has no clear translation!??

Seriously? ;)

(Does he need to look up "coitus"?)

PS: Forgive me, British ones... in the US it's not a bad word to type "arse"! :)

3/26/2006 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Hero Bill you're a trouble maker! Welcome ;-)

I sympathize with Zeke and with others who struggle to find God's will concerning our responsibilities to one another. It's difficult to say the least.

3/27/2006 03:51:00 AM  
Blogger Herobill said...

"Hero Bill you're a trouble maker!"

How have you been with me so shortly, yet you DO know me, KC? ;)

3/27/2006 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

hahaha HB blogerville is like a small town in some ways! Actually I'm counting on you making trouble. I'm glad you're here. ;-)

3/27/2006 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

KC, I like the answers you gave Zeke. For myself, I believe the Bible to very clear on this subject.

3/27/2006 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Oh, Hero Bill is making trouble here, too. :~)

kc,
Good post. Somehow, homosexuality is a sin that really does find a place of prominence on our lists. ... Perhaps because it seems to envelop people in its clutches. Church discipline in regards to this issue is very important - the goal of that discipline being to free the poor soul from the clutches of such a diabolical lifestyle.

(and to keep it from spreading to the youth of the church - or the weak.)

3/28/2006 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Gordon thanks for your encouragement. It's much appreciated.

Rose it seems to be the sin-o-the-day that's being promoted as okay but at some point nearly everyone trys to justify a sin in their lives.

(I'm tickled to have HeroBill commenting here. hehe)

3/28/2006 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger Zeke said...

Casey, your heart is pure in this matter to my eyes. If I were to be subject to church discipline I would want you on my jury, to be sure.

And Dorse, it seems more and more often these days I read what you write and say to myself, "that boy can think."

3/28/2006 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Zeke I feel the same way about you. ;-)

Dorsiesm seems to be on the rise in bloggerville! (grin)

3/29/2006 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Zeke said...

Heh heh... not sure any church jury would have me. I wouldn't get past the "Mr. Zeke, do you affirm that homosexuality is an abomination?" screening question.

3/29/2006 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Zeke, I couldn't even acknowledge the authority of a church jury. ;-)

3/30/2006 07:12:00 AM  

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