Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Diversity, not Jesus, Saves…Really?

Bishop JeffertsThe Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has denounced the Apostle Paul as mean-spirited and bigoted for having released a slave girl from demonic bondage as reported in Acts 16:16-34.

In her sermon delivered at All Saints Church in Curaçao in the diocese of Venezuela, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori condemned those who did not share her views as enemies of the Holy Spirit. You can read a report on Anglican Ink.

Is this an Episcopalian thing, or is it a woman thing? I am a traditionalist when it comes to women in leadership but anyone who knows me will tell you I am always ready to be wrong and I have changed my position on many things in my Christian life.

I am currently sharing leadership responsibilities  with men and women, elders and deacons, and, despite my reservations, I am learning from the experience. Then I read all out liberal heresy like this, which always seems to come from women or feminised men, and find myself agreeing with the remarks of Samuel Johnson:

"Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

It would be bad enough if she was saying this was her spin on things but others see it differently (indeed, this “interpretation” of Paul is so novel as to be fresh out of the box) But this bishop is effectively saying that her liberal agenda best reflects the heart of God. Most disturbing is the despotic tone in her words when she characterises dissenters as “enemies of the Holy Spirit.”

Surely, this is the Achilles heel of liberalism, which wants to embrace, promote and generally allow any and every view – except the view that disagrees with liberalism. Then the liberal becomes intolerant, uncharitable, chauvinistic.

There is plenty of good commentary on the bishop’s sermon as well as correct teaching on the text she mutilates. Timothy Fountain neatly explains the situation on Stand Firm the comments following his piece giving a flavour of the outrage of Christians who actually believe what the Bible clearly says.

A fuller explanation of the text as well as some wry comment can be found on the Not Another Episcopal Church Blog It always seems to come as a surprise to liberals that others may have actually thought about whatever the issue and come to different and often quite convincing conclusions. Rather like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, they believe they are the first to come up with an idea.

It worries me that people today go with what they feel rather than what they think about objective truth. People begin statements with, “I like to think of God as…” and then they put in whatever “feels” right. That is not how the Christian Church has operated for two-thousand years

Of course, there is and has to be interpretation. The Bible is not a child’s primer, it contains myth, parables, poetry,  laws, history gospels, letters, examples and warnings and cultural references we must strive to understand. But preachers, teachers, scholars, theologians and ordinary Christians have wrestled with these things over millennia and some pretty trustworthy commentary is available. You can’t simply cut out what doesn’t suit you, because it doesn’t “feel” right to you.

The Bible is perfectly capable of interpreting itself in most cases and those who help us with the more difficult passages must adhere to an already established orthodoxy. If we read our Bibles we will learn something of that orthodoxy and if we encourage each other in these things we will be in a position to “tell a hawk from a handsaw.” Otherwise these heretics will play on us any tune they please.

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