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Refusing To Talk About It, contd

October 30, 2010

Judy Stark just sent me this response to my earlier post about Bishop Spong stating that he refuses to debate the question of whether gay people should be fully included in the Christian church:

I suppose one would feel no need to continue talking to one’s opponents if one felt there were no credibility to their case.

For example, we no longer feel the need to put a Holocaust denier on the panel when we talk about what happened to the Jews in World War II. We feel no need to represent the views of white supremacists or slavery advocates when we talk about race relations in this country. Those positions have no intellectual or moral credibility.

Bishop Spong may have arrived at the point where he feels that opponents to full inclusion of LGBT persons in the church have no moral credibility. Others aren’t there yet. This is a hard issue for some and everyone is not in the same place.

The problem as I see it is that we are neither talking nor listening. We are yelling past each other; God’s on my side; anyone who disagrees is a moral degenerate or an oppressor. We name-call and demonize.

Meanwhile, outside the church this is less and less of an issue. People know gay people; they have gay friends and family members; gay people are prominent in virtually every field of business/the arts/whatever. We laugh with Ellen DeGeneres or Neil Patrick Harris. We respect Barney Frank for his legislative acumen. We cheer for gay sports figures. We admire the police chief in Tampa, a partnered lesbian. Day by day it becomes more and more of a non-issue. Except in the church.

What do the rest of you all think?

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Murray permalink
    October 30, 2010 10:21 am

    Proclaim the gospel of grace to the LGBT’s. Proclaim the grace of Christ to those who would exclude them from the church. Proclaim the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness to the those who militantly fight for their inclusion. Lord knows, they all need this and need it very, very badly.

    Then, after having done that, stand back and watch the Spirit of grace change everyone.

    This is absoutely the answer to this dilemma and yet it isn’t even understood, let alone tried.

  2. Betsy Reynolds permalink
    October 30, 2010 3:14 pm

    I agree with Bishop Spong. People are people, ALL children of God, regardless of sexual orientation. If some people are uncomfortable with that basic belief, then they have to deal with their own discomfort in their own way. There’s no reason to discuss the issue. What’s to discuss and what difference would that make, anyway? No amount of discussion dissuades prejudice and bias. No name-calling or demonizing…others’ sexual orientation is not only none of my business, it is a total non-issue as far as I am concerned.

  3. October 31, 2010 3:34 pm

    Hi Betsy,

    The Bible makes it clear that all are not children of God. We are born children of the devil until God adopts as His child (John 1:12-13). It’s also clear that unrepentant homosexuals are not born again (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). You can go on in your own thinking or you can submit to the teachings of Christ.

    That being said, I hope that God does grant Mr. Spong and all other homosexuals and heterosexuals repentance.


    • jamiemcelroy permalink*
      November 1, 2010 1:58 pm

      Hi Bill,

      Where does the Bible make it clear that we are children of the devil? I’ve studied the Bible for years and never has that been made clear to me.

  4. Betsy Reynolds permalink
    October 31, 2010 9:47 pm

    Bill who?

  5. Murray permalink
    November 1, 2010 2:10 pm

    I don’t really like the line of argument that Bill is taking, but he might be referring to the following where Paul does seem to be indicating that we had the nature of the devil before becoming Christians and in which he calls such people “sons of disobedience” and who by nature were “children of wrath”:

    “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Ephesians 2:1-4)

    • jamiemcelroy permalink*
      November 1, 2010 2:26 pm

      Okay… But even if I were to go along with the idea that that line is, indeed, meaning to assert that we are all children of the devil, there’s the fact that that line is rather isolated in our Christian scripture. In fact, Ephesians is considered by the majority of modern scholarship to have not been written by Paul, but by a later writer writing in Paul’s name who hoped to make the growing Jesus movement more palatable in the Greco-Roman world.

      And then you have to look at that line up against all the times in which Jesus refers to God as “your Father,” plus the creation stories in which God is described creating humanity and seeing that that creation is “good.” So it seems quite a stretch to say that the Bible views humanity as children of the devil. Whereas the Bible refers to humanity again and again as children of God, and as the “good” creation of God.

  6. Murray permalink
    November 1, 2010 2:38 pm

    Well, duh, of course humans were children of God at creation.

    The question is whose we were after the fall.

    Paul also says in Colossians that we were delivered from the kingdom of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son. (Colossians 1:13)

    Looks again as if we were under Satan’s control without the work of the cross to bring us to a place of safety in Christ.

  7. jamiemcelroy permalink*
    November 1, 2010 7:03 pm

    According to Jesus, when addressing the crowds and disciples before him, God is “your Father,” and that was, of course, in the era of history (in which we continue to live) Biblically known as “The Fall.” Indeed, in the only prayer that addresses God contained in the Gospels, Jesus teaches to address God as “Our Father.”

    Also, in quoting Colossians, like Ephesians, you are–according to most scholars–quoting deutero-Paul, not Paul. If you’re curious about the questions around authorship of the letters attributed to Paul, check out this fairly balanced wikipedia entry:

    (I say “balanced” because I would argue that the debate over the authorship of the deutero-pauline letters has reached a greater degree of consensus (that Paul was, in fact, NOT the author of Ephesians, Colossians et al) than this entry states.)

  8. Murray permalink
    November 1, 2010 7:42 pm

    Ok, since you are so dismissive of the Epistles and question their authorship and their canonical validity, let’s deal with a time when Jesus Himself was not willing to say that certain individuals were children of God, but of the devil.

    “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”

    They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”

    Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.”

    Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”

    Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

    But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:37-47)

  9. November 2, 2010 11:42 am


    You’re kidding, right? Why do you bother reading the Bible if you’re going to pick and choose what you like? Jesus’ sheep listen to His voice and follow Him (John 10:27).

    Maybe 1 John is acceptable to you?

    1 John 3:10, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”

    And did you bother reading the verses I already quoted to you?

    I could quote many more verses, but I’m not sure whether they’re landing on deaf ears. the gist of it is that all who are not born again will end up in hell, because God is just. We will give account for our sin or we can submit to Christ and He will pay for our sin. Either way, every single sin must be accounted for.


  10. Murray permalink
    November 2, 2010 12:56 pm

    In any case, the Bible is not unequivocal about everyone being a child of God.

  11. Murray permalink
    November 3, 2010 10:23 am

    But, as I said in the beginning, the answer to this divide is for all parties involved to become more deeply saturated by and immersed in the gospel of grace.

    The fact that nobody commented on that is demonstrative of the tragic dismissiveness towards grace that exists in the church today and also of ignorance of the proven effects grace always has in the hearts and minds of those who would look into it and embrace it as it is taught in the Bible.

  12. Murray permalink
    November 4, 2010 12:29 pm

    Ha! Grace shuts them up every time!

  13. jamiemcelroy permalink*
    November 4, 2010 5:55 pm

    Nope. Not kidding. And I’m willing to engage the “children of the devil” idea as having a biblical basis. But I’d also ask you (Bill and Murray) to acknowledge the biblical basis of human beings as born children of God.

    Otherwise we’re just talking at each other, rather than with each other.

    But I realize that it is part of my reading of the Bible that it is full of contradictions like that. And you two may wish to read the Bible has having a completely unified message and so may not want to acknowledge those sorts of contradictions?

  14. Murray permalink
    November 4, 2010 7:54 pm

    I assume the Bible correctly names those who are children of God as such and is likewise accurate as regards who it names as children of the devil.

  15. November 4, 2010 11:26 pm


    With a surface level understanding of the Bible, you can find many contradictions. Are you content with a surface level understanding? It seems that’s what you’re advocating. I know of zero contradictions in the Bible, because if I happen upon something that appears to be a contradiction I study that topic more. It has always turned out that God’s word is right and my evil heart is revealed once more.

    It’s hard to understand where you’re coming from, as this discussion about children of the devil is Christianity 101. If you don’t understand it, I have serious doubts that you understand the gospel. If you don’t understand the gospel, you’re not really a Christian.

    As far as Jesus referencing “your Father” with the disciples, that is because they are children of God. They are believers. Unbelievers are children of the devil. God’s wrath abides on them (John 3:36). When they receive Jesus and believe in His name, God gives them the right to become children of God (John 1:12-13).

    Are you right about this, or is God’s word? What knowledge of spiritual matters do you posses apart from the Bible? Who are you to stand in judgment of it?


  16. jamiemcelroy permalink*
    November 5, 2010 2:21 pm

    I’m not sure discussing these questions with you, Bill, is something that’s worth continuing. But since the whole topic of this post hinges on the question of trying to talk with those with whom one disagrees–something I preached in favor of in my original post on the subject–I’m going to try to walk the walk and explain why I’m not finding this conversation productive. Then we can see if we can’t make it more productive for us to interact.

    Your posts all contain your opinions about the Bible and what it says and what it teaches. I have opinions that differ from yours but I am genuinely interested in your opinions too–largely because I believe that by talking with others about their views of scripture and sharing my views in turn is one of the ways I grow in the knowledge and love of God. I believe that scripture can be a window through which we can glimpse bits and pieces of the mystery of God’s presence in our lives and God’s call to us to live our lives as best we can in accordance with God’s will. And I believe that I can best glimpse those bits and pieces of the mystery of God through scripture by discussing scripture with as many other seekers as I can, including (or even especially) those who see things that are very different from what I see in scripture.

    All that said, I find it difficult to respond to your opinions about scripture when those opinions are mired amid ad hominem attacks on me and others who see things differently from you. You seem less interested in explaining your understanding of scripture than in putting down those with whom you disagree. When you write stuff like, “You’re kidding, right?” and “Who are you to stand in judgment of [scripture]?” and “Are you content with a surface level understanding [of the Bible]?” you do nothing to advance or explain your point of view, and you alienate me and others who may share some of my perspective or who simply believe that kind of talk to be lacking in civility.

    So I’d ask you to interact with me respectfully if you want to interact with me at all.

  17. Murray permalink
    November 5, 2010 3:43 pm

    Jamie, you make yourself look a bit fragile here. You may not like some of the things Bill said, but it’s within your power to ignore the parts you don’t like and seize the points he made that interest you and explore them however it suits you.

    We wouldn’t have many conversations if we insisted on the other person talking to us in a way we’d prefer. In a sense, it’s almost like you’re trying to control both sides of the discussion. I believe that if you focused on making the most out of it when it’s your turn, what the other person said wouldn’t matter so much to you.

  18. November 6, 2010 1:45 am


    I heard someone tell a story and I’ll do my best to repeat it faithfully. A baby boomer is the helmsman on a ship (This may sound like the start of a joke, but don’t get your hopes up) and the first mate runs up to the helmsman and yells at him to turn the ship, because there is an iceberg ahead. The helmsman says, “I don’t see it; are you sure?” The first mate yells at him to turn the ship and the helmsman turns the wheel, because he’s concerned for the safety of those aboard.

    The second example involves a helmsman from Generation X. When the first mate yells at this second helmsman to turn the ship, the helmsman will say, “Are you saying, I’m a bad helmsman?”

    First mate: “No, there’s an iceberg ahead, turn the ship or we’ll all die.”

    Helmsman: “Your anger is hurting our relationship.”

    The first mate gets in this guy’s face and says, “Turn the dang ship!”

    Helmsman: “Now you’re invading my personal space.”

    The point is that there’s either an iceberg ahead or there’s not. There has been a shift in the way these two generations think, and Christians should not be concerned with themselves, but with the truth.

    Either there are people who are children of the devil or that’s false. You don’t have to like me. You just have to defend what you believe. Don’t you think there are important consequences as to whether you’re right or I’m right? Stop worrying about our relationship and how we interact and stand up for what you believe.

    I think the problem with this country, and particularly with the Christian church in this country, is that the men aren’t behaving like men. Too many men are worried about their feelings. Christianity is not for sissies. It’s where men behave like true men–Godly men. The truth is the truth even if it’s not pleasant. Most of the time it’s not pleasant.

    So if it’s so obvious that every human being is a child of God, you need to love me enough to speak the truth. It might be painful to be wrong, but the truth will set me free.


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