Emmaus News

June 1998
 

A Friendly Word

Greetings in the Lord,

I had promised an article on how many governments there are ultimately (only 1), and how many there are under that (4), but Lambeth has captured the day, and presents many issues which are worth discussing.

We will return to the number of governments quickly down the line, an issue of the highest importance as we face the 21st century. We are being forced, willy nilly, into a "global village". But Christians are, so far as I can see, incapable of even discussing the issues, most unaware that there are issues of monumental importance.

I had a wonderful stay in England, the first time in 34 years since 1961-64 at Oxford getting my doctorate on the relation between science and religion.

My first visit was with my niece and her family, with blues concert and fireworks. Also a day reminiscing in Oxford with the vicar and his wife, with whom I had spend many a Sunday serving the Lord at the altar, followed after a good dinner by some of the most stimulating conversations I have ever had. It was quite extraordinary -- we picked up right where we had left off, as though I had been away only a week.

Five days were spent at Canterbury reporting on the Lambeth conference. The final day I had a very quick visit in London with the person from whom (at Trinity College, Hartford, Ct.) I had learned most of the theology which has stood me so well over the years. And then a fast train ride, and one of those "O. J. Simpson" runs through Gatwick airport to get to the gate just one minute before departure -- only to find that the plane was delayed for three hours.

Had some near scrapes driving on the left side of the road, but no hits. Well, it was all fun.

In the following article, I keep to the social conventions, calling even those who are no longer Christians "bishops" if they have that position in the Anglican Communion. But I do not consider John Spong, Frank Griswold, or any person who supports homosexuality in principle to be in the Christian camp. As our own bishop, Robert Duncan, has noted, John Spong is no longer an apostle, having publicly renounced just about every Christian belief.

Faithfully in Christ,
Earle Fox

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Our Reasonable God

- Lambeth -

an Anglican Turning Point
 

- 1. The Conference -

The every-ten-year meeting of the Anglican bishops from around the world took place at Kent University in Canterbury, England, July 15 to August 9. It promised to be a turning point for the Anglican Communion, but no one was quite sure just which direction. It has become clear that the 3rd world bishops are the heroes. The American bishops were strangely silent, both "liberal" and "conservative".

(I put the words in skeptical quotes to indicate "pseudo-". Liberals who do not liberate, and conservatives who do not conserve. The quote marks may become a bit tiresome, but they are a way of quickly indicating a certain unsavory quality about an event or a claim.)

The American "liberal" bishops were silent, I assume, because they found themselves in an unaccustomed minority situation. The "conservatives" were silent perhaps because they had not yet found courage to speak out, having been so badly beaten down here in America. They are seriously in need of healing and repentance and teaching on how to win in the public arena.

Two issues quickly lined up. Homosexuality, as everyone expected, was contentiously first. But at the last minute as conference time drew near, the forgiveness of the third world debt also loomed large. (My analysis of this badly misunderstood issue can be found in the Lambeth Library. )
 

- 2. The Sexuality Resolution -

The pseudo-liberal bishops were leaning heavily toward the acceptance of homosexual "marriage" and the ordination of practicing and advocating homosexuals. Had the western bishops (including New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and America) been meeting by themselves, there would almost surely emerge an approval of homosexual behavior and lifestyle.

But it quickly became apparent that the 3rd world bishops were quite up to speaking out for what they believed -- namely Christianity.

Many of them called openly for repentance from those bishops who, having signed Spong's Koinonia document, stated thereby that they would ordain homosexual persons whether or not the Episcopal Church approved. Everyone knew that, of course, as they had been doing it for some time.

But this was a new environment for "liberals". They were not in charge. John Spong, their center-stage leader, admitted that they had only about 10% of the vote. Despite many attempts to create "dialogue-to-
consensus" rather than honest debate, the 3rd world bishops repeatedly stood their ground and refused to be drawn into a compromise.

Dialogue-to-consensus is a technique for engulphing your opponent in a marathon of discussion in which neither fact nor logic are allowed to prevail, only emotion. He wins who can outlast the other with manipulation and, when necessary, outright deceit.

But on the final Wednesday, when the vote came in on the homosexual issue, the Anglican bishops stood together and overwhelmingly voted in favor of the only logically acceptable sexual standards: one man, one woman, for life -- and celebacy otherwise.

Of 739 bishops at the conference, 641 turned out for the debate. 526 voted for the resolution, 70 against and 45 abstained. Nearly 100 did not show up for the debate. The American conservatives remained almost totally silent.

The "liberals" are already telling us that the vote was "only" on a resolution, not legislation (which is true), and that they will pay no attention to it. No surprise. They have been closet outlaws all along, with a strategy built on deceit and manipulation of language. (For a documentation of this, see on the Emmaus website: http://theRoadtoEmmaus.org/roadpgs/sex/gr_0.htm)

Spong admitted that he did not have enough votes even to submit a minority report. Pseudo-liberal responses to the Lambeth resolution nevertheless are coming thick and fast, some of them mean and ugly, as from Richard Holloway, Primate of Scotland, who says that the Anglican Communion has been "Islamified", i.e., become mindlessly fundamentalist, like those, he says, who refuse to negotiate. He accuses the rich American conservatives of having bribed the African and Asian bishops.

There will be a divided Church no matter who wins because the sides are irreconcilable -- not because of sexuality, but because we worship a different God.
 

- 3. Fair Warnings -

It was quite a resounding victory for Godly common sense, but the victory was far from clear for very crucial reasons. Neither the victory nor the arguments leading to it did much to address the underlying reasons why the west has gotten into this slough of cultural and sexual degradation. The level of thinking tended to be arbitrary and emotional rather than logical or factual, with very little attention being paid by either side to objective evidence.

On one side -- the pseudo-liberal camp insisting that truth can be ambiguous, or "pluriform", as Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold put it, and that we can have conflicting views on spiritual and moral matters. They do not really believe that -- as indicated by what they do when they get into power, namely everything they can to coercively shut down their opposition. The "liberal" movement does not liberate, it is totalitarian to the core.

On the other side -- a mixed bag of both silent and noisy conservatives. We clearly have a serious problem in the west in the area of courage, backbone, and understanding how to fight a spiritual war. It points to a spiritual sickness which has infiltrated nearly the whole of western culture. Westerners required the stout courage of the African and Asian bishops to speak for truth, righteousness, and love.

The 3rd world bishops won because they refused to be drawn into the "dialogue-to-consensus" process, and so remained essentially invulnerable to the machinations of the pseudo-liberals. They held their ground because they simply refused to treat homosexuality as a discussible subject.

On one level, that is perfectly appropriate. Those in charge of defending the spiritual boundaries of a Church (or the political boundaries of a nation) are not obligated to discuss with dissidents as though the dissidents were equally leaders in the community.

For example, a sovereign United States does not submit to the decisions of a foreign body such as the UN (e.g., that Yellowstone Park will henceforth be under the jurisdiction of the UN), nor does it invite members of that foreign body into Congress or to sit on the Supreme Court as we consider their requests. The foreigners wait outside while we discuss whether their case is correct. But in effect, that is precisely what both the Church and the United States have done with various issues. We have given foreigners a vote in community affairs, and sometimes a veto.

Any nation that does that has bartered its sovereignty away. Any Church which does that has lost its spiritual, moral, and intellectual integrity. The United States and the Episcopal Church have both been under attack by subversive elements who have insisted that they have authority to enter our council chambers and influence our decisions.

So the 3rd world bishops rightly identified homosexuality as a "foreign" entity, and refused to discuss it as a Christian alternative.
 

- 4. "Christian" vs. "True" -

The problem with that approach has been that it does not make a clear distinction between "What is Christian?" and "What is true?" They correctly pointed out that homosexual behavior is contrary to Christian faith and practice. But that does not in itself solve the issue of whether it is a true or false position. It is logically possible that the Christian interpretation could be wrong. We must first decide what the Christian position is. But then we must decide whether it is true.

So, while we should not engage within the walls of Christendom in a discussion of something clearly and universally condemned as unChristian, we can, and should, engage the opposition outside the city walls, as it were, to present our case that homosexuality is not Christian, but rather a very destructive lifestyle.

Americans, for example can discuss with the UN about whether it ought to control Yellowstone Park (which it now does...), but the UN does not rightly get a vote on the matter. They are not part of the decision-making body. That is the meaning of national sovereignty.

Likewise, homosexualists can present their case to the Church, but they cannot be a part of the decision-making body. They can have no vote on the matter. That is the meaning of spiritual and intellectual integrity of the Church. If they win their case by honestly convincing those in the Church, then well and good. But to allow them into the discussion as voting members leaves the Church with no boundaries whatsoever.
 

- 5. Religion "vs." Science -

So how do we go about forcing a reasonable discussion? We require those who propose a innovation to prove two things:

(1) that it is reasonably within the Biblical tradition (i.e., conforms to the Christian understanding of revelation), and

(2) that empirical evidence (the domain of science) shows that in practice, the innovation is consistent with good health and good relationships - as required by God.

The first requirement gets the discussion within the Christian context. If the innovation conflicts with Scriptural revelation, then discussion of the matter is not appropriate within the walls of Christendom. The 3rd world bishops were right on that.

But if the homosexualists could have shown (which they could not) that homosexual behavior was in fact a healthy way to relate sexually, it would have been much more difficult to sustain the Biblical warrant against it.

That is where the argument failed on both sides. Despite the massive amounts of medical, sociological, biological, criminological, and other evidence available on homosexuality, one did not hear a single word uttered (as reported in the press) about how terribly destructive homosexual behavior is to the homosexual, to his family and loved ones, and to society at large. That is without excuse, because co-author, David Virtue, and I mailed to each bishop present at the conference a summary of the evidence.

In short, we have not been able to bridge the alleged chasm between religion and science. We have acted on the nonsense that reason and revelation are opposed to one another. The result of that is that pseudo-liberals (who do not liberate) have been able to use a pseudo-science to give their cause a patina of respectability, while the pseudo-conservatives (who do not conserve) have successfully been made to look anti-intellectual, outdated, and ignorant.

God speaks to us directly (we call it revelation), and God speaks to us also indirectly through nature (the domain of empirical science). That is the clear understanding of both Scripture and common sense. God speaks only infallibly. When God speaks, there is nothing less than the fullness of truth about it, whether directly or indirectly.

That means that if we are reading nature correctly, and if we are reading revelation correctly, they will line up together precisely. It is not an abandonment of Biblical religion (as so many conservatives seem to feel) to pursue the empirical evidence, or to base part of one's case on that evidence. Science is not the handmaid of the devil, as Luther mistakenly said. Science is a gift from God. Clear, logical thinking is a gift of the Holy Spirit. All these work together to draw us closer to Him.
 

- 6. The Sword of the Spirit -

The danger of refusing to talk with homosexualists (as with some 3rd world bishops) lies in developing an arrogant, unloving spirit -- precisely what the homosexualists charge us with. We must agree to discuss with them. But we must learn the "rules of engagement". We must learn to implement the hard-won rules of due process, embodied both in science and in parliamentary procedure. These rules are designed to be neutral with respect to the participants of a debate so that the process of truth-seeking can be objective and fair.

The problem with homosexualists has not been that they want to discuss and dialogue. It has been that they have perverted the process, tilted the playing field, and deliberately distorted the outcome. Bishop Holloway says that his opposition refuses to negotiate. "In northern Atlantic countries we live in a post-traditionalist society in which you can't simply apply anything by authority. You have to offer reasons."

The bishop is either ignorant or dishonest. He declined to discuss the evidence with me at Lambeth, and shows no sign of honest intellectual engagement (see http://theRoadtoEmmaus.org/
roadpgs/episc/lambeth/). Both Biblical and empirical evidence, revelation and reason, are in full accord on the forbidden because destructive nature of homosexuality.

We must therefor learn to force engagement on the field of discussion with the two-edged Sword of the Spirit -- the two edges being revelation and reason. Those two edges of the Sword have been set against each other -- a strategy from Satan himself, who knows that if the Sword is ever united, he is done for.

The Sword of the Spirit is God's answer to the magical sword of in the myths of many cultures which made its wielder invincible.

The following lines should be memorized and used by every Christian:

We are on the opposite sides of xxx issue. But if the evidence shows that God approves of xxx, and that xxx is a healthy way to live, then I will stand with you. On the other hand, if the evidence shows that God does not approve, or that xxx is not a healthy way to live, would you not be willing to reconsider your position?

God bases His case on the evidence He can present us. That is what revelation is all about -- God presenting the evidence. So we have two choices before us. We can continue to hide from what God has been telling us about uniting reason and revelation, or we can create a one-two knockout punch by showing how the empirical sciences at every point support what we hear from God. Honest science cannot be used to do an end run around the law of God.

Conservatives "won" the battle at Lambeth, but the bigger battle remains -- re-welding the two edges of the Sword together and learning to use it in the spiritual war for the public arena. When we do, we will find legitimate liberals liberating, and legitimate conservatives conserving, both working together in common cause for truth, righteousness, and love.

So, Deo gratia! for the African and Asian bishops who refused to be pulled into the "dialogue-to-consensus" nonsense, and stood their ground on Scripture. Yet we must go beyond that to engaging the enemy on what he claims as his own territory. But God had already claimed it: "Come, let us reason together...." a policy based on fact and logic illustrated all through Scripture -- with no toleration of either ignorance or dishonesty. God calls us into discussion, offering a freewill covenant relation, based on full disclosure of terms and of all parties to each other. It is called "living in the light" and "the Kingdom of God".

We can continue to slip and slide on the slippery slopes of "dialogue-to-consensus", or draw the Sword, cut error and deceit from our midst, and free the way for truth.
 

Quote of the Month

"The hottest places in hell
are reserved for those
who, in a time of
great moral crisis,
maintain their neutrality."

- Dante -

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Copyright, Earle Fox 1998