Thursday, 31 Jul 1997 15
(Below is a letter to an Email circuit following the 1997 Episcopal
General Convention. My concern is the failure of "conservative" folks to
step up to the plate with both truth and grace in dealing with the sexual
insanity abroad. Since then, David Virtue and I have written
Homosexuality: Good & Right
in the Eyes of God? the Wedding of Truth to Compassion & Reason to Revelation,
our vision of how to turn an absurd defeat back into victory. God
made His people to be the makers of history, not the victims of it.)
Well, some sparks have flown in our midst.
David Mills' article reflecting on the AAC (American Anglican Council - a conservative Episcopal organization), et al, it seems to me was essentially accurate. I had said to Jim Simons prior to the convention that although I very much valued the AAC's work at organization, I had doubts as to whether the AAC would know how to argue the case once it got to the microphones. (To be fair, I have had those same doubts about the Episcopal Synod of America, ESA -- which agrees with the AAC excepting that it believes that only men should be ordained -- and just about everybody who has been arguing the case.)
It appears to me that my doubts were justified. By "arguing the case", I mean learning how to put the revealed truth of God together with the empirical evidence. In 1988, copies of my book, Biblical Sexuality and the Battle for Science, were mailed to every bishop and deputy at Gen Con in Detroit. At Indianapolis, 1994, every bishop, and just about every deputy got copies of the summary of the evidence on homosexuality which Dennis and Elizabeth Kelly of the Christian Community of Family Ministry helped distribute far and wide. So far as I know, the evidence never, or only rarely, got onto the floor of the debate. That was a "conservative" failure, not a "liberal" victory. Why is that so???
Friends, God does not own only the "religious" part of His creation. He owns all of it, including the empirical circumstances of our lives with which scientists busy themselves studying. The empirical evidence is just as much a part of God's evidence and of God's case as is His revealed truth. God owns even those parts of creation that may be unpleasant to talk about.
The sword of the Spirit, the word of truth, has *two* edges. They are (1) revealed truth (truth which we can know only if God tells us) and (2) reason or scientific or empirical truth (i.e. knowledge we can figure out for ourselves without God telling us). Revelation and reason are the two edges of the sword. (Note: that is not quite a fair comparison since we must use our reason not only in studying the world, but equally in listening to God -- who speaks only reasonably. Indirectly, God tells us empirical truth also, because He is the original creator of it.)
The secular world has convinced us to divorce the two edges and to pit them against each other. It has taken the edge of reason and put it to the throat of the Church. That is absolute nonsense. It was God who invented the arena of reasonable discussion, not secular philosophers: "Come, let us reason together...." The theme is not much talked about in Scripture, but it is enacted time and again. E.g: I Kings 18 "How long will you go limping on two contrary opinions....?" Is. 1:18, Is. chaps 40-50, Micah 6, I Cor. 15 (on the resurrection), and many more. .Reason is *always* treated in Scripture with the utmost respect.. It is *never* disparaged. Faith is *not* contrary to reason. God is the only totally reasonable being in the universe, and He is trying to teach the rest of us how to be.
So we divorce reason from revelation at our peril. In any public debate, if they are opposed, reason will always be able to make revelation look (guess what..) un-reasonable. And since no one wants to appear unreasonable, we back off and ghettoize ourselves. Precisely what has happened.
What has that got to do with debate at Gen Con?
Well, suppose someone (or some small, well discipline, coordinated group) had persistently forced the issue back onto the facts (Biblical, medical, psychological, sociological, etc.) and forced discussion of the main issue (Homosexuality is good and right in the eyes of God -- T or F?) before allowing the Convention to go on to other issues. Why did we allow discussion of same-sex unions, etc, etc, before even having had an open discussion about whether God approved? Because the other side manipulated and out maneuvered us, and convinced us that it would be impolite to insist on it -- to our shame.
Suppose someone had asked John Spong, et al, "Do you mean to support a lifestyle that reduces the lifespan of its adherents by about 40% -- *before* AIDS is factored in? Do you really mean to advocate a lifestyle in which nearly all the participants are compulsively engaged in contact with human waste? Do you really want to reverse and cancel out the major cause of our gain in longevity over the last several centuries -- i.e. our understanding of human cleanliness and how to separate ourselves from our own waste? Do you suppose, Bishop Spong (it grates to call him a bishop, but for politeness sake....), that the clear and unambiguous condemnation of homosexual behavior in Scripture might indicate that God does not wish to inflict a lethal death-style on us? Bishop Spong, would you tell your child it was OK to play in the toilet -- if he found it fulfilling, and, of course, wore his rubber gloves?"
For reasons I only vaguely understand, this kind of not very "polite" case was never pressed. The discussion was carried on as though we were dialoguing with persons interested in the truth, who would be interested in fact and logic, and might even bring it up themselves. We are engaged with people who have either no concern or no capacity for truth -- so we must *force* the truth (fact and logic) back onto the table. That is God's way of debating: "Come, let us reason together...." No other table is worth being at. That is the nature of our present spiritual warfare.
The legislative case, is necessary and must be pressed. The laws and canons of the Church are relevant to our spiritual life. Our mistake is not in pressing the legislative case, it is doing it in a manner that plays right into the hand of the enemy, the prince of darkness.
We have been waving a rubber sword with our pants falling down around our knees. And the other side is laughing at us. I see no reason whatsoever to believe that the AAC or anyone else, unless the above principles are taken into account, will be able to win any ground back at the next General Convention in Minneapolis, summer of 2003. At one of the recent conventions, the pro-homosexual vote lost by only one vote.
However......., the last thing in the world the other side wants is to have the discussion forced onto the facts and onto logical reasoning from the facts. When it happens, there will be a firestorm, and then they will begin to lose, big time. When they finally get the truth, the public will not stand for such arrant nonsense, and have put up with it only because leadership does not tell the the truth in a compelling manner. Good stories with an emotional appeal are helpful only if they are illustrating some point that can be backed up factually and logically. That, after all, is part of what we *mean* when we talk about "objective truth". If we get our revelation and reason ducks in a row, we *will* topple the pseudo-liberal house of cards.
Cool Summer Blessings, Earle Fox
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