The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia sponsored a conference on homosexuality, which, all things considered, brought the issues to a head as well as they have been so far. But in doing so, also pointed out precisely why we have gotten into the unbelieveable mess we are in. If the Biblical people will come to understand the principles of public debate, and stop kowtowing to the opposition's deriding of honest debate, the forces of truth and sanity will again begin to win this war. Below is my assessment of the incredible situation we have put ourselves in -- and of the way out.
1. A Conference
2. Trashing the Crown Jewels
3. The Inevitable Conflict
4. Dialogue to Consensus
5. "...It's All That I Know."
6. The Forbidden Tree
7. The Tree of Life...
8. ...and the Sword of the Spirit
9. Creating the Honest Table
1. A Conference
Faith and Futility -- So reads the title of an article by the Rev. Elijah White (Foundations, Nov./Dec. 1997), reporting on the "Burning Issues Conference" on homosexuality sponsored in December 1997 by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
The conference consisted of four "presentations" by two persons defending homosexuality (Louie Crew, professor of English at Rutger's, and the Rev. Gray Temple, rector of St. Patrick's in Atlanta) and two defending the Biblical view of sexuality (Bishop James Stanton of Dallas and Diane Knippers, president of IRD - Institute for Religion and Democracy).
The discussion brought to a head The Major Issues concerning what is happening all around us, and highlighted the very reasons why we are in our present absurd predicament.
"Faith and Futility" -- the question is: How do you tell which is which?
If the newly installed Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold, is correct, that truth is ambiguous and not clear, and if the primary pseudo-liberal ground rule of discussion is valid (that each person's view is valid for that person), then there is no way to make any rational distinction between faith and futility or between truth and falsehood.
One gray fog, after all, is indistinguishable from any other gray fog. We experience life as a moral, spiritual, and intellectual "gray-out", with a consequent scramble to find some meaning and to enforce some control. If life really is fuzzy and ambiguous, then we are cast onto a sea of chaos from which there is no redemption other than what the strongest can salvage by coercion, manipulation, and power-struggle.
As one university student put it in a discussion on relative truth: "If truth is relative, what are we doing here?" If truth is relative, why are we paying enormous amounts for tuitions, housing, and books? If truth is relative, then the opinions so freely given at the local bar are as valid as those costly but supposedly educated opinions in our schools. So yes, indeed, "What are we doing here?"
And, if there is no objective and discernible truth, then might indeed makes right. There is nothing else left to make it. Where there is no natural order, the only order remaining is an imposed order.
The Rev. Mr. White tells the story:
This blue-ribbon assembly of activists did agree that homosexual issues cannot be resolved within normal Episcopal structures. "No conflict is resolvable at the level on which it is waged," Temple declared, "so we have to ask God to lift us to a higher level. Adversarial processes are inherently irresolvable," with which Bishop Stanton concurred: "I don't feel we make progress in legislative methods."
And a bit further on White conjectures:
Without any effective general agreement on how to determine the will of God, the church as a whole must be subject to the will of whoever had the most votes at the last General Convention.... (For this we got free from an infallible Pope?)
The four panelists in Virginia faced up to the key epistemological question -- on what basis can I say that I know what I say that I know?
To Temple, "God has brought me to accept" faithful homosexual relationships as Christian. Mrs. Knippers drew wistful laughter when she declared that "I don't do questions with the word 'epistemological' in them."
Stanton, with Knippers, held that God has given us is His purposes to follow, and that we are not to make up our own. The autonomous self is the problem, not the answer.
"But I must tell you my story," responded Crew, "because it's all that I know.... Our job is to love the world, not to judge it."
2. Trashing the Crown Jewels
Western history has two crown jewels: (1) scientific method, and (2) due process in civil government, i.e. a democratic republic.
Nearly the whole of western history could be written around the struggle to find the answer to that epistemological question to which Mrs. Knippers refers: How do we know? And to the two primary questions of law: What is righteousness? and, How do we administer righteousness in the public arena?
Both of those crown jewels are all about the very process which both sides of the discussion apparently agreed was not the way to resolve our conflicts, that is to say, an adversarial contest to see who has the truth in the matters at stake.
The contest need not be adversarial in a hostile or cruel way, but it is by nature adversarial. There are differing positions about the issues of life, and people hold those positions with great vigor and passion. To think that we are going to change that is simply foolishness. The only way that can be done is to immasculate and neuter truth so that it is unimportant. And that is precisely what the pseudo-liberals have done.
Honest liberals have intellectual integrity. They seek to liberate people by a pursuit of truth, but they do so in concert with truth that has stood the test of honest investigation and honest living. Pseudo-liberals, on the other hand, no longer liberate by the pursuit of truth, but rather seek to liberate us from truth -- which they consider a bondage. Pseudo-liberals merely want to feel good, not pursue truth. So discussion at "the table" is not a pursuit of truth, but an attempt to balance the forces by getting them to neuter each other. It is called "dialogue to consensus".
Honest conservatives also have intellectual integrity. They understand that the human storehouse of truth has been garnered at extraordinary cost over many generations, and they are not willing to have it trivialized. Pseudo-conservatives, on the other hand, believe that, yes, there is a truth, but that they have it all. They believe themselves infallible.
Our present furor of confusion which passes for debate is largely a contest between the pseudo-liberals and the pseudo-conservatives -- who by nature cannot discuss rationally with one another.
Intellectual integrity means having a desire for truth even at the cost of allowing that one's own position might be wrong. It means allowing that there is a truth to be gotten, and that by careful observation and by careful reasoning from our observations we can begin to approach the truth in a reasonable and public manner. Any person who does not hold himself to that discipline will have a hard time explaining how he has an honest concern for truth, i.e. that he has intellectual integrity.
The pseudo's on either side are lacking in intellectual integrity and
have no right even to enter discussion of public policy -- which will effect
the lives of countless millions of persons who cannot be there to defend
themselves against such nonsense. The pseudo's, both liberal and conservative,
are trashing the very foundations of western and, ultimately, Biblical
civilization for a poisonous pot of message.
3. The Inevitable Conflict
Where logically irreconcilable views are being discussed, there is always a "contest" in which there will always be winners and losers. The question is not whether there will be winners or losers, but rather whether there will be gracious, truth-seeking winners and losers -- persons who have disciplined themselves to the pursuit of truth by the neutral rules of the game.
The glory of scientific method and of a democratic republic is that both processes have discovered, to a degree hitherto unknown, those neutral rules of due process by which the truth of a matter can indeed be discovered. Or at least has by far the most likely chance of being discovered.
Football teams know that on certain occasions, poor teams beat the best in the league. But everyone understands that when the rules are followed, in the long run the best teams will emerge at the top. The seasons run long enough to satisfy that need. People trust the process because they know that the rules are designed to be neutral with respect to the teams and to provide precisely that test of skill which will allow the best to emerge at the top.
The rules are neutral -- you cannot tell which team will win by reading the rules. You just have to let them have their contest. It is inherently adversarial, but with mature, graceful men or women, the teams leave the field still friends (as recently displayed by the losing Super Bowl Green Bay Packer quarterback).
The fact is that there is no way to solve our problems other than by an honest contest of truth-seeking. So it does not help the matter to agree with pseudo-liberals that "adversarial processes are inherently irresolvable", or that we cannot "make progress in legislative methods". The problem is not the nasty process which creates winners and losers, it is rather the immaturity, ignorance, or evil-mindedness of those in the contest.
Legislative method, as understood in a democratic republic, is a method of discerning the truth about those two basic issues of life: What is righteousness? and How do we administer righteousness in the public arena?
Creating good legislation always requires a discernment between truth and falsehood, and that makes it inherently adversarial.
In a football game, there are referees to deal with rule-breaking behavior. Refereeing religious or other public discourse is not so clear-cut because the authority structure cannot be so neatly packaged as in a sport. But the principles are much the same. The public, in the end, becomes the referee at the voting booths. And if worst come to worst, on the battlefield.
An honest discussion between parties who are both seeking the truth
of a matter is a sustainable relationship because the loser plays the role
of the "loyal opposition", understanding that losing does not mean being
shot at dawn, or exiled from the covenant and community relation.
soon as one party or the other undercuts the rules of honest discussion and
tries to control the outcome dishonestly, then the matter is cast into spiritual
warfare. Someone should go to the penalty box. Subversion of
truth is the fundamental sign of evil-mindedness
and of rebellion against the God of truth (as per Romans 1:18).
4. Dialogue to Consensus
The "dialogue" process has western roots in Hegelian dialectic and the earlier writings of Nietsche who "announced" that we had killed God. With all moral and intellectual anchor point gone, Hegel then "invented" the dialectic process in which thesis is opposed by anti-thesis, resulting in a new synthesis.
By itself, of course, that is a rather ordinary description of a rather common sort of process. But the postmodern twist has been to factor out fact and logic from the equation so that there is only feeling and coercive force remaining in the contest.
The result in western civilization, and then spreading around the world, was the insanity of Nazism paralleled by the Communist revolution in which truth was just another tool to manipulate for one's own advantage.
Hegelian dialectic, however, was just a reinventing of the pagan wheel. The ancient Hindu classic, the Bagavad-Gita, is the story of the warrior Arjuna's discussion with the god, Krishna, over the situation before him. Arjuna was leading an army (thesis) against another army (anti-thesis) which contained many of his beloved relatives and friends. Arjuna questions: Why am I doing this? Why should I seek to kill those I love? Krishna advises Arjuna that life is full of such situations of life and death, but that the meaning of life is to fulfill one's own destiny (his to be a warrior) so that the cosmic process of ever evolving life can continue. Always a new synthesis out of the pain and brokenness of human conflict.
What, then, might be the "higher plane" to which Gray Temple wishes God to call us? It is none other than the Hegelian/Hindu/pagan way of life which meanders on, devoid of fact or logic, through the current chaos to just one more stage of chaos. It does not matter where you are going, only that you go, with as little pain as possible. If there is no clear truth, then there can be no clear goal. The goal in the midst of the never ending emergence of thesis versus anti-thesis is yet another synthesis. Yet another easing of the pain of conflict -- leading only and forever onto the next.
Dialogue to consensus (in this now common sense of the phrase) is not a scientific technique arising out of honest study of human nature, still less of honest theology or philosophy. It arises specifically out of the secular/pagan worldview which has no grasp or understanding of the objectivity of either truth or morality.
The higher plane is currently the "table of discussion" at which one is invited to "dialogue to consensus". Normally conservative leaders (perhaps with an honest desire to be fair and hear the other side) are regularly seduced to that table because they do not themselves have a grip on the epistemological question. Perhaps they may not know how to "do questions with 'epistemological' in them". They do not know "how they know", so they are vulnerable to the relativizing of their own beliefs -- by just such claims as that by Gray Temple that "adversarial processes are inherently irresolvable".
About five years ago, I and about fifteen other Episcopal ministry leaders spent nearly a whole day at one of those "tables" with Edmund Browning, then Episcopal Presiding Bishop. For about six hours, Browning successfully steered us away from any substantive issues, and kept us talking about "how we could be helpful to one another." Sadly, though many of us knew that we were being manipulated, none of us had the courage to call the PB openly on the carpet for distorting the conversation, so he got away with it.
The great fear of the pseudo-liberal is not that adversarial processes
are not resolvable, but quite the contrary, that they might indeed
be resolved. One has that fear only if (a) one is not interested
in truth to begin with, or (b) one knows that there is a truth and that it
does not support the view which one is holding. The pseudo-liberal does
not want the process to resolve because he knows that if that happens, his
game is up. And so he invents a process of subterfuge into which we are
all invited -- to keep us preoccupied with process rather than truth (truth,
of course, being the whole point and aim of honest process).
5. "...it's all that I know."
Louie Crew said, "But I must tell my story because it's all that I know."
That is, to be sure, a true statement, which gives it an air of legitimacy. But it is true only in a trivial sense. It says only that Louie Crew knows what he knows. Is that a surprise? It says that Louie Crew (or any of us) can report only on what we know.
But Crew and others want us to conclude from such a statement that therefore his observations have a self-authenticating authority about them, that because they are "his", that makes them sacrosanct. One's "experience" then becomes infallible for oneself (at least). That can be true only if the pseudo-liberal principle is valid, that everyone's view is valid (sacrosanct, infallible) for that person, and that we therefore are not to debate issues, only share our experiences. I.e., if truth is only a relative matter. One cannot sanctify one's view and sneak it under the critical radar by calling it "my own".
Treating one's "experience" as infallible, when it is not so, is like guiding the speeding Titanic through the North Atlantic ice fields because I, the captain, have the "experience" that we are all safe from icebergs. Supposing someone had asked the captain: "If there were icebergs out there, would you have any way of knowing?" and that he had replied, "I do not experience any." The crew and passengers would rightly drag him from the bridge of the ship and clap him in irons. Icebergs are an objective reality. AIDS is an objective reality. Thirty percent off one's lifespan is an objective reality. Thousands of destroyed lives and families are objective realities. And the will of God is an objective reality.
Neither Crew nor Temple can live by the subjective principles they claim to follow, nor do they really intend to live by them in the current debate. They know full well that we are in a contest over objective realities, that one side or the other is going to win -- because the Episcopal Church, the Christian Church, America, and the world will choose either for or against the principle that "homosexuality is good and right in the eyes of God". We can talk out of both sides of our mouths, but we can act in only one direction. And they know that.
Crew and Temple will be very unhappy and feel like losers if the vote goes against them, so they are working very hard to prevent the vote from happening by keeping all the viewpoints juggling in the air. It is a neat con game.
The attempt to divert the discussion from fact to feeling good is, ignorantly or maliciously, an attempt to derail their opposition from presenting a case -- so that they then can go right on doing what they want to do anyhow, unopposed in their false position that God does approve of homosexuality. They want just as much as their opponents to "win", but without having to endure an honest trial of evidence. The reason for that dogged hesitation becomes quite clear once one surveys the evidence. It is all on the wrong side.
A witness in court is told to report only what he has observed, and not what he thinks others might have observed. As Crew maintains, he must tell his own story because that is all he knows. But a court does not therefore make the nonsense assumption that the witness's view is valid for him. If his witness is judged to be false, he may go to jail or worse.
The judge and jury want to know whether he is telling the truth, not whether believing it makes him feel good. The court is interested only in one's personal observations, but not because they are in some relative sense "valid for that person". The court knows full well that the second witness may well contradict the first one. But the point of listening to a witness is that he has some perception of objective truth, and the hope is that as the differing witnesses are heard and compared by the normal standards of fact and logic, that the real truth will emerge sufficiently for the court to come to an honest and responsible opinion about the case at hand. We do not convict accused criminals because someone "experiences" their guilt. Their experience means nothing at all apart from objective evidence.
And likewise, the "experience" of homosexual activists that God approves tells us about their feelings, not necessarily at all about what God thinks on the matter. Their witness must be confirmed by other evidence.
The process of "dialoguing to consensus" attempts to sidestep the "comparison by the normal standards of fact and logic" by diverting the issue to feelings and personal stories.
Crew and Temple must present their own stories, for, yes, indeed, that is all they know. But "one's story" is neither infallible nor self-authenticating. And since there is an objective reality to deal with, and since the issues involve deep emotional commitments in a fallen human race, we must assume that all the factors making for falsehood are at work. There could be deliberate deceit, a simple misperception, a bad memory, etc.
We therefore need to hear the other stories so that we can honestly and righteously judge as to the truth of whether "Homosexuality is good and right in the eyes of God...." and not allow the conclusion to be sneaked under the tent by the pseudo-ground-rule that everyone's view is valid for that person.
That is precisely the deceitful way the sexuality dialogue leading up to the 1994 Episcopal General Convention in Indianapolis was "managed". There was no intention to get at the truth about homosexuality by those who managed the dialogue, there was considerable attempt to lie to and deceive the public. The evidence suggests that people very skilled at psychological manipulation and mind-control put that package together.
Consider, for example, that a second ground-rule of "dialogue to consensus", also part of the Episcopal sexuality dialogue, was "confidentiality". Why would one want secrecy when discussing issues of public policy?
The reason for confidentiality is that it creates an atmosphere where people will share personal information about themselves in a way that hinders others from criticising their viewpoint. The aim is to employ guilt-producing pseudo-compassion to prevent the viewpoints from being aired honestly.
Thus when Louie Crew and his sexual partner share their story, a powerful wall is erected which hinders objecting to homosexuality. That is deliberately planned by persons who know quite well that most people do not desire to attack persons. So if it can be made to appear that attacking a viewpoint is attacking a person, then you have all but won your case.
That is also why homosexual persons will so often respond to a criticism of homosexuality by saying, "You are not attacking my behavior, you are attacking me!" If we are not equipped to handle such nonsense, we will be quickly silenced in the discussion.
The ridiculousness of the pseudo-liberal position becomes apparent when one asks: How would we know whether we are dealing with an honest person or not? The answer is by whether he tells the truth. And how do we know whether he is telling the truth? By appeal to the open, public evidence on the matter.
But if truth is made my own private possession so that only I am privy to "my" truth, and everyone else likewise, then there is no possible way of testing whether anyone is or is not telling the truth. We are all locked into our own subjectivity. The very meaning of a "public" world, and the very meaning therefore of "honesty" are destroyed.
At every point, the agenda of the homosexual activists is to subvert
truth and to promote their very decided viewpoint at the expense of anyone
else's. That is not public debate, that is public betrayal of the most basic
covenant of all -- the covenant to be truth-seekers.
6. The Forbidden Tree
Pseudo-liberalism is only the latest and most sophisticated (as in "sophistry") means of subverting truth. It has been enormously successful because, like communism and socialism, in the public imagination it has gained the moral high ground. Pseudo-liberals have successfully painted themselves as the "compassionate" and "loving" members of society, and their opposition as "rigid" and "mean-spirited".
But subversion of truth and of truth-seeking processes is the very essence of evil. Evil is not primarily violence, robbery, sexual sin, or other things we most readily associate with it. Evil is first of all subversion of truth. We subvert truth any time we place something ahead of truth, when we are willing to pursue some goal, hold onto some possession, at the cost of truth. From that all the rest of evil follows.
That is why the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden is called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (meaning universal knowledge which is in fact possible only to God, the pursuit of which is therefore an illusion and a trap to man), and why Jesus calls Satan the father of lies, the prince "of this world". Without successful deception, Satan cannot win a single battle. When truth be known, his scheme is discovered to be a fraud leading to death (as God warned Adam in the Garden). Neither Satan nor those on his side (wittingly or not) can survive the light of consistent and graceful truth-speaking and truth-living. They must subvert truth.
The pseudo-liberal subverts honest discussion because he subverts the law of non-contradiction -- which says that any statement which contradicts itself cannot be a true statement. That is just common sense, but Frank Griswold, the recently installed Episcopal Presiding Bishop, has become notorious for maintaining that truth is "ambiguous", and that it can flatly contradict itself. Sometimes persons force the public into the sad situation of having to choose whether to call them fools or knaves.
Griswold may honestly believe such foolishness, in which case he may rightly be called a fool. But neither he nor anyone else can act on such a belief. We can act only singularly, we cannot act ambiguously. We may think we believe an ambiguity, but we will act either in one direction or the other, but never both. Our actions which betray our true beliefs.
And so, Griswold may at some level of his psyche be deliberately deceiving the Church, in which case he may rightly be called a knave.
Griswold's claim that truth is ambiguous is thus either ignorant or
evil-minded. In either case, such a man does not belong at the head of anything
at all, let alone of a Church.
7. The Tree of Life...
If life is based on truth (and what else could it be based on?), then our understanding and acceptance of that tree is necessarily based also on fact and logic. We learn truth in only two ways: by honest, accurate observation of life, and by clear reasoning from those observations. That is as true of religion as of history or mathematics or physics. The tools of due process given to us by God in scientific method and in Godly government are part of the arms and armor by which the war is waged of light against darkness.
Science is the way of the cross with respect to the intellect. A democratic republic is the way of the cross with respect to government and the administration of coercive force. In both cases we are asked to give up our ego-investments and our desire to control (subvert) and just let truth and the Lord of truth speak for themselves. So the Tree of Life is the cross of Jesus Christ.
Truth is for keeps. God will not give up one inch of ground to darkness, nor will His faithful people. God invites us into dialogue: "Come, let us reason together...." (Is. 1:18) But the invitation is to an honest and open experience of the truth about ourselves, our relation with God, and what must be done about it. It is an invitation to agree with truth, and to accept His covenant to live in that truth. It is not an invitation to reinvent a truth which is somewhere in the middle between Him and us so that we can have a consensus.
God already knows where He is going. God has established the thesis, and He is not going in cycles or circles. There is no antithesis to God, no co-equal force of evil with which He must compromise to keep going. It is His way or the way of death. God is not (as neo-pagan process theologies would have it) "discovering Himself" by the Hegelian process of dialectic, working through thesis and antithesis to a new synthesis of Himself.
I AM does not have an identity crisis. God knows who He is, and He is offering us an identity in His image. We are free to take it or leave it, but that is the choice.
So the invitation to "Come, let us reason together..." is not an invitation to "dialogue to consensus", but to live in the objective truth and purpose of our creature/Creator relation -- rather than die in our lethal and therefore stupid attempts at self-sufficiency and autonomy.
The aim of God is not to get everybody to agree, it is not to get everybody into His kingdom. His aim is to offer the truth to everybody, to invite everybody into His kingdom. He creates that public arena where the truth can spoken so that every person can freely and knowingly make his or her choice. The case God presents against the idols in Isaiah 40-50 illustrates how God calls us all into that arena. As does I Kings 18 where Elijah challenges his people on Mount Carmel: "How long will you go limping on two opinions....?"
God wants everybody in His kingdom, to be sure, but only under the conditions of an honest freewill covenant, i.e., under the conditions of full disclosure of terms and of free acceptance. Over and over God calls His people back to that covenant. "Come, let us reason together..." The public arena of honest discussion is God's, not man's, invention for the propagation of His kingdom. The public arena is precisely where God plans to present His case.
When man governs the public arena, it always drifts into coercion and
mind-control. Man unaided by God is not capable of administering an honest
public arena. That principle is built into American constitutional law by
our Declaration of Independence, and recognized directly or indirectly by
every founding father without exception. That is exactly what the term "limited
government" is all about. We do not put into the hands of fallen men unlimited
authority or power. God and only God is to be recognized as unlimited
8. ...& the Sword of the Spirit
So maintenance of public places of discussion, legislative halls, diocesan and general conventions, and parish vestry meetings, is of paramount importance to the Christian faith. We are required to enforce honest rules of discussion, promoting a respect and love for participants that is based on the objective truth and righteousness of the purposes of God.
Anything else is betrayal of truth, of the God of truth, and of the people of truth, and should elicit from the people of God a prompt and strong wielding of the sword of the Spirit.
"Dialogue to consensus" is the alleged resolving of the antithesis. In one sense, of course, that is the proper aim, but not in the absence of fact or logic. The proper aim is not merely to come up with a compromise which will resolve the conflict and make everyone feel good. It is rather to force the antithesis so that the true alternatives can be known, understood, and so that honest choices can be made. "Choose this day whom you will serve..."
The only way to "resolve" the antithesis between good and evil is to reject the evil and choose the good, to reject rebellion and to choose obedience. All else, again, is ignorance or betrayal.
We "force the antithesis" by forcing the discussion from emotion and personal stories back again to the evidence, to the facts and to the conclusions which one can rightly draw from those facts. To abort the "legislative process" is to abort the honest pursuit of truth and to surrender to the forces of darkness.
Whenever truth is subverted, our swords of the Spirit should flash immediately and pointedly. The correcting word of truth must be heard. It can be done gently with probing questions as well as with challenging statements. But it must be done.
Not every issue is a "legislative" issue. Many issues of conflict really are pastoral issues. Married couples at odds, for example, may be carrying within themselves burdens of brokenness or of ignorance which must be healed or educated. And that healing or education may resolve their friction.
But issues of rebellion and ill-will are issues of spiritual warfare in which the legislative aspects must be addressed: "What is your intention with this relationship? Are you under the law of God? Are you aiming to bring this relationship into the Kingdom? In what sense is this a Christian marriage?"
And likewise in debate on issues of public policy, we must clarify: "Why are we having this discussion? Are we here to find the real truth of the matter? Are we here to discover and follow the law of God? Or are we here merely to feel good about ourselves?"
Some issues, especially moral issues, are inherently legislative, requiring decisions about "true or false" and "right or wrong" which will be enforced by the appropriate means. To subvert the legislative issues in the interests of being "pastoral" is to subvert our whole relation of obedience to God and to subvert the meaning of being honestly pastoral.
The difference between honest ignorance and evil-minded manipulation is that an honestly ignorant person is open to learning the truth. He has a teachable spirit. If he is wrong, he wants to know, and will therefore listen to reason, that is, to fact and logic.
The dishonest person with the hardened heart and unteachable spirit subverts the discussion of truth so that it becomes impossible to discern truth from falsehood. He will not himself drink from the springs of life, but he stomps around and muddies the water so that no one else can drink there either.
Or, as John (3:19) says, "And this is the judgement, that the light
has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because
their deeds were evil."
9. Creating the Honest Table
That being said, however, when we are invited "to the table of dialogue", it is not, as many would say, helpful to refuse the invitation (unless we know that we are not equipped to deal with spiritual warfare). We must go, but realizing that whenever honest discussion is subverted, we are no longer in discussion, we are at war, a war which must be carried right back onto the enemy terrain.
So we must go to the table with the sword of the Spirit strapped to our sides to turn the table back into a place of honest public discussion, i.e., an honest contest conducted by the neutral rules of evidence. We must be willing to challenge any unscrupulous rules of discussion, and willing to challenge the authority of any person who tries to impose such rules.
The effect of such a presence will be either to bring the discussion to a halt (sometimes in a very unceremonious way), or to awaken participants to consider their rightful obligations to truth-seeking. Either way, truth wins. So long as we ourselves are correctable and willing to learn from our opponents, we therefore must not fear the consequences of speaking the truth as we see it.
We must first ourselves be tested by the Holy Spirit in the fires of truth, and we must spend long hours learning the issues. As Abe Lincoln replied when queried why he spent so much time in court describing his opponent's case: "You have to know your opponent's case better than he does." Spiritual warfare is for neither cowards nor slouches.
Homosexual activists tell us that there is a conflict of witness among Christians, that we no longer have a true Christian consensus because their experience "differs from" the traditional one. That is obvious, and debated by no one. But deceitfully worming one's way to the table of Christian discussion does nothing to call Christian consensus into question. It merely muddies the waters so that no one can tell what the word 'Christian' means anymore. And rejecting the law of God does not dilute the consensus, rather, it makes those rejecting the law of God into outlaws.
It can rightly be said that the Church is not infallible, and could have made a mistake. It might indeed be that we have misunderstood God all these years. But if those who appear to be outlaws have in fact a legitimate case, they must present it honestly and on the basis of the evidence, not by the deceitful manipulation of truth and evidence which has consistently characterized homosexual activism over at least the last three decades.
The aim of honest debate is to sort out the real possibilities, and to set public policy according to the truth. We can engage in public debate with any of five attitudes of soul:
1. Seeking and speaking the truth at any cost to myself; 2. from a state of ignorance; 3. with the aim of deception and manipulation; 4. in a cowardly manner, fearful of pain and rejection; 5. self-centeredly more interested in my personal pleasure, power, or pride than in truth.
Faith and Futility are quite distinguishable from each other:
Futility is the realm of the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is the realm of feelings and power struggle, with one's grip on objective reality and therefore on personal relationships progressivly slipping, inevitably engendering the last four states of one's soul above. Dialogue to Consensus people blur these distinctions because each person's view is valid for that person. There is therefore no meaning to being careful about the truth.
Faith is the realm of the Tree of Life, the realm of objective reality where feelings and power have a truthful and therefore substantial resolution under the Lord of truth. God forces the antithesis, and therefore the choice between the five options above. He flushes out our ignorance, deceit, cowardice, and self-centered comfort-seeking, and He requires truth-speaking.
There is a clear and consistent resolution to the sexuality problems. Truth is not ambiguous, nor, at least in the long run, is the evidence for the truth. But it will take courageous leadership to promote honesty and candor, and it will take courageous followership to learn and to obey the neutral rules of debate and discussion.
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Copyright 1998, F. Earle Fox