PCUSA Issue - Questions and Answers
Q and A addressed at the Town Hall Meeting on May 21st 2012 and after.
If you have questions or concerns you'd like to communicate to the Discernment Team, we encourage you to do so by filling out this form.
Question - Isn’t the ordaining of practicing homosexuals just a matter of coming to a new understanding of scripture just as the church did in regard to slavery and women in leadership?
First our decision to leave the PCUSA is not over the ordaining of practicing homosexual people. It is over the authority of scripture and this is just the latest example of the church ignoring the authority of the Bible. And in this instance the church has decided to disobey the word of God directly and encourage the whole church to do so.
In regard to the question of how is this different than the issue of women in leadership and slavery, the answer is that it is totally different. In both the issue of women in leadership and slavery, one can argue both sides of the argument. You can find support in the text for slavery and against slavery. Christians came to believe over time that the text ultimately was definitely against slavery and particularly the in-humane brutal slavery practiced in the Americas. The same can be said for women in church leadership. An argument can be made for women in church leadership and against women in church leadership from the text of scripture. That is why for instance the Evangelical Presbyterian Church says that women in leadership will not be an essential for them. You can be for or against women in leadership and be in the EPC church. Now in regard to practicing homosexuality there is not one positive scripture. Each and every reference whether direct (7 passages) or indirect (many) are completely negative. In other words the scripture sees homosexual behavior as a sign of sinful brokenness and not in any instance whatsoever commends it in any way. So standing under the authority of scripture, you may come to contradictory conclusions on an issue if there is material that leads you to that conclusion but you cannot come to varying conclusions when the scripture is completely clear.
Question - Why do we need to leave the PCUSA? Isn’t this just about people coming up with different interpretations of scripture, like different views of the 2nd coming of Christ? Or some who believe in a 7 day creation and some who believe in some form of evolution?
Many of you may not be aware that liberal theology has a long history dating back to the 19th century. Orthodox and liberal Christians have increasingly been at odds over the very basics of the Christian faith for over 100 years. This divide between liberal and orthodox has been a struggle for a very long time. Basically it comes down to the fact that the liberal side of the church takes the ideas of science and rational human thought and looks at scripture through them. For them scripture becomes the Word of God when it concurs with the filter through which it is viewed. For the orthodox we use the insights of science, history and modern culture in trying to understand the text but we try and keep the scripture as the ultimate filter through which the culture, science and history are judged.
These two very different approaches to the authority of scripture result in very different understandings of Christian faith. Many in the liberal community believe that Jesus is one option among many. He may be the best option but not the only. This results in evangelism falling to almost no priority at all. Secondly many in the liberal community do not believe in the miracles as real historical events, or the Virgin Birth, or the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Some do not believe that Jesus is anymore one with the Father than you or I. Basically what happens is that people on the liberal side of the divide can and do believe many things which the Bible clearly does not affirm and many things which would make the doctrines found in the Bible to be well just wrong.
Orthodox believers because they stand under the text and not above it affirm the historic doctrines of the Trinity, the Deity of Jesus, the fact that salvation is found in no other name under heaven than Jesus Christ, and the scripture as the final authority in faith and practice. Because of these beliefs we believe that evangelism matters eternally. And because of our commitment to scripture we find ourselves in agreement with those who have gone before us and have recorded the faith delivered to them in the Historic Confessions.
I hope you
see that the difference between liberal and orthodox faith can be as complete
as the difference between 2 different historic religions. These differences are huge and go right to
Question - Why not stay and influence the liberal wing of the church toward faithfulness?
Possibly the last answer convinced you of the futility of that possibility. This battle has kept us focused on protecting orthodoxy within the church rather than being focused on ministry out in the world. Secondly there can be no common ministry with the liberal community except need meeting ministries [homeless shelters etc]. We currently do not invest any mission money in the PCUSA because we do not trust that it will go to ministries that will help people both physically and spiritually. We don’t trust that the gospel will be proclaimed because so many don’t believe in the same gospel. The liberal wing of the church left us long ago. They are the ones that are schismatic (see Laura Smit’s article on our web-site). They are the ones that reject the faith once delivered to the saints. Both sides are deeply committed to their view-point and it is futile to spend all our time trying to change one another’s minds while the world is going to hell.