When the cruise ship Costa Concordia grounded off the coast of the island of Giglio, it was reported at first that the ship struck a rock that was not on the charts. Mariners rely on their charts to tell them where hazards are located, and the captain of the Concordia repeatedly complained that the rock he struck was not on any chart. As a consequence, the ship’s hull was ripped open, and the ship eventually sank. This is not the way mariners hope that hazards will be discovered, but the discovery of that rock truly is a service to all mariners navigating in those waters. Until the Costa Concordia discovered this hazard, nobody knew it was there. The charts were deficient.
In 2009, the Church Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America alleged to discover that the Bible was missing a piece of information as vital as that previously unknown rock off the coast of Giglio. The document they wrote to announce this discovery is “A Social Statement on Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” and in this statement the assembly said, “The scriptural witness does not address the context of sexual orientation and lifelong loving and committed relationships that we experience today.”
The ELCA is not the first church to go down this path. Episcopalians have been blessing homosexuals and ordaining homosexuals for some time. Other churches and denominations have begun to accommodate the cultural pressure from homosexual activists. Why is this decision a big deal? It is a problem, because statements like this completely negate a fundamental truth of Christianity: the Bible is the source for all guidance in faith and life. If God failed to address the issue of homosexuality in the Bible, then God left his children with a big problem. The evidence does not support that conclusion. The Bible does address homosexuality. Anglicans, Episcopalians and now ELCA Lutherans have thrown the Bible out with the bathwater in the name of accommodating contemporary culture.
If Christians were going to accommodate the culture, then why did they suffer so much at the hands of Roman emperors? The emperors simply asked for a small accommodation. Why didn’t the first century Christians follow the path of political correctness and bow before a statue of the emperor? Most of the emperors did not even think that act was about worship. They considered it a gesture of good citizenship.
For that matter, if cultural accommodation transcends biblical revelation, why do Christians today endure suffering and hardship around the world?
If accommodating the culture is a valid reason for changing the church’s position on prickly issues, why don’t North Korean Christians just go ahead and pretend to worship the Dear Leader? After all, they could simply say that ancient writers of biblical texts didn’t know anything about Communism. They just didn’t know how it would be for twenty-first century Christians in North Korea. The Bible doesn’t help us know what to do in this country. We have to make it up as we go.
If accommodating the culture is the foundation for faith and practice, then why do Christians in Bhutan need to suffer persecution from their Buddhist government? After all, Isaiah and Malachi were oblivious to the realities of the present-day Buddhists, and present-day Christians must figure it out on their own. They know things God didn’t tell ancient biblical writers. Contemporary Christians cannot rely on some old musty biblical prophet to tell them want to do when the Buddhists raise a ruckus about Christianity. Can’t they just use the Buddhist words and pretend to believe what the Buddhists believe and go on being Christians in their hearts?
Or in Nigeria, why should Christians suffer fire-bombings and torture? Their Muslim neighbors think that the very existence of Christians in their midst is like being infected with a disease. Nigerian Christians could simply say the words, “There is no God but Allah,” while meaning, “Christ above all” and explain to God that he must have left his approval of this strategy out of the Bible, because Mohammed came along after the Bible was finished.
Is it possible that Christians have actually outgrown the Bible?
Such a notion completely dissolves the principle of Sola Scriptura. The Bible has no credence as the source of Christian teaching if the revelation has such gaps in it. Nobody expects the Bible to teach contemporary genetics, but every Christian expects the Bible to provide the guidance for dealing with the discoveries of contemporary genetics. IVF, for example, results from knowledge gained through the study of genetics. There is no mention of IVF in the Bible, yet the Bible provides plenty of guidance about the blessing of children and the value of human life. People can find in the Bible the wisdom they need in order to make a faithful decision whether or not to engage in IVF. Not so, with homosexuality, if Episcopalians and Lutherans and other accommodating Christians are to be believed. No guidance there. All the apparent guidance is bunk.
The Costa Concordia may have sunk because of an uncharted rock. It may have been nothing more than an unfortunate accident, just one more tragedy at sea because of inadequate knowledge. However, discussions about the situation over the month or so that it was important news suggested that the accident was due more to an egotistical willingness to ignore known hazards than it was about a lack of information on the charts. The captain may have deliberately entered waters a responsible navigator would have avoided, despite any fuzziness about the exact location of this particular rock. The captain may have been engaged in frivolous social flirting instead of paying attention to the charts, in which case he was acting as if the charts were irrelevant. Ultimately, the disaster may not have been due to an uncharted rock at all. The disaster may have been due to an unwillingness to be limited either by the known hazards on the chart or by the responsibilities of a ship’s captain.
Many Christian leaders and Christian groups appear to be guilty of an unwillingness to be limited by the biblical revelation about homosexuality. If Martin Luther was right about the Bible, if two thousand years of Christian faith are right about the Bible, if the martyrs who died to preserve and propagate the Bible were right, then those who say that God blesses homosexual unions are wrong. Homosexuality is not an uncharted rock in the sea of moral choice; it is just another rock on the biblical chart that shows us both our unworthiness of God’s love and the price he is willing to pay to protect us from the rocks and shoals of life. We don’t have to make up strategies or wonder where God is when either culture or government assaults our faith. The Bible shows us all the rocks that can sink our ships, and it shows us the way to safe harbor in Christ, no matter where the rocks are.
- Marriage – God’s Truth Has Not Changed (livingontilt.wordpress.com)
- An Exercise in Picking & Choosing What to Read AND Believe (josiahconcept.org)
4 thoughts on “Uncharted Rocks!”
Thank you very much for this. I had not been aware of the statement of the ELCA.
“this church has begun to understand in new ways the need of same-gender oriented individuals to seek relationships of lifelong companionship and commitment as well as public accountability and legal support for those commitments.” Thank God. Oh, Thank God.
I pray that you will come to a similar understanding. Meanwhile, thank you for spreading this Good News. God bless you.
You are welcome to consider it good news, because you have a right to your opinion. I don’t find these statements to be consistent with biblical teaching on faith and life, so these statements sound like a destructive lie to me. To say that is not to say that I consider homosexuality a worse sin than any other. I consider homosexuality to be one of many sins specifically named in the Bible in the many warnings against trying to be our own God. I consider it to be among the sins of the world that led to Christ’s death on the cross, and I consider it to be forgiven just as murder and theft and lies are forgiven through the shed blood of Christ. I pray you will come to a similar understanding.
As always, Katherine, your thought-provoking post resonates here. I do wish to point out, though, that those of us in the Anglican Mission to the Americas are here because the Episcopal church in America chose to ignore that particular rock instead of standing on the Rock as the source of all Truth.
I am actually aware of the Anglican Mission to the Americas. I applaud the integrity of its choice. I appreciate your response, because people who actually speak up for the sufficiency of the Bible as our guide for faith and life feel quite lonely at times. The culture at large belittles the Bible, and we expect that, but when our own religious leaders abandon it, then the loneliness is quite difficult to endure.
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