Sexuality: can’t Evangelicals just agree to disagree?

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. – Hebrews 10:26-27

A few days ago, the Evangelical Alliance UK (EAUK) discontinued the membership of the Oasis Trust. The reason was, according to the press release, due to “a campaign to change the Church’s historic view on human sexuality” (a campaign fronted by Steve Chalke, whom I blogged about when this issue first came up and again recently). The reaction to this move has been huge and polarised: some people, such as myself, think the EAUK made a good move: in an acceptance of same-sex relationships, I believe Chalke has made a clear step away from a traditional evangelical understanding of the authority of Scripture. On the other hand, many have commented that it’s incredibly sad for the EAUK to be dividing on this issue when Christians who hold the same understanding of Scripture can legitimately disagree on this (see Gillan’s post over at the God and Politics blog for a good articulation of this view).

The main criticism people are making of the EAUK is that they are being divisive around a secondary issue. It’s a bit like baptism: some evangelicals believe it’s OK to baptise infants, others think you can only baptise someone when they’re old enough to make their own confession of faith. Insisting upon conformity on this issue is to exclude a large number of evangelicals, and is spreading discord and division needlessly.

Now I don’t want to talk about the EAUK’s response to the issue per se, but instead talk about the nature of sexuality as a ‘secondary issue’: personally I don’t think this is an issue that Christians can disagree over. This is partly because I think the Bible couldn’t be clearer on this issue, but also because I think we cannot just agree to disagree on matters of sin – particularly when it’s concerning something as serious as sexuality.

Firstly, let’s look at the verses I quoted at the top (this time quoting the whole paragraph):

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The argument here is simple: if someone under the old covenant (i.e. the Old Testament) rejected the law of Moses, they died “without mercy”. “How much more”, the writer argues, do Christians deserve to be punished if they reject the forgiveness that is offered to them in Christ Jesus? Deliberately persisting with sin is like “trampling the Son of God underfoot”. Ouch.

So, if Christians deliberately keep on sinning, they have “only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God”. Those words are pretty unequivocal. Although no Christian is perfect, any Christian who deliberately and intentionally goes on sinning can expect nothing but judgement. I have to say those words make me feel pretty uncomfortable, because I know there are plenty of times in my life when I sin – yes, even intentionally. The difference is, those times are not a cause for celebration; I can and should repent and pray to God for forgiveness and the ability to live a new life in Christ Jesus. That doesn’t mean I won’t sin again, but it means that I must every day live out Paul’s words: “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Christ died so that we might receive forgiveness of sins, not so that we might go on sinning. As Paul says in Romans 6:1, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!!!! [Emphasis not original, but would have been if Paul had had access to word processing software and the exclamation mark. He might have used a few more exclamation marks, in fact. And capitals.]

The whole Christian life is about repentance and faith – see how Jesus summarises it in Luke 24:47: “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” So, Christians do not have liberty to go on sinning deliberately. Once someone has found forgiveness in Christ Jesus, they must take up their cross and follow him daily.

But what about sexual sin? Well, let’s be honest here, sexual sin is a pretty big deal. I think we have some understanding of this even in contemporary British culture – witness how gleefully the tabloids will report news of someone who’s been caught having an affair, for example. But the Bible does place an emphasis on sexual sin as well. Now please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not wishing to turn it into a ‘red letter sin’: as James says, “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). However, it does seem that the Bible places an emphasis on sexual sin, amongst other things.

To take one example from the Old Testament, have a read through Proverbs 1-9 and notice how many times sexual sin (in this case, adultery) is mentioned. Notice how serious the consequences are, for example Proverbs 2:16-19:

Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,
from the wayward woman with her seductive words,
who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God.
Surely her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
None who go to her return
or attain the paths of life.

That’s serious business, isn’t it? It’s the same in Proverbs 5:5, where it says of the adulterous woman: “Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.” If you read through Proverbs you will see that this is consistent with the message of the rest of the book. Sexual sin, in this case unfaithfulness, is a serious business.

The New Testament also picks up on this. I will limit myself to three brief quotes:

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people … For of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure or greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:3, 5)

Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Hebrews 13:4)

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

Those three quotes all associate particular sins with God’s judgement, and in fact the first and the last quotes indicate that such people will not inherit the Kingdom of God. How, you may ask, do any of us come into the Kingdom of God?

In that last quote, Paul goes on to say in the next verse: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The point is, we were like that. But through repentance and faith, through Jesus Christ, Christians have been washed and justified.

Let’s take a step back for a moment. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the traditional view (sex is reserved for one man and one woman in a lifelong relationship) is correct. Let’s say that God really did mean that. If what I have said above is true, anything else is potentially excluding people from the kingdom of God. If traditionalists are right on this issue – and, as I said before,  I think the Biblical case is pretty much cut and dried – then to be in an organisation which allows a view which might exclude people from the kingdom of God is unthinkable.

To not take a position on this is to take a position. If same-sex relationships are blessed by God, then the traditionalists are mistaking God’s will and forcing people to adopt a celibate life for no good reason. If same-sex relationships are not blessed by God, then ‘revisionists’ are excluding people from the Kingdom of God. By not taking a position, an organisation is implicitly allowing that both of those are actual possibilities.

In summary, given all of this, I think any organisation calling itself ‘evangelical’ must take a position on sexuality. Either something is a sin, or it isn’t. Let’s have no more of this secondary issue fudge.

Update: Since starting to write this blog post, the Evangelical Alliance UK have issued a statement saying: “Nor was the issue the evangelical (or indeed the Evangelical Alliance’s) position on human sexuality or the redefinition of marriage”. See the link for more info.

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35 thoughts on “Sexuality: can’t Evangelicals just agree to disagree?

  1. Phill, would you hold that every divorced and remarried Christian, at least in cases where there was adultery before the divorce, deliberately keeping on sinning and “trampling the Son of God underfoot”? Are they excluded from the Kingdom of God? Should the EA expel all member organisations which accept remarriage after divorce, or force them to include on their websites material condemning this?

    Or are you following the world’s standards, or those of the world 60 years ago, in singling out one particular sexual sin while ignoring another?

    • Hi Peter,

      As we have discussed before, I think there is a big difference between divorce and homosexuality.

      I think someone who is divorced – for what I would call an unbiblical reason – and has then remarried, is a very tricky pastoral situation. However, consider the possibility of someone who has had multiple sexual partners in the past, and then becomes a Christian, and then marries. Is the marriage a valid marriage? I think so, if they repent of sexual sins in the past. Similarly with someone who is remarried – this is a fallen world, however repentance and forgiveness is available.

      On the other hand, a same-sex relationship, if the traditionalists are right, is wrong ‘ontologically’. You cannot repent of it while still in one, or at least without planning to change things.

      I’m sure that the church does not honour marriage in the way it should with divorce rates as they are, but that said because we don’t get one thing right doesn’t give us licence to get another thing wrong.

      • Phill, I see your point, and agree with your last sentence. I accept your position as a valid evangelical one, as well as the position that all divorce and remarriage is wrong. Why can’t you, and the EA, accept Steve Chalke’s position as a valid evangelical one?

        I could also respond that you are following culture as much as anyone else, just further behind than some. 80 years ago, in England, divorce was possible only for proven adultery. Starting in the 1930s the law was gradually loosened towards being almost divorce on demand. To start with the churches strongly opposed this. But by the 1980s most Protestant churches had come to accept divorce and remarriage, and now, 80 years later, almost all do. The next big cultural change related to homosexual practice, which was decriminalised starting in the 1960s. To start with, most churches were horrified. By now, nearly 50 years later, many have come to accept this. I predict that within 30 years almost all will. Is the difference between you and me that I am 50 years behind the culture and you are 80 years behind?

        • Hi Peter

          I don’t accept Steve Chalke’s position on this as a valid evangelical one because I don’t think he uses Scripture rightly, and the witness of the universal church – both worldwide and throughout history – confirms this. If Chalke wants to be affirmed as an evangelical he should demonstrate the commitment to Scripture he claims to have, as in the EA Basis of Faith.

          I don’t think I am following culture. The (Anglican) church has never seen marriage as an indissoluble union in any circumstance, as you mentioned with respect to adultery. I wouldn’t accept divorce and remarriage in any circumstance, although the law permits it. The pastoral reality, however, is that we have to deal with people where they are and repentance and forgiveness of sins is a reality for everyone. Look at David and Bathsheba, for example.

          Also, it is far from the case that the church historically has never permitted remarriage in any circumstance. This is a quote from my former lecturer in church history: “Augustine did indeed oppose remarriage and his view usually has triumphed – but, for example, Ambrosiaster supported remarriage after divorce, and did so for both men and women. You can read about that in his commentary on 1 Cor.7:10-11. Elsewhere, Origen recorded that several bishops had permitted remarriage after adultery. He reckoned they were not in line with scripture, but he accepted they had reasonable grounds for acting as they did – in other words Origen was torn on the issue. The most up to date summary of patristic views on the matter is that the majority of doctrinal statements recommended against remarriage, but many bishops permitted it as a pastoral reality. That was known and widely accepted.”

          In the present day, John Piper doesn’t believe in divorce or remarriage – however, in the last chapter of ‘This Momentary Marriage’ he says this:

          “I do not think that a person who remarries against God’s will, and thus commits adultery in this way, should later break the second marriage. The marriage should not have been done, but now that it is done, it should not be undone by man. It is a real marriage. Real covenant vows have been made. And that real covenant of marriage may be purified by the blood of Jesus and set apart for God. In other words, I don’t think that a couple who repents and seeks God’s forgiveness and receives his cleansing should think of their lives as ongoing adultery, even though, in the eyes of Jesus, that’s how the relationship started. There are several reasons why I believe this.”

          And then goes on to cite Deut. 24, Jesus and the woman of Samaria, and the BIblical understanding of vows. He concludes: “These marriages began as they should not have but have become holy.”

          I stand by what I said, that homosexuality and divorce/remarriage are two separate issues and some acceptance of the latter does not entail acceptance of the former.

          • Two points here:

            1. Piper and others like him can agree to disagree with many other evangelicals over divorce and remarriage. Why not over same sex relationships.

            2. Now that same sex marriage is legal, in many places, surely Piper’s argument about a remarriage after an inappropriate divorce applies equally to a same sex marriage. I guess Piper would baulk at the term “real marriage”, but then many would say that a remarriage after divorce is not a “real marriage”, even if it is legal and includes covenant vows. Should a same sex “couple who repents and seeks God’s forgiveness and receives his cleansing … think of their lives as ongoing” sexual immorality?

          • 1. Because there is a big difference, as I have been trying to say. There is Biblical warrant for divorce and remarriage in a way which there is simply not for same-sex relationships. And, as I understand it, there has been no uniform voice throughout the ages and worldwide on this in the same way as there has been on same-sex relationships.

            2. I think you are assuming that legal marriage is the same as Christian marriage. I said in a previous comment, I think a same-sex marriage is ‘ontologically’ wrong, it cannot be repented of while still in one. So the answer to your question is yes, because a same-sex couple cannot seek and receive God’s forgiveness for something they do not believe to be wrong but even celebrate.

          • No, Phill, I am saying that on Piper’s theology a remarriage after divorce, where there has been no adultery, cannot be a Christian marriage because it is wrong. How can the remarried couple “seek and receive God’s forgiveness for something they do not believe to be wrong but even celebrate”? I see no biblical, or patristic, argument why this remarriage is any less wrong than a same sex marriage. You could perhaps have appealed to Deuteronomy 24, but that would put you on very shaky ground theologically.

          • I don’t think it’s that simple. It’s an incredibly messy pastoral situation.

            For example:

            What if the couple were not Christians when they divorced?

            What if the other person has remarried? Would that mean they were committing adultery and would that legitimate the divorce?

            I think it is possible to repent of something you have done in the past – even something like divorce – and see it as a wrong course of action. In that case they wouldn’t be celebrating it.

            By the way, I’m not saying that I condone remarriages while the partner is still living, in a general sense. But I think it’s not a black and white situation, unlike same-sex relationships which I cannot see any two ways around.

          • I agree with you that divorce and remarriage is “an incredibly messy pastoral situation” for which black and white answers are inappropriate. Where we differ is that I would say exactly the same about same sex partnerships and marriages.

          • This goes back to the Biblical case again. It seems to me that as soon as you allow for any kind of exception clause, you allow for the fact that different people might draw the line in different places. There is no such exception clause for same sex relationships.

            It also goes to the heart of what marriage is for and about, I think you can hold a view which allows for remarriage in some circumstances without altering the Genesis 1-2 definition of marriage.

            However this is getting into a Biblical theology of marriage which is definitely too much to be discussing here.

            I still stand by what I said originally, though, that I don’t think one can claim the authority of Scripture while endorsing same-sex relationships.

          • OK. Well, I think we need to agree to disagree, not so much on what we hold as on what we consider the limits that others can explore. This has certainly been an interesting discussion.

  2. Homosexuality has been around since humanity has, It is a normal natural part of humanity and is much, much older than your religion. And yet here you are judging something natural and normal to humanity, through your unnatural twisted indoctrinated view.

    On top of this every society on earth has history of homosexuality, some ancient cultures even had homosexual marriage, which leads me to the next point, that marriage is also older than your religion and originally had nothing to do with religion and yet here you are talking about marriage in general.

    So you don’t ‘own’ marriage, you never have and never will, divorce is a perfect example of this.

    Divorce is also a perfect example of you (not talking personally necessarily) cherry picking to forward your views. It is not gods word. It is your/priests/cannons etc word.

    I think if god existed this would be a great way to judge who goes to hell or not. Follow blindly (or with blinkers) some book written by a few blokes years ago, judging people for being honest with themselves and being in loving relationships, or use your brain and seeing the glaringly obvious point.

  3. “Chalke has made a clear step away from a traditional evangelical understanding of the authority of Scripture.” — and therein lies the crux of the matter: Steve has stepped away from a traditional evangelical understanding of the authority of Scripture NOT from the authority of Scripture.

    The two are not the same, traditionalists need to acknowledge this and to recognise that an increasing number of evangelicals side with Steve’s approach rather than with the traditionalists, lest we end up with a Fundamentalist Alliance rather than an Evangelical one.

    • Indeed Phil, this goes to the heart of the problem about what it means to be an ‘evangelical’. Is it merely a wax nose, or does it have something at the core? Is it defined simply by the whim of the majority who label themselves as ‘evangelical’?

      At any rate, in this specific case I would say Chalke has moved away from a doctrine of Scripture as understood by the Evangelical Alliance in their basis of faith.

      • Phill, this is indeed the heart of the problem. Let’s agree, at least for the sake of this conversation, that the EA Basis of Faith is at the core of what it means to be ‘evangelical’. Then please show me in what ways Steve Chalke has moved away from the doctrine of Scripture outlined in this document, which says nothing about inerrancy on historical matters:

        The divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which are the written Word of God—fully trustworthy for faith and conduct.

        • Although the statement says nothing about ‘inerrancy’, I would suggest that the phrase “written Word of God” strongly suggests it (and maybe even necessitates it). This is actually one of the reasons I embraced inerrancy: how much of the Bible can you say in not historically accurate before you’re not taking it as the Word of God? 1%? 10%? 20, 50, 75%?

          As soon as Steve Chalke starts saying things, as I mentioned to you before, where he says that the Bible is actually wrong on an interpretation – I cannot see how he can reconcile that with saying that the Bible is “fully trustworthy”. Certainly I don’t think the trajectory hermeneutic which Steve was criticised for on his homosexuality article is available to evangelicals, given that statement.

          Chalke’s approach, as most clearly seen in his article “Have we understood the Bible correctly?” is pretty much classic liberalism dressed up as evangelicalism. See here, for example, or Mike Ovey’s blog here, or Mark Thompson here:

          This rich and profound Christian teaching about revelation and biblical inspiration (the common heritage of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians) stands in stark contrast to Chalke’s description of the Bible as ‘the unfolding story of humanity’s growing comprehension of who God is, who we are and what our role is in creation’ (p. 6). In such a description God is an object of inquiry and not the living, speaking and dynamic Lord who makes himself known to us in human words and in the person of his Son. The gospel which Jesus came to announce was not ‘a sacred dialogue’ but a call to faith and repentance and faithful, obedient living with the joy and freedom that naturally flows from that.

          • Phill, it seems that even you and I can’t agree to disagree. I think the EA has made it clear in the past that their statement of the doctrine of Scripture is not to be understood as implying inerrancy on matters of fact. You quote the words “fully trustworthy” out of context; the wording is clear: “fully trustworthy for faith and conduct”, not necessarily for science or history. This understanding is the true “common heritage of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians”, whereas the idea of verbal inerrancy is a modern invention, going back no further than the original Fundamentalists of about a century ago.

            Now I do have misgivings about some of Chalke’s approach to the Bible, as I have said before. I too would have issues with the Bible being described as “the unfolding story of humanity’s growing comprehension of who God is, who we are and what our role is in creation”, if that is considered a complete description rather than one of several aspects – I don’t have the context to check. To say that God didn’t kill people when the Bible says he did so does go beyond matters of history into ones of faith. But, again as I have said before, if the EA objected to Chalke’s use of Scripture, as presented on the Oasis website, they should have taken issue with that. Their decision instead to make the issue one of same sex relationships strikes me as, to say the very least, irresponsible.

          • When I quoted “fully trustworthy” I meant the quote in context. And what does it mean for the Bible to be “fully trustworthy for faith and conduct”? Surely it’s incompatible with saying that it is actually wrong at any point – as Chalke does?

            I’m not sure I agree with your history of verbal inspiration. Augustine, for example, seemed to believe in inerrancy: “I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error.” (Epistle 82.3) Ultimately his view was that Scripture cannot err because God cannot lie. [My former tutor wrote his PhD on Augustine’s doctrine of Scripture] I also have quotes here from Clement, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, and Jerome as well as Augustine which display similar views.

            By the way, I think inerrancy does mean taking into account the genre, historical context etc – I think it’s possible to affirm inerrancy without believing in a ‘literal’ interpretation of Genesis 1-2, for example. So I wouldn’t equate inerrancy with Young Earth Creationism and so on.

            Incidentally, I think the EA’s basis of faith on Scripture isn’t a bad one – despite what I’ve said I think there are many Christians who I would agree with who wouldn’t use the word ‘inerrancy’. However, whatever your view on it, as I said, I do think Chalke has moved outside the EA basis of faith.

            If you believe the EA’s clarification on this matter, it wasn’t about Chalke’s views on sexuality per se. I do think that his article on the matter (I re-read it again yesterday) does illustrate his position on Scripture, however, and the two are not completely separate things.

            I do agree with you that the EA probably should have made the issue Chalke’s view on Scripture rather than sexuality as it is in their Basis of Faith. However I wasn’t party to all the discussions and without knowing all the facts I want to be charitable to the EA.

  4. Hello Phill (and Peter K if you are still following this…),

    what I’m curious about under this heading is: what are the criteria for discerning whether or not a given matter is a first-order (or second-, etc) issue? Some years ago I had a blog conversation with the late John Richardson (RIP) about whether homosexuality should be deemed first- or second-order – at least that was where our discussion started but as I recall it grew into a conversation about homosexuality more generally. I don’t think we ever explicitly talked about what the criteria might be, though his argument (on why it should be deemed a first-order matter) was similar to yours Phill. So – what are the criteria for deciding this – indeed are there any such criteria which command wide agreement?

    in friendship, Blair

    • Blair, to my mind the Evangelical Alliance has provided a clear definition of what are first order issues, and listed them in their Basis of Faith. As a member of the Alliance this is what I have agreed to. But the Alliance has now abandoned their own definition by treating an issue not mentioned in the Basis of Faith as a first order one.

      Now I can see that a biblical definition of first order issues might be rather different. That is something worth exploring. But it needs to be discussed and agreed before being enforced against supposed offenders.

    • Hi Blair,

      It’s a good question and I don’t think there are easy answers. What do you think?

      I would say, though, I don’t think a Basis of Faith can contain everything that is a first order issue. I don’t think murder is in the EA Basis of Faith, for example, yet I don’t think there’s much disagreement about whether it’s a first order issue or not.

      Phill

      • Well, Phill, murder if wrong by definition, more or less, but there is a lot of disagreement about what constitutes murder. Does it include killings in war, capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia? Are evangelicals allowed to disagree about these things, or is only one line acceptable? Similarly on sexual ethics: we can agree that sexual immorality is wrong, pretty much by definition, but there are different ideas about what exactly is immoral.

        • My point was that the Basis of Faith says nothing about Christian ethics at all, and yet no evangelical would consider ethics a second order issue in every case. Yes, of course there are edge cases and areas with disagreement with murder, and any ethical issue, but at the same time it is clear in Scripture.

          I was simply trying to illustrate that I don’t think the EA Basis of Faith can be understood as a fully comprehensive list of everything that we must agree on while everything else is up for grabs.

          This discussion makes me wonder whether the EA also has a position on scriptural arguments for racial segregation, polygamy, and slavery – all of which enjoy at least as much, if not far more, Scriptural support than same-sex relationships.

          • I don’t think the EA Basis of Faith can be understood as a fully comprehensive list of everything that we must agree on while everything else is up for grabs.

            So this is where we differ. This is what I do think. I wouldn’t use the words “up for grabs”, but I do think there needs to be openness for people who argue for “everything else” on reasonable scriptural grounds. Well, no one would claim “fully comprehensive” in the sense of perfectly without omissions, but I would expect any detected omission to be proposed as an amendment to the Basis rather than become an unwritten rule. And, as I have said before, it is deliberate and significant that ethical issues are not included in the Basis.

          • I’m not arguing that ethics should be included in the Basis of Faith. I do think, however, that it is right sometimes for an organisation to supplement that with a statement about particular matters on topics outside the basis – such as the FIEC do.

            I can’t agree with you about permitting the questioning of “everything else” on reasonable Scriptural grounds: it’s implicit in what you say – who decides what are ‘reasonable’ grounds? How do you decide? It would be pointless for the EA to even exist if they couldn’t make that kind of call.

            Also, questioning is one thing – an evangelical should always be prepared to go back to Scripture to see what it says about an issue and question assumptions – however there has to come a point at which you say someone is misreading Scripture. Otherwise, the label ‘evangelical’, the Basis of Faith – it’s all meaningless: anyone could claim to be ‘evangelical’ but believe anything at all, as long as they could fit it into the BoF somehow and make some kind of Scriptural argument for it. This is not how the church has worked in the past – for example, there is a Scriptural argument against the eternal Sonship of Christ, and yet the ecumenical councils decided that Christ was eternally begotten of the Father and that anything else was heterodox.

            So I would say it is appropriate for an organisation to have the right to claim an interpretation of Scripture is wrong.

          • On doctrinal issues, yes, to be an evangelical means more than just arguing from Scripture. For example, the Trinitarian clause in the Basis of Faith rules out the JWs’ and other non-Trinitarian interpretations of Scripture. I accept that the Basis of Faith may not explicitly rule out every ancient heresy (the Church of England explicitly accepts certain ancient Councils, but the EA does not), so perhaps it should be amended to do so – or maybe some of those ancient heresies (not rejection of the eternal Sonship of Christ) need to be revisited to see if they are really unbiblical.

            However, as I have said, the EA has made a deliberate choice not to include ethical issues in its Basis of Faith, and so has no right to impose on its members specific positions on those issues.

          • However, as I have said, the EA has made a deliberate choice not to include ethical issues in its Basis of Faith, and so has no right to impose on its members specific positions on those issues.

            I think that’s a non sequitur. The fact that the EA deliberately chooses to leave something out of its Basis of Faith doesn’t mean they can’t have a specific position on something not in the basis of faith. Other organisations do it, and I think the EA should at least have the right to do so.

            Anyway, on this occasion we will probably have to agree to disagree.

          • Well, I guess they can have a specific position. But, given that they are a membership organisation and an umbrella body, they need to make such positions public, and not decide them arbitrarily then use them against their members. At least, that is what I would expect of a body I am a member of, and which claims to represent me and my views.

          • I agree that it shouldn’t be a “behind closed door” policy. But don’t forget that this is a fairly new problem – I don’t know when evangelical churches started embracing same-sex relationships, but it was relatively recently compared to the age of the EA. I’m sure things will be clarified.

  5. Phill, thank you for removing a comment making scurrilous and untrue accusations against me – but not before it was sent to me by email.

    Actually I thought that commenter had a point, that too often Christian leaders make decisions on issues like this with half an eye to the financial implications, fearing that they might alienate those whose giving or subscriptions they rely on. I hope that is not true in the current case.

    But then the commenter showed his true nature by launching into slanderous accusations against someone he doesn’t know. Perhaps he has forgotten that slander is listed alongside greed and sexual immorality in the biblical lists of sins which he refers to.

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