Kicking Against the Pricks

On the road to Damascus, Paul found Christ.  Seeing Paul lost in his sin and murderous self-righteousness Jesus pointed out: “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5.)  In this metaphor, the “pricks” are the sin that dwells within us. The sin sprouts the thorns that goad us when we recognize that we cannot be what we demand ourselves to be.  Joseph Smith seemed to almost grasp the biblical meaning of the phrase in D&C 121:38 where he described those in church leadership that sought to hide their own sins with their authority as those “left to kick against the pricks.” The message of Paul’s ministry was that in Christ can we dissolve these thorns so they never bother us again.

Spencer W. Kimball — the beloved LDS Prophet — put a new spin on this phrase. Starting  in a conference talk in 1955, Kimball began to use the phrase as a description of the state of those who stand against the leadership of the LDS Church:

There is the man who, to satisfy his own egotism, took a stand against the Authorities of the Church. He followed the usual pattern, not apostasy at first, only superiority of knowledge and mild criticism. He loved the brethren, he said, but they failed to see and interpret as he would like. He would still love the Church, he maintained, but his criticism grew and developed into ever-widening circles. He was right, he assured himself; he could not yield in good conscience; he had his pride. His children did not accept his philosophy wholly, but their confidence was shaken. In their frustration, they married out of the Church, and he lost them. He later realized his folly and returned to humbleness, but so very late. He had lost his children. “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5).”

Here the “pricks” are not the thorns of sin but the psychological and political consequences of criticism of Church leadership. On an all-too-poignant level, this passage represents hard reality of the Church’s position. The church has determined that there are some sins the gospel does not reach, and the sin of participation in gay marriage is one of those. The latest of the Church’s responses to its critics gave me shivers because it’s tone reflects the same terrifying chant of: “thinking differently than the leadership will destroy your family”. It really sucks.

The problem with the way the LDS deal with same-sex attraction probably stems from the way Mormons ignore original sin. Mormons simply cannot believe that humans might be really screwed up from birth in a way that willpower won’t fix. The good news of the New Testament is that in Christ, God has both seen and forgotten these screwed-up ways and granted you freedom to do so as well. The biggest problem I see with the policy is that the message the Church is giving its membership is not  “our sins can be dissolved in Christ”, but that “our sins will keep us from God.”   This was Paul’s message before Damascus, not after it. Paul’s ministry was focused on the fact that, in Christ, our sins will not keep us from God.

Like the Pharisaic Jews, Mormons believe our path to the celestial is through obedience to the law. However, in siding with the pre-Damascus Paul, Mormons are actually mistaking the law with the gospel. The “gospel” according to the Latter-day Saint tradition is what Paul refers to as the “law” — i.e. the combined commandments of God. Mormons believe that “living the gospel” is obeying the law.

A New-Testament Christian would understand that the law was the source of the pricks that goaded Paul. It was the law that Paul was trying to enforce when he persecuted the Christians, and the law that he found safety from in Christ on the road to Damascus.

Because Church leadership cannot distinguish the law from the gospel they now are denying the gospel to those that may break their law.  As I said, this really sucks for those denied access to the Church after being told as children that the Church is the only source of the “gospel”.

But I think those of us who despair at the new policy do not need to rally against the Church, any more than Paul needed to rally against the Pharisees or Rome.  His message was simple, straight, and narrow and so is our path to peace.  Whether the pricks are our sins as Paul describes, or the church leadership, as President Kimball describes, we don’t need to kick against these pricks — in Christ we are made free from their control.

93 thoughts on “Kicking Against the Pricks

  1. Hi Jared,
    Hope you are well, enjoying life in beautiful San Diego.
    I have been following the developments on this newest press release by the church and have to say, was a bit surprised by the harshness in which the statement was worded. Mainly, because the leadership has strived so much, in recent years, to be perceived and accepted in a new manner, with its attempts at historical transparency and so forth. There is no way that it did not realize the backlash coming by stating that children of gay parents would no longer be welcome on Sundays or on any other day. It seems like some LDS were of the opinion that the Church was now viewing homosexuality with a softer approach, as it was expressed in this panel in the past by a LDS participant, and that by so doing, soon Bible believing Christians would be known only as bigots. Such members must be feeling dazed and confused now.

    What is painful to me to watch is twofold: how the monopoly claimed by the LDS church on God, His truth and its “sinking sand” teaching on reliance on works as a path to God, place an enormous weight, impossible to carry, on the shoulders of all who believe the organization is between them and God. It pains my heart to see how many become disillusioned with God because they think it is He who is demanding such performance of them. How many will give up under such weight and never experience grace.

    My second point is grace. How essential it is as we cannot fulfill the demands of God’s law and justice. And yet, on the other extreme of the work-based teaching, it seems there is a form of cheap grace being taught and believed, where the person apparently accepts Christ’s sacrifice for their sin but still believes it is fine to live with the sin they supposedly were freed from. I am not saying you said that in your post, but it is important to me that we clarify that yes, we have all been born in sin. Jesus Christ paid an absolutely humanly incomprehensible price to free us from that, not for us to have a special license to sin and not be condemned. The after-Damascus Paul was all about a transforming grace that replaced the demands of justice. Created in Christ Jesus to do good works. To be a new creation in Christ. Not conformed to old sin patterns of life but regenerated spiritually to become a new man, a new woman.

  2. I agree with Solange in that the Gospel doesn’t do away with the moral law. “Accepting Jesus” doesn’t give a license to continue sinning (Rom. 6:1), and most Christian churches believe that if you continue to commit serious sin without repentance after professing faith in Jesus, then either you lose your salvation (Catholics and others) or were never saved in the first place (Baptists and others). Certainly salvation is free and is not earned by works, but it does require repentance.

  3. I used to think that I understood LDS thought on baptism. Obviously after this last week I have missed some critical details.

    “it is hard to thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him,” (Acts 9:5 & 6) is a late textual variant.

  4. ^ I’ve noticed Mormons who are willing to say that ordinances are no longer vital in order to receive the comfort of the Holy Ghost. This really confesses how doctrine is secondary to allegiance to the institution.

  5. The “gospel” in LDS parlance is the sum total of the commandments of God and the plan of salvation.

    I heard from an LDS I know who justified the policy by pointing to the LDS doctrine “that with more knowledge comes more responsibility.” She said the church was actually protecting the potentially-apostate children from baptism because if they eventually sided with their gay parent on SSM that they would face condemnation that they would not face if they never had the Gift of the Holy Ghost when they eventually leave the Church. I have to admit that some of the Q15 probably think this way as well.

  6. Jared,

    That would seem to place very little faith in the power of the gift of the holy spirit?


    I’m understanding that now the “age of maturity” is more vital than the “age of accountability” where baptism is concerned or other arguments that people cannot be held accountable without ordinances, so they are better off without them.

  7. In Christ we are set free, indeed, from sin and from earthly authority. This does not mean we can freely sin or disobey authority. There will be consequences when we do both, though imagining consequences upon death in the afterlife is more difficult. However, I am reminded of Lazarus pleading that his relatives be warned of the consequences in that I am sure he did not take them seriously before hand.

    A point, as it relates to the homosexuality movement, is that there is momentum to not define homosexuality as not a sin. I fear this is a mistake, as I have a hard time reading scripture without seeing that it is a sin. Therefore, it ought not be practiced. Before people jump on me for intolerance, etc, such sin is no different from all other sin which ought not be practiced.

    We are a fallen people, and homosexuals are no different in that regard. Saying it is not sinful does no one any favors in the end. However, they do need love and respect just as all of us do. Being hateful and condemning also does anyone any favors, but let’s not pretend that it is not sinful.

  8. Sin has disappeared as a public word. A correct policy of any Christian church must focus on the sinners place in the kingdom not which sinners can be in the kingdom. I don’t see a lot of that sentiment in Christian communities, including the Mormons. Calling homosexuality a sin is a political statement when other malfeasance is not called sin.

  9. Jared:

    You write, “A correct policy of any Christian church must focus on the sinners place in the kingdom not which sinners can be in the kingdom.”

    Your mistake is in failing to distinguish between sinners and sin. Sinners are allowed in the Church, but sin — deliberate, unrepentant sin — is not. And sinners are allowed in on condition of repentance, never with permission to continue committing any sin they choose.

    Naturally Christians will repeatedly fall into sin, but each time they fall they must repent anew, and provision is made for receiving such persons back again. But a state of continuous, unrepentant fallenness has never been a part of the Christian faith, the whole point of which is to save people from sin — not merely from its consequences.

  10. Jared:

    You might find it easier to see my point if you substitute pedophilia for homosexuality. Pedophiles are certainly allowed in the Church – but only so long as they refrain from acting on their pedophilia. Past pedophilic sins do not bar anyone from Christ’s mercy nor from membership in good standing in the Church. But continuing, unrepentant pedophilic sins do.

    Some will find this illustration outrageous – how can you compare homosexuality with pedophilia?! But my point is not dependent on the two things being comparable. The point is to help you see the difference between the sinner and the sin. I’m sure you have no problem with the notion that an active, unrepentant pedophile can’t be welcomed into a Church community, whereas a repentant pedophile can.

    If you feel that an active, unrepentant homosexual is a different story, that can only mean that you don’t consider homosexual sex to be gravely sinful. But the Christian Church has always seen it that way, from the very beginning, and it’s not something that can simply be abandoned because it’s become unpopular in secular society.

  11. That is true. In practice, a lot of Christians go on sinning after they join a church. And a lot of churches openly welcome active, unrepentant sinners. But we must make another distinction, this time between practice and principle. The principle of the Christian Church has always been that unrepentant sin must be driven out from each of us individually, and those who sin unrepentantly barred from fellowship and communion. (See Mt. 18:15-17 as just one example.)

    In actual fact, you can join a Christian church and start receiving communion and going through all the motions of having left sin behind and living in accord with God’s will in all things; while continuing the live the way you always have in your private life. And a lot of Christians may do this. But it’s still dishonest (and in the Catholic religion, a grave sacrilege). Of course, a lot of Christians are dishonest, there’s no question. But that doesn’t mean that the principle is wrong.

  12. If your point is that heterosexual sexual sinfulness is ignored in the Christian Church, while homosexuals are excluded, I would agree with you. Heterosexuals who are known to be co-habiting or committing adultery should be barred from communion the same as homosexuals, and if they’re not, then there is rank hypocrisy going on.

    In the Catholic Church, most bishops instruct their priests not to police the communion line, but to leave the decision whether to receive communion to the individual conscience. For this reason, in most Catholic churches anyone who presents himself for communion will be given communion, no questions asked. This is why the Rainbow Sash Movement started: They knew that if they simply walked up the communion line, no one would withhold communion from them. So they deliberately dressed themselves up in conspicuously colored sashes, and other outrageous costumes, to put the priest in the position of needing to refuse communion in order to avoid giving scandal – which they then exploited in order to appear as victims. But the thing is, if an organization of adulterers dressed themselves up in distinctive costumes so as to leave no doubt of their sinful state, the priest would have had to act in exactly the same way.

    Whereas if each of them would just quietly go to confession, they could receive communion with a clear conscience and without committing sacrilege nor giving scandal.

  13. Jared, your mistake is that you forget to look to the commandments of Jesus and instead focus on the behaviors of people.

    As sinful people, we will never get it completely right but that does not change the truthfulness of Jesus’ words. As he told numerous people, including the adulterous woman, “Go and sin no more”. Yes, we get it wrong all to often.

    Maybe homosexuality is given a higher level of focus than other sin, but that does not make it any less sinful.

    Now, do you think homosexual practice is a sin in and of itself? Or is it merely one sin among many that we can waive away because we are all sinners and it is hypocritical to focus on the one sin?

  14. And Jared, I would add that a sinners place in the kingdom requires they be without sin. Blatantly sinning and complaining when someone calls it sin is, I think, directly going against Jesus himself, and is sin. Do you agree?

  15. JT – I am not sure I agree with Paul on church discipline, Is there are reason to agree with him on church discipline other than who he was? I would be interested to know if you think we should agree with Paul and why.

  16. “And Jared, I would add that a sinners place in the kingdom requires they be without sin. Blatantly sinning and complaining when someone calls it sin is, I think, directly going against Jesus himself, and is sin. Do you agree?”

    Is going against Jesus himself sin? Probably, but Jesus was not a judge or a lawyer, and he asked that God forgive those who went against him, and he required us to do the same.

    If we find that a professing Christian person’s behavior has not been completely renewed in Christ it seems that Jesus would invite US to forgive them of their sin and wait for God.

    I don’t think the legal issue of how our various societies should react to homosexuality should interfere with the message of Christ. I think this is part of the mistake the LDS are making when they make gay marriage a political issue and then make ecclesiastical policy against political dissidents based on those politics.

  17. Jesus being a judge or a lawyer is irrelevant, but Jesus himself forgave sins…

    Now, you argue around the issue and don’t hit it directly.

    I probably agree with you as it concerns the LDS treatment of the issue as it pertains to homosexuality, but I do see your approach to homosexuality as too open, allowing for sin.

  18. I have a lot of problems with the way society deals with sin, mainly because we only see sin as crime. We brutally punish people who are naturally disorderly and ignore our law. And we ignore those who sin while keeping our law.

    The liberal position is that we should refrain from legally judging those lifestyles that do not harm society beyond the limits of what the ruling class will allow, and that the ruling class should be as large as possible. Most Americans have adopted the liberal position — including the Supreme Court — because liberalism is written into the Constitution.

    Mormons are attempting to resist the liberal legal position with their own communitarian law, reacting to the liberal presumptions that allow them to practice their religion unimpeded by the law. I disagree strongly with the LDS legal position on theological grounds. I think it is motivated by an unrealistic view of human nature and dilutes the message of Christ they claim to be proclaiming.

  19. An attorney, you are 🙂

    But what is sin? Unless you can answer that apart from a worldly point of view you will never be able to grasp sin as God sees it, and that is the only position that matters as it applies to our spiritual position before God.

    Now, I think the LDS approach is legalistic but I also think they have a point. When in your main post you wrote: “The biggest problem I see with the policy is that the message the Church is giving its membership is not “our sins can be dissolved in Christ”, but that “our sins will keep us from God.” This was Paul’s message before Damascus, not after it,” you mischaracterize Paul’s position on sin.

    I don’t think Paul ever preached a message that suggested sin does not in fact keep us from God. I think he believed that wholeheartedly, that sin kept us from God. I believe Paul even more strongly believed that we ought not continue in sin. Read Romans 6 to get an idea of this. (This gives a flavor: 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.”)

    I think sin keeps us from God, just as much as sins can be dissolved in Christ. However, we cannot continue to blatantly sin. Really, Paul’s query to begin the chapter in Romans 6 hits precisely on the issue you bring up: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

    The message has to be that the person can be renewed and made clean in Christ, but just the same we cannot continue in sin. A message that lacks either of these two elements is inadequate.

  20. Jared:

    You write, “If we find that a professing Christian person’s behavior has not been completely renewed in Christ it seems that Jesus would invite US to forgive them of their sin and wait for God.”

    Have you read the whole New Testament? Because a lot of people talk as though they’ve only read the “nice” parts of Jesus’ teaching.

    Jesus does invite us to forgive people’s sins. But he also instructs us not to associate with people who refuse to repent of their sins (as explained previously):

    “And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established. And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church: and if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.” Mt. 18:15-17.

    “Let him be unto thee as a Gentile and a publican” means that you should have nothing to do with him. Why? Because he refused to repent of his sins.

    Just a few verses later is where Peter asks Jesus if he should forgive his brother seven times, and Jesus says, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” How do we reconcile these two statements? Repentance is the key. So long as your brother repents, you should forgive him, even if it happens over and over again. But those who refuse to repent are a different story. I don’t think you will find any place in the Bible where Jesus tells people to forgive and welcome into the Church those who refuse to repent and give up their sins.

    Yes, Jesus ate with sinners — but it was for the purpose of bringing them to repentance.

    When he is at dinner and a woman who is a notorious sinner begins washing his feet, the Pharisee who had invited him thinks to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” Lk. 7:39. But Jesus knows exactly who she is and what sins she had committed. He allows her to wash his feet because she is weeping with sorrow for her sins. This encapsulates the reason for his disgust with the Pharisees: They were more concerned with outward appearances than with the heart. All they saw was a loose woman washing Jesus’ feet, but took no account of the fact that in doing so, she was expressing repentance.

    When he forgives the woman caught in adultery, he tells her “Go, and sin no more.” Jn. 8:11.

    Jesus encounters Zacchaeus, a rich tax collector. Tax collectors were despised by the Jews because they took part in the Roman oppression of their people, but also because they collected extra and kept it for themselves. Jesus says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” Some of the bystanders say, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” But Zacchaeus was repentant of his sins and said, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” And Jesus says “Today salvation has come to this house.” Lk. 19:1-10. Would he have said this if Zacchaeus’ intention was to continue defrauding the people?

    Of St. John the Baptist Jesus said, “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John.” But when people come to John asking to be baptized, what does he say? “Of course! Come one and all! All are welcome regardless of your moral situation!” No. Rather: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance…. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Lk. 3.

    When the tax collectors ask John what they must do in order to receive his baptism, he says, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” When the soldiers ask him, he says, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” In short, you must repent of your wrongdoing before seeking forgiveness from God.

    Why did Jesus despise the Pharisees so much? “When all the people and the tax collectors heard this [that there was no man greater than John the Baptist], they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.” Lk. 7:29-30. You see, John would not baptize those who did not “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” Thus, the Pharisees could not be baptized. Why? Because they refused to repent, and thereby “rejected God’s purpose for themselves”.

    Finally, John the Baptist was arrested by Herod and ultimately beheaded, because he rebuked Herod for living with Herodias, his brother’s wife. Lk. 3:19. Note that he didn’t just “forgive [Herod] of [his] sin and wait for God,” but publicly called on him to repent of his sin, and paid for it with his life.

    And again Jesus said of John the Baptist, “This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’” So John was clearly preaching the message that Jesus wanted to be preached.

  21. When in your main post you wrote “The biggest problem I see with the policy is that the message the Church is giving its membership is not “our sins can be dissolved in Christ”, but that “our sins will keep us from God.” This was Paul’s message before Damascus, not after it,” you mischaracterize Paul’s position on sin.

    Paul absolutely spoke of a solution to sin — i.e. that in Christ our sins will not keep us from God. My question for the church is, can a person be in Christ — and saved from sin — and also be in sin, such as the case with a practicing covetous person or a practicing homosexual? I am puzzled because its eems that Romans 7 makes it pretty clear that Paul assumed that he could: “So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Paul’s hope is that in Christ he eventually be delivered from sin, despite the war that goes on within us.

    When a church teaches that a practicing sinner cannot be reconciled in Christ, it shuts the door for any possible reconciliation of those of us who — like Paul — are stuck in the reality of sin. Paul’s message is that reconciliation in Christ is the only possible path out of sin.

  22. I would argue that you still are missing the point. It is one thing to constantly be tempted by sin and fall and come to Christ for forgiveness and another to blatantly flaunt that sin, without repentance.

    Does it framed that way help you see a distinction?

  23. Jared:

    The issue is not whether you’re practicing sin, it’s whether you’re *sorry* for your sins.

  24. Further thought: Someone who is not merely practicing covetousness but *advocating* for the practice of covetousness, and arguing that covetousness is a good thing, is clearly not sorry for his covetousness.

  25. I would also point out how Paul feels about the flesh and its actions: they are evil. He hates what he does but he cannot help himself.

    Also check out chapter 8 where he expands on living in the flesh, and separates living by the flesh and living by the spirit. If we live by the flesh, we will die, but if we live by the spirit, we will live. The gist is that we are to live by the spirit, setting aside the temptations and drive of the flesh. Christ makes that possible. The Spirit (the Holy Spirit) resides in us to make it possible to do so. So, if we live by and through the Spirit, we are free from sin, but if we live by the flesh, we are in sin by our very nature.

    With that in mind, how can one live in sin and be in Christ? The answer is that one cannot, as sin resides in the flesh not in the Spirit. Again, flaunting sin is sin and is of the flesh.

  26. “Further thought: Someone who is not merely practicing covetousness but *advocating* for the practice of covetousness, and arguing that covetousness is a good thing, is clearly not sorry for his covetousness.”


  27. I tend to agree with NT Wright on this: “The question has been begged in all directions.”

    The operative question is not whether Paul thought homosexual relationships were completely incompatible with being in Christ, but whether homosexual relationships are actually incompatible with being in Christ. But, as aware Christians have found, there is plenty of sin that will continue to exist in a person who is in Christ. This is true whether or not a person seems strong enough to living according to the sin within them. Keeping certain sinners from the community because of their weakness, and especially (as the LDS Church is doing) keeping sinners who merely disagree with the Church’s political stance from the community, does not seem to reasonable considering the fact that a person must be in Christ before they can have any power to overcome their flesh.

  28. Regarding covetousness. The many economists that accept that “greed is good” are not excluded from the Christian community in the way that those who participate in same-sex marriage are, nor are those who covet the wealth of the “one percent”.

  29. “The operative question is not whether Paul thought homosexual relationships were completely incompatible with being in Christ, but whether homosexual relationships are actually incompatible with being in Christ.”

    I can understand that, but the answer to that question is going to be based on, as Wright says, your beliefs in the authority of Scripture and the sub-authority of tradition.

    Practically speaking there are probably 101 operative questions before tackling gay marriage, I would probably start with what it means to be in Christ.

    In any case “we all stumble in may ways” so care and charity should be the rule in all things.

  30. Jared, you are doing another common thing: there are so many sins so homosexuality is no different and therere OK.

    As to wealth, tell us, and be specific, where we are told accumulating wealth in and of itself is a sin?

    But I do want to pause and say that there is no reason to exclude sinners from a Christian community as long as those sinners actively are growing closer to Christ and making efforts to leave their sin behind. However, one who embraces that sin should be addressed squarely and perhaps excluded.

    Bear in mind that such exclusion should be a last resort and implemented only under great care and consideration. Love and patience must rule on that process, not to forget forgiveness. I think this is where Mormons start going wrong it seems if I understand their policy correctly. No active member of the community should be excluded automatically the moment they start to do some things. They must demonstrate a serious enough offense or show a sufficient pattern of sinful behavior before significant intervention and any intervention should include opportunity to demonstrate repentance. Every effort should be made to protect that person.

    The Christian way to do this is patient and loving and involves more than just judgment.

  31. I agree Gundek, There are a lot of questions to be answered before we can formulate a decent and caring Christian legal position regarding homosexuality. Most of the current positions are archaic and ruled by prejudice. I think the LDS position is an example.

  32. While we should have no room for prejudice, don’t be to hard on archaic.

    “Let us put aside empty and vain cares, and let us come to the venerable canon of our tradition, and let us see what is good a pleasing and acceptable in the sight of our maker, Let us fix our gaze on the blood of Christ, and let us know that it is precious to his Father, because it was poured out for our salvation, and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.”

    Clement of Rome

  33. Jared, do you think sin matters? If so, how? Does it make a difference if sin takes place after one becomes a believer in Jesus more than sin before one is a believer?

  34. Jared:

    You write, “Regarding covetousness. The many economists that accept that “greed is good” are not excluded from the Christian community in the way that those who participate in same-sex marriage are, nor are those who covet the wealth of the “one percent”.”

    You’re distracting attention from the forest by arguing about each individual tree. But if you insist:

    If an economist says that “greed is good”, he means not that it is morally good, but that it is good for the economy (although in fairness, what Adam Smith actually said was that everyone acting in his own interest benefits the economy as a whole, because people are willing to work harder for that which benefits them directly, and the more people are working hard, the more wealth is created (the more crops are grown, the more cars are built), making the economy better for everyone). An economist is a scientist, not a moral theologian. He speaks not of shoulds and oughts, but of causes and effects.

    An economist who departs from cause and effect, and instead argues that greed is good per se — not that it leads to economic prosperity, but that it is simply good to be greedy, regardless of economic outcomes — and argues that the Church should change its teachings on greed, because Jesus actually liked greedy people, and therefore greedy people should be proud of their greed, and Christians should stop supporting charitable causes because they interfere with being greedy — should indeed be shunned by the Church.

  35. Jared:

    You can argue over how the principle should be applied in individual cases, but the principle is absolutely biblical: That those who insist on the right to live immorally because they reject the Church’s moral teachings, are not welcome in the Church, precisely because they are rejecting the divinely revealed teachings of scripture and the Church.

    The thing is, you would agree with this in the case of pedophiles (as argued earlier), or murderers, or rapists, or thieves, or child abusers — you would agree that anyone who argued that Jesus actually has no problem with child molestation, or murder, or rape, or stealing, or abusing children, should be shunned by the Church. Therefore you apparently accept the principle.

    But when it comes to homosexuals, suddenly you think the principle doesn’t apply. As I said before, this can only mean that you don’t think homosexual sex is gravely sinful, as these other things are.

    Do you admit that you don’t consider homosexual sex to be sinful? Because if so, then that is the real issue.

  36. Since NT Wright was brought up above, read this to see some other statements he has had on the issue of Christianity and homosexuality.

    Can’t forget this, too:

    Its difficult to say he supports it. I particularly like how he suggests the contrasts and compliments, in the creation of the world, including man and woman, and how that is the design.

  37. Just curious, could kicking against the pricks be an admonition to Saul that he cannot refuse the truth? Certainly, sin is a part of that, but could it more specifically and more contextually important that Jesus is telling him that he cannot escape his calling to follow Jesus?

  38. I’m not sure if you think I was implying NT Wright took a view contrary to the traditional position on human sexuality?

    I kind of liked the opening line, “Our problem at the moment is that we are not have the debate, we are simply having bits and pieces of a shouting match.” If you listen to Bishop Wright closely you see that he quickly begins to weave an explanation for his hermeneutic of human sexuality; Bible, authority, tradition, sin, repentance, creation, culmination, culture, etc.

    My point is that the Church as an interpretive community needs to be able to explain its basic presuppositions behind marriage and sexuality. I think that is Wright’s basic idea.

    Practically speaking shouldn’t we remember that the Lord blessed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, not those who achieve perfect righteousness over one or another category of sin. If we accept that the poor in spirit are blessed and shall inherit the Kingdom, shouldn’t we morn with them? Treat them meekly? Give them mercy? Help them come to peace?

  39. Gundek, my comment was more directed to Jared, who is seemingly looking for ways around the sin of homosexuality. Maybe I am wrong on that, but he latched onto the opening you brought forth that there are many questions to answer before answer the issue of gay marriage. He then asks questions that are really in the weeds of Christianity that do not affect the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, like can we be in sin when we are in Christ. Even the answer to that does not address the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, nor does it have anything to do with the concept that Christians are to turn away from sin once they accept Christ.

    As to your comment, I agree that Christians need to have an answer and be able to explain the position on homosexuality. I also agree that the Lord blessed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. But isn’t a major part of thirsting for righteousness looking to leave sin behind?

    I also don’t think anyone is asking for perfection, nor that we should not have compassion upon those in need– in sin and otherwise. That’s not the issue, because of course we should. But, to ask another question to make the point, isn’t helping someone see their sin and helping them move away from it having compassion?

    And of course in that answer, we are to help them with that sin in a loving, accepting manner, with mercy and patience. We are not to judge them in such a way that ignores or overlooks our own sin, as we are then hypocrites and in additional sin ourselves. But pointing out that something is sinful and that certain behavior is outside the will of God is something I think we should do.

    I believe people tend to take one of two different tracks, to some degree or another. First, they can be so worried about offending people and loving the sinner they fail to call out sin. Second, they can become so focused on the sinful side of it all that they forget to love. Neither position leaves the situation in a better position. Its, I think, harder to do both, but we need to try to do both. We won’t always get it right, but we need to try to stand upon Godly principles and address sin, in our lives and in our Christian community.

    Anyway, some of my expanded thoughts on this issue.

  40. “I believe people tend to take one of two different tracks, to some degree or another. First, they can be so worried about offending people and loving the sinner they fail to call out sin. Second, they can become so focused on the sinful side of it all that they forget to love. Neither position leaves the situation in a better position. Its, I think, harder to do both, but we need to try to do both. We won’t always get it right, but we need to try to stand upon Godly principles and address sin, in our lives and in our Christian community.”

    Well expressed.

  41. Honestly I think homosexuality is a convenient sin. Depending on whose statistics you believe 90-99% of people are not tempted by homosexuality. It’s kind of like repenting of pre-marital sex after you get married. So, conveniently for the 99% of us, it’s really easy to call out sin. When I look at the contemporary Christian landscape in the United States I don’t see much of a problem with getting the message out that homosexuality is a sin.

    Maybe we can have a third group of Christians who aren’t judging those outside the Church and instead concentrate on loving their neighbors. Maybe this third group can publicly call out their own personal sins and their own desperate need for the righteousness of Christ. Maybe this third group will earn the credibility to actually have the debate NT Wright thinks we need.

    I don’t know if Jared is looking for a way around homosexuality or not but, his question “can we be in sin when we are in Christ?” isn’t in the weeds of Christianity. Its at the heart of the questions Jared has been asking for the past year or so. Read the original post.

    John Newton said that sin, “will be universally and always felt during our present state. It insinuates into, and mixes with all our thoughts, and all our actions. It is inseparable from us, as the shadow from our bodies when the sun shines upon us. The holiness of a sinner does not consist in a deliverance from it, but in being sensible of it, striving against it, and being humbled under it, and taking occasion from thence to admire our Savior, and rejoice in him as our complete righteousness and sanctification.

  42. Gundek,

    Forgive me for thinking after your post that you think it is OK to remain in sin.

    I literally just read 2 Corinthians 7. Verse 1 is particularly poignant in this conversation.

    I am also not sure what you mean by homosexuality being a sin of convenience. Sin is sin is sin, and repenting of pre marital sex after getting married is still necessary- or do you disagree? The percentage of homosexuals is irrelevant. What’s at issue is how Christians accept those flaunting sin in the Church.

    I’ll let Jared speak for himself but whether he’s been asking these questions for a long time is also irrelevant, which is to your point. Can we be in sin and be in Christ is a question that has nothing to do with whether homosexuality is a sin to begin with.

    Whether we can be in Christ when we sin is ultimately a question I cannot answer, though I am inclined to say no. But the beauty is that Christ forgives infinitely, something I am very thankful for and hope every Christian is thankful for, too. And that he forgives infinitely is the bottom line, not the mechanics of whether we are in Christ when we sin.

    Now, I am curious why you object to my position. What, specifically, do you object to? What is wrong with standing against sin but addressing the dinner with love, patience, and mercy, as you suggest? Where, specifically, do I suggest we do something other than love our neighbors? Where, specifically, do I say we are to ignore our own sin? You never addressed my points apart from saying there could be a third group loving their neighbors and calling out their own sin.

    Call me crazy but that third group you suggest seems a lot like my first group failing to call out sin, because your post lends one to believe the group you suggest won’t call out homosexuality within its own home.

    Oh, one final point. What I am discussing is allowing homosexual activity within the church, which if my previous paragraph is wrong as to you not addressing homosexuality within the church, still is precisely within your point that you think we need to address sin at our own doorstep. To those Christians struggling with this sin we need to act appropriately, even homosexual activity. But those struggling with sin ought not flaunt that sin, any sin. The church should not look the other way at that.

    Do you not agree?

  43. Yes, I believe the Bible presents a sexual ethic and to go against that ethic is sinful. Behind this statement is a whole host of hermeneutical presuppositions and more practically a single solution that need attention before I go about calling out sin.

    I don’t know that I object to your position, it may just be your presentation, to be honest you sound like a Mormon when you said, “The message has to be that the person can be renewed and made clean in Christ, but just the same we cannot continue in sin.” I think the third group I was talking about is vitally aware that they continue to sin and isn’t preoccupied with calling out sin without the solution.

    I am a Protestant and the call to repentance is an evangelical grace, a convicted reliance on Christ as the only solution for sin and the only source of righteousness. Should Christians be concerned for the holiness and edification of the Church, certainly, but always aware that on this side of Glory our holiness will always be corrupted by sin and temptation.

  44. I think there is a persistent confusion in this thread, of personal holiness on the one hand, and acceptance or refusal to believe revealed truth, on the other. Yes, you can be a Christian in good standing while remaining a sinner, but you can’t be a Christian in good standing while refusing to believe the Christian faith.

    What happens when someone obstinately refuses to repent of his sin, and indeed insists on continuing in his sin without shame or remorse, is not that he is failing to conquer sin, but that he is rejecting the very notion that something is a sin in the first place. In other words, he is rejecting a *doctrine* of the Church.

    This scandalizes people on two levels: First, because the Church becomes known as a place where people sin openly and unrepentantly, and is therefore no different from secular society; and second, because there arises confusion over what is and is not a sin in the first place. If something is not consistently named as a sin and warned against as a danger to souls, then it starts to enter people’s heads that maybe it’s not a sin after all, or if it is, then it’s a very minor one and not something to get upset about. This in turn leads people to commit that sin, having failed to be sufficiently warned against it; which in turn leads back to the first cause of scandal, that Christians are no more moral than anyone else — what’s the point of being a Christian if Christians live the same as anyone else; that is, if Christ can’t change lives?

    Gundek, if you’re only saying that we should not be too strident in our denunciations of sin in those who don’t even claim to understand, let alone believe the Christian faith, I agree with you. We won’t attract sinners to the Gospel by browbeating them. But what I and, I think, Slowcowboy are arguing is that within the Church at least, a sin needs to be called a sin and no two ways about it, just as a snake needs to be called a snake, so people know to avoid it.

  45. Agellius, I agree.

    My point in this thread is to address sin within the church. While sin is still sin for non believers how it is addressed is an entirely different proposition. I fully agree we show them the love and patience described by Gundek and Agellius.

    I also agree that it is not clear Gundek’s position on sin within the church and I am not sure if he is addressing the same thing Agellius and I are addressing. With that in mind I am curious Gundeks thoughts on sin within the church body.

  46. What’s not clear? I support the peace unity and purity of the Church, but people in the Church clearly sin. Take the second commandment. Many American evangelicals deliberately and unrepentantly violate the second commandment with pictures of Jesus in their homes. While this has always concerned me, and clearly this is unrepentant idolatry in the guise of piety, I have never really felt compelled to call out this sin.

  47. Nothing is clear, Gundek, with your position.

    Please review 1 Corinthians 5 and tell me how that is consistent with your position that everyone sins and therefore we ought not do a thing to call it out, and how your position supports the purity of the church.

    I’ll also ask about how not calling out sin addresses our being ambassadors for Christ and how allowing sin into our midst affects the Great Commission.

    Apart from being seen as nice and inclusive and not offensive, which, the theory goes, may bring more people to church, I see no benefit of allowing them to continue in sin without genuine attempts to become pure. As John wrote in 1 John, the sinner who keeps on sinning does not know God. As Paul write to Timothy, false doctrine should not be tolerated.

    I don’t see how your position helps anyone, including those who claim to be Christian but continue to flaunt their clear sin and demand the church absolve them of this behavior without question by allowing them to continue in it.

    Bear in mind that nothing I say in this post is to be construed that we are to be inflammatory towards these people and act towards them in any other way besides love and patience. Nothing I say in this post should infer that Christians are to ignore their own sin while they criticize others. Nothing should be gleaned that my message is interplant or bigoted and that I hate those who practice sexual sin, or any sin for that matter.

    These are difficult issues, no doubt.

  48. What does 1 Cor 5 have to do with calling out sin without Christ as the solution? Paul begins that letter giving thanks for the grace God has given to the Corinthians and he ends the letter asking that the grace of the Lord will be with the them. It seems that Paul thinks that the peace, unity and purity of the Church needs something [someone] more than just calling out sin.

    John teaches us that, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”. Right there he is “calling out sin” in all of us, but he tells us what the solution for that sin is. That’s the rub, I’m a sinner and I need Christ. Not once to be renewed and made clean in Christ, but every day of my life.

  49. I’m not sure what you are reading…

    1 Corinthians 5
    English Standard Version (ESV)

    Sexual Immorality Defiles the Church

    5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

    3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.[a]

    6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

    9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church[b] whom you are to judge? 13 God judges[c] those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

  50. As to John, Gundek, I fully and have always acknowledged that we are all sinners and never should think otherwise. Or did you miss that point?

  51. Churches and religions tolerate all kinds of unrepentant and open sinning (how else could politicians and kings be part of these churches). (dare I reference Spotlight?) I think the Jesus of the Gospels makes it clear that the particular interpretation of the law does not effect the message of the gospel. Thus, the issues churches have with same-sex marriage are necessarily more about culture and politics than about “purging sin”.

    I think what the LDS Church is doing is not really purging sin, but more akin to classifying same-sex marriage as a crime that will cause you to be cast out of the community, and a banned ideology that is inimical to the current LDS ideology. Same-sex marriage is no more a sin than open adultery, but there is no pro-active excommunication of adulterers, or limitations on the children of adulterers.

  52. But once again, if you had people openly advocating adultery, and openly expressing pride in it, that would be a serious problem, and tolerating, nay welcoming it in the Church, would be very unbiblical.

  53. Jared, conclusory.

    I just posted an entire chapter that speaks directly to this. Do you have thoughts on what I posted?

  54. Stepping back a second, Chrisgo and should never view sinners as criminals and should always be open to truly repentant people. To that extent, I do agree with Gundek and Jared that the topic needs to be addressed with gentleness within the Christian body.

  55. I’m reading the entire book of First Corinthians, “To the Church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints…” “I give thanks to my God for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus…”You are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Chris…” “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…”

    Where does Paul start? Calling out sin or setting the foundation for a solution to sin? Clearly Paul is concerned with the holiness of the Church, as every Christian should be. He is also intent on setting the necessary groundwork pointing to Jesus as the source of that holiness.

    Paul isn’t calling for righteousness as an act of meritorious obedience, he is calling the Corinthians to purity and holiness because in Christ they are saints, spiritually gifted, forgiven, redeemed, sanctified, made righteous. Paul doesn’t call for the sexually immoral to be removed from the church as punishment but as a step toward his reconciliation (Vs. 5) as in a similar passage in Gal 6:1.

    Once again, going back to the original post Jared points out that “Mormons simply cannot believe that humans might be really screwed up from birth in a way that willpower won’t fix.” The only solution to sin in this presentation is more willpower. Basically more meritorious righteousness. Paul doesn’t talk this way to the Corinthian Church, he tells them they are in Christ, are saints, are spiritually gifted, are forgiven, are redeemed, are sanctified, are being made righteous.

    I’m not pointing all this out to make Christianity nice and inclusive and not offensive. The truth is the scribes and pharisees could call out sin, Paul makes this point in Romans 2, what they couldn’t do is solve the problem. And no one can, absent Christ.

  56. True, Gundek, but you totally toss aside ch. 5. We are to be all the things you discuss but we also cannot let sin grow and fester in the Church. Paul is explicit in chapter 5 what needs to be done. Do you not think this section is relevant? If not, what else can we toss and under what justification? That everyone sins is ultimately an argument of equivalence: we are all bad so we are all ok. So you think God views sin that way?

  57. Of course Chapter 5 matters, but not in a vacuum. Every snippet I posted came from chapters 1-4. Paul lays out a foundation of what it means to be in the Church, to be in Christ. As I pointed out earlier, Paul calls for the removal of a member because of immorality, with the goal that he would be saved in the day of the Lord.

    Excommunication may on the surface come about because immorality, greed, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness, or swindling or any flagrant sin. Ultimately the heart of unrepentant sin is a failure of faith. Rosaria Butterfield points out that the greatest sin is unbelief as it motivates all other sin. Calling out sin without calling for a saving faith in Christ is pointless.

  58. Ah, Gundek, now we are getting closer to agreement. Of course, as Paul mentions in chapter 5, a goal of kicking them out is ultimately to save their soul. But kicking them out also protects the rest of the church. It’s a two way street, and finding the proper balance is difficult, and what I have been trying to say for a long time.

    But I do want to emphasize that the church cannot tolerate sin if it goes unrepented. I see the issue of homosexual activity as clearly sinful and often flaunted. There should be no room for that within the church.

  59. Gundek writes, “Ultimately the heart of unrepentant sin is a failure of faith.”

    Bingo. And is someone’s failure of faith not to be pointed out to him? Are we to talk to him as though his faith has not failed, leaving him to suppose that his faith is intact even though it’s not?

  60. What about adultery, divorce, alcoholism, quarrelsome, larceny? Should we come up with a need not apply list for Christianity?

  61. Slowcowboy,

    The funny thing about the specific case of sexual immorality found in Corinthians 5 is that it is not something the Protestants have a problem with – i.e. taking your father’s former wife as a bride. If that sin will not keep you from the church today, what is the standard of determining which particular state of sexual immorality qualifies a person to be thrown out of the community?

  62. Gundek writes, “What about adultery, divorce, alcoholism, quarrelsome, larceny? Should we come up with a need not apply list for Christianity?”

    ::sigh:: Once again, people who are *guilty* of these things don’t necessarily have to be excluded from the Church, but people who *advocate* for these things, as though they were good actions and not sins, certainly should be.

  63. Jared:

    Is your argument now that we can’t know what kinds of sexuality are immoral, therefore we should allow all kinds to be practiced and advocated, no questions asked?

  64. Agellius,

    Right, so what is the point of holding out one particular sin or one class of sin as particularly intolerable to Christianity when what is really intolerable is the promoting of any sin as good and acceptable?

  65. Gundek:

    I never advocated “holding out one particular sin or one class of sin as particularly intolerable to Christianity”. I never said that people who are guilty of one sin or another need to be kicked out. The issue (for me) is people who argue that *sins are not sins* and who demand that they be accepted *in* their sin, and that their practice of sin *not be called sin*. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness.” Is. 5:20. By all means, mercy to those who are guilty of sin and are sorry for it. But woe to those *within the Church* who call sin — any sin — good and normal and equal to goodness.

  66. @agellius – My argument is that the Bible has not settled the question regardig what sort of sexuality is completely forbidden vs. what is allowed.

  67. Jared writes, “My argument is that the Bible has not settled the question regarding what sort of sexuality is completely forbidden vs. what is allowed.”

    And therefore all kinds of sexuality should be allowed to be practiced and advocated, no questions asked, right? (or if not, why not?)

  68. This became a very long post. My apologies, but I hope the reader reads it all and considers its merits. Thanks…

    The discussion has taken an interesting direction. Its unfortunate that the issue of putting up with sin in the church is so closely tied with sexual immorality. However, I think the Bible supports disassociating with all unrepentant sinners. At the end of 1 Cor 5 we see Paul list a host of other sins that we need to separate ourselves from those who continue to sin in them. In vs. 11 we see Paul write that we are to avoid those who not only are actively in the sins of sexual immorality, but greed, idolatry, revile, drunkenness, and swindling. Those cover a wide range of activity, which leads me to believe that we are not to tolerate within the church those who actively sin without repentance.

    But sexual sin was apparently rather pervasive back then, just as it is now. I think that is why it got the attention it did. But what constituted sexual immorality? I think its pretty clear. Specifically, fornification is listed as a sexual sin, as are a host of others, including but not limited to men with men and women with women, lustful passions, bestiality, sleeping with prostitutes, being a prostitute, sex before marriage, adultery, rape, incest. We are told over and over within the Bible that we are to keep ourselves Holy and clean and present ourselves to God and the world as set apart and different. We are not to indulge in the things that tempt the world. We are further to avoid even the temptation. Though temptation in and of itself is no sin, we are safer when we are not tempted.

    In Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessolinica, he writes this, found in Chapter 4:

    3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification:[b] that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body[c] in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.

    It is clear that we are called to holiness and that sexual sin makes us impure. In passion and lust we find ourselves giving into the temptation. When we allow the sinners who advocate such sin into our churches, we open the floodgates to be tempted and commit the sins they advocate for. That we are having this very discussion is proof.

    At present, not only is sexual sin being tolerated, and in some places ignored, other sins are being set aside, “because we are all sinners”. Gundek just asked Agellius: “Right, so what is the point of holding out one particular sin or one class of sin as particularly intolerable to Christianity when what is really intolerable is the promoting of any sin as good and acceptable?” If this is not the ultimate demonstration of that in action, I don’t know what is.

    And it is fueled by questions like those Jared proposes: “My argument is that the Bible has not settled the question [regardig] what sort of sexuality is completely forbidden vs. what is allowed.” It’s as if he is suggesting listing every single sexually possible act to determine whether it is sinful or not. Jared also seems to assume that the contemporary Christian church has no problem with taking a father’s former wife for his own as acceptable. I have not a clue where he gets that assumption from, as my church would not tolerate it and I know of no church that would. Regardless, any church that would do that would be in violation and should not be taken as license to allow other sins. That’s just another version of they’re bad so we should all be bad, too, in addition to shooting the messenger rather than listening to the message.

    I’ll move to the end of this post by suggesting that the church is supposed to be holy and pure. While the church is inhabited by sinful humans, the purpose of the church is to move people towards holiness and there should be no expectation that the people will themselves be fully pure. However, the people within the church should strive to be holy. Anyone who does not strive to that end, and even actively advocates for sinful behavior (whether that be sin or greed or anger, etc.), needs to be addressed by the church. How the church does that must be delicate and appropriate. The Bible is very clear on that, too. However, because the church exists to move people towards holiness and purity, it should actively move people towards those ends and not allow those who move against that end.

    We can equivocate all day by comparing sins and actions, and we can rationalize everything by suggesting that behavior A is a cultural thing and is not really that bad. Our human minds are prone to justify things that we ought not justify. I’ve done it more than I’d like to admit, personally.

    But at the end of the day, we must remember Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 6: “9 Do not be deceived.” What are we not to be deceived by? “neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” But the good news is that some of us were just like them, but we have become holy though Jesus and the Spirit of God!

    And as we were once like them, we are no longer like them. New creatures, some say. And as Paul describes it in Ephesians 4:

    17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

    Something clearly should happen when we accept Christ, and we become different than the world… Continuing in sin and allowing that sin within our churches does no one any favors, and works against the holiness of God’s church, his people. And besides, in the end, why should we not celebrate our freedom in sin and our changed lives by encouraging other believers?

  69. I think you are confused. Honestly where have I said, tolerate sin? Where have I said, ignore sin? What I have said, is that calling out sin (LAW) without also putting forward the solution (GOSPEL) will get you nowhere.

    Protestants say that the indicative (GOSPEL) informs the imperative (LAW). This is commonly addressed as the distinction between the LAW and the GOSPEL.

    What is the point of holding out one particular sin or one class of sin as particularly intolerable to Christianity when what is really intolerable is the promoting of any sin as good and acceptable? In Paul’s view both the blatantly unrepentant slander and the blatantly unrepentant adulterer must be separated from the Church. So what right to we have to say sexual immortality is more serious than lying?

    When addressing Church discipline it is the sin of “contumacy”, the failure to accept the correction of the Church ultimately leads to excommunication. I recognize that some sin is more serious that others but, I’m a Protestant, we don’t have mortal and venial sins and I am not going to reinvent that error.

    I’m not equivocating or rationalizing when I say the Church is never going to be holy because it expels sinners, although tragically this sometimes is needed as a last resort. The Church is holy because of Christ.

  70. Paul also mentions that those Christians that sue each other are way off track. Should we exclude the litigious from our communion?

  71. Gundek, precisely. Its a high standard but unrepentant liars should be treated the same.

    And you ARE equivocating. You continue to come up with excuses not to address the sin. You continue to avoid any urgency to keep the church clean. What I hear from you is that we are all sinners. The sexual sin is indeed just one example, but it’s a prominent and controversial example, one that to some it is dangerous to question the wisdom not of the church but of those engaged in the behavior that even you seem to accept as sinful.

    I am at a loss to understand your hesitation. It’s as if you are more afraid of offendi g people than you are about standing firm. I suppose you can believe you are standing up for the concept of loving people in Christ but that is possible even in standing firm for the purity of the church. I just see you staring out by saying you are for the purity of the church but nothing else follows to demonstrate your dedication to that…

  72. As I said, you always start out saying it is sometimes necessary but won’t identify when what you call excommunication should be sought and when the church should correct its members. The excuse is that we are all sinners.

  73. And i quote, “…“contumacy”, the failure to accept the correction of the Church ultimately leads to excommunication.”

  74. The Church should constantly correct all of its members through the regular preaching of the word (law and gospel), the administration of the sacraments, prayer and fellowship. Members should be constantly uplifted to live the benefits of their sanctification, that Christ is there holiness and their righteousness. The grace of repentance should be preached and prayed for, a love of the law and a hatred of all that is evil should be sought because of the merciful gifts of the Lord.

  75. In all due respect, Gundek, you do not answer the question. I’ll even ask it in a different manner: when should the church actively address a specific member to correct his or her behavior.

  76. How should I know? That’s a randomly vague hypothetical question.

    Personal contact should probably begin as soon as the elders of the church are aware of an individuals besetting sin

  77. Do you then agree with Paul’s instruction on the behavior that might lead to such contact?

  78. Either you agree Paul gives credible instruction and circumstances to intervene or not.

  79. No, I think “do you agree with Paul?” is an overly simplistic and reductionist question. Simply saying I agree with Paul only means I agree with what I think Paul is saying. A black and white question doesn’t provide the full picture.

    And before you get overwrought and jump the shark again, I believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture but, I also recognize that the Church is an interpretive community. And while Scripture may be without error, I am not.

    I have said that, “contumacy”, the failure to accept the correction of the Church ultimately leads to excommunication and you should really take the time to think about what it means to reject the corrections of the Church. I understand you think homosexuality to be the biggest sin, but its not, unbelief is.

    In Paul’s various books he lists out many sins from bragging to being unforgiving that can all result in excommunication. None of those sins need to lead to being removed from the Church because Paul also gives instructions that not only should those caught in transgression be restored in gentleness but that the spiritual should bear their burdens to fulfill the law of Christ. The concept of bearing a burden to restore someone to Christ seems totally at odds with simply calling out sin.

    In the end, if this process fails and the former believer fails to see the grace of repentance, where they fail to take hold of Christ’s righteousness then the ultimate sin is no longer the original transgression, it is a rejection of Christ and the gospel.

  80. Why should I believe you over Paul when it comes to defining the sin that needs attention and correction? As stated above, sexual sin is indeed just one of many but it’s also clear what that is and what it includes. Why should I not take Paul at his word?

    If I alter what is clearly stated on the issue of sexual sin am I not guilty of putting my own culture above clearly stated and timeless Biblical truths, doing the exact thing many accuse Paul of (that is using contemporary morals to define sin)?

    This does not mean Paul beomes something not to interpreted. It does, however, put limits on interpretation. What is clear should remain clear and what is not clear reasonable interpretation is possible and disagreement expected. As this discussion relates to sin: sexual sin is clearly a sin worthy of attention from the church, including homosexual activity.

    I don’t see room for debate on that and you have not provided anything to change my position. Your vagaries make it seem as if you are avoiding the issue.

  81. Uh, you shouldn’t believe me over Paul because I am not defining the sin that needs attention and correction. I simply refuse to make homosexuality the chief sin, I refuse to look at another’s sin as irredeemable, and I refuse to look anywhere except Christ reconciliation and righteousness.

  82. No one is arguing it is the chief sin. It is the refusal to repent of this sin that is actively being practised within the confines of some churches, without sorrow and with emphasis that is in question.

    You have not come close to addressing it, hiding behind the excuse that it is not the chief sin. No one disputes that. It is the open tolerance of the sin that is the problem. It is that which you will not address.

  83. Since this discussion is probably over given there have been no responses to my last post (it probably is wise to let it go…) I’ll just say I appreciate the discussion. Such discussions do help me in my walk, and they broaden my understanding of different takes on the Christian faith.

    While I may disagree with Gundek on the issue of homosexuality, I would wager he and I have much more in common and what we do share in common is really what matters in the Christian faith. A solid faith in Jesus as our savior and ultimate faith in him to lead us from sin is one of those commonalities.

    I post this for those who may read through this and think Christians are as divided as ever, and no, that is not necessarily the case. Christians can and will have internal debates on important issues, but that does not mean that we are separate under Christ.

    Thank you, Jared and Tim, for this forum.

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