KOH2RVA:Day 233

confusion4I got a call from Mary Ann Delano yesterday telling me that people had been “confused” by Sunday’s sermon. Mary Ann is the chair of the deacons at First Baptist. When she calls I listen. But I did wonder what people were confused about. I thought the sermon had flown like an arrow through the air toward its crystal-clear conclusion, which was this:

Bless my heart, every time I hear this story (about Peter and Cornelius) it forces me to deal with the possibility that God is willing to accept people I am not, and every time I hear it I need to ask, “Lord, am I calling something ‘unclean’ that you have made clean? And if so, would you show me?”

But I did refer to gay people in the sermon, as an example of those we might have difficulty accepting, and that reference came just a few weeks after I spoke up for a church in the Richmond Baptist Association that ordained an openly gay man. Put those two together and you might jump to the conclusion that the pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church was on a crusade of some kind.

Let me be clear: I am not.

But every time I preach from Acts 11:1-18 (the lectionary text for the day, selected months and years before the recent meeting of the Richmond Baptist Association) I seem to get in trouble, and it’s because the text forces us to consider those people we think of as “unclean.” In fact, someone sent me a copy of (Pastor Emeritus) Jim Flamming’s sermon on this same text from 2004—“Who Is Unacceptable to You?”—where he talked about the sheet that came down out of heaven in Peter’s vision, the one with all those unclean animals in it. He said it becomes quickly evident that the point of this vision is not animals but people. “Which people or groups of people do you consider ‘unclean’?” Dr. Flamming asked. “Who would be at the center of your sheet?”

But he didn’t preach that sermon a month after the Richmond Baptist Association had voted to maintain fellowship with a church that ordained an openly gay man, and he didn’t speak up for that church in that meeting. I did, and I can see how some people would make a connection, and think that I was on some sort of crusade.

Let me be clear: I am not.

I don’t think the two are unrelated, but when I spoke up for Ginter Park Baptist Church I was speaking up for the mission of the Richmond Baptist Association. I was trying to say, “Let’s not let the action of one church derail our mission.” Baptist churches are autonomous. We can’t tell them who to ordain and they can’t tell us. But we can work together in spite of our differences for the greater good and that’s what I was arguing for. I was thinking about Camp Alkulana and the three Baptist centers in Richmond that do such good work. I was hoping we wouldn’t lose Ginter Park’s contribution to that mission.

But now I understand some 15 churches are considering leaving the Association because we voted not to kick Ginter Park out. I called the pastor of one of those churches last week—a big church—and asked, “Is it true? Are you going to let the action of one small church cause you to abandon your long-term commitment to the mission of the Richmond Baptist Association? Isn’t that like the tail wagging the dog?”

I tried to imagine why his church would even consider such a thing and in the end decided that it must be fear. The churches that are thinking of pulling out are afraid that if they don’t they will become guilty by association—quite literally—and that everyone will assume they affirm gay ordination. They are afraid that by working with a church they consider “unclean” they, themselves, will become unclean.

That fear of contamination was the same fear that kept the early church from having anything to do with Gentiles until that day on a rooftop in Joppa when God told Peter not to call unclean what he had made clean. Suppose Peter hadn’t gone to the home of Cornelius? Suppose he had been too afraid? God’s mission could have stalled out right there, the Richmond Baptist Association would have never existed, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

I don’t want God’s mission to stall out, and I certainly don’t want it to stall out because of fear, but I also don’t want it to stall out because of confusion. I’ve tried to be clear about why I preached what I preached and why I did what I did. If you have questions or comments please post them below.  In the meantime, let’s get on with our mission.  This is Day 233 of KOH2RVA:

There is good work waiting to be done.

38 thoughts on “KOH2RVA:Day 233

  1. Jim, I don’t think you should have to defend yourself or your sermon. I do agree that fear must me a big factor in other churches decisions to leave the association. But what do we truly have to fear? It seems to me those churches that want to leave the association for fear of association like you mentioned, do not have a strong mission. If they fear more what they “look” like rather than the true reason why they exist in the first place perhaps they should re-examine their mission, their existence, and if they’re truly out there for doing God’s work and praising him- and the driving force as I’ve always believed should simply be LOVE. When politics and social views mix with religion it gets messy, and the mix is often unavoidable. I hold strong to the simple belief of love. If churches focused more on this simple, divine commandment, then fear is conquered, hearts are opened, missions clear and strong, and those who need the Holy Spirit are lead to him- and welcomed with open, loving arms of a congregation built on love.

  2. Well said, Pastor! I have very fond memories of a very similar sermon preached from the exact same text on a certain Sunday — in fact, I think it was Mother’s Day — in 2004 at FBCDC. I seem to recall it got you into a little trouble then, too. Never stop letting the Gospel getting you in trouble!

  3. I was a member of one of those 15 churches. In my church, the immediate knee-jerk reaction was a leap to make this an issue of homosexual ordination and not an issue of church autonomy or larger mission or even the power of the God we serve to magnify our similarities and minimize our differences – whether those be Jew/Gentile, racial ordination restriction, gender ordination restriction, or sexual orientation ordination restriction. For speaking up to remain in relationship with the RBA, using much the same logic as you have in your blog, I was personally chastised by a Deacon in my church as a ‘false prophet’ and ‘demon spawn’ who simply could not be trusted to see the clarity of God’s word on the subject of homosexuality and sin.
    I will admit, this whole issue has made me consider homosexuality and Christianity at a much deeper level than I ever have before. And in response, I am studying, praying, and researching the topic more than I might have had this whole issue not come up. And on the topic of homosexual ordination, I might end up closer to Ginter Park than to First Baptist or to my former church…but that will be okay…because I’m a Baptist…and that’s how we do things.
    One final thought on the ‘guilt by association’ issue…if we are so worried about ‘guilt by association’, wouldn’t we ALL have stopped calling ourselves ‘Baptists’ the moment that Westboro stole the name? I mean, seriously, if you are going to be worried about being associated with a group, wouldn’t it be worse to be associated with a hate group who pickets the funerals of American Servicemen and women shouting about how ‘God HATES fags’ or ‘God HATES (fill in the blank)’ than with a little church in Richmond who faithfully followed what they believed to be God’s call in one man’s life to ordination?

  4. Regarding why other Baptist churches are considering leaving RBA, perhaps we should ask them, and then listen, REALLY listen, to their answers, rather than “trying to imagiine” why they are leaving and then passing judgement on them based on our assumptions.

  5. Margie: As a member of Ginter Park, thank you for your witness. Feel free to visit — we’ll try not to be too scary. 😉 And thanks to Jim — again — for putting matters so well.

  6. Heather, above, has said it extremely well, in my opinion. The autonomy of the individual church is an important Baptist principle for me; even more important is the responsibility of an individual for one’s own actions. That’s all one can control — as far as others are concerned, you only can control what you give them to react to — not their reaction to you and your belief. Truly listening to another is quite important, and checking and re-checking until we are sure we have removed our own “filters” makes good sense. We cannot determine how others will react, but we can be clear about our own perceptions and beliefs. Thank you for your clarity and leadership in helping us to understand what exactly Cornelius’ experience could mean for us!

  7. @ Julia Scott…After reading all the above, I think you are so right. After all Jesus did hate sin and we need to allow the churches to decide what they will do while not judging them. People seem to be saying not to judge the homosexual…but I say not to judge the person, but let people know that the lifestyle is wrong.. The lifestyle is sin, no matter how you look at it. You can smooth it over any way you want and it is still sin. I think we are becoming more and more like Rome was before its fall. Our people are bending over backwards so they won’t offend people. Maybe that is why God is letting our nation go to the dogs, so to speak. We have abandon his teachings to make ourselves feel better.
    My husband has been a minister for over 40 years. We have served churches from Maine to Texas. It seems to me that Christians who don’t agree with the homosexual lifestyle are being brow beaten into being made to feel as if they are terrible persons. I don’t agree with having a homosexual pastor…how is that teaching our young children that homosexuality is a sin and don’t tell me children don’t notice. So how does this pastor teach about homosexuality? or does he flit over it. It is in the Bible as a SIN. What does he say to young people who ask about this…wanting to be hip and try it out? I am sorry, pastor, you don’t overlook sin to help people…you teach them that we have to acknowledge our sin to Jesus and he will save us.
    I am sorry the lady was called such names in the above post. That was uncalled for and certainly was no help to her.
    We have to remember that the love of money is the root of all evil. Voting Ginter Park in just so the association will still have it’s money to help all these other good projects is just not right. I believe we should stand up for what Christ says is right and let him supply the money for the worthwhile projects. When we obey Him, I believe He will take care of our needs. My husband and I have a love attachment to Ginter Park. Some of the most wonderful people were members there when we were pastoring in a pioneer field. They helped us tremendously. One lady even sent foreign stamps to our son who collects them. One member gave us a loan and others sent graduation gifts to our children which helped in their college. I really pray that God will show this pastor that what he is doing is a sin as well as show me the sins I am doing that I don’t see..
    I almost have anxiety attacks at how our nation is rolling over on it’s belly so that people will LIKE us or think we are great by treating all the things that Christ said with a grain of salt. And in the above scripture, the Lord was telling Peter that the gospel should be preached to the Gentile as well as the Jews, He did not say that we should look the other way because homosexuality is so popular and we might hurt someone’s feelings if we stand up for what Christ believes and has said. When we rationalize scripture, a person can do almost anything and be right.
    It goes without saying that we should love, as Christ loves, everyone. The Bible does not tell us to love their sins.
    I humbly ask that we all pray for Ginter Park’s pastor and all those that have chosen this sinful lifestyle.

  8. @Martha, i love you, you’re a sister in Christ. I don’t love your sins either. I am a sinner. We will all have to face God and be judged. In the meanwhile, I will leave it up to Him.

  9. I’ve already addressed my feelings on Jim’s sermon. While I understand the concern over “sin” being ignored, there are many sins that people overlook and it is not up to us to single out any one sin to condemn. God will take care of that in His time. What we as Christians need to be careful of is judging others by what sins are acceptable and what are not. We are all guilty and will answer to God for ourselves. Being hospitable to all as an example of what a Christian is, is not the same as condoning sinful behavior. God is in control, and it is up to Him to make the judgments that He feels are appropriate. It wasn’t too many years ago that race was a major issue in who was acceptable in our churches. Thankfully, that is disappearing, but was that a sin? A person’s race was not the sin. The sin was the attitude of those who would not accept a person of color. I truly believe that God does not want us to be the judge and jury. We need to listen to Him. Acts 14: 10-12

  10. Martha, there are a number of faithful Christians, pastors, and scholars who take the Bible seriously and do not have the same understanding of homosexuality as you. Of course you are entitled to your interpretation, but please do not assume that those who disagree with you have not done their own faithful struggling with and study of scripture. I hope, despite differences in biblical and theological understandings, we will all be able to hear Christ’s call for us to love another (This past Sunday’s RCL gospel reading), and that we will bear with one another in love.

  11. In my earlier post, I mentioned that I had been praying and studying more about my beliefs in general and homosexuality and Christianity specifically. That search so far has pretty consistently led me to a strong reinforcement of this belief. I am a Christian. At my core, I believe that we have complicated the simplicity of God’s gift to us in a lot of ways.
    In the ‘5 Minute Summary’, it goes something like this…God created. He gave us 10 rules(with sexual orientation not making the list, by the way) to live by. We failed miserably. He sent His son, Jesus, so that we could be redeemed and reconciled to relationship with Him through a gift. We can do nothing to earn that gift, what is required on our part is faith and trust. When we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died as atonement for our sins, that he was crucified and buried, resurrected on the third day, ascended to His throne where He now sits waiting to come again to retrieve all who believe – leaving with us his Holy Spirit to dwell within us and provide counsel and direction…our salvation is secured. Because of that faith and trust and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are changed beings with new life – with a new desire to be obedient to God and to grow closer to Him and to continually learn more about Him and try to be more like Him. It really is that simple. And since we failed so miserably with the 10 rules, Jesus left us with only 2 rules and one job. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength…and Love your neighbor as yourself. The job He left for us was to tell His story to everyone. Not to apologize for Him or defend Him or interpret Him or judge on His behalf…just to tell His story. That’s it. Love. Period. It’s as though Jesus was saying, “You love…let me worry about the rest. Tell people about me and love them. Don’t worry about the rest – I’m big enough for all of it…and I’ve got it covered.”
    34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matthew 22:34-40

  12. Martha: The man we ordained — Scott — isn’t serving as our pastor. Our new pastor is Mandy England Cole. But I’ll let you know what my two kids have learned from Scott and from our other gay and lesbian members: they’ve learned that God is love and that we should live as God wants us to live. We have different boundaries and different ways of reading the Bible. But Ginter Park Baptists love God, love each other, and do the best we can at understanding God’s will.

  13. The only thing I am confused about is how I am going to take this scripture and sermon to heart and deal with the filters I have long had in place which urge me to judge other people unfairly. Thanks for being prophetic, Pastor!

  14. Martha, you got to the heart of the question that prompted my first post: who/what do we get to judge? Are we saying that we should not “judge” Ginter Park but that we CAN “judge” the churches who decide to leave the RBA? Are we entitled to say that those churches who leave are neglecting God’s call to them or their mission? I don’t think we are entitled to do that…

    It would have been helpful to my personal understanding of this topic if we knew what the other pastor’s reply was to Jim’s question of why his church is leaving. That might have helped me understand, but would not have given me the right to judge that church’s actions…as many of you have pointed out, that is reserved for God.

    Maggie, your post had not shown up when I made my first comments. I am truly sorry that you had such a terrible experience as part of these discussions in your former church and hope that you find a loving, supportive Christian fellowship.

  15. Jim,

    This is a wonderful example of the sharing that I recall from our association together from twentysome years ago! I find it well written/articulated. I should go to FBC-Richmond and view the sermon.

    Having you and Dr. Byrns Coleman preach my ordination service was something that I will never forget. What was unknown to either of you and the rest of the world aside from myself was that I too am a gay man. Little did any of us know that would change only six months after that ordination service!

    I still recall meeting with you and Dr. Coleman to share my sexual identity. The response you gave was something of the nature of what is written above; basically, God loves me. While the issue is still not fully comprehended, you shared that you loved me. I needed those words considering all that I had encountered as I left seminary and the way some fellow Baptist seminarians has treated me.

    Dr. Coleman shared that in a few years, the issue of homosexuality would be in the same place that the role of women….NOT an issue!

    Thanks for this blog post. I appreciate it very much and I appreciate the place you hold in Baptist life. Thankfully there are still a few who hold to basic historic principles!


  16. Darryl,
    Bless you brother and your strength to share your story. I too love you!

  17. While I doubt that I can say anything to shed any further light on this than what has already been said, I still want to add a little about my own thoughts when I study this particular text. The small detail that Peter was staying in the home of Simon the tanner–what? Doesn’t a tanner handle dead animals and animals skins? Wouldn’t a tanner have been considered “unclean” among the Jewish religious leaders? Makes me wonder if Peter might have considered himself rather “modern” and “open-minded”–perhaps a “moderate” of his day. Maybe he even felt a little pride that he was so progressive? But God still needed to open his eyes (and his heart) a little further. God needed him to see that what he was certain was “unclean” and “unfit” to eat could be his own frame and reference and not God’s. All of this makes me wonder what people I have made taboo throughout my life, failing to see them as God’s beloved creation, too? I’m so grateful for this text! (and the chapter before it that names Simon the tanner)! Keep up the good work, Jim! Making kingdom space is not always easy!

  18. If the Richmond Baptist Association affirmed a church who supported the ordination of a man who was adulterous, or a swinger, or seeing prostitutes, or a polygamist, or was an unapologetic porn addict, or was sleeping with the family dog, would you continue to seek association with them? How about an embezzler, a wife beater, a drunk? Homosexuality is no greater than other sins. So, can we begin to consider those living the lifestyles above for ordination in our baptist churches? If another church chooses to, should we celebrate their autonomy in the name of harmony and working together? Where’s the line? There ARE some who are unfit for leadership and we should not be afraid to say so. Love and serve the adulterer, the homosexual, the swinger, the porn addict, the drunk. But don’t put them in leadership roles and say it’s fine.

  19. Anne, I respectfully disagree. I believe every Christian is a preacher, minister, leader in their own right. When I share the gospel, pray with family and friends -though I may not be ordained I am a disciple of Christ- and my sins are no greater, nor worse than those you mentioned above. If I were an adulterer, swinger, porn addict as you describe, should I still not speak and share the Good News? We are all imperfect sinners, blessed with redemption.

  20. You raise an interesting point, Anne…and probably the point that is at the heart of this debate.
    As I pray and read and study, I find Adultery, Swinging, and Addiction all among the 10 commandments and not only are they sins against God, but they have earthly victims who are hurt as a result of them…but I don’t see homosexuality there. I wonder, did God leave it off the big list? Did the tablet chip? Did Moses drop it coming down the mountain? When I read the gospels and study the accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry, I see parable after parable about love and acceptance of the undervalued and about our equal unworthiness compared to His magnificent grace and mercy…but when I count His words on the topic of homosexuality…the number is a resounding ZERO.
    I guess that puts my line in a different place than your line. Collectively, that apparently puts the line at Ginter Park Baptist in a different place than the line at my former Baptist church. But again, that is what autonomy is about…and that is one of the 5 things that makes Baptists different than Methodists or Catholics. That autonomy of the church idea means that we trust that our sister church was faithful to the calling of God when it went through the ordination process…and though we might not understand it, we’ll let God handle judging it.
    And I’ll apologize to Julia now, I guess I don’t know how to have an opinion without sounding like I, myself, am judging. My hope was to be having an opinion but not condemning. You see, I still love all of those people at my former church…even though I am choosing not to worship with them anymore. And I believe that they still love the RBA even though they have chosen not to fellowship with them anymore. I still don’t agree with their decision – and I still don’t see the point in it – after all, they are still Baptists, the folks at Ginter Park are still Baptists, the man who was ordained is still ordained and still Baptist…and at the end of the day only the missions served by the RBA are directly impacted by the decision.

  21. Anne, there is not a pastor or church leader alive who does not struggle with some issues that are biblically wrong. Nearly every time the Bible mentions homosexuality, it is among a list of other sins like gluttony, lying, gossip, etc. I struggle with weight issues every day of my life. So, as an ordained minister of the gospel, should I be excluded from leadership in a church? Many scholars believe that the references (and they are few!) are referring to temple worship that involved men taking young boys or young girls and sexually using them in worship practices. If that is the case, that is a very different thing from a same sex couple who love each other and choose to commit their lives together. Through the years the church has “loosened” the practices of removing those who have divorced, something Jesus spoke against–acknowledging that we don’t know all the issues involved in a divorce situation. We no longer require a scarlet “A” or “D” to be worn by those who have had that experience. We practice forgiveness, love and humility, which we would want to receive and would want our family members to receive. We, because of Jesus’ teachings seek to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

  22. Heather, the Bible is clear about who should and should not be in leadership in our churches. Leaders are supposed to be above reproach. It is a judgement to say that there are some who are worthy of the high-calling of service and some who are not, and the Bible gives the church the authority to make that call.

    As a disciple of Christ, as his ambassador, I would be very surprised and sad if you had decided not to reject sexual sin in your life. I would tell you that grace is undeserved favor despite our sin, but that it’s not a license or admonition to keep sinning. I’d tell you that we are called to reject and put to death sin in our bodies, and instead to live in obedience, by faith…to live a life worthy of the Gospel. And no, I wouldn’t want you spreading the Gospel if you were in habitual, unrepentant sin.

  23. Rev. Jeanie McGowan, there is a difference between hating sin — hating our struggle against sin — and calling sin good, natural, healthy, and godly. You didn’t tell me that overeating was good, or healthy, or godly. You said you struggle against it. You don’t want it to rule you. You are fighting it. That’s different from claiming that you were made by God to overeat and that overeating won’t harm you.

    I have read the arguments from scholars who claim that all of the Biblical references on homosexuality are misunderstood. And I’ve read the plenty of scholars who disagree with those scholars. And I’ve read plenty of scripture that says nothing about homosexuality but says everything about how God designed us to work sexually (man+woman) and within the bounds of marriage.

    We’re going to have to live our own conscience on this one, and ask for God’s revelation to us either way, but the churches who believe that it’s clearly wrong should not be judged for living their conscience.

    To say that since we’ve loosed up on other sin like divorce that we should loosen up on other types of sin is, well, crazy. Divorce is rampant, unhealthy, and God is clear that he hates it. Do you think the church’s light stance on divorce has been healthy for the church? Healthy for families? Healthy for society? We should have been doing a much better job warning people about the long term consequences of sin. He hasn’t set the boundaries to harm. He set them to bless us and to keep us from falling into the sin trip.

  24. Really enjoyed this post as a first-time reader. As a lay theologian I am always interested to see how other Baptist churches around the country are dealing with and approaching this issue. As an out gay man and the member of a welcoming and affirming Baptist church in Birmingham, AL, I often forget about the churches that are still struggling and wading through this issue. Many blessings to those of you in the Richmond area as you seek to find peaceful space among the tension of this issue.

  25. I’ve appreciated reading the comments on this page and the spirit they were written in. I also understand my pastor’s remark that he is not on a crusade. At the same time, I request to my pastor, in this somewhat uncouth manner here on his blog, to lead us specifically on this issue of God’s will for homosexuals.

    While I believe that all Baptists can work together in peace and love with each other and with other denominations and even religions, I think that is unrealistic to believe that organizations will accept churches on both sides of the issue. The issue just means too much to too many of us. For better or for worse, I think it is even unrealistic to think that church congregations will be able to have large numbers of members on opposing sides of the issue of homosexuality. I know that I personally have been too uncomfortable to consider having a home church that had a strong anti-homosexuality message. I would expect that those who interpret scripture as defining homosexuality as sinful to have the same type of feelings about joining a church who preached that being gay is not a sin.

    As I recall, the Presbyterian church had a split a number of years back surrounding the issue of gay church leaders. Now, the issue seems to have bubbled up in our area for Baptists and can no longer be ignored or swept aside. I would expect that there were these same types of divisions between historically Caucasian congregations when churches began opening their doors to African Americans. Some would say that these divisions still exist.

    Caught in the mix of an ambiguous stance in many Baptist churches are many gay Christians who refuse to believe that their choice of sexual partner is a sin. Many of them feel unwelcome in a church setting because they are treated as “unclean” as Dr. Somerville put it. They are in dire need of connection to a Christian community, even to a Baptist congregation specifically. Jim’s Sunday sermon was a great step toward making LGBT Christians feel welcome worshipping in our congregation at First Baptist Richmond. At the same time, many gays will be uncomfortable attending if they think that the welcome mat may possibly be a ploy to bring them into the congregation, only to try to get them to adopt a heterosexual lifestyle or have their lifestyle condemned as sinful. With this in mind, I encourage our pastor to continue to lead us by giving even more straight-to-the point, theologically sound testimony from the pulpit proclaiming that homosexuality is indeed not a sin, and let the chips fall where they may. As one commenter wrote above, the issue of concern is not money. Rather, it is an issue of God’s love and how we understand that love through scripture and the work of the holy spirit.

  26. Anne: I appreciate your input and your perspective. I think the points you make about divorce are especially valid, though I would submit to you that not allowing two people who genuinely love each other to be together is as unhealthy for families and societies as we say divorce is. But that’s not why I’m responding. I just wanted to remind you of the different ways that the Bible describes and displays marriage, let we forget that marriage in our society (between one man and one woman) is a fairly modern concept and is not really the example set in the Bible. And since, Biblically, women were considered to be property, many of our modern expressions of marriage do not compare. Here are seven examples of how marriage is defined in the Bible:

    (1) A man and a woman (or property) – Genesis 2:24
    (2) A man, a woman (or property), and concubines (sex slaves) – Multiple references, but most notably ANYTHING written about Solomon
    (3) A man, a woman (or property), and her slaves – Genesis 16
    (4) A man and several women (polygamy) – Multiple references, but Gideon is a good place to look
    (5) A man and his dead brother’s wife (Levirate marriage) – Genesis 38:6-10
    (6) A rapist and his victim – Deuteronomy 22:28-29
    (7) A male soldier and a prisoner of war (or property…spoils of war) – Number 31:1-18, Deut. 21:11-14

    Hope that helps!

  27. Daniel, you left out so many Old Testament verses and all New Testament verses. Come on. Even a tiny bit of study and context shows that though the Bible talks about the different types of relationships that were practiced in ancient cultures, it doesn’t say God blessed those relationships. A mention does not equal endorsement. You know that.

    This article does a great job of explaining those references, and includes a lot of great verses that Daniel missed.


  28. In ancient Israel, polygyny was an alternative form of marriage clearly understood to be legitimate and blessed by God. Many of the stories about polygyny report its well-known problems with favoritism and rivalry, God explicitly mandates polygyny in the case of deceased brothers and commends it via regulation in the case of captured slaves. You can read God’s lack of moral commentary on such events as David’s taking Abigail as either a disapproving silence or an approving acceptance, but you can’t read Deuteronomy’s instructions on levirate marriage and slave marriage as anything less than full approval of polygyny.

  29. Ann, I have one question in response to the blog you posted because I don’t see it addressed. The first scripture mentioned in the post is Genesis, it is written, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…” What do I tell my friends who are not able to have children? What do you tell your friends and family who are not able to have children? They are not able to reproduce, not able to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth? What do I tell them, “You can’t have children, so you are not made in God’s image? You are full of sin because you cannot reproduce. It is your choice that you can’t reproduce.” Is that what I tell my friend?

    Do you tell me that as one who has not been able to be fruitful and multiply that I am committing sin and therefore cannot be ordained? By the way, I am ordained (in two associations) and my not being fruitful and unable to multiply never came up in my ordination council discussions and interviews. And the council was filled with ordained baptist ministers who’ve been studying scripture many years. My ordination had biblical scholars taking part and they never questioned it either.

    I say this and ask these questions not to trap anyone, but to approach this discussion with grace and love in my heart. Interpretation of scripture is not easy and I have been in ministry for 15 years. This is one small example of many in scripture that shows it’s clearly not as black and white as you are wanting it to be, not even in God’s commands. Based on what you and others are saying, you now have to approach those who are infertile and explain to them how you believe they are sinning in this world because they are not following this commandment from God in the very same verse where God says man/woman were created in God’s image.

    And the last I checked, we aren’t God and thank God we aren’t.

  30. Don, less than full approval given, not blessed — especially within the larger context and subsequent instructions. God’s design re: man+woman is amazingly clear and there is abundant evidence no matter how hard people try to muddy the waters.

    Daniel, women may have been seen by ancient culture as property, but overall, the biblical view of women is positive. http://creation.com/biblical-view-women

  31. Anne, I simply don’t agree with you. There are plenty of places where I see God commanding and affirming polygyny. I don’t think this means either of us are dolts or non-Christians, I think we’re bringing differing assumptions to the text. The larger question Jim is raising is whether we can join together in common mission even though we have some very strong differences about interpretation. I think we can.

  32. My mantra for this beautiful Friday:
    If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If i give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

  33. I hadn’t read your posts for a while and am just catching up. You know, Dr. Jim, there are times when I am very GLAD that I am not a Pastor or Minister. This is one of those times. LOL! Sorry, couldn’t resist! ‘Scuse me! ;> However, I have to admire your courage. Like I have said before, meaning it in the best possible way, you are somethin’ else, Dr. Jim! I may not always agree with you but I can’t help liking you a great deal nevertheless(um, in a platonic, brotherly manner, LOL! ;>)! I pray for God’s blessings upon you, your family and ministry and upon First Baptist. Respectfully, Marshall

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