My life is a little bit in chaos. Our washer is still on the fritz and we discovered late last night that the children’s loo (that’s what I call it) has “systemic issues,” as in, it was probably installed wrongly 20 years ago and so now there are a lot of really really bad problems in our lives. Is this an allegory for America? I’m not sure. More unhappily, though, the lovely and wonderful person who knows about the loo has ongoing health issues and has to go to the hospital this morning instead of coming back here to put all the essential pieces back together again. So, if you are a person who indulges in #thoughtsandprayers I wholeheartedly welcome you to do that. Mostly for the health of our dear friend because he’s in a lot of pain.
Being in the midst of the chaos, of course, I have done what every other rational person would do, and that is to carefully watch all the videos in this very long Twitter thread which is most fascinating:
I really love Woke Preacher Clips, if you are looking around for people to follow. He spends a lot of technical and theological time doing “the work,” as we are all commanded to do in this new age. I just wanted to remark on one of the clips as being most interesting for our times:
First, I should say that Woke Preacher Clips puts this one clip in context by cutting in all the other clips. Ortland has developed a sort of 4 tier way of determining whether something is essential or non-essential to the Christian faith. Category One is essential doctrinal issues related to the Gospel that should cause division among well-intentioned people. The Trinity, the Dual Natures of Christ, all those sorts of things (‘thing’ being my own essential theological term that I will go on employing with happy abandon along with ‘stuff’). Category Two is things that are Really Important–baptism, women, and, for Ortland, human sexuality. So he has friends who disagree with him about the important subject of Human Sexuality, but he would not want to say they aren’t Christian. He claims the caveat that it depends on what bit of human sexuality one is discussing. He doesn’t bring up trans issues, or anything else. Category Three includes stuff like End of the World beliefs, and Category Four is items that don’t matter at all.
The devil, I imagine, is very much in the details. The three people on the podcast have an interesting discussion about universalism and whether or not to call Gregory of Nyssa a heretic. They decide not to.
I, of course, haven’t read the book and don’t think I’ll probably ever be able to get to it because my current book stack is big enough to kill me if it falls on me during the night, not even including the stuff on my kindle. And, furthermore, I don’t love these sorts of lightning-round questions. Ortland doesn’t seem to either. He wants to nuance as much as possible, but at the end of the day, which is probably the point of the book, he does fall into certain positions on certain issues. And that is very useful–that we would all say what we think so that we know where we are.
So I’ll just say what I think, which shouldn’t surprise you. Human Sexuality should fall into Category One because, though it might be hard to tell at first, it relates directly to the Gospel. It is a Gospel Issue because it is about Christ and the Church–from Genesis all the way to Revelation. Saying that Human Sexuality is not about the Gospel actually renders (I think anyway) the Bible itself very hard to read.
And that is where the whole business of trying to examine various doctrines to discover whether they are essential or not is so troubling. It’s as if, just to climb into the Wayback Machine for a minute, we have all become Rob Bell clanking out Velvet Elvis on our brand new MacBooks. ‘What can I keep and what can I throw away and keep jumping on this trampoline?’ he asked himself. Well, I have to believe Jesus is God, so I have to keep that bit. But do I have to believe that Mary was a virgin? I can’t remember where he landed (get it) on that one. And so, if you even know anything about Rob Bell, you will see where that leads you, straight out of Christianity and into the wide-open arms of Oprah, who, I will just remind you, is not a Christian, but is a “spiritual influencer” still, whatever that even means.
The problem I have with the current start of Christian Affairs–and this Twitter thread helped me clarify my feelings on it–isn’t that everyone is thinking about these things, nor that people are landing in different places after much thought, but rather that the so-called orthodox of the day are not in love with the whole counsel of God’s word, to use an excessively démodé expression. The way that God designed “human sexuality” (there has got to be a better way of saying that) is that it strangely illustrates the Gospel. But the illustration does not arise and smack one in the face by reading a lot of theological works or shiny Chrisitan paperbacks. The relationships of men to women, and individuals to their own bodies are only discovered in The Land of Unlikeness where there are strange beasts and unique adventures. A lot of propositions can be made about it, but that’s not the point. The point is that God is saying something about himself in the scriptures, and when you try to step into the way of them, you begin to see him in every corner, not just of the text, but also when you lift up your eyes to behold his creation.
What I want, living in this wretched year, is people who can write about God and the Church with deep affection. The commands of God are true and right. They show a far country to which one should greatly desire to go. They are not something to feel constant and unending grief about all the time. They are not oppressive. On the contrary, they are the way of life.
That so many people are trying to relegate Human Sexuality into categories Two and Three along with Baptism and the Rapture is astonishing to me. I hope and pray that this trend will not continue. Have a nice day!