"The story of a life somehow is the most powerful apologetic."
The United States of America, an endangered species.
There’s an esthetical reason that shows why “Evolution Versus God” is an ethically wrong documentary: questioner and answerers are not even once at the same level.
The first reason why I’m against the so-called homosexual marriage is a christian one: marriage in the eyes of God happens only between man and woman. But there’s a non-christian reason to why I’m against homosexual marriage: marriage between a man and a man or between a woman and a woman forces them to behave heterosexually. And, in that sense, homosexual marriage is a kind of oppression on gays.
Ask a homosexual that has lived the crazy San Francisco seventies if he liked the eighties compulsive arrival of condoms. Nowadays he’ll use them because it prevents greater dangers. It’s something tolerated but never desired. Because condom forced a crazy lifestyle in a not-so-crazy fashion. Homosexual marriage is definitively different from condoms but, in my perspective, follows the same path - toleration of homosexual lifestyle as long as they behave.
We have bright homosexuals opposing homosexual marriage at the same proportion we have dumb christians supporting it. Generally it boils down to monogamy. Why was homosexuality portrayed as a perversion (and a dangerously exciting thing) during the History of the World? Because it could function as an activity practiced within marriage. Homosexuals were outlaws, not refugees. And their charm came out of that too. Homosexual marriage tends to ‘heterosexualize’ homosexuals, giving them something that never belonged to their DNA: monogamy. And I see the proof resting on the fact that unfaithfulness is what in the Bible can get heterosexuals out of marriage, while faithfulness is what naturally homosexuals are claiming so they can be in. However, they’ll have their citizenship broadened and their fun tightened.
Dumb christians support homosexual marriage trying to look progressive while casting the oldest of institutions. If the point is fraternity with the revolution, why not go all the way and get rid of the whole thing? What about our non-married heterosexual brothers? Don’t they deserve the same love from the Church? If we’re into the affirming business let’s not deny the marriage happening when there’s none, in the prestidigitation mode so dear to people inside the cultural conversation.
Monogamy will look good for gays if it surfs on sentimentality. That’s what’s happening culturally. Maybe the ones who have more experience on monogamy (the heterosexuals) could do our homosexual friends a favor and tell them to keep pure from it. Carl Trueman gets it talking about "one of the supreme ironies of the contemporary politics of homosexuality. A movement originally built upon the idea of transgression, the breaking of taboos and the crossing of boundaries has become one of the most intolerant and conformist movements ever to emerge within liberal democratic societies." Monogamist homosexuals are the worst kind of persecution over gays. Free them!
The typical softie’s reaction: oh man, there we go again with these old tags. And the softies will go on: in my theological thinking there’s no place for stereotypes like soft or hard. And softies will zenith themselves: I build my own universal references. You can tell a softie by the way he will get so soft that almost anything in the living universe will exist as a result of his softness. A softie is a mountain of love giving birth to the whole cosmos in a perpetual loop. For a softie the Creator is a sleepy rapper that forgot to stop the sample machine while performing his only ballad. The softie will call himself christian but will always feel pantheist. Everything is about his relation with everything.
But there’s something very wrong with a softie (something even more wrong than his theology). A true softie is someone devoted to spot the edges that don’t belong there (and sometimes he’s right about that) but he never has fun destroying them. Because of his character a softie has a real hard time having fun (to have fun with something you have to be different from the thing you’re having fun with and if you’re a softie you take yourself to be a part of the things you’re having fun and you end up not being capable of fun). An example: a softie will rant about the injust rule of an american evangelical christian not being allowed to drink (in my country evangelicals drink) but he’ll hate beer.
So my advice goes: if you want to soft on theology please make ends meet. Good theology exists also to prevent us doing what we’re unfortunately very good at - sinning. Bad theology exists to help us feel good doing bad. That’s the point. Bad theology has a goal. Bad theology is not happy with generating conversation but with generating crime. Why am I saying this? Because I do not only believe in this but I have done this. In my worst times of soft theology I was hard on sinning. At the end of that, one thing I´ve discovered about myself and God: theology has to do with thinking because has to do with being. And when you’re not the God of yourself you’ll get very importance out of believing in a certain way because its connection to living a certain way.
Last word for softies. A word of encouragement. If you’re going soft on God you’re philosophically allowed to go hard on the Devil. You can preach sundays and smoke pot on saturdays. You can fast on weekends and get drunk on week days. You can tell people to marry and cheat on your wife. If you’re going there, buy the shirt. Flaunt it. Do it. At least get some good old fun of being wrong.
If religion has lost importance in the West, the western religious are more challenged to remain so. Even those who are trying to keep the faith have to use the language of the age of skeptcism. God is not a popular word of our time and we, believers, will sometimes find it missing in our own lips. We don’t need to curse to talk the idiom of the death of God.
Eighteenth century english actors rushed to George Whitefield’s sermons to improve their acting skills. Nowadays preachers try to impersonate stand up comediant’s flow so that the Holy Ghost will not lose rythm. There’s nothing inherently wrong about learning formal stuff from those wich we disagree in content. But we should remember that famous verse from Macluhan’s gospel: at least sometimes, media gets to be the message.
If you get into a fight over theology a common punch comes from the angle of "I grew up in your tradition but I came out of that". It’s always a way of getting biographical credit over the subject and it respects the contemporary dogma that an opinion is more likely to be valued when the speaker shows experience. And mostly experience rooted on the mystical wonders of departure. Maybe it’s a blend of Descartes’ empirical knowledge with late 20th century’s pop-existencialism. The fact is that it works. A guy who’s getting out is terribly more attractive than a guy who’s getting in. And believing your father’s religion is one of the most heinous crimes of the day. Loving deserters and despising proselytes is proper of a culture who doesn’t know where to get but still respects the idea of getting somewhere.
The apex of our obsession with deserters is more visible in media’s lustful piety. There’s an altar for everyone who comes out. This is why homossexuality got it’s revenge of centuries of scandal in the current path of beatitude. Gays are the new pilgrims and you can’t mess with them. Camille Paglia is still one of the few old-school perversion-type voices of lesbianism and she’s hated by who? Of course, lesbians and homossexuals in power. Paglia knows that the greatest moment about depravity is the minute you get in, not the one you walk away from normality. Her authenticity comes from her genuine amusement, something paradoxically very hard to find in the LGBT world.
It’s ok to talk about coming out of things every time we’re getting into something better. In the Bible more convincing than leaving a life of sin is getting a new one of sanctity. Both of them are possible because the work of the Holy Spirit. But we should drop the coming out card if we’re using it just to impress. At least if we’re still giving some credit to the old-fashioned idea that a good life is also a convincing one. Don’t celebrate leaving your old shack if you’re remaining homeless. Get yourself a proper house where you can host someone.
A friend once told me: “we should be the ones to lay down in the operating table to be dissect by Scriptures, not vice-versa”. Quoting Hebrews 4:12, he wanted to make the point that modern scholarship devoted itself to study Scriptures in a way that they end up to be their owners, boasting in their own knowledge and achievements.
He was right in pointing one of the dangers of scholarship. Any biblical study, any theology (either biblical, systematic, practical, etc…), that does have the knowledge of God as its basic principle and the Glory of God as it’s end, it’s useless. We should recognize that we can easily fall in that temptation (especially in our reformed-high-intellectual circles). But affirming this is, at the same time, assuming that the study of the Bible is a fundamental exercise of the Christian faith. "Do you understand what you’re reading?" (Acts 8:30). The question is, therefore, not if we should study the Bible but what is the attitude we should have when we read, study or meditate in Scriptures.
Ironically, I believe that my friend’s shot backfires, if we rightly observe the western culture we live in. It seems to me that, so many times, the popular modern hermeneutics read Scriptures with suspicion, with fear of what it may say.
Oddly, some seem to demand the Word to repent from its teachings. That happens every time we approach Scriptures with the same condescending attitude that Peter spoke to Jesus (forgetting the answer, I dare to say - Mt 16:20-23).
Oddly, some, on the basis of their own understanding, put on old (if they do not reject it) the acceptance of its teaching, forgetting we are the ones who are in need of God to enlighten our minds. Isn’t it strange that part of the new interpretations of the biblical text have their origin in some inability to understand or accept it? Isn’t it strange that many of the new insights arise from a dissatisfaction of its sufficiency? Isn’t it strange that part of these new interpretations emerge in a desire to conciliate the new human knowledge (whether science, cultural, or others) with the ‘obsolete’ biblical texts?
Oddly, some no longer consider Jesus and his teachings (as expressed in the Gospels and in the Apostles teaching) as the fullness of revelation. Instead, the Canon (can we even speak truly in this terms anymore?) is just the beginning of a revelation that we, as modern people and with a lot more knowledge and wisdom, are in a position to improve.
Modern people should be remembered that spiritual humility is not epistemological uncertainty, as Timothy Keller said. The right Christian attitude continues to be the one that Augustine set forth: “Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.”
When we approach Scriptures, we should be the ones to be lay down in the operating table, not vice-versa.
I’ve never read NT Wright. And I should. But I’ve seen a couple of videos. And I noticed Wright’s common complaint about America’s fixation about hell. Well, I’m portuguese but I think that being afraid of hell is actually a natural consequence of believing in hell. And probably contrary to what Wright thinks, talking a lot about hell is taking the subject seriously to the degree that we mix the two things: we and hell. If we never talk about hell that’s probably because we think about ourselves as totally apart from that reality. There’s even a risk of never talking about hell because we can’t picture the idea of the existence of hell or, at least, we can’t picture the idea of we belonging to the existence of hell.
I give you an example. In an european country like Portugal I’d say that the majority does not believe in the existence of anything remotely similar to hell. In a way, NT Wright can never say about Portugal what he says about the States. And we could get to the conclusion that sometimes not thinking about hell pays off as looking like a country without unhealthy spiritual fixations. But the thing works backwards, I think. Portuguese people don’t think about hell because they find the idea of an afterlife condemnation as ridiculous (with possible and expectable exceptions like Adolf Hitler). And I’d say that never talking about hell, at least from this portuguese perspective, grows from the feeling that we don’t have anything to do with it. My point, then, is: americans are humbler than the portuguese because when they talk about hell they actually believe they could end up there, the very thing portuguese would never accept.
I think this helps explaining why europeans in general, and portuguese in particular, are these days so uncomfortable with the christian faith (and I’m not talking about nominal catholicism or protestantism). Why do we need it when we think that we are undamnable? Maybe one of the reasons that explains Wright’s discomfort with the fact that american christians exaggerate talking about hell is british silence and not necessarily biblical wisdom (as he admits, Jesus talks quite a lot about the thing too). If that’s so, Wright is being more a brit than a theologian when he complains.
In general, portuguese people love Obama. Even in me there’s a soft spot for him. I would never give him my vote if I were american (because of his record on abortion and his laws criminalizing true religious freedom) but I aknowledge the guy’s swag. But this blog is not about the american President’s charm. This blog’s about trying to enter the conversation (lame expression, I know) with all kinds of english-writing people we admire.
I, Tiago Cavaco, pastor a small and new Baptist church in Lisbon. My partner here, Tiago Oliveira (my brother in law), pastored for six years a Baptist church in Lisbon. He is currently living in Mississipi, preparing to be the greatest portuguese protestant theologian in the 21 st century.
Let’s get it on!