The Centrality of Obfuscation
I found myself in an ongoing discussion with a group of Christians where theology was an important component. At one point I stated my views under the heading of “Reformed Theology.” Another member challenged me to define with clarity and specificity just what I meant by this phrase. I was very happy to oblige, seeing this as an opportunity to engage at a deeper theological level. So, I spent quite some time crafting a fairly comprehensive, detailed response.
I sent this note to the group, but was disappointed by the lack of response, particularly by the instigator. However, since they could have read the note and thought. “ok, that makes sense,” I let it drop without further comment.
Later on this same person stated views under the heading of “Progressive Christianity.” I thought that this might be an opportunity to reopen the theological discussion, so asked them to define this term just as they had previously challenged me to define mine. Their response was both unexpected and confusing, being along the lines of “no, let’s not confuse people.” Add thus it ended there.
I remained perplexed by this outcome. Something just seemed so off. This person is a highly skilled, persuasive communicator, and they know it. Thus, the idea that their explanation of Progressive Christianity would cause “confusion” was preposterous. And, why had they shown such enthusiasm for defining terms for me but become so unenthusiastic when the same thing was asked of them?
This encounter caused me to more carefully observe the way that Progressive Christians approached debate. And, what I eventually discovered was deeply troubling, for they appeared to avoid debate on the merits, particularly if the topic was the Biblical justification for their position. If I insisted, all too often the next step was deflection, usually centering on questioning of my motives or even directly my character. If I yet persisted there would eventually emerge a highly selective, contorted exegesis on Scripture’s teaching. And, if I pressed on, a hard refusal to acknowledge that any other passages of Scripture than those that they has selected had any relevance to their position.
With regard to the careful selectivity that obfuscates Scripture’s actual teaching, the Presbytery of Chicago’s Rationale in support of gay marriage is a prime example (emphasis added).
My issue with this statement [by the Presbytery of Chicago] is not that it is untrue. Rather, I contend that it is so incomplete and shallow that it distorts the true nature of Christ’s relationship to people “on the margins.”
Contemporary Western culture has decided that “love and compassion” towards people “on the margins” means in practice utter non-judgment. That is, the objects of this “love and compassion” are to be affirmed and accepted in all that they believe and do within the context of their marginalized status.
The following three Scriptural examples of Christ’s actual engagement with people on the margins will suffice to show how erroneous is this belief.
These three examples make it crystal clear that, though the Rational statement is technically true, it utterly fails to capture the completeness and depth of Scripture’s testimony on this issue. Thus, I believe the authors to be in error when they imply that Christ’s “love and compassion” means affirmation and acceptance (in this case, the affirmation and acceptance of same gender marriage) of marginalized people’s behavior or beliefs.
With regard to the refusal to acknowledge Scripture’s testimony if it violates their predetermined position, after my exhaustive analysis of the Rationale record in support if gay marriage I concluded:
For, it’s no longer the case that Scripture is interpreted with “the freedom to decide which portions of the Bible are inspired and which are not.” No, based on the Rationale record provided by Presbyteries in support of same-gender marriage, Scripture itself is found to be utterly irrelevant to their deliberations.
An example of how Scripture is twisted to support the partisan political Progressive position on immigration can be found via the use of Leviticus 19:33-34. After a careful examination of the issue I concluded:
Based on this information I conclude that a “sojourner” is something very different from the formulation of the Rev. Parsons, that being someone “who find themselves within our borders.” That is, a sojourner is someone who has entered into an explicit and bi-directional relationship with a community “not inherently his own.” Thus, someone who illegally sneaked into a community and attempted to reside without any mutual agreement on the nature of their relationship would not be considered to be a “sojourner,” but rather an interloper.
Finally, the end result of this strategy of obfuscation is a loss of trust in the credibility of their positions.
If there’s only one thing that I’ve learned in this recent work, it’s this:
This statement will likely cause discomfort in some readers. However, given the PCUSA’s recent record, how can we possibly avoid such a conclusion?
What a sorry state of affairs we have reached.