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Reply To Honestly by Tom Copeland Part 1

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  • Reply To Honestly by Tom Copeland Part 1

    Are there dangers to a conservative interpretation?

    ---------------

    Are there dangers to conservative interpretations? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    Tom Copeland is a minister and a teacher from what I gather who has written a book on issues involving sexuality for Christians. There is much in the book that is good and worthwhile. However, when I got to the chapter on sexual orientation, I was disappointed.

    Keep in mind this is a book that does come from a Christian perspective so there's no discussion here of "Well maybe the Bible got it wrong." I also will not be speaking about the scientific issues involving studies on sexual orientation. I am interested in looking at his arguments from a biblical and somewhat political perspective.

    Copeland does say that sometimes same-sex attracted people are compared to singles who don't know if they will marry. Both have to remain celibate. He does say that for the straight singles, there is the possibility they can find someone in a marriage approved by the church. However, if you have same-sex attraction, this means that you have a situation with no hope and God will never approve of your relationship and there is no chance of life-long intimacy, companionship, or partnership.

    The problem I see here is that first off, sex is being put on way too high a pedestal. I would be lying if I said as a divorced man I don't miss having sex. Of course I do. I pray God will grant me that joy again. At the same time, if I have to go without, God has promised me so much more still in the afterdeath. I hope He will grant me this love again still as I do want to have a companion on the earthly journey as well as the possibility of children, but He owes me nothing.

    Also, these ideas like companionship and partnership can be found with friends. They are not sexual relationships, but they are still true partners. I know plenty of same-sex attracted Christians who are beacons of joy in what they say and do. There are also some who have entered into opposite-sex marriages.

    He also writes about the saying of "Hate the sin. Love the sinner." He says you can't say that to someone who has the sin as an integral part of their identity. How can this be though? If one is a Christian and holds something is sinful, it cannot be an integral part of your identity. It is instead a part of you that is not central. I can be a prideful man, but pride is not an integral part of my identity. We live in an age of identity politics where one would think the most important question of a job interview is "Who are you sleeping with?" Your identity is much more than who you find sexually attractive.

    Copeland goes on to list some dangers that can come to a conservative approach to Scripture. The first he says is that we live as if our interpretations of Scripture are more important than relationships. I wonder at this because if one believes their interpretation is what God is really saying, shouldn't that be the most important? One can still have good relationships with people who are same-sex attracted. However, I will not change my stance on the issue to please another person if I think the stance I hold is the one that God gives in the Scripture.

    The second problem he sees is we discount knowledge of God and/or Christ gained through experience if it goes against our ideas. I have spoken about this before though saying that too often we let our experiences interpret the Scripture for us instead of letting Scripture interpret our experiences. He says we would discount St. Teresa of Avila and other mystics. I am not saying I would dispense with them entirely as I don't know enough about her experiences to do so, but I am saying I would compare with Scripture first.

    He says we can become so sure we are right in our interpretation without considering we could be wrong. This part, I do agree with. We should always be open to the fact that we could be wrong. I notice this in many people outside of Christianity, such as atheists and cultists, who don't ever read anything that disagrees with them and treat their worldview as a given at the start. This is why I actively read material I disagree with.

    The next danger is that we can be so sure about being right that we overlook grace and love. I don't really have a problem with this. One should not tell a same-sex attracted person that they cannot act on their desires with glee and joy. One should recognize that this is a real struggle with them and walk through it with them.

    Next time, we'll look at dangers on the liberal side of interpretation.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    (And I affirm the virgin birth)












    Are there dangers to conservative interpretations? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. Tom Copeland is a minister and a teacher from what I gather who has written a book on issues involving sexuality for Christians. There is much in the book that is good and worthwhile. However, when I got to the … Continue reading Reply To Honestly By Tom Copeland Part 1

  • #2
    Part 2

    link

    --------------------

    What mistakes can liberals make in interpretation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    Tom Copeland’s book Honestly, like I said yesterday, is for the most part quite good, but I really disagreed with his statements on sexual orientation. Last time, I discussed his concerns with a conservative schema for interpreting Scripture. I appreciate that he was fair and said liberals have some problems as well. Let’s look at those and then when we get to what he says, I will see if he does fall under any of those concerns.

    The first one is that liberals can be reluctant to deal honestly with difficult passages if they think they hurt them or someone they care about. In many cases, that’s something all of us are prone to. “Well, the Bible doesn’t really say much about my sin here, but check out everything it says about my neighbor’s!” Michael Brown wrote a book on overcoming a food addiction and noted how many pastors are obese and that you never hear a sermon on gluttony. I wonder why.

    The second danger is like this. If an interpretation doesn’t match how we think God is or how Christ is, we discount it. Surely a God of love would never do XYZ! Well, there’s a lot of things a God of love would do that we don’t understand. This is also something common with internet atheists and others. “Look at what God did! That’s not loving!”

    The next is a lack of consistency or structure in interpreting Scripture. If much of our interpretation of Scripture is based on experiences and on what is going on in culture at the time, it is easy to get caught up in an idea because it is new. This is something that happens regularly in politics where people will suddenly show up and embrace what is obviously true despite it not being believed by anyone for thousands of years beforehand.

    The last he mentions is a focus on tolerance and grace at the expense of truth. I had Gregory Quinian on my podcast once who describes himself as an ex-homosexual and he has said that we are to speak the truth in love, but if it’s not the truth, it’s not love. There are too many in our society that will not tell someone the truth for fear that it will hurt them. Many Christians often talk about loving someone into the kingdom. You can also love someone out of the kingdom.

    I definitely appreciate all of these as I want to give the benefit of the doubt and think that Copeland is trying to give both sides of the coin to the best of his ability. In the end as you will see, I do not think he has made a really strong case from the Bible for his position. If you are one who doesn’t hold to Scripture, that won’t matter to you, but as I said last time, this is a book by a Christian for a Christian so we are seeing how it stacks up with a Christian worldview.

    We shall continue next time.
    What mistakes can liberals make in interpretation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. Tom Copeland’s book Honestly, like I said yesterday, is for the most part quite good, but I really disagreed with his statements on sexual orientation. Last time, I discussed his concerns with a conservative schema for interpreting Scripture. I appreciate that … Continue reading Reply To Honestly by Tom Copeland Part 2

    Comment


    • #3
      Part 3

      ---------------

      What about interpretation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

      In this part of the book, Copeland starts with examining the biblical data. He admits upfront he’s not a biblical languages scholar. That’s fine. Neither am I. We’re not going to get into any fancy use of Greek or Hebrew here. So let’s see first off what Copeland says is the standpoint of the positions.

      He says that conservatives point to Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy mainly to offer passages they say offer indisputable proof that the bible condemns same-sex sexual behavior. Liberals dispute these and sometimes say that some of these passages could be about pederasty instead. They say that the Bible gives no condemnation of loving and consensual same-sex relationships.

      Okay. Both sides could have some nuance, but they are generally a fair assessment. This is certainly something that is written about back and forth. So how does Copeland respond to these?
      So which side is right? I’m not really sure, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter that much.

      Copeland, Tom. Honestly – A Book About Sex for Christians . Tom Copeland. Kindle Edition.

      I’m sorry. What?

      I mean, this is only Scripture which we say is our authority. This is only what we say could be about the fate of countless souls for all eternity. This is a question that doesn’t matter that much?

      Last time, I wrote about how the liberal side is reluctant to deal with passages if they think they hurt them or someone they care about. We have already seen that take place. I would have preferred at least some reason for thinking that the conservative side is wrong rather than a dismissal of the issue altogether.

      He instead goes with an approach from Tillich saying that we are all dealing with our own interpretations and all sides have claimed biblical sanctions on various issues. It is certainly true that all sides have, but one side has been wrong and the other has been right, at least if you hold to a conservative view of Scripture. If we go this route, then we could easily say anything is okay. Moral relativism wins out.

      He also says Rich Mullins said God knows what it means. The rest of us are just guessing. To an extent, but some guesses are also better than others. God knows what the disease is someone has, but odds are if they go to a doctor, he has a better guess than they do.

      He also quotes Donald Miller and says we are more interested often in a propositional claim than a relational one. Interesting to note that that itself is a propositional claim. They’re unavoidable. We should make sure ours are rooted in truth. He then asks what if we’re wrong?

      This is followed by asking if Christians should be passing radical anti-abortion laws to protect unborn children like the one in Texas.

      Okay. This book was published in 2013, so I’m guessing that law was HB2. I looked up the measures of this radical law. I did find something from the UK on it here.

      So what is so radical?
      – Abortions doctors were required to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic.

      – All abortions clinics were required to upgrade to become ambulatory surgical centres (ASCs).

      – Abortions after 20-weeks were prohibited, except in the case of “severe fetal abnormalities” or to “avert the death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment … of the pregnant woman”.

      – Women who take abortion-inducing pills, must do so under the supervision of a physician, requiring two trips to the clinic for each dosage.

      – After the administration of the abortion-inducing pills, a woman must set a follow-up visit with the physician 14-days after the dosage.

      In addition to the three visits required of those seeking abortions under HB2, Texas passed a law in 2011 requiring women to undergo an ultrasound procedure 24 hours prior to getting an abortion – resulting in a minimum of four visits to the clinic.

      The article says that if this were upheld, 10 or fewer clinics would have served the state.

      On that last part, might it not be best to say that if so many clinics can’t handle these requirements, maybe they shouldn’t be open? What is really so radical? Is it wanting an ultrasound so a woman can make an informed decision? Is it being near a hospital in case something goes wrong? Is it that except in cases like a fetal condition that could cause death to the woman abortions weren’t allowed after 20 weeks?

      And this is radical?

      Copeland asks if we should instead have healthy choices for women, particularly in cases of rape and incest.

      The hugely overwhelming majority of cases of abortion are not for rape or incest.

      Should Christians be in favor of the death penalty or opposed to it? He speaks no further on this, but I say, yes, we should be.

      Should we be in favor of second amendment rights, even having people allowed to have concealed handguns at church? Well, considering how many bad guys with guns have shown up at churches, yes. I don’t live in fear of the majority of citizens having guns. Bad guys having guns without the majority having them? Yes. That’s fearful. Even more fearful, the government being armed while we’re not.

      This goes on to questions of war and wealth. Copeland asks who we usually say is right. The answer is us. Of course, that’s not a major claim. If I did not think my position was right, why would I hold it? However, if I hold a position, I have reasons for it.

      He goes on to say that he doesn’t know and he has this thing called faith which requires not knowing. I have written on faith more here. Based on this, you might as well say that we should strive to know less so that we can have more faith. This doesn’t fit anyway. “I don’t know which side is right, so I have faith?”

      He then says he can’t make life-altering decisions for someone else based on passages that only show up in the Old Testament and Paul and are mentioned nowhere in the Gospels or any other New Testament writer. (Ignore for the point Jude could say something about it.) Unfortunately, Copeland has already done this. Saying he won’t condemn the behavior is itself making a life-altering judgment and if he is wrong, then his advice could condemn numerous souls for eternity.

      Never mind that James 3:1 says teachers will be held to greater account. Will he stand before God and say “I decided it really didn’t matter what your Word said about the issue.”? As for Jesus, Jesus never said anything about the death penalty or abortion or guns either, but yet Copeland sure asks about those. Jesus talked about questions that were relevant debate topics in Israel. We have no reason to think same-sex relationships were one of them.

      After this, Copeland says:
      The stakes are real. The stakes are people. Depending on the research you read, between 25-40% of non-heterosexual teenagers have attempted suicide and as many as 75% report having had suicidal thoughts. The rate is as much as five times higher for teens who identify themselves as gay than for heterosexual teens. For the church to do anything that could possibly contribute to that is unacceptable.

      Copeland, Tom. Honestly – A Book About Sex for Christians . Tom Copeland. Kindle Edition.

      I agree that the stakes are real and are people and we need to do something, but notice this. If someone is having suicidal thoughts based on whatsoever issue, the first thing to deal with primarily is what in them is making them have suicidal thoughts. Having gone through divorce, I sometimes pondered the question of suicide and I understand that most people who go through divorce, particularly those wrongfully divorced, do. Now if I was at a point of acting, is the thing to do to change everyone else and force my ex to take me back, or is it to change my own thinking on how I see myself regardless? Wouldn’t it be best to deal with the underlying mental health issue?

      In the end, Copeland might say he doesn’t want to really take a side, but the reality is he has. He can say he doesn’t want to make life-altering judgments, but he has. He can say he doesn’t want to make judgments on the holiness of certain actions, but in reality, he has. They are unavoidable.

      I think he’s wrong entirely.

      We’ll each have to stand before God and give reasons for our answers someday.

      I hope we’re both prepared.

      In Christ,
      Nick Peters
      (And I affirm the virgin birth)
      What about interpretation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. In this part of the book, Copeland starts with examining the biblical data. He admits upfront he’s not a biblical languages scholar. That’s fine. Neither am I. We’re not going to get into any fancy use of Greek or Hebrew here. So let’s … Continue reading Reply To Honestly by Tom Copeland Part 3

      Comment


      • #4
        Part 4

        -------------------

        What about wealth and divorce? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

        In this part, Copeland decides to have us look at two different issues that he wants to use to draw an analogy to how we treat same-sex relationships. These are wealth and the question of divorce and remarriage. Let’s see how he fares.

        At the start, he says we should not condemn rich people or divorced people. I agree. I would have said the same thing even before my own divorce. So what does he say instead?

        In looking at wealth, he cites many common verses such as not laying up treasures in Heaven and no man can serve two masters. There’s examples of giving generously and of the early church in Acts and Luke 6 supposedly saying to not ask property back from the one who robs you.

        Unfortunately, none of this is with any context whatsoever. In the last case, the ones who were doing this were likely the Roman soldiers themselves who were essentially the police force in this context. Rome, the biggest empire in the world, has a soldier who takes something from you. Who are you going to go to?

        In the early church, there was certainly the case of people giving, but also we see in Acts that Ananias and Sapphira had sold their land and they had all right to keep some of it for themselves if they wanted. Instead, they lied and acted like they were giving it all away. Note also that if some people were selling, that means private property was existing. (Also, if you believe Jesus has pronounced doom on Jerusalem, why hold on to the land anyway?)

        As for other warnings, having money is not the problem. Money having you is the problem. Money can indeed too easily become an idol and I do believe that if you have been blessed financially and know how to make money well, you should be giving some of that money away. See below on this blog if you want to consider this work as a means of giving.

        Copeland goes on to say the Bible must not be really saying what it sounds like it’s saying, and indeed, to an extent, that’s true. Copeland is reading it apart from the social and historical context. He says the passages are easy to interpret, but we ignore that. Not really. We don’t need sermons condemning wealth, but greed is another thing altogether.

        Now when it comes to the passages on same-sex relationship, those are also quite clear and even with the social and historical context, the meaning doesn’t change. Are we to brush that under the rug? Unfortunately, Copeland’s position looks to be that we should.

        Copeland isn’t all down on wealth. He does think we need to look at questions we ask about retirement and are we really saving up just so we can live easily later on in life? I have no problem asking such questions. Do we give preference to rich people in our churches instead of poor? We do need to consider that. The problem is none of these make the analogy work.

        With divorce, Copeland says that Jesus is clear. If you divorce your spouse for a reason other than adultery and you remarry another, you are guilty of adultery. I agree. I think this could also include reasons such as desertion as in 1 Cor. 7 and abusive relationships as these are people who have also betrayed and broken the covenant.

        He says that divorced people walk down our aisles and sign our cards and join our churches without a question about their past sexual behavior. Unfortunately, this is not so. I know whenever I have talked about doing any ministry, I have had to explain my divorce and its circumstances and relive the pain all over again.

        Copeland says that this should concern us because divorce and remarriage have done a lot more damage to the church than same-sex relationships have. I disagree. I contend that making divorce easy was the stepping stone to another redefinition of marriage. This in turn is the stepping stone to all the chaos resulting from transgenderism.

        If marriage is not meant to be permanent, then that is the first step. Then after that, it can easily become just another relationship and hey, why not let same-sex attracted people marry one another? With that, the male-female requirement is gone. If that is gone, well, why not do away with male and female altogether? I have no idea what comes next, but we’ve already descended into insanity.

        What happens along the path? The further breakdown of the family unit. We have lost the meaning of sex, marriage, and family. Copeland’s approach will just keep us going further.

        Copeland goes on to say that if we want to teach that same-sex relationships are wrong, he wants us to condemn just as much the accumulation of wealth and the divorce culture every time. Well first off, many people do condemn that. Second, Copeland doesn’t set the rules. Third, it’s interesting the conservatives have to change their ways, but the ones on the left do not.

        Anyway, next time, we’ll look at what a friend of Copeland has to say about relationships.

        In Christ,
        Nick Peters
        (And I affirm the virgin birth)
        What about wealth and divorce? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. In this part, Copeland decides to have us look at two different issues that he wants to use to draw an analogy to how we treat same-sex relationships. These are wealth and the question of divorce and remarriage. Let’s see how … Continue reading Reply To Honestly by Tom Copeland Part 4

        Comment


        • #5
          Part 5

          --------------

          Are all relationships sinful? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

          Paul writing to the church in Corinth.

          So guys, I hear you’ve got a case where you have a man who’s sleeping with his stepmother. Gross! Am I right? But hey, all relationships are going to be hard in life. All relationships have struggles. I want to suggest that all of you just show your love and support to them. Don’t judge them by any means! God can redeem any relationship and He will redeem this one!

          Or at least that’s what Copeland’s friend would likely say if he was in Paul’s shoes.

          Copeland has a friend who grew up very conservative and now is an Anglican with no condemnation of same-sex relationships. This friend is described as someone who takes Scripture very seriously and knows the Bible very well. His proposal is that instead of looking at same-sex relationships as fine and wonderful, just realize all relationships are sinful. All of them have all of us acting in sinful ways. All of them are used to sanctify us.

          Copeland uses an example of him being married to his wife for thirty years, and yet he has been a sinful man many times in that relationship. Anyone who is married can attest to that and anyone who has been married can be. Even if Jesus was married, He wouldn’t have had a perfect marriage because He would have been married to a sinful woman.

          Except Scripture doesn’t say all relationships are sinful. It says all people in all relationships are sinners, but the relationships themselves are not always the problem. If all relationships are fallen and we just need grace in all of them, Paul would not have written what he wrote in 1 Cor. 5.

          Copeland goes on to say to people in a same-sex relationship that:
          The good news here is that even if the scripture does condemn your relationship (and as I’ve said, I’m not sure it does), it doesn’t condemn it any more than any other, and God redeems it.

          Copeland, Tom. Honestly – A Book About Sex for Christians . Tom Copeland. Kindle Edition.

          Because we know of all those passages that condemn opposite-sex relationships.

          Now someone could say “Well what about the situation in 1 Cor. 5? Isn’t that such a relationship?

          Indeed, it is, but the problem wasn’t it was opposite-sex. The problem was it was highly incestuous. Not all opposite-sex relationships are approved by Scripture, but not a single same-sex romantic relationship is. I would love to see Copeland try to back the statement he has made here.

          Ultimately as Christians though, if Scripture condemns it, we have to as well. Now how we could do that could be wrong. We should realize that a person with same-sex attraction is experiencing a real loss and if they are willing to sacrifice this for the good of the kingdom, we should support them in that and praise them and help them with the struggle, just as we help a single person who is not married.

          The rest of this section in this chapter is about the scientific research, which I cannot comment on. On the ethical, I find it all weak. Copeland does not interact with the best Scripture and violates on the ways he says liberals violate. It’s a shame because really, much of the rest of the book is quite good.

          In Christ,
          Nick Peters
          (And I affirm the virgin birth)
          Are all relationships sinful? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. Paul writing to the church in Corinth. So guys, I hear you’ve got a case where you have a man who’s sleeping with his stepmother. Gross! Am I right? But hey, all relationships are going to be hard in life. All relationships … Continue reading Reply To Honestly By Tom Copeland Part 5

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