Sin and diversity.

I have the pleasure of receiving the newsletters of different groups in the United Methodist Church, simply because some are forced upon me, and some I seek out to balance perspectives.

Either way, I received this in my email yesterday.

Dr. Riley Case proposes that our attitudes about sin are changing. Honestly his argument feels all very 1984ish in that whole "they are changing the way we think by changing the words we use" way. In fact, one can easily find sentiment in Europe (and specifically Britain) for the lack of faith, the humor (or heartache) of believing in God, and overall, the idea that somehow we are accountable for how we live to a higher being. Sure, there might be something sinister going on when, when the sake of "culture" sin is removed from a dictionary (I wonder, is God big enough to defeat a dictionary? I hope so). But in America, apparently this evil takes shape in another form. Take it away Dr. Case!
This carries over into our church life. “Progressive Christianity” wants to affirm diversity, tolerance, relativity, and acceptance. This is most evident in the arguments of some (including our bishops) that there are no standards for church membership other than that the person take the membership vows (interpreted however he or she wishes to interpret them).
Did I read that right? Progressive Christianity has the wrong agenda and has hijacked sin in order to achieve diversity, tolerance, relativity, and acceptance? So they really care about how you define membership in a congregation? hmmm...sounds like there is an agenda of your own, Dr. Case.

Nonsense. Progressive Christianity (if I may be so bold to speak for whoever Dr. Case is targeting) is definitely worried about sin, even they aren't talking about the same crises of faith that conservative Christianity is struggling with. If anything, progressive Christianity is aiming the "sin" label at anything that previously has denied the Gospel to people our Lord Jesus Christ would be most actively pursuing. Call it social justice if you'd like, but its about rectifying how we have been participants in idol worship to the point of hijacking the Gospel. Diversity, tolerance, relativity, and acceptance are (In my humble opinion) the result of not ignoring sin, but facing sin head-on within the Body of Christ. All these things come not from the denial of sin but the attempt to deal with it. God's people are diverse, tolerant, relative, and accepting because they are concerned about our SIN.

It is the truly sinful who deplore diversity (i.e. surround yourself with people who agree and there can be no conflict). Dr. Case is right. Without some understanding of sin, we have nothing to work towards. One of the beautiful tenants of Methodism is that we all, as Christians, work towards sanctification - we have a ways to go. But is racial, gender, socio-economic, theological, or national diversity really so dangerous?

It is the truly sinful who cannot tolerate the truth of the Gospel. Sure, that truth is that we are broken, but the truth is also that the prostitutes and tax collectors will go in before the "godly". The truth of the Gospel is that all are loved by our God, regardless of where they are. Is that truth so terrifying that we must narrow the gospel to define who is right and who is wrong?

It is the truly sinful who cannot relate to those around them because they do not reflect the love of Christ. I assume Dr. Case is refering to some people's attempts to subjigate truth to a "matter of opinion". Relativity for me is about being able to "be all things to all people" - Paul, perhaps the greatest relativist, never compromised who he was but always compromised how he shared the Gospel.

It is the truly sinful who deny others entrance into the kingdom of God on the grounds that they don't meet their (read: God's) rules for acceptance. The weird thing about this one is the inclusivity of faith (and God's declaration that all of creation is loved) must somehow square with the exclusivity of Christ. Sure, there are proper grounds for denial - I'm not saying I don't believe in sin - but that argument is a far cry from the kind of activity of "progressive Christianity" that Dr. Case is trying to denounce.

Now, to be fair, Conservative Christianity is worried about that stuff too, sometimes. And I am not saying that progressive christianity has it right and conservative christianity has it wrong. I'm just saying that sin is still as relevant today as it ever has been and Dr. Case doesn't leave that possibility open. Making the argument about membership in a United Methodist congregation is only a sidestep in the issue anyway. Dr. Case concludes with this observation:
So sin is being re-defined. Sin is no longer a violation of the standards of a just God, but rather in believing that such standards really matter.
This is what that statement sounds like... conservative Christianity believes God's great checklist defines certain things as righteous and certain things as sinful. Progressive Christianity believes (according to this article) sin is a stumbling block to living life to the fullest.

There were once very Godly men who tried their best to maintain control over the Kingdom of God, separate from Jesus Christ. Dr. Case's argument is nothing more than propaganda designed to make you choose sides in a side-argument within Methodism.

take heart my friends, I believe the Holy Spirit will bring us back together in both our hatred of sin (social, personal, or otherwise) and our love of Jesus Christ (social, personal or otherwise).

When you boil Dr. Case's argument down, the whole point of his argument is there are Christians out there who will downplay sin for the sake of being able to remain sinful. Am I right? Is it possible that certain Christians are too full of pride and assurance that they will lift sin up for the sake of pushing others out?

I say all that to encourage you, dear reader, to love as Christ has loved.

Comments

  1. I know for me personally, the reason I LOVE where we are at church is because of the diversity I have never seen before while worshipping.
    I became lost a short while down. Sorry.

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  2. Some friends and I have been conversing on Facebook, I want to keep the conversation part of whats going on here at the blog, so I've included it here. Names have been cleared unless they tell me they don't care if they are identified.

    'John1' at 6:56pm January 7
    Now here's a discussion! My question is simply, what is Diversity?

    Jack Hinnen at 7:57pm January 7
    I'd say diversity is the presence of differences among people, contexts, environment, etc. Your take?

    'John2' at 9:18pm January 7
    That which shows a great deal of variety.

    'John1' at 11:47pm January 7
    I'd say you have a sufficient definition certainly, I don't know that I could put a better one together, but then I'd wonder, what is the appropriate amount of diversity in Churches? Contexts and environments to an extent can differ, but how much should a community differ on opinions within a Church, this question being asked outside of the proposed questions of Dr. Case. I suppose I'm asking, if he is wrong (a question that I do not have a sufficient amount of information to answer), then what is a better answer, or for that matter, correct?

    Jack Hinnen at 12:09am January 8
    Ah, well I don't think Dr. Case is wrong about his argument that sin is being redefined. But he directs his frustration with this truth not at non-Christians, but at Christians who think differently about sin than him. He basically says, "Hey, the world is redefining sin and you can see it in progressive christianity."

    Which to me, means he's hijacking a good argument for his own agenda (scaring readers of the evils of progressive Christianity and pushing whatever the confessional movement deems important)

    Dr. Case points out that delegates to general conference gasped at the notion that homosexuality was sin. First, no one should be surprised that a delegate from Africa feels that way (Christianity is typically more conservative from Africa) and second, no one should be surprised that in today's world, there are Christians who don't think its a sin. Dr. Case cannot imagine a Christian world where God's love reconciles homosexual and heterosexual Christians.

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  3. More to add!

    'John3'
    I don't know Dr. Case but I am pretty familiar wtih the different factions within the Church today. I do not think the biggest threat to the Church is from a relatively small issue such as whether a certain singular practice is a sin. Instead, it is with those who are so inclusive that they take what I would consider Christianity out of the church: for instance, if one does not have to believe that [the Bible is God's Holy Word, that Jesus is the Way to Life- here and in the hereafter, and that if one repents and believes and accepts him as who He is], to become a member of Christ's body, the church, then that does totally eliminate the purpose of the church. Agree?

    'John1' at 5:01pm January 8
    I agree John3, but again I'd ask the question: what does accepting Jesus Christ mean? Does it mean renouncing preferential, impulsive, or in some people's mind, natural inclination toward a member of the same sex?
    Then I'd go further, cause I'm following you to a point Jack, but I'm not completely understanding, I don't think.
    First, again I'm not sure on Case, so the statement above suggests a number of questions. Does he mean that being homosexual is something that is not reconcilable with Christianity. or that a practicing homosexual should not be allowed to practice Christianity?
    Interestingly, in Catholicism, a practicing homosexual would not be allowed to receive the sacraments (including marriage), but would certainly be allowed to attend Mass. Thoughts?

    'John3' at 5:54pm January 8
    Right--that would be my position--maybe someone who is actively participating in homosexual conduct could join the Church if he/she pledges to adhere to the faith; however, seeing as after he or she joins that he does not attempt to leave the past conduct behind, he should not be allowed to serve as a deacon, elder, or vestryman or priest, bishop, etc. Simply as a matter of example--in the same way perhaps the one who is known for bad business practices, or is running around on his spouse would also not be a good candidate for such things. What do you think Rev?

    Jack Hinnen at 6:08pm January 8
    Some great discussion guys! John3 - I definitely agree there needs to be a place for Christ, but you say this, [the problem isn't homosexuality, but] "Instead, it is with those who are so inclusive that they take what I would consider Christianity out of the church"

    This is definitely a sticky situation, because who's doing the removing of Christ? Is it the Church? Or is it our understanding of sin or homosexuality that makes us look at a "progressive" church and say, "Thats not Christianity" His feeling is that progressive Christianity is not Christianity because it doesn't have a handle on sin as he knows it. Its almost as if, for him, acceptance, diversity, relativity, and tolerance are marks of Christianity done poorly. I don't understand why it is so imperative to fight against those things. Again, what irks me isn't that Dr. Case bemoans the shift on understanding sin, its that he targets OTHER CHRISTIANS as proof of this.

    Jack Hinnen at 6:18pm January 8
    John1 - to the best of my knowledge, the confessing movement swears up and down they love homosexual people, they just put "confessing Christ" over any attempts to reconcile with those people. I think he would say homosexuality is incompatible within Christianity.

    again, for me I don't even think this whole thing is about who can/can't do what within the Church or whether homosexuality is or isn't a sin. I think its more about looking at other Christians with disdain. If someone does think differently than me about Church practice, understanding God, or whatever, am I obligated by my convictions to cut myself off from that person?

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