One of the common lines I hear from moderates and progressives alike is that the issue threatening to split our church (homosexuality) is not the same as a doctrinal one. Who sleeps with whom is not an official doctrine of the church in the same way the Incarnation or the Trinity or Atonement are.
Drew McIntyre, one of the writers for Via Media Methodists and a panelist on this weekend’s discussion around the Dr. Ogletree “just resolution” case, stated in a comment to me on his most recent blog,
First of all this isn’t something that is remotely a chief piece of doctrine – this isn’t of the same order as the Trinity or Incarnation, which are our ultimate non-negotiables (emphasis mine).
I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but this seems to be a majority consensus among moderates and progressives. What’s all the fuss about? It’s not like we are talking about the Trinity!
I find this distinction between the doctrine of the Trinity (a non-negotiable) and the practice of homosexuality (apparently negotiable) fascinating and problematic. Below are my three (fittingly) reasons why and I encourage you to add your own or to defend your distinction in the comments below.
1. The doctrine of the Trinity has arguably less Scriptural support than the Scriptural condemnations of practicing same-sex sex. How many times have we heard the argument, “Homosexuality is only mentioned x number of times, and never by Jesus, at least not directly”? Well, I guess I must ask, how many times does the word “Trinity” appear in the Bible? How many times did Jesus directly mention it?
Now, I believe Scripture provides an adequate witness to the truth of God’s Triune nature, even though Jesus did not say so clearly, and despite the fact that one of the two greatest commands Jesus quotes begins with, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Mark 12:29).
And yet, despite some ambiguity in Scripture we are so certain of our doctrinal belief in the Trinity based on the revelation from Scripture as a whole and our tradition as Christians that we can call it a “non-negotiable.” Meanwhile, we hem and haw around homosexuality, of which there is clear condemnation and coherence throughout all of Scripture as well as within our tradition. Why?
2. I know some “Jesus-only” followers who are passionate about making disciples of Jesus Christ. They are really wonderful people and it’s obvious they are gifted! On what basis would you exclude these wonderful, Jesus-loving people from our ranks of ordinands when their only crime is that they disagree intellectually on a matter that does not affect their service to God or neighbor?
Does Scripture specifically say that it is a sin to not think of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Is a Jesus-only believer committing sin by being unconvinced of scriptures revelation of God as Triune? I’m not convinced they are committing sin. They may be mistaken (and I believe they are), but immoral? Will they be kept out of the kingdom of God? Rev. 22:15 states that those outside “are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” If practicing homosexuality is sexual immorality (as I believe it is) then perhaps what we do with our bodies and with whom should be of much greater concern to us than whether or not someone loves Jesus only?
3. Why should a doctrine which is confined in large part to the intellect (most congregants, even pastors, cannot articulate the doctrine of the Trinity in a way that makes much sense, nor describe how it affects their day to day living) take precedence over a belief which affects both mind and body (as all sex does)? Why should our non-negotiables be relegated to only those things which we think about and not also include what we do with our bodies? Didn’t Paul say we have been bought with a price, therefore, honor God with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20)?
I believe that what we do with both our minds and our bodies matters. It’s unclear to me why we would make one a non-negotiable while being willing to negotiate the other. Scripture gives plenty of exhortations to flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18), to have nothing to do with those who practice it (1 Cor. 5) or approve of those who do (Rom.1:32) and yet is very silent about what to do with someone who doesn’t believe God is Triune.
I think both are important and both should be non-negotiable. What do you think?