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Saturday, December 03, 2011

A Question for Dan

Okay, this will appear to be something that I do not intend, so let me get this straight at the outset. First, I am asking for information, not for conflict. I am seeking to understand, not to debate. If an answer is forthcoming and I don't understand, then there may be questions that follow, but my primary goal here is not disagreement or debate, but simply to get it clear. The obvious disagreement I express in the question is simply to show the obstructions I have to understanding. Second, although the title says this is a "question for Dan", it would most accurately be a question for anyone who holds the view that Dan holds. To be perfectly clear, I've heard it in far more places than simply in Dan's comments. We have been told from multiple sources that we are to "cover it with grace" or, in Dan's words, "infuse it with grace." As Dan has said, we are to "embrace grace." And it's not just Dan.

Okay, so with that preface, I'm seeking understanding on this concept. Dan has repeatedly said that we shouldn't view the Bible as a "book of rules", but should approach it with grace. I am trying to figure out what it means. What it appears to mean is that, since no human is perfect, especially in their understanding of Scripture, we ought not hold too tightly to our views. Most accurately, we shouldn't try to suggest that our views are true, at least for others. You read that God forbids "a man to lie with a man as with a woman" and conclude that it's a sin for a man to lie with a man as with a woman (homosexual behavior). Fine. You can conclude that. Just don't tell anyone. Don't suggest to anyone else that it's a sin. At no time should you tell a person performing such acts that they are sinning. Hold your view, by all means, but do so in the silence of your own head.

I don't know. Perhaps its along the lines of "Don't make any issue of sin." Don't point it out. Don't make a statement about what is or is not. Don't suggest that anyone else should see it the way you do. Keep all that to yourself. Embrace grace. And there it is again. I just don't know what that means.

The examples I'm offered is "Do it like Jesus did." Is that a reference to the times He drove the merchants from the Temple? Or the times He took the Pharisees to task in the harshest of terms? Or the times He pronounced woes over (cursed) the cities of Israel who had rejected Him? These don't seem like the idea that is being expressed in "Embrace grace." Is it like when Paul told the Galatians, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?" (Gal 3:1) or contended with Peter publicly for eating with the Jews (Gal 2:11ff)? Or is it closer to the time when Paul turned the young man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh (1 Cor 5:1-5)? Or did these people (Jesus and Paul) fail to "embrace grace" in these instances?

It seems as if there are two things in view with this "embrace grace" thing in regards to the Law. First, it would seem that embracing grace assumes that none of us can know we are correct in our view on biblical issues, so it is unkind (graceless) to be confident. There is nothing available that would allow you to have any certainty that your view on this or that is correct, so certainty is a bad thing. Second, it appears that it is evil in some sense -- perhaps "less than admirable" -- to point to something as sin. Sin is ... mushy, muddy, unclear. I mean, really, given the first premise that we can't really know what is or isn't moral, on what basis can you really say, "What you're doing is sin!"? No, no, the better approach, if I understand this concept, is to keep you mouth shut. If they're sinning, they're sinning. No big deal. You just be nice to them. That's "grace". Trying to correct them or seeking their repentance is just not your place. Embrace grace.

I don't know. It all seems so muddled. Jesus called sin sin. All the writers of Scripture had no problem calling this or that sin, correcting those who transgressed it, and seeking constantly for repentance. It is impossible to read Scripture and hear "Well, this is my view, but I don't want to appear too certain" or anything like it. And even when Paul is saying that we are not under the Law, he is assuring us that we are not eliminating it, but affirming it. "Infuse it with grace" seems to say, "Don't be concerned about sin and certainly not in the lives of those around you", but Scripture seems to militate against that view. I can't seem to put together "grace" and "minimize sin" and have that connect with anything biblical. Did Jesus do that? He did it when people repented. He did it when people agreed with Him. That's not what we're talking about. So someone needs to help me out. What does it mean to "embrace grace" in the context of these topics? What view are we to take of sin? Is it "private"? "Keep that to yourself"? Am I understanding correctly when I say that certainty is a mistake and we ought not involve ourselves in right and wrong, especially for other people? Is that what it means? I can't imagine that since that's what I read in the Bible, so someone needs to clear this up for me.

Now, a little reminder here. I am not looking for a fight. I'm looking for clarity. I would ask that my commenters, on either side, would keep that in mind. I don't want this to become a war of words or a character assassination. I just want to understand.

38 comments:

David said...

I'm reminded of 2 things: the Hitchhiker's SEP glasses, and the Steve Taylor song "What Ever Happened To Sin?"

Dan Trabue said...

Sorry, just now getting around to reading this through a bit...


Thank you, Brother Stan, for asking the questions and seeking a better understanding of what this poor sinner is trying to get at. It is appreciated.

I'll try to answer the best I can, for what it's worth - certainly my thoughts aren't worth much, but the consideration of God's Word and contemplation/meditation upon what that means can't be bad. But first I'll clear up some misunderstandings...

You say…

What it appears to mean is that, since no human is perfect, especially in their understanding of Scripture, we ought not hold too tightly to our views.

You say you are just seeking clarification and that's a great thing. Let's begin with this statement. No, no, no. That could not be further from my intention of what I'm saying. I agree that "no human is perfect," as I'm sure we all do. But we certainly ought to strive to understand God's will as best we can and hold tightly to those views.

I would never suggest we ought not hold tightly to our views - with the caveat of an exception in the case of Harm. That is, if our holding our views is causing direct, physical harm to others - and especially innocents - that would be a time to not hold tightly to our views in a way that harms others. If, for instance, our "views" includes that we ought to physically beat babies for lying and other perceived sins, THAT would be a time NOT to hold tightly to our views. We OUGHT to hold tightly to our views FOR US period, and for OTHERS when it is not causing them harm.

I'm guessing we could probably agree on that?

Dan Trabue said...

You say…

Most accurately, we shouldn't try to suggest that our views are true, at least for others.

Again, NOT what I am saying, although this gets a little closer to that dividing line I was speaking of earlier. We certainly OUGHT to hold that our views are true if we believe them to be true - we are each responsible for our own spiritual health and ought to strive to understand God's Way and walk in it.

And I don't have a problem offering up our opinion as it relates to everyone, as long as no harm is being done. That is, if you don't think investing, abortion, war, cursing, etc are good things to do, I have no problem with a person stating that concern. Maybe something along the lines of writing essays, preaching, teaching our opinions about these positions from a general point of view, like, "Hyper-consumerism is destroying Christmas, we're losing the meaning of Christmas in our rush to accumulate more and more…"

I have no problem with that, as long as we're clear it's our opinion.

I DO think we ought to be very careful not to claim to speak for God what God has not directly said.

Dan Trabue said...

Along those lines, you said…

You read that God forbids "a man to lie with a man as with a woman" and conclude that it's a sin for a man to lie with a man as with a woman (homosexual behavior). Fine.

The thing with your example there is, it would be more accurately stated, "You read an OT command to Israel where God forbids "a man to lie with a man as with a woman" and YOU CONCLUDE that not only was this text some specific command for Israel at that time, that it ALSO means it's a sin for a man to lie with a man as with a woman in any circumstances and any time (ie, ALL homosexual behavior)."

Now, given that clarification (and it is A VITAL CLARIFICATION - you've moved from the text says to an extrabiblical conclusion), if that is what you believe, THEN YOU CERTAINLY should hold to that view and not engage in homosexual behavior yourself.

Further, if you want to write essays, preach, teach about YOUR EXTRABIBLICAL conclusion, I think that's okay too, as long as it is coming from a place of love and grace AND as long as it comes with the caveat of "This is MY opinion, I'm not speaking for God here…"

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

The examples I'm offered is "Do it like Jesus did." Is that a reference to the times He drove the merchants from the Temple? Or the times He took the Pharisees to task in the harshest of terms?

Yes, yes, this part you have right. I DO suggest that we look to the example of Jesus. Did you know that Jesus NOT ONCE comes down harshly on your garden variety sinner? The whores, the drunks, the licentious... he never condemns them. Rather, HE TREATS THEM WITH GRACE and love. Which is getting to what my actual point would be, and I'm getting there.

No, the only groups that Jesus harshly criticized were the religious hypocrites and the powerful who oppress the poor (as in the chasing the money changers out of the temple).

And WHAT was his consistent criticism of the religious hypocrites (ie, the Pharisees)? They were, after all, as a rule VERY upstanding, rule-abiding, church-going, Bible-reading people. They were the OPPOSITE of morally corrupt, in the general sense.

And yet Jesus used his worst rebukes exclusively for them (fools! blind guides! snakes! WOE TO YOU! - serious stuff) for these reasons, I'd suggest:

They lacked grace. They abided "the Law" to a great degree, but they lacked grace in how they pushed others to also abide by the law. In fact, when they tried to abide by the law and STONE the adulterous (sinful, sinful) woman, JESUS STOPPED THEM from "abiding to the letter of the law" and instead pointed out that there was none there without sin, and such punishment was not the Way of the Kingdom that Jesus came teaching.

The Pharisees lacked grace. The rules were there for THEIR/our benefit, to HELP them/us. They had gotten caught up in the Letter of the Law (and going beyond the Law and even making up MORE rules "to better explain the Law,") and they missed the point: GRACE. It is by GRACE that we are saved, not by rule-following.

Dan Trabue said...

Sorry this is taking so long, but you have asked many questions and presented many "it seems" and you have asked for clarifications, so I'm trying to do that.

Stan...

First, it would seem that embracing grace assumes that none of us can know we are correct in our view on biblical issues, so it is unkind (graceless) to be confident.

I'd say that embracing grace assumes that none of us know EVERYTHING.

It assumes that we have the humility to admit that we COULD be wrong about stuff.

It assumes that "biblical issues" are sometimes quite easy to understand and everyone agree about, but oft-times, we DON'T all agree. I don't think the Bible is difficult at all to understand, and you probably don't either, and yet, we disagree.

Tell me: Do you think it would be presumptuous of me to assume, where we BOTH think the bible is abundantly obvious on issues 1 - 20, that I am the one that must be right on each of those?

Can you see where I might find it presumptuous of you to insist that you are the one who must be right?

Where would that get me/you? YOU also, no doubt, think you must be right on each of those "obvious" issues and so does most everyone else, and so, if we ALL insist that we are right, then we'd be going around rebuking the others for "being wrong" all the time.

So, I would advocate being certain for OURSELVES, as much as we can, that we are right, but that we hold the humility to recognize that we could be wrong.

More...

Dan Trabue said...

That is not to say that I think we "all are right," just that Christian humility and respect would allow the recognition that Christian brothers and sisters of good will WILL and DO sometimes disagree with what I think are "obvious biblical/Godly positions."

Now, you'll recall we recently discussed Romans 14 and the admonition to accept those whose faith is weak and do so "without quarreling over disputable matters."

CLEARLY, Paul thought (and real world experience tells us) that there ARE disputable matters. Topics where we can't presume to speak for God authoritatively.

I think it is pretty clear that all of the Bible, including especially Jesus' teachings to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, overcome evil with good, etc, etc... that this would "obviously" teach anyone seeking God's will that God "obviously" would therefore be opposed to Christians killing their enemies in wartime - and certainly killing the enemy's children! AND YET, I know that Christians of good will disagree with my conclusions.

As much as I'd LIKE to say, "YES, I AM speaking for God on this point," that would be presumptuous of me - and THAT'S on an issue that I think head-crushingly, blatantly obvious to ALL. What about topics that are less clear and direct? Investments (well, again, I think that pretty clear, but still...)? The right way to tax, if at all? Abortion? Energy policies, environmental policies, church and state issues??? Theories of Atonement???

I'd LIKE To be able to say, "yes, our (ie, those with whom I agree) position is objectively right and God's position and everyone really should agree with us...," but rationally speaking, no, I can't and won't say that.

Why? Well, for reasons of Christian humility, for one thing. But also, for reasons of grace.

To insist that WE (ie, those who agree with me) hold the one right view of God's position on x,y and z is to gracelessly and presumptuously say, "and those who disagree with us, disagree with God..."

I'm not willing to go there. I think humility and grace precludes any of us from going there too readily, EVEN ON issues we think abundantly clear.

The truth is, God HAS NOT staked out and handed to us THE definite position on marriage, on abortion, on war, on the Trinity, on taxation, on atonement, etc, etc in such a way that we have no room for allowing our own human interpretation to enter.

Dan Trabue said...

And so, where you say...

"Infuse it with grace" seems to say, "Don't be concerned about sin and certainly not in the lives of those around you", but Scripture seems to militate against that view. I can't seem to put together "grace" and "minimize sin" and have that connect with anything biblical.

You should know that I do NOT minimize sin, not in the slightest.

The destruction of our mountaintops, oceans, waterways and the homes and lives of the families near them all for the sake of cheap energy via coal and oil, for instance, is a deadly awful sin. God forbid that we remain silent on that sort of sin.

Crazed fundamentalist religious zealots killing innocent people (on all sides) is wrong. God forbid that we remain silent on that sort of sin.

I would NEVER counsel "minimizing sin."

What I am counseling is this...

1. Do not quarrel or debate TOO vigorously disputable matters;

2. Have the grace and humility to recognize the arrogance and lack of grace in saying, "all those who disagree with me, disagree with God..."

3. Recognize the difference between OUR opinions and GOD'S Will. Unfortunately, in this life, most opinions we hold ARE our opinions. Recognize this and be appropriately humble.

4. Disagree respectfully with those who disagree with you.

5. The more deadly and physically dangerous the "sin" in question, the more legitimately you can strongly speak out against a position. A drunk driver can be addressed more harshly than someone who disagrees with you about the Trinity or the Virgin Birth, because of the physical risk involved in the former.

6. Recognize that Jesus' own example of harsh rebukes was saved for the very good religious people who lacked in grace and humility AND LET THAT KEEP US (we who are "very good religious people") HUMBLE.

Sorry I was unable to answer this in a manner shorter than I have done. I feel like I still have not addressed it well, and for that I apologize. At least I hope you can see my clarifications where I make clear that I am NOT advocating minimizing sin nor NOT holding tightly to our views.

Dan Trabue said...

Oh, and to quickly address your direct questions...

What does it mean to "embrace grace" in the context of these topics?

1. Do not quarrel over disputable matters.
2. Understand that most the topics we discuss ARE disputable matters.
3. Recognize that dear Christians of good will are going to disagree on these topics and that's, if not great, at least okay.

What view are we to take of sin? Is it "private"? "Keep that to yourself"?

1. We are to primarily concern ourselves with sin in our own lives.
2. Have the grace and respect for my fellow Christians to allow them to work out these questions for themselves, helping them out and answering questions when asked, but recognizing that most of these matters we discuss are disputable and that disagreeing with me does not mean they disagree with God.
3. By all means, offer YOUR OPINIONS on topics where a certain behavior concerns you, but unless God has told you specifically, note that it is YOUR opinion and that you are not specifically speaking for God.
4. On this point, it's easier to speak in generalities and speak for God, but be more gracious/humble when it gets to specifics. (ie, "The Bible tells us to LOVE our enemies, to overcome evil with Good. THIS is what God wants us to do. Now, IT SEEMS TO ME, then, that we can't really engage in warring and do this...")

Am I understanding correctly when I say that certainty is a mistake and we ought not involve ourselves in right and wrong, especially for other people?

Certainty on points that God has not told you, yes, that would be a mistake. Do you disagree?

Additionally, recognize that "certainty" is rather an emotional vagueness in most cases. I "FEEL" certain that God would not want us to kill the children of our enemies OR our enemies. That SEEMS certain TO ME. And yet, it IS MY interpretation of these passages.

No matter how clear I think it is or how the early church appeared to treat it or how peace churches throughout history have treated it, it remains MY interpretation.

Similarly for marriage. Similarly for taxation. Similarly for atonement theories, etc, etc. These are OUR INTERPRETATIONS and we do well to maintain a bit of humble leeway in our feelings of "certainty," our feelings and interpretations are prone to error.

I'll stop there for now. Thanks for asking. Let me know if you have follow up questions.

Stan said...

You're seeking agreement. I'm seeking understanding. Questions like "I'm guessing we could probably agree on that?" doesn't give me any clearer understanding, so I'm skipping them. (Besides, using that example, is there a contradiction between "innocents" and "lying"? How would you define "harm"? Your description and definition would seem to absolutely and unequivocally preclude any sort of corporal punishment right up front. However, pursuing that would be a rabbit trail. So I'm skipping it.)

Stan said...

I'm sorry, but you lost me on your clarification (in the section beginning "Along those lines, you said"). I wrote, "You read that God forbids 'a man to lie with a man as with a woman' and conclude that it's a sin for a man to lie with a man as with a woman (homosexual behavior)." the subject of the sentence -- "you" -- is not repeated in the second clause ("and conclude ...") because it is already stated in the first and implied in normal English. Having stated that the subject, "you", has drawn the conclusion of the second clause, I'm not at all clear on what you were clarifying. That it is a conclusion? That's already stated. That the subject "you" concluded it? That, too, is in the sentence. But you call it an "extrabiblical conclusion" even though the person doing the conclusion did so from the direct reading of the text (in normal English referred to as "biblical" or "coming from the Bible"). It would not be "speaking for God" to say, "God said, 'You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female.'" It would be a quote. (Again, "biblical".) Unless what you're trying to say is that anything we read in Scripture must be viewed as an "extrabiblical conclusion" because it is coming from the page, through your eyes and brains, and ends up, therefore, "extrabiblical".

Stan said...

You make the claim "Did you know that Jesus NOT ONCE comes down harshly on your garden variety sinner?" Are you aware that Jesus's first message was "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt 4:17)? Now, unless we want to get into a discussion defining "harshly", it seems obvious that Jesus didn't simply "treat them with grace". He did not wink at sin. He did not keep His mouth shut about it. Even to the woman "caught in adultery" He didn't say, "It's okay; don't worry about it." He said, "Go and sin no more." (For some reason, most people seem to think that's a nice thing to say. Me? Not much. Really? Sin no more? Like that's a simple command.) I realize that His harshest language was against those who believed themselves to be righteous and were not. (The money changers were "the powerful"? They were con men who ripped off poor people. "The powerful"?)

It appears (as I also seemed to understand from your use of "embrace grace" and the like) that from Jesus's perspective the worst possible sin (based on His strongest possible response) is abiding by the letter of the Law and failing to "treat others with grace". (I'm guessing that Sin #2 on the hit parade is having power or, perhaps, having power and oppressing the poor.)

My problem thus far, however, is that there is an ongoing pile of terminology that you use as if it is common to all of us that I don't know how to define in your view. You use "harm" freely as if I know what you mean by it and I don't (because, to me, keeping silent when someone is indulging in sin is much more harmful than speaking up) and you use "grace" here in terms that I don't understand (because it appears to mean "keep your mouth shut about sin") and even "rule-abiding" (because you use the term as if it's an evil thing). Thus far, then, I'm just as unclear as when you started and, perhaps, more so.

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "Tell me: Do you think it would be presumptuous of me to assume, where we BOTH think the bible is abundantly obvious on issues 1 - 20, that I am the one that must be right on each of those? Can you see where I might find it presumptuous of you to insist that you are the one who must be right?"

Presumptuous? I would think it mandatory. Either you believe you're right or you don't. Logically, either I would be right or you would be right or we both could be wrong, but the absolute impossibility that we could both hold contrary views and both be right.

Stan said...

Linking humility to grace, it still seems that your position here is that certainty is the evil that we need to avoid. I can be certain for myself, but by no means should I suggest that it is true for anyone else. And since I have never said, "Those who disagree with me disagree with God", but you have repeatedly said I lack grace, this explanation isn't getting any clearer.

Stan said...

Here, let's try this. You agree that I should "strive to understand God's will as best we can and hold tightly to those views". I believe that the Bible is abundantly clear that homosexual behavior is a sin. So, wanting to "embrace grace" and not surrender what I find to be clear in Scripture, how does that look? If I used Jesus's example of the woman caught in adultery, it would go something like this. "I don't condemn you (because, after all, I have no right to do so), but out of genuine concern for your well-being I would urge you to stop sinning and to go and sin no more." You can see, I'm quite sure, that there is little to no difference between that and Jesus's words (except that Jesus uniquely did have the right to condemn). Yet I'm absolutely certain that you would label such a statement as "graceless" and urge me to "embrace grace". (If I'm wrong on that certainty, then I'm completely lost ... again ... because I've never said anything more harsh than that on the topic.)

You repeatedly said that we need to be humble. You assured me that you don't minimize sin, but suggest we "have the grace and respect for my fellow Christians to allow them to work out these questions for themselves", specifically in terms of what is or is not sin. So when Jesus commands, "If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother" (Matt 18:15), what does that look like if I'm allowing them to work it out themselves? If the aim is to be primarily concerned with the sin in my own life, in what sense would I "embrace grace" and restore someone who is caught in sin (Gal 6:1)?

So, given that I'm supposed to study the Word and understand it to the best of my ability and then hold tightly to that, what do you suggest I do when my understanding of the Word says that homosexual behavior is a sin (actually worse -- an abomination, making it quite harmful)? How do I deal with that "gracefully"?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

So, wanting to "embrace grace" and not surrender what I find to be clear in Scripture, how does that look? If I used Jesus's example of the woman caught in adultery, it would go something like this. "I don't condemn you (because, after all, I have no right to do so), but out of genuine concern for your well-being I would urge you to stop sinning and to go and sin no more." You can see, I'm quite sure, that there is little to no difference between that and Jesus's words

I'd say that the difference would be context.

1. Jesus did not seek this "sinner" out, he rescued her from good religious folk who were preparing to follow "God's Commands" and execute her for her sin.

Jesus RESCUED her, pointed out that all there were sinners, not just this woman, and he set her free, encouraging her to sin no more. He didn't call her actions sinful, was incredibly compassionate and gracious towards her and saved her life, encouraging her to sin no more.

2. IF someone were to bring a "sinner" before you and was castigating the sinner (indeed, to the point of death!), you should rightly step in and say that we all are sinners without the liberty to follow ancient execution rules. From there, if you want to encourage the "sinner" to go and sin no more, that would most likely be appreciated in that context. You aren't presuming to tell that person what his/her sin is, you're just encouraging them to sin no more.

I would have no problem with that.

On the other hand, seeking out a "sinner" in order to TELL them, "you know, here is your sin... Stop doing that action!" that would seem a bit presumptuous to me.

What do you think?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan asked...

what do you suggest I do when my understanding of the Word says that homosexual behavior is a sin

1. Do not quarrel over disputable matters.

2. Recognize that your opinion about ALL homosexual behavior is your opinion, and thus, a disputable matter.

3. Recognize that Jesus used no harsh words towards sinners who were failing in the world of sexual sins - that Jesus didn't seek out anyone to tell them of their sexual sins, not ONE time that I can think of - but rather, he gently and generally encouraged loving fidelity, not oppressive and unhealthy infidelity.

4. Follow Jesus' example.

David said...

In Dan's argument about Jesus and what sins He is harsh against, he seems to forget about Ananias and Sapphira, whose sins was being dishonest with their donation. What was their punishment? Death on the spot. Where was "grace"? They weren't powerful oppressors, they weren't Bible-thumping rulites (yes, I just made that term up), they were liars. And in the case of Paul turning the man over to Satan, the man's sin was incest and adultery. In Dan's view, Paul was wrong to do that, but he can't have any argument against what happened to Ananias and Sapphira because it was God that punished them, not man.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan asked...

So when Jesus commands, "If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother"

You are quoting one version of Matthew 18. All the others (most of them, anyway) read like this...

"If your brother sins AGAINST YOU, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over." (NIV)

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass AGAINST THEE, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. (KJV)


etc.

I think the "against you" better defines when we are to go to that brother. Just think about it logically: Are we to literally go to every brother we think is sinning? We'd be spending all hour time pointing out others' sins if we did that, would we not? Where would the sense be in us being busybodies/meddlers (a behavior that is condemned in the Bible)? WHO is going to listen to a random "brother" who presumes that he is in a place to randomly correct our sins?

I know there is some dispute as to which translation is better "if your brother sins..." or "if your brother sins against you...," but just looking at the rest of the Bible and using our own God given reasoning: YES, when your brother sins AGAINST YOU, point it out and talk it over with them. But a random brother sinning? No, that would fall into the presumptuous "busybody" category, it seems to me.

So, to answer your question: When Jesus commands us to go to the brother who sins AGAINST US, I think we're safe in doing so. But not to every brother who sins each time they sin, that's just not logical and, TO ME, it is presumptive and arrogant.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

it still seems that your position here is that certainty is the evil that we need to avoid. I can be certain for myself, but by no means should I suggest that it is true for anyone else.

It is arrogance and presumption that I think we should avoid. Certainty on issues that God hasn't told you God's position is merely the road down which we travel to reach arrogance and presumption, it seems to me.

What I think it gets down to, Stan, is how much we think we can certainly say, "THIS is God's position, anyone who disagrees (with my assessment of God's position) is disagreeing with God..."

Speaking for myself, EVEN ON POINTS where I feel as "certain" as an imperfect human can, and on points where I think all the Bible and all human reasoning SHOULD lead us to this position (ie, the position I have reached), I am generally going to say that it is MY understanding, not God telling you.

I think that the wiser and more humble road to take.

You appear to believe that you can assert with certainty what God's position is on more topics than I am willing to speak for, EVEN THOUGH I am confident in my position.

I'm just saying I'd counsel against that, as it seems to get over into that category of "disputable matters."

Dan Trabue said...

Dan Trabue: "Tell me: Do you think it would be presumptuous of me to assume, where we BOTH think the bible is abundantly obvious on issues 1 - 20, that I am the one that must be right on each of those? Can you see where I might find it presumptuous of you to insist that you are the one who must be right?"

Stan: Presumptuous? I would think it mandatory. Either you believe you're right or you don't.

Oh, I DO believe I'm right on any one item. What I am saying is presumptuous is to state authoritatively that I MUST BE RIGHT ON ALL these issues and you MUST BE WRONG.

To think I'm right on anyone issue, well, of course we all do.

But to presume that, given 20 issues on which fellow Christians might agree, that I AM RIGHT EACH TIME, that strikes me as presumptive and contrary to the humility to which we are taught to hold to. I will strive to hold what seems to me the more humble approach and state simply, "these conclusions seem most rational/biblical/moral to me, you will have to decide for yourself," rather than to state that "THEY" are always wrong.

Do you see the difference?

It's the difference between saying, "These 20 positions strike ME as the most rational conclusions,..."

vs

"I am right on all these issues and you are wrong..."

It makes sense to me and is one difference between disagreeing with humility and grace and NOT disagreeing with humility and grace...

Dan Trabue said...

Regarding Jesus and his treatment (or lack, thereof) of those engaged in sexual sin, I might point to this source, which has done some of my research for me...

religioustolerance.org

It points out that, of the hundreds of teachings/instructions of Jesus, there are only about seven times he addresses what MIGHT be at least related to sexual behaviors. He speaks of divorce four times, lust once, and he has the conversation with the woman at the well who had lived with multiple men and he saves the woman from being stoned for adultery.

In none of these is he taking a hard line stand against "sinners," just clarifying some points in a way that, at least to me, shows concern and grace, not condemnation. Additionally, the concern (at least in the divorce cases) seems TO ME (and those in my camp) to be as much as the concern for the oppression of women as any concern about "dirty" behavior.

My point being that Jesus did not dwell on sexual sin the way many of his modern followers do.

Marshall Art said...

One thing I believe I've found is that when you're told that the incredibly ridiculous positions held by another were a result of "serious" study, it's graceless to say with truthful, honest sincerity that there ain't no freakin' way possible for a serious student to arrive at such positions. I'm pretty sure that's graceless.

Stan said...

Marshall, yes, Dan would (has) classify that as graceless.

David, Dan is using Jesus as his source. Paul is not as reliable as Jesus (1 Cor 5). Neither is Peter (the Ananias and Sapphira story). Perhaps "reliable" isn't the right word, but Dan insists that all of life's instructions must come from the lips of Christ or something akin to that.

Marshall Art said...

Dan misses the point of the story of "let he who is without sin". He was not overruling the law. He was being asked His opinion of a matter that was likely meant to trap Him for the purpose of having Him suffer for His behavior, by which the religious leaders were threatened. He never said that the woman should not be stoned to death but that whoever was without sin should cast the first one. This allowed Him to maintain the Law, which He was doing, without falling for their trap. As no one was left to actually hurl the first stone, and because He Himself knew the true intentions of those who put the people up to the action, He told her to be on her way and sin no more. If she was innocent of sin, He would not have said that.

But nowhere is there any indication that we should not hold each other accountable for the sake of each others' souls, not to mention for His sake. "Seek people out"? I know of no one who does this. I don't even believe it is common place.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

Perhaps "reliable" isn't the right word, but Dan insists that all of life's instructions must come from the lips of Christ or something akin to that.

I suggest, along with the good biblical Christian scholars that I was raised on, as well as some who may not have been as good, that one of the key rules of Good Biblical exegesis for Christians is to interpret all the words of the Bible through the teachings of Jesus. I/we believe that Jesus is the clearest representation of what God is/what God wants/what God's kingdom is to be like and thus, his teachings are the highest/most clear ideal.

Do you disagree with that fundamental exegetical criteria?

Marshall...

it's graceless to say with truthful, honest sincerity that there ain't no freakin' way possible for a serious student to arrive at such positions.

Yes, I would call that graceless. Why? Because...

1. It HAS happened. People come to conclusions which YOU or I may find incredibly ridiculous and they factually in the real world do so as a result of serious Bible study. To say, "That hasn't happened," in the face of the reality that it HAS happened would seem obviously to be arrogantly presumptive and graceless.

2. It presumes a knowledge of someone ELSE's internal reasoning and that is moving into a rather graceless and arrogant position of making one's self a sort of minor god. We DON'T HAVE omniscience. We ARE NOT mind readers. We ARE NOT able to know what other people have thought their way through.

3. It states outright that someone else who states they reached their position by serious study is an outright liar. They are CLAIMING to reach their position by serious study, but "obviously" they couldn't. They must be liars.

4. It suggests that all serious students will reach the same conclusion you have reached.

Perhaps "arrogant" and "presumptive" would be the better descriptors rather than "graceless," but I think there is room for all three descriptors in such a claim.

You will note that, in all of my disagreements with any of you all, I have never claimed that you don't hold your position nor that you did not reach your position through serious, earnest Bible study. The thing is, we are all fallen, flawed human beings. I FULLY expect that each of us (myself included) will earnestly, seriously study the Bible and come to bad conclusions. The Bible makes no promises of perfect understanding on our part (quite the contrary).

Stan said...

(Please note at the outset: All references to "your view" or the like are, quite clearly, my understanding of "your view". I present "your view" from what I've understood you to say and am providing my understanding of your view as feedback as to what I understood you to say. Your task, then, would be to correct or explain where I misunderstood.)

So we're still hanging on being not certain and certainly not confrontational. By "not certain" I mean "But to presume that, given 20 issues on which fellow Christians might agree, that I AM RIGHT EACH TIME, that strikes me as presumptive and contrary to the humility to which we are taught to hold to." I might, then, be right on some issue or another, but to regard all issues with any real certainty is "presumptive" and arrogant (the opposite of "humility"). I can never actually be certain, then, that I am right on any issue, and "humility" requires that I see all issues that way.

Your key issue appears to be "disputable matters". I am completely unable to comprehend what you mean by that. I read texts, take them as they are written, and am told that they are "disputable matters". If "disputable matters" is defined as "matters over which people dispute", all Christian values and doctrines are "disputable matters", including the death and resurrection of Christ, the existence of God, and whether or not Christianity is a valid belief system. So ... what is not a "disputable matter"?

I do certainly appreciate your efforts and the efforts of "religious tolerance.org" (a group consisting of atheists, agnostics, Christians, Wiccans, and Buddhists) in pointing out that Jesus had no real thoughts on the topic of sexual sin. I assume that the claim that he "did not give it great emphasis" is based on the fact that He didn't make it a running commentary. That is, the "emphasis" He didn't make it is a numerical emphasis. I say that because Jesus was abundantly clear, for instance, that adultery was not merely "having sex". He didn't minimize the sin of adultery, but expanded it. Nor did He approve of the woman at the well and her "sleeping arrangements", but instead pointed them out as a problem. It would seem to me that, given Jesus's call for repentance and His "overbearing" view on sexual sin and divorce, arguing that He took some sort of "soft stand" on sexual sin would be a serious argument from silence ... at best.

On the Matt 18 question, you are illustrating my point -- my "failure to understand" that isn't getting any clearer. I said that it seems as if you wish to minimize sin. You assure me that's not so. However, I should not approach someone who is "caught in sin" (Gal 6:1) because that would be graceless, presumptive, and arrogant. If they come to me or they do something to me, then it's not. Now, to me, that's absolutely minimizing sin. That's because in my understanding sin does horrible damage to people and I don't want them to be damaged. From my perspective it's like saying, "Well, sure, he picked up a rattlesnake and was bitten, but it would be presumptive and arrogant of me to intervene and offer an antidote just because I see a rattlesnake bite as harmful, so I'll just stay out of the way." In fact, I want people who care about me to come to me about sin in my life that I don't see or I'm ignoring because I don't want that kind of damage in my life.

Stan said...

So, I'm still not understanding what you mean. Jesus preached repentance, but you see Him as being "soft" on sexual sin and non-confrontational on anything but 1) those who preached obedience to the Law and 2) those who used power to oppress the poor. He's pretty much easygoing on anything else. Don't point it out. Don't bring it up. That's "grace". (Interestingly, Jesus complained that the Pharisees missed the "weightier matters of the Law", which He listed as "justice and mercy and faithfulness." It appears that neither justice nor faithfulness are very important in this "embrace grace" approach. On the other hand, Jesus didn't list "grace" as one of the "weightier matters".) We're to avoid "disputable matters", but that includes plain texts, historical understandings, and, in the final analysis, just about anything at all that the Bible says. (Religious scholar John Crossan and his Jesus Seminar voted out a good portion of what Jesus said and did from the biblical records, so we're really standing on mush in terms of "undisputed items".) And, finally, in terms of what you do in interacting heavily with people like me, it would appear that you make a practice of doing precisely what you are telling me I should not do. So I do not yet have any sort of a clear grasp on your meaning of "embrace grace".

Dan Trabue said...

David...

In Dan's argument about Jesus and what sins He is harsh against, he seems to forget about Ananias and Sapphira, whose sins was being dishonest with their donation. What was their punishment? Death on the spot.

1. Jesus, having already died and resurrected and returned to God, was not there for the An/Saph story. Jesus had NO harsh words for those two.

2. The story in Acts 5 goes like this: Peter says to them...

"You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

and then...

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.

And similarly for his wife.

Many presume that this means that "God killed them" as punishment for lying. The text does not say that. Imply it? Well, that's a matter of opinion, but the text does not say it.

Perhaps they died from shame, from a heart attack induced by that shame and great disappointment to their community and their God.

Or, Perhaps God killed them. The point is, the text does not say this. We can speculate all we want and that's fine.

I just wouldn't call it gracelessness, based upon the text.

David...

Where was "grace"? They weren't powerful oppressors, they weren't Bible-thumping rulites (yes, I just made that term up), they were liars. And in the case of Paul turning the man over to Satan, the man's sin was incest and adultery.

In Dan's view, Paul was wrong to do that, but he can't have any argument against what happened to Ananias and Sapphira because it was God that punished them, not man.


David, I would ask you politely not to tell me what "my view" is. I'd prefer to state for myself what I believe. Fair enough?

To chase this rabbit a bit (if Stan so wishes), I'll elaborate on my view on these two instances.

In the case of Ananias and Sapphira AND in the case of the incestuous relationship, it was not a "mere" matter of personal lying or personal shenanigans. There was OVERT HARM involved to others.

And, as Stan and I have discussed already, WHEN A BROTHER HAS SINNER AGAINST YOU, it is okay to go to them and confront that sin.

An/Sap's lie was egregious and harmful to others because they were living in community, holding all things in common. And so, the people in that situation willingly "share" in what THE OTHERS have, WHILE still holding on to their own goods, they are not just lying, but actually stealing, and - given the poverty of the local church then - they were stealing FROM THE POOR. That was quite oppressive and unsavory behavior that caused harm to others. Peter rightly confronted them.

And, of course, two adults having an affair is one thing, but having an affair with one's relative is destructive to the family and to the community involved. Paul rightly dealt with that situation.

Does that help clarify where I draw the line?

Stan said...

Marshall,

Your point is well taken. I've avoided delving too deeply into the John 8 story. 1) It isn't found in the oldest manuscripts. For that reason, making it a standard guide for life is questionable. 2) In the account, the Pharisees brought a woman "caught in the act of adultery". Really? Where's the man? The Law required that both be stoned to death. If the accusation was genuine, there should have been another person in the story. 3) As you rightly pointed out, Jesus never said, "She doesn't deserve a stoning." Nor did He suggest, "That's okay; adultery isn't something I'm concerned about." He said, "Go and sin no more." Drawing from that account "We shouldn't confront sinners with their sin" is a stretch from my perspective.

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "Do you disagree with that fundamental exegetical criteria?"

When that "fundamental exegetical criteria" contends "Paul lied", then, yes, I disagree with it. And since Jesus didn't speak about a whole lot of Christian doctrine (like, say, "saved by grace" or "salvation apart from works" or "saved by faith"), determining much of anything from the teachings of Jesus becomes somewhat problematic when His teachings are the sole source. I agree that Jesus's words on a topic are the best clarifiers, but I will not assume that Jesus contradicts Paul or Peter or Isaiah.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Boy,, would I love to get engaged in this discussion to itemize all the logical fallacies Dan has made, but I don’t have the time and Stan is doing such a wonderful job of exposing Dan’s nonsense.

The more Dan demonstrates his hermeneutical principles here, the more my head gets to shaking and the more I chuckle at his complete arbitrariness so as to maintain his defense of the indefensible.

Marshall Art said...

"3. It states outright that someone else who states they reached their position by serious study is an outright liar. They are CLAIMING to reach their position by serious study, but "obviously" they couldn't. They must be liars."

This is an example of you doing what you demand we don't do: assuming something not said by the other. I simply say that serious study won't get you to that conclusion. If you insist you engage in serious study, then your definition of serious study is in dispute, OR, what passes for serious study on your part isn't quite as serious as you think it is, OR, you're not capable of being totally serious and objective in your study. None of the above is the same as accusing you of lying about studying seriously.

"4. It suggests that all serious students will reach the same conclusion you have reached."

Possibly. But more likely is that serious students CAN'T reach YOUR conclusion, since nothing in Scripture alone can bring one to such conclusions. Nothing you've shown anyway.

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "Does that help clarify where I draw the line?"

It doesn't for me, but, hey, you weren't explaining it to me, were you?

You suggest that the problem of Ananias and Sapphira was that, by withholding goods in a community that was holding all things in common, it was "actually stealing". Peter contradicts you. "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?" The problem was not retaining goods, but in lying to God about it. The error was not the "harm" it did to the community, but in "testing the Spirit of the Lord". (In fact, if anything qualified as "disputable matters", their right to keep some for themselves would be clear and Peter should have kept his mouth shut about it.)

Of course, this premise of "overt harm" is your ongoing value system by which you determine what is right and wrong and what can or cannot be confronted. This value system is a key component that eludes me in your "embrace grace" position. Who defines "harm"? What determines "overt harm"? On what do we base the assessment of "harm"? We know quite clearly, for instance, that some "harm" takes time to manifest itself. Some takes decades. Some generations. Some doesn't at all, but is still harm. I, for instance, assume "harm" when God says "It's an abomination." You don't. So I haven't a clue what constitutes "harm" to you and, therefore, how to determine when to actually take action.

Dan Trabue said...

Glenn...

The more Dan demonstrates his hermeneutical principles here, the more my head gets to shaking and the more I chuckle at his complete arbitrariness

Brother Glenn, Stan specifically requested no character assassination. These unsupported and vague allegations would appear to come at least close to that, and is typical of the sort of poor communication skills/gossipy/slander sorts of talks that make you all seem, well, graceless and arrogant.

If you have some specific ideal to discuss/address, I'd suggest that you do that and leave the gossip for the grae school girls.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Dan,

Oh, so now by stating your hermeneutics are arbitrary, that becomes "character assassination"!??!! And that it is an "unsupported and vague" allegation?

No Dan, my support for my allegation of arbitrariness is your own words, and it is not a vague allegation - it is a very bold allegation. Your hermeneutics have been demonstrated to be arbitrary; hermeneutic by your person opinion and whim.

And that is not a character assassination, although by your habit of redefining words I guess you can have any definition you want.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan, I'll pass on further communication since you're going against your own criteria and allowing attacks.

I've mostly answered your question. You still appear to misunderstand some of my points.

Where we disagree is appears to be that you are far more willing to suggest your interpretations of passages are synomynous with God's will than I am.

Which does not mean that I think we can't be certain of anything or hold strongly to our opinions.

You just have a much smaller list of disputable matters and I have a larger one. That's largely what it comes down to, for me:

1. Don't quarrel about disputable matters.

2. Most positions we hold are disputable matters.

3. OUR interpretations and applications of passages are not synomynous with God's Will. Rather, they are OUR hunches/opinions/interpretations. We ought not quarrel about such, says Paul.

Thanks for asking.

Peace and God's grace to you all.

Dan Trabue said...

Synonymous.