Post #19. Understanding Homosexuality meets Straight Into Gay America. A continuing conversation between author/pastor Dave Glesen and author/pastor Lars Clausen.
One of the joys of this conversation is to be in dialogue with someone who I sense is genuine, honest, and transparent. You let others see who you really are and we appreciate you for it! Thank you for your words in “About Church and Not Knowing Much” and for the gift of genuineness.
I will respond here to comments and thoughts in your last post. – and questions of my own.
Questions concerning compassion and love:
In order for me to respond meaningfully, I need first to listen to some clarifications so that I know what you are meaning. You talk about what it means to live out of compassion, to embrace all that seeks the direction of compassion. It would be helpful for me to know your meaning of compassion and so I look forward to your clarification in responding to the following questions: “What is it within compassion itself that gives it direction?” Or maybe it could be stated better: “Within the context of compassionate relationships, is there a right or wrong thing to do? If there is a right thing to do, on what basis is it right?”
A second question is similar. With regard to the two great commandments (i.e. loving God and loving neighbor), you say that “law hangs on love”. If this be the case, what is it within love itself that tells me the loving thing to do with regard to my neighbor? On what basis do you know it’s the loving thing to do?”
While I’m asking questions, let me ask a third so that we know meanings and don’t talk past each other by meaning different things when using the same word. You acknowledge (as we all ought) that you need to face your sin and change. I think I know what I mean when I use the word “sin” but it would be helpful for me to hear what you mean by the word when using it.
Relationships vs. Rules, Subjective vs. Objective, Experience vs. Revelation – the positing of false antithesis?
As I read your last post I kept asking myself, “Why does Lars feel as thought he has to choose between either relationships or rules, either the subjective or objective, either experience or revelation? Is this choosing a free choice or is it a necessity?” We are talking about objective and subjective worldviews and starting points. Speaking for myself, within the objective world view I do not need to choose between relationships or law (better for me than ‘rules’) for I can affirm both equally and simultaneously. Within the objective worldview there is affirmation of both the objective and the subjective being equally important. Within this worldview there also is affirmation of both revelation and experience at the same time with the life-giving benefit of revelation from a loving God interpreting and helping make sense of my experiences. It is a huge tent encompassing all of reality.
Might it be the case that in the subjective world view one ends up living under a low ceiling within a small reality wherein one is shut up to only relationships, the subjective, and experience? If this be the case, within this small world of reality, there are mores perhaps, but are there true morals in relationships? Do not true morals require an absolute that cannot be found under the low ceiling? Within this small world, I am thinking that one cannot gather enough particulars to form an objective universal which in turn can give meaning to the particulars and so one is a slave to the world of the subjective and a crisis of meaning. Within this small world, I am thinking that experience is all one is left with and it is experience that can never be self-defining, self-authenticating, or self-interpreting. It just is. Where am I wrong in my thinking?
My question is: “If one is consistent with one’s subjective world view, is the positing of these antithesis and the choosing of the one over the other inevitable?”
The point of existential crises:
If I understand you correctly, Lars, your best sense is that revelation and rules might hold under normal living conditions but when the crises hits, when one is on the end of the plank, one has to choose between rules or relationships. You see me living on the basis of rules but wonder, for example, if I would choose relationship if told by my child that he or she were gay. This is a good example.
If a child of mine (and I have four) told me he or she was gay, the first and foremost thing I would do is love them as always. I would assure them of my love and that nothing they could do would ever sever my love for them. Within my love for them I would gently show them what Scripture says about homosexual behavior. If it were my son I would also share with him information about gay men having a higher rate of STD’s than married/straight men and some of the other health consequences of same-sex behavior. If it were my daughter I would share information regarding a higher rate of mental illness in lesbian women than in straight women. Why would I share this information with them? Because I love them and want what is best for them. I would also share with them, then, information from science and also philosophical reason.
So when I come to such a point of existential crises, my objective world view allows me to hold to both relationship (love for my child) and law (sharing God’s law regarding homosexual behavior) simultaneously. I do not need to choose one over the other. Indeed, I must not do so for autonomous love simply has no basis in Scripture, in the God of Scripture, or in His Son Jesus Christ. I hold to the relationship and to God’s law at the same time. In loving my child I share God’s law and gospel with him/her so that they might have life!
May I expand just a bit on this because I believe it lies at the heart of our discussion? I understand God gave us His Law not as a way to God. God rescued the Hebrews from their bondage in Egypt through the Red Sea. Jesus rescued us from our bondage to sin through the waters of baptism. Both rescues were purely by grace without works of the law. But then God led the Hebrews to Mt. Sinai and gave them the 10 Commandments. Jesus gives his followers the two great laws of love, “love God and love neighbor”. Why? I think because God wants His children to remain free! He doesn’t want them to return to slavery. In my understanding this is what the Commandments and the two laws of love are for in the Christian’s life, that by living in obedience to that law, we might remain free, have LIFE, and not return to slavery to sin. Disobedience to God’s Law returns us to bondage and slavery, and eventual death. Obedience to His Law brings us freedom! No wonder Paul could say, “I delight in the law of the Lord.” It is the law of freedom! That is why within this community of grace called the church I share with people both the gospel and the law.
Relationship vs. rules? Within the objective world view, one can hold relationship and law together for love and compassion have no internal moral compasses of their own, and because we self-centered sinners repeatedly find ourselves distorting genuine love in the name of ‘love’, love always needs law to guide it. Within the objective world view, one does not need to post a false antithesis and choose between relationship or law, indeed, one must not do so.
Subjective vs. objective; Experience vs. revelation: Within the subjective world view, if consistently followed through from its starting point, maybe I am wrong here but I don’t see how there is even a choice to be made. If one starts with the subjective or experience, one ends with the subjective and experience, for within the small world of subjective reality there is no objective or revelation to choose. The only escape from out under the low ceiling, it seems to me, is an irrational leap of faith into a realm above the ceiling that gives one a sense of meaning and purpose – for one cannot live long without some meaning.
Within the objective world view, on the other hand, the objective and subjective are both realities in which the subjective finds meaning and definition in the objective. God being there objectively and speaking truth into the subjective realm of my life gives me what I need to know about Him, myself, history, and the universe. If God has spoken truth in an understandable way (which Scripture says is the case), then you and I can know that truth, not exhaustively - for He is God and no one will ever be able to plummet to the depths of His Truth - but truly. And so in all humility I bow before Him and receive with utmost gratitude the revelation that He gives.
There is plenty of uncertainty in this life. More than I would like. I experience it as you do. There are many things I don’t understand for now indeed we do not see all things clearly – and perhaps never will in this life. That is why I am so thankful for the truth and understanding that God has communicated to us which He means for us to know and understand. It is not exhaustive, but it is enough. So far I am finding that knowing and understanding what He has communicated is sufficient for me to live in hope in the midst of the uncertainties.
Continuing appreciation for this conversation,