Tuesday, August 19, 2014

All Around the Web - August 19, 2014

Koinonia - The Perfect Illustration for God's Outrageous Grace — An Excerpt from “Proof”
Sometimes it’s hard being a teacher, particularly when you’re looking for that one story to illustrate your main idea.

That’s why we’ve gifted you your next illustration!

The next time you’re teaching on grace, here’s the perfect object lesson. It’s an excerpt from Proof, a paradigm-shifting book on God’s outrageous, irresistible grace.

Below co-author Timothy Paul Jones tells the story of taking his adopted daughter to Disney World. I won’t ruin it for you, but for years she was denied going by her original adoptive parents. When she finally experienced the Magic Kingdom, here was her response:

“Daddy, I finally got to go to Disney World. But it wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.” (83)

John Stonestreet - Package Deal
There are some Christians who, for understandable though mistaken reasons, believe that their fellow Christians should support or at least not oppose same-sex marriage.

Implicit in this position is the belief that supporting same-sex marriage is a position that can be held in isolation—that what you believe about the definition of marriage is unrelated to other issues regarding marriage and human sexuality.

Well, according to sociologist Mark Regnerus, that simply is not the case.

In a recent article at “The Public Discourse” Regnerus asked the question, “What is the sexual and relational morality of Christians who accept the moral legitimacy of same-sex marriages?”

The Gospel Coalition - Five Principles of the New Sexual Morality
The following are some of the core principles of the new sexual and relational morality:

First, sexual acts don’t have intrinsic meanings or purposes. They don’t relate to a deeper natural order, which we must honor and not violate. Their meaning is merely constructed, by society and the persons engaging in them. Sexual relations between a man and a woman need not involve the natural significance of making them “one flesh,” with all that entails. “Meaningless” sex is a genuine possibility.

Second, our sexuality is a subjective sense and intrinsic to our self-identity. Provided no harm is caused to others, we have a duty of care for ourselves to realize and express our desired sexual identities, even when this may involve measures such as sexual reassignment surgery. As members of a society, we also have a duty to ensure the sexual identities of our neighbors are affirmed and supported. Opposition to nonmarital sexual relations, or the expectation a person should remain in a marriage for the rest of their life (even though it may be sexually unfulfilling), are two Christian positions in tension with this principle of sexual morality.

Third, sexual agents are autonomous, rights-bearing individuals. Sexual relations are therefore mutually enhancing arrangements. Appropriate relations presuppose the partners are equal in their agency and there are no significant imbalances of power between them. For those who have developed this principle, traditional forms of marriage can cause discomfort. Such forms of marriage have typically recognized the existence of some degree of inequality of power between husband and wife (e.g., physically, economically, socially), harnessing male powers for loving and responsible service rather than presenting men and women as autonomous individuals facing each other with equal bargaining power. They have also placed limits on individuals’ and couples’ sexual choices, expecting lifelong exclusivity and commitment even against their private desires. Much of this restraint has been for the sake of children, who by the nature of their existence confound liberal concepts of the person and social relations.

Fourth, freely given consent is the watchword for sexual relations. Where a relationship between given parties is consensual, few if any reasonable objections can be raised against it. When advocates of traditional Christian ethics oppose consensual same-sex relations, for instance, they violate this strongly held moral principle and threaten both the rights and identities of other sexual agents.

Fifth, beyond the prevention of harm, sexual relations should be freed from social policing and constraint, from norms and from stigmas. While marriage may grant public recognition and affirmation to a couple, each couple should be freed to practice marriage as they choose, and no couple should be expected to get married. But Christianity has always sanctioned certain sexual relations and condemned others, treating sexual relations as matters of public and communal concern and thereby falling afoul of this principle too.

Canon and CultureUnderstanding Ethics: Consequentialism
As Christians called to be salt and light within our culture, we must be able to analyze the ethical theories of our society in order to bring Scripture to bear upon them. Many of the decisions happening daily in our culture fall within the category of consequentialist ethics. While consequentialism is nothing new and much more extensive work has been offered on it than can be found in this article, my goal is to explain how a broad understanding of consequentialism is helpful for the Christian when parsing ethical decisions. Adding competency in consequentialism to the Christian’s tool belt will supply a ready filter useful in deconstructing an ethical decision.

Consequentialism focuses decision making upon the potential outcomes of an action; the outcome, coupled to some extent with intent, becomes the standard for morality. Situation ethics, utilitarianism, and pragmatism are examples of the larger school of ethical thought known as consequentialism. A crude, but often effective, way of characterizing consequentialism is to claim that the ends justify the means. In other words, if deemed necessary, then seemingly unethical actions can be employed ethically so long as the outcome is itself, ethical.

Initially, consequentialism seems intuitive, even natural. Don’t we always choose what we think is best? Shouldn’t we choose what we thing is best? Biblical ethics, however, seeks those actions that God deems best. Instead of seeking what we think to be the best outcome, our duty is to seek the will of God in humble obedience. God’s will may happen to coincide with the outcome that we thing is best, but it will be coincidental to the reason for the ethical decision. With this contrast between biblical ethics and consequentialism in hand, we can offer some general critiques of consequentialism.

The PointSeven Things Even God Cannot Do
Here is a list of things the Bible says outright, or by necessary implication, God cannot do:

1. Lie (or do anything else immoral)—Titus 1:2
2. Deny Himself (i.e., do anything out of character)—2 Timothy 2:13
3. Remit/forgive sins without the shedding of blood (i.e., taking of life)—Hebrews 9:22
4. Avoid going to Calvary if man is to have hope of forgiveness—Matthew 26:39
5. Pardon someone who will not repent/believe—2 Peter 3:9
6. Remain righteous by passing over sins and never requiring blood atonement—Romans 3:25-26
7. Be tempted by evil—James 1:13

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