The Best of Both Worlds?

I went to my church’s Maundy Thursday service last night.  We had a guest speaker, who was from another church, and she was preaching to us about Exodus 12.  She delivered her sermon in a rather mainline Protestant manner (since, well, she is mainline Protestant): demure, thoughtful, measured, etc.  But some of what she was saying sounded pretty evangelical, or at least conservative!  She was saying that we focus a lot on the grace of God, but we should also remember that God has rules that we should follow.  She also said that, if she were an Israelite living in the days of the Exodus, she wouldn’t want to test God: she would follow God’s instructions on how to preserve the lives of the Israelite firstborn while the death angel was killing the firstborn in Egypt.  She’d put blood on her door, blood that foreshadows the blood of Christ, which delivers people from God’s wrath.

She made God sound real, tough, like the sort of God whom Marshall Hogan wanted to hear about in Frank Peretti’s novel, This Present Darkness (which was why he was discontent with his liberal church).  What she was saying also reminded me of the evangelical cliche, “God is loving, but God is also JUST!”, or “God is loving, but God is also HOLY!”

I suppose that it shouldn’t be a surprise to me that a mainline Protestant would believe that there is a God who wants for us to live in a certain way.  As the pastor noted, the bad things that we do hurt ourselves and others.  It would be a wonderful thing if Jesus Christ came to earth to deliver us from the prison of sin.  I can use that!  I question whether I can truly be free from my imperfections—-or whether I should instead just cope with them and try to keep them from doing damage.  But I can see why people long for deliverance from sin, and why they would feel limited and thus look to a higher power to bring that deliverance about.

I did an Internet search on the pastor who spoke to us last night.  In our denomination’s conflicts over homosexuality, she appears to be on the side of allowing homosexuals to be pastors without demanding that they be celibate.  Moreover, she is a proponent of marriage equality.  Do I believe that this conflicts with her sermon?  Well, yeah, part of me does, and the reason is this: I myself believe that it’s unfair to demand that homosexuals live in celibacy for the rest of their natural lives, but I think that way despite the Bible, which I believe is pretty clear in its opposition to same-sex sexual activity.  Therefore, I have a hard time conceiving of a position that takes the Bible seriously, while also believing that homosexuals should be allowed to have a life partner of their own sex.  Are there people who do manage to arrive at a position that they think contains the best of both worlds?  Yes.  That’s why it shouldn’t be a surprise to me that the pastor who spoke to us last night can believe in a real God, have faith that Jesus Christ provides hope, and see the Bible as God’s word (though not necessarily as a fundamentalist might), while believing that God is okay with homosexuality.  I’m just saying that I haven’t arrived at a position that makes sense to me, that preserves the best of both worlds.  I myself am not gay, but I can somewhat empathize with those who are gay.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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