Tag Archives: Karl Barth

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
mercy 7 revised

Mercy 7: Merciful Guides

‘The Church must know the difference between order and disorder, and be wise enough to contextualize disorder with grace and truth.’ Dr. Ray Anderson

mercy 7 revisedI recently had a conversation with Courage Leader Father Paul Check. He recounted a conversation with a fellow priest who asked him, ‘Will the Catholic Church ever alter its anthropology?’ (He referred to how the Church defines humanity as made in God’s image in the duality of male and female. Altering that ‘image’ could open the door to the Church blessing homosexual unions.)

‘Not a chance’, responded Check. Praise God. To uphold the dignity of sexual love within one context–one man committed to one woman—is a merciful mandate. It means that the Church calls all humanity to something higher, truer, and more honorable in human relationships than what comes ‘naturally’ in our lusts.

I recall a host of confessions I have made regarding lustful thoughts and actions. In exchange I received drafts of ‘living water’ that washed my soiled heart and renewed my commitment to loving Annette, family and others aright. Hail the holy mandate that reveals the path and clears away its debris!

The Church’s mandate makes mercy sweet for the broken. Without her clear witness of what our sexuality is for, we leach mercy of its meaning. In seminary I recall a theologian who sought to alter the meaning of God’s image: she said that ‘love, not gender, was the defining characteristic of God’s image in humanity.’ She went on to speak of loving monogamous gay unions that we can now honor on par with straight ones. She leached the light of a holy God right out of the room.

Thank God for merciful guides! Hail the words of Karl Barth who upheld ‘the radical duality of male and female as the root of all other fellowship…The command of God shows that humanity irrefutably that man can only be genuinely human with woman, and woman with man.’ Or blessed John Paul ll who declared: ‘Humanity only discovers his/her true self in a sincere offering of that self [to the opposite gender.]’ Or my professor, Dr. Ray Anderson, who wrote: ‘To deny the fundamental distinction of sexual orientation in regards to one’s own identity as male or female is to conceal the imago dei itself.’

Pity those who defy God’s call for each of us to work out our humanity in the inspired, exasperating duality of male and female. Such blind guides forfeit the mercy that could be theirs, and lead others into a similar deception. Hell on earth. Hail heavenly guides, who uphold the truth and invite us to wash our hearts and bodies in the waters of mercy.

‘The flight from one’s gender is a flight from God.’ Karl Barth

Prayer Points:

    • Desert Stream/Living Waters: Pacific Southwest: California, Nevada, Hawaii, Don Sciortino, Regional Coordinator. Please pray for the new work beginning in Hawaii.
    • Restored Hope Network: Pure Heart Ministries, St. Louis, MO. Jim Venice, Director. Specialty: men and groups for parents; also professional counseling for women. Help4Families, Waynesville, NC. Denise Schick, Director. Specialty: transgender and SSA youth, men and women.
    • Courage: Healing and conversion for all priests and ministers struggling with SSA and relational issues.
  • Cor Project: Please pray that we have the spiritual resources necessary to fulfill our mission.
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Cultivating Gay Christians by Rauch Dickson

Cultivating Gay Christians

I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ amid the afflicting power of homosexual attraction and conduct. In those years, shame veiled such struggles. I was fortunate to find Christian guides who helped me to discover Jesus as the basis for a new and true humanity.

Today, we arise out of shame and into the evolving community known as LGBTQ. Such a community may appear to afford some a kind of corporate identity and defense against a heterosexist world. What it actually does is bar Christians from the grace (and clarity of identity) that could be theirs.

Sadly, many of our best Christian institutions, Fuller Seminary and Wheaton College among them, now sponsor LGBTQ groups. Bowing to the pressure of insistent ‘gay’ alums, these institutions have broken ties with Scripture and Church tradition in regards to human sexuality.

(Please note that such groups do not represent the majority of those schools’ faculty and students. The craftiness of an aggressive few finds access through naïve, weary administrators. Please pray for opportunities to engage constructively with those powers-that-be. Badly conceived precedents can end!)

I know from my solid Fuller education that there is no biblical theological base for ‘self-identified’ LGBTQ members. In his Doctrine of Creation (CD lll), Karl Barth upholds the “radical duality of male and female as the root of all other fellowship…The command of God shows humanity irrefutably that man can only be genuinely human with woman, and woman with man.”

Fuller Professor Emeritus Dr. Ray Anderson furthers this thought: “To deny the fundamental distinction of sexual orientation with regards to one’s own identity as male or female is to conceal the imago dei itself.” (On Being Human)

In other words, every human being is under the divine command to work out his or her salvation as male and female in relation to each other. Any community that seeks to define itself outside that duality defies a genuine theological anthropology. Such ‘humanity’ is self-prescribed rather than defined by the Creator. In Barth’s words, “a flight from one’s gender is a flight from God.”

The LGBTQ ‘self’ is a recently devised social construct. Speaking of the ‘gay self’ in particular, Dr. Mark A. Yarhouse makes the distinction between homosexual attractions and identity. He writes: “A gay identity reflects a modern sociocultural movement that has formed an identity around experiences of same-sex attraction. It is not merely a synonym for SSA… Rather, ‘I am gay’ is a self-defining attribution that reflects this socio-cultural movement.” (Round Peg, Square Hole)

‘Gay’ identification is only one way in which a person with SSA seeks to resolve his/her sexuality. It is a willful, moral decision that serves to deepen and strengthen one’s homosexual desires. Is that among the goals of these institutions—to cultivate gay Christians?

That is expressly what LGBTQ groups do. Curious, vulnerable Christians gather with self-identified ‘gays’ and other sexual ‘minorities.’ Unlike groups I led at Fuller, these groups do not encourage the seeker to repent unto healing but rather to embrace and integrate his/her skewed sexual identity.

I have only compassion for Christians with SSA. But I resist absolutely the push to gather on the basis of the ‘gay self’ in order to further orient one’s life around a disordered set of desires. Resolving these desires could be undertaken instead by committed Christians who rightfully invite any person with LGBTQ leanings into a community seeking redemption.

That is the ministry of Jesus Christ, “to open for us the hermeneutical horizon for authentic personhood”; in the words of Ray Anderson, “we go to Jesus to learn about Adam.” And we go to church to discover this Jesus who reconciles us to the Father’s best for our lives. Anderson again: “The church must know the difference between order and disorder and be wise enough to contextualize disorder with grace and truth.”

Christian LGBTQ groups cannot be considered ordered, grace-filled, or truthful. May the Church arise into the real community of transformation for the broken who turn to Jesus. May those institutions that profess to build the Church turn from any group that cultivates ‘gay’ Christians.

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Mercy From Rome

While doing a conference in Denver many years ago, a vigorous young man introduced himself to me as Christopher West; he was then the ‘marriage and family’ guy for the Archdiocese of Denver. He loved our emphases on healing through the cross and community. And he wanted me to have a copy of John Paul II’s book: The Theology of the Body, the late great pope’s sweeping take on human sexuality.

Wow. What a meal. For the next couple of years I slowly ate what I now regard as perhaps the most thorough and profound theological work on sexuality. It is a large meal, but not inaccessible. It undergirds the pope’s native compassion with truth: the truth of what our sexuality is for, not just what we should flee, and the deeper meaning of masculine and feminine communion in the divine plan.

Brilliant and relevant, prophetic and yet deeply, richly human; it reinforced what I knew but deepened and expanded the truths already gleaned from Ray Anderson, Karl Barth, and Emil Brunner. On planes and trains I would read a section and take notes on it. I would then meditate on the notes before tackling another section.

It prepared me for the battle at hand, the fight for God’s image in humanity being waged on every continent. In that battle, I needed reinforcement.

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Merciful Intimacy

Around this time I was baptized in the Pacific Ocean. Amid a winter storm, my pastor dunked me into the waters, and counted the old man dead. I arose with Christ into new life.

It was timely. I needed to know that something really had changed beyond my subjective experience—how what Jesus did in entering those waters Himself and emerging out of them as the Beloved Son had relevance to me.

Jesus’ baptism was unto death; His dunking foreshadowed Crucifixion. Similarly, His emergence into the fullness of the Father’s blessing—the confirmation of His Sonship through the infilling of the Holy Spirit—foresaw His Resurrection.

He invites us to follow His lead. Our own baptism liberates us to surrender the old self unto death and to live out of the Father’s favor. It is the objective basis for our freedom to declare: I am no longer mastered by sin but by the Father’s blessing upon the good son He sees in me.

Through baptism, I began to realize that the power of righteousness had become greater in me than the power of sin! His Spirit reminded me of that constantly. Out of the true self, I could decisively say ‘no’ to sin. Sin ceased to be my center; the Father’s favor upon me was.

You know what that meant? I was good! Mercy had broken the grip of living out of the grasping, readily deceived old self. United with Christ, following His example, I thus had authority to refuse the enemy’s temptations in the desert.

More than that, I had water to give others. I had a gift to give out of my goodness as a man. Around this time, I discovered more of what this goodness was.

While still a student, I started working at a Christian bookstore that emphasized theological study. I discovered the great Dr. Karl Barth there, and his emphasis on what it means to be made in God’s image: male and female. It gave form and depth to my understanding that I was in truth a part of God’s heterosexual creation (with some peculiar flaws, of course!).

More than that, I was under the Father’s favor and mandate to work out my salvation in relation to women—not as mere ‘buddies’ but in the tension and attraction of our differences from each other.

I had to learn to offer myself emotionally to His daughters, and maybe, if it be His will, to one in the form of an exclusive union. That’s what it meant to be true to the Father. And that was possible because sin was no longer my center. I had heterosexual goodness to give. And out of that goodness, I could face my weaknesses without being mastered by them.

His favor on my life freed me to believe for more. I was a good gift. I began to desire to offer that very imperfect gift to a woman.

This seemed to be a dangerous mercy—full of threats and uncertainties. Was I deceiving myself? The woman who trained me for the bookstore job wanted to know. We became good friends on the job, and I really liked her. She was smart, fun, and began to become more and more attractive to me.

We talked about our broken pasts and the false selves we had invested in. We gave a lot of mercy to each other. We saw something in one another that was greater than our shameful confessions. We fell in love with one another’s true self, gracefully revealed. That woman is now my wife of 29 years, Annette.

We continue daily to extend mercy to one another. The Father showed us His favor and still delights in the love we extend to one another. For both of us, marital love is the first-fruit of His mercy toward us. We endure the desert portions of our lives together. What a gift.

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’

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Otherness and Intimacy

To honor marriage is to honor the distinctions of male and female, and how the two combine to form a whole. The one discovers its need in relation to the other—‘I do not possess what the other offers’, and one’s unique gift—‘I possess something the other needs.’

Gender complementarity is crucial to a marriage being able to ease the aloneness of both parties. It is precisely the other’s difference that satisfies the ache of the solitary heart. The mystery of the other draws one out of familiarity and into another reality. Gender differences provoke exploration and yield the rich discovery that the other rounds one out. At physical and psychological levels, one finds grounding and a covering that composes a whole.

Karl Barth writes: “Were Eve only like him, his mirror image, a numerical multiplication, she would not confront him as another…as such, the aloneness of neither would be eased.”

Frustrating at times? Of course. In the face of the ‘foreigner’, we are tempted to judge the other as less than human, our own familiar ways of knowing and being as superior. But gratefully, God did not create the other in our image but in His own.

Mike Mason writes: “Marriage seems to specialize at times in radically deemphasizing the similarities between partners and wildly exaggerating the points of difference. But that is so that a couple may come to know one another at the deepest level—‘bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.’

Becoming one flesh is a journey of discovery. We discover a beauty and wisdom and strength unknown to us; in that difference, the other has unique power to fortify and to console us. (S)he encounters us as the other, imparting to us what we may never have experienced but what we need.

Mason refers to marriage in a term used for the trinity—a hypostatic union, meaning that distinct properties (male and female) combine to form one new identity. He says: “Marriage is not about sameness but about oneness, which is less characterized by similarities than by difference…That oneness is not a skill to be mastered but a phenomenon to be marveled at with increasing humility and gratitude.”

To honor marriage, we must reclaim the inner meaning of God’s image: man for woman, woman for man. Together, the two create a whole that satisfies the aloneness of each. Honor marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“Thank You God for Your design. You said that it was not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18), and You made a way for the gap to be closed. Give us grace to behold and to honor the other’s difference. Ease our aloneness through him or her.”

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