“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”
In the July issue of the Banner,
soon to be departing Rev. Bob DeMoor, makes a case for the CRC denomination not fracturing over the potential future doctrinal embrace of practicing homosexuality. DeMoor’s comment are, politically speaking, quite genius. DeMoor will be leaving the Banner soon and so there is little fallout he will have to face over his advocacy of the Denomination accepting practicing homosexuality via the local option. Once Rev. DeMoor is gone, other bureaucrats can respond to complaints by merely offering, “that’s Bob, and Bob’s gone now.” In the way this has been done the next policy step has been pointed to in a very clean and surgical manner.
Rev. DeMoor implores his readers and the denomination to allow each local congregation to choose for themselves whether or not their local congregation will acknowledge the teaching of Scripture that homosexual practice and lifestyle is sin. What Rev. DeMoor doesn’t tell the reader is that if such a decision was arrived at what that would mean is that those who work for the bureaucracy of the denomination (including the Seminary) would at least have to subscribe to the idea that Scripture both teaches and does not teach that homosexual practice and lifestyle is sin, or at the very least that Scripture is so ambiguous on the subject that it is a matter of adiaphora. As such, with such an embrace of the “local option” as policy the consequence would be a bureaucracy and Seminary that would, by its required muddledness on the subject, be pro-homosexual practice and lifestyle. How long could local churches hold out in upholding God’s clear word against sodomy when the whole Denominational institutional infrastructure is, at best, unable, due to denominational diktat, to be anti-homosexual lifestyle and practice?
Rev. DeMoor enjoins that the denomination should take upon itself the 1980 example of making remarriage after divorce a local option issue. Rev. DeMoor doesn’t mention that there was a long history, in the Reformed World in general, that allowed divorce after remarriage. For example, John Calvin allowed for remarriage in the context of adultery, believing that the penalty for such adultery should be death. Divorce under such circumstances gives the innocent party freedom to remarry, Calvin held, for Jesus’ condemnation of remarriage as adultery applied undoubtedly only to “unlawful and frivolous divorces.” Although Calvin was very conservative in his theological view of divorce, like Luther his practice was more liberal. His “Ecclesiastical Ordinances,” adopted by the Little and Large Councils of 1561, allowed three grounds for divorce and remarriage other than adultery: impotence, extreme religious incompatibility, and abandonment. Calvin also provided for annulment where a spouse could not, because of some physical infirmity, perform the conjugal act.
Similarly the Westminster Confession of Faith Article 24 has taught since the 17th century,
“In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce: and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.”
We could just as easily appeal to Tyndale, Bucer, Knox and other Reformed luminaries for the acceptability of remarriage after divorce in some cases.
We conclude thus that the CRC 1980 decision had historical precedents to reverse previous Synods and to allow Churches to employ the local option on the matter of divorce and remarriage. Where are the centuries long historical precedents in the Reformed world for suggesting that homosexual practice and lifestyle is a valid option so that the determining of its acceptability can be decided on a church by church and case by case basis? Rev. DeMoor is comparing apples to bananas by suggesting a parallel can be drawn between the local option as exercised for the allowance of divorce and remarriage and the local option as exercised for the allowance of men sodomizing men and women doing whatever it is that women do to one another when sharing a “conjugal” bed.
Rev. DeMoor then asks the question if such an approach would erode our teaching to biblical commitment and then answers his own question by saying “no” and then citing Scripture that communicates, in Rev. DeMoor’s world, that unity trumps all matters. However, as has been communicated by many a Divine throughout history, Unity is always only a byproduct of shared truth. Where truth is not shared the closest to unity a organization can come to is the empty shell of administrative and bureaucratic unity. This is a unity only for the sake of unity. It is a unity that stands for nothing, that strives for nothing, and that achieves nothing. It is a mirage that progressives are forever seeing.
Rev. DeMoor would have us “have the humility, love, and grace to affirm that we may have to reexamine our own certainties in light of what we communally discover in God’s Word.” This sounds so high minded and pious but what if, after reexamining our own certainties in light of what we communally discover in God’s Word, we have to say, “Here I stand against the communal discoveries, I can do no other”? My Mother always had a word for communal discoveries after I would appeal to her on that basis. Mom would simply say, “If everyone decided to jump off a cliff would you jump off with them?” Mom was pretty wise that way.
Rev. DeMoor fears denominational hemorrhaging, and well he should. However, Rev. DeMoor and others should keep in mind that hemorrhaging only happens where a wound has been inflicted on the body. The sanction and embrace of homosexual practice and lifestyle by the denomination would be a case of a self inflicted wound that results in to be expected hemorrhaging.
One thing I do agree with Rev. DeMoor and that is his observation that, “We won’t agree on what’s pastoral until we agree on what’s sinful.” There is a good deal packed into that sentence. Different visions and understandings of sin, by necessity, imply different visions and understandings of the Character of God. Different visions and understandings of sin, by necessity, imply different understandings of just exactly why the Lord Christ was raised upon the Cross and so raised from the grave. Different visions and understandings of sin give us different understandings of the person and work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification. In point of fact different visions and understandings of sin give us different Gods, Atonements, and Spirit filled living. Those differences give us different Christianities.
May God be pleased to grant to the Christian Reformed Church the wisdom to embrace the Christianity displayed in Holy Writ.