TH 535 – Apologetics
28 APR 2011
Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. 3d ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008. Pp. 416.
In the modern world in which we live debates over religion have taken center stage. Issues such as abortion, gay rights, pluralism, and absolute truth are at the heart of political debates, and these issues find their roots in religion and morality. With that, books addressing these issues are of great importance and relevance to the modern reader. Given America’s religious demographic, that being a majority of people professing to be Christian, a book which addresses these issues from a Christian perspective is all the more relevant to the modern American reader. Reasonable Faith, by William Lane Craig, addresses these issues and many others from an evangelical Christian perspective. Addressing issues such as “The Existence of God” (pgs. 93-206), “The Problem of Miracles” (pgs. 247-286), and “The Resurrection of Jesus” (pgs. 333-404), Dr. Craig delves into topics which peel away the upper layers of these issues and go straight to the heart – the philosophical nucleus of these various modern debates. One would certainly be hard pressed to find a book more relevant and which addresses issues that are at the forefront of American life.
Dr. Craig is certainly qualified to speak on this subject, and is even considered an expert in the field of apologetics and cosmology. J.P. Moreland, Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology, says that Dr. Craig “is simply the finest Christian apologist of the last half century, and his academic work justifies ranking him among the top 1 percent of practicing philosophers in the Western world” (pg. 1). Dr. Craig received his PhD from the University of Birmingham, England and his DTheol from the University of Munich, Germany. He has also authored Hard Questions, Real Answers and Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time. In describing the field of apologetics and his motivation for authoring Reasonable Faith, Dr. Craig says that “apologetics specifically serves to show the truth of the Christian faith” and “to confirm that faith to believers” (pg. 15).
To accomplish his efforts of showing “the truth of the Christian faith”, Dr. Craig employs such fields as philosophy, history, theology, logic and reason, and cosmology. With cosmology, he specifically uses the Kalām cosmological argument to show that the universe has a finite beginning, and that it was created by a “changeless and immaterial” entity who can “be taken to be personal” (pg. 152). The book is organized into five sections which each address different perspectives of proving the existence of God. Craig’s organization is very much like a funnel in that he begins very broad and, as he presents more and more material, he gets more specific until he ends with a single historical event: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the first two chapters, Craig seeks to prove that God must exist and that, of all the world’s religions, that God must be the God of Christianity. To prove this he uses cosmology in addressing the issue of the creation of the universe in chapters three and four. In chapters five and six he addresses historical issues and metaphysical issues, namely “the problem of miracles”, building upon his conclusion from chapter four. His final chapters, seven and eight, address the person of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, concluding with the fact that no other entity could be “God” except for Jesus Christ.
As stated above, Craig’s thesis is that there must be a God and that, more specifically, that God must be the God of Christianity. To prove this he uses all of the various subjects of academia discussed above. Craig uses a plethora of evidence from each subject to support his conclusion. Using both philosophy and logic, Craig first seeks to demonstrate that God does, in fact, exist. To prove this point he attacks the atheistic worldview, specifically citing their hypocrisy in affirming certain traits such as love and brotherhood. Craig discusses the fact that certain things are viewed as universally right and others are viewed as universally wrong. He specifically mentions Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein and says that the atheist, too, sees the actions of these men as horrendous and condemnable. He argues that “everything in him cries out to say these acts are wrong – really wrong. But if there is no God, he cannot. So he makes a leap of faith and affirms values anyway. And when he does so, he reveals the inadequacy of a world without God” (pg. 79). Using science, Craig demonstrates that the finite universe has a definite beginning, insinuating that it must have been created. After his presentation of evidence, based on the Kalām cosmological argument, he concludes that “a personal Creator of the universe exists, who is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and unimaginably powerful” (pg. 154). In using history, Craig establishes the presupposition that “it is not so important how the historian comes to arrive at his hypothesis as how his hypothesis is tested” (pg. 234). His conclusion is that “the historical foundations of the Christian faith will be as well established as many other purely natural events” (pg. 242). Using philosophy, Craig calls upon Aristotle’s “First Cause” principle. This says that everything must ultimately have a first cause and that there cannot be “an infinite regress of causes” (pg. 152). Craig concludes that this can only be God. Through the presentation of all of his evidence, Craig urges the reader to seek to know this awesome Being as best they can. He urges that the reader’s “primary aim ought to be to learn to know God” (pg. 406).
Dr. Craig presents additional evidence in his book, far more than a brief book review will allow. The layout of his book is extremely easy to follow and was obviously designed with the reader in mind. Craig makes certain, from the first chapter, that the reader is aware of his position. He makes clear that “the role of the Holy Spirit” should ultimately be emphasized (pg. 43). His inference here is that apologetics is useless and accomplishes no purpose if it is done outside of the work of the Holy Spirit. In laying this foundation from the beginning, Craig makes certain that the reader understands about the author whose work they are reading. Craig also cites multiple passages from the Bible to corroborate with his academic approach, appealing to both believer and non-believer alike.
Student ID: GC6831
American Christianity Application Paper (Final Exam)
25 April 2011
In studying American Christianity this semester I was surprised to discover how little I actually knew about the subject! As a history major I like to fancy myself somewhat intelligible about historical subjects, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how ignorant I actually was regarding the religious history of this country. With that, there are three things in particular I learned this semester which are extremely applicable both to my future life and ministry. Firstly, from the early chapters of the book I learned that ministry can be, and often is, a slow process. Unlike other endeavors, such as landscaping or painting, the results in ministry are not immediate. Truly patience is a virtue for those seeking to be an active participant in ministry. Secondly, the value of tolerance was reinforced in this course. In defining tolerance I do not mean this to be tolerance in regard to sin; in other words, tolerance is not meant to be interchangeable with “compromise”. Rather, it is meant, in this sense, tolerance in regard to other Christians who may have differing views about certain theological issues within Christianity. In reading about colonial America I was struck by stories of Roger Williams, James Madison, and a host of others about what intolerance within differing circles of Christianity does to the Body of Christ as a whole – it very much cripples it. Finally, and I feel most importantly, I learned the value of never forsaking the Bible for other doctrines. The infallible Word of God should, under no circumstances, ever be supplanted with social doctrines or cultural fads. The Bible should dictate society’s direction rather than the other way around. The more I read of our textbook the more evident this became. It seems that as more time passes society tends to steadily and continually stray farther and farther from biblical principles.
Firstly, let us address this issue of ministry as a slow and arduous process. Two examples come to mind: from the Old Testament, Jeremiah, and from the New Testament, Jesus. Jeremiah was one of Israel’s greatest prophets and yet, in his lifetime, he had no converts. Even God Himself, in the form of Jesus Christ, was rejected and crucified by his own “congregation”. I often am ready to charge into things, to convert the masses with my zeal for Jesus! Yet the Lord is settling me down. Let me provide some examples from the textbook. In talking about early European missionary efforts to the Indians, the book says, “Native American cultures and religions proved far more resilient and enduring than most missionaries ever imagined” (pg. 13). If these missionaries, like myself, did not have much patience then the Lord was certainly going to teach them in their efforts here in America. Perhaps put most poignantly by Jean de Brebeuf, his advice to prospective missionaries is to “not come to New France unless your soul burns with such a sacrificial fire to imitate Christ’s sufferings that no other vocation will satisfy you” (pg. 25). From these words, and from biblical examples, the Lord has initiated the process of instilling within me patience – of which I had very little! In preparing for ministry as an Army Chaplain, I am certainly going to need a healthy dose of patience. I will be responsible for ministering to Muslims, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, various ethnic groups, and now, homosexuals – and all of this while being in combat! If ever someone needed to have patience it is certainly a military Chaplain.
Secondly, intolerance between Christians is extremely divisive. Not only does it drive people away from the Body of Christ but it also ruptures the Body internally as well. The best examples from the book are Roger Williams and James Madison. Roger Williams once said that “if history teaches us any lessons at all, it teaches us that force applied to religion creates not a purity of faith but a river of blood” (pg. 66). Williams, who was himself a Puritan minister, was excommunicated by the Puritan church because of his differing views. I want to make sure and make it a priority not to “major in the minors” in my life and ministry. Inevitably I will run across Christians who view the timing of the events of the rapture differently than I, who put emphasis on different things than I, who may “rub me the wrong way”, but are we both living for Jesus? Are we both trying to spread His gospel message and is out focus on Him alone? Do they profess the Bible to be infallible? If so, then let us minister together in one cause. I will likely never agree with every point of doctrine with another Christian, but it should not cause me to break fellowship. Using the example of James Madison from the book we see that, to those watching such fighting take place, the results can be disastrous. When Madison was a young man he witnessed some Baptist preachers jailed and mistreated simply because they were Baptists rather than Anglicans. After this, Madison was dedicated to condemning that “diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution” (pg. 46). Perhaps the best single quote of the disastrous effects of intolerance, even persecution, within the Body of Christ comes from John Adams. In describing how Adams felt about the issue, our book recalls that “where Christianity had gone astray was in its endless and barren disputing about theological issues, which did not alter the way in which women and men lived” (pg. 133). It is certainly of the upmost importance to treat everyone, especially Christians, as brothers and sisters – loving the person no matter the sin. I hope to always practice this aspect of Christianity in my future life and ministry.
Finally, and most importantly, I observed that as time passes, our American society has fallen farther and farther from Biblical mandates – in particular regarding God’s uncompromising views about sin. Using the example of the Episcopal Church this becomes evident. In colonial days the Episcopal Church absolutely dominated certain parts of the country, particularly Virginia. The book says that “The power of the Church of England [the Episcopal Church]…would be supreme in Virginia right up to the Revolution” (pg. 31). The doctrine of the Episcopal Church, which once dominated America, now is so compromised that the influence of the church has waned considerably. The Episcopal Church, like many others, has embraced homosexuals and some denominations even approve of abortions. The book describes issues like abortion and gay rights as a “religious war” (pg. 367), and with that I would have to agree. I have a hard time understanding how Christians – real, practicing Christians – can embrace things like and abortion and not condemn sin, like homosexuality for example. While our Founding Fathers never addressed these issues specifically, their religious culture and convictions were such that they were never endorsed. Our society, as a whole, seems to want to become not just an amoral society but even an immoral society. Christianity seems to be under attack because of its intolerance against sin and its uncompromising values. Tolerance has become a virtue and intolerance has become impedance to social progress. Yet, from our book I ask, were not uncompromising values one of the things which made our country so great in the first place? People admire those like Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, and why? It was because they had Christian values which they held to so dearly. They held to these values without because persecutory toward others – is this not what Jesus Himself practiced? Jesus loved everyone, but was uncompromising when it came to his Christian standards. He certainly corrected those who needed it, but did he “persecute” others? The answer is a resounding and obvious “no”. So this is the balance which, as I have learned from this course, I seek to achieve. I hope that in my future life, and ministry in particular, that I can be tolerant of other Christians, yet intolerant of all sin, especially my own; loving toward everyone, but not to the point where love and compromise become one blurred line and everything becomes acceptable. In short, I hope that the older I get the more I look and act like Jesus.
These three things – patience in ministry, tolerance in Christianity, and uncompromise in Christian values – I wish to make the cornerstone of my future ministry. These three things seem to be the most pertinent to me because they are things which I struggle with the most, on a personal level. I tend to be impatient, especially with those whom I am ministering to, I tend to be more intolerant than tolerant with other Christians, and it is hard for me to blend Christian love and Christian uncompromise with those outside of the faith. I am glad that I took this course, if for no other reason, because I do not think I would have been as aware of my own shortcomings in these vital areas of ministry. I hope to keep them always at the forefront of my mind so that when I come to the end of my life, my ministry will have been much more fruitful than if I had never been made aware of these issues.
HI 622: AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY
Gaustad and Schmidt: The Religious History of America: The Heart of the American Story from Colonial Times to Today
Luther Rice Seminary
In Partial Fulfillment of
the Requirements for the Degree
Masters of Divinity
Justin Z. DuBose
5218 Happy Hollow Court
Lula, GA 30554
I.D.# GC6831 / Phone: (678) 707-1491
April 13, 2011
Professor: Dr. Jones
Hours Completed: 0 -- Hours Remaining: 90
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH: PROGRESSIVE OR RECESSIVE?
Presented to Dr. Marvin Jones
Luther Rice Seminary
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Course
HI 622: AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY
Justin Z. DuBose
II. THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH: 1530’S - PRESENT
III. EIGHTEENTH CENTURY EPISCOPALIANISM: THROUGH THE EYES OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
A. Exercise of Beliefs
B. Views on Homosexuality
IV. TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY EPISCOPALIANISM: THROUGH THE EYES OF MODERNISM
A. Theory One VS. Theory Two
B. Which is correct?
IV. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
The Episcopal Church dominated religious life in eighteenth century colonial America. What were their beliefs and how did they exercise them practically? The best way to examine this is through George Washington. The reason for this is because an abundance of primary source documentation exists relating to George Washington’s religious beliefs as an Episcopalian, much more than official documentation from the early colonial Episcopal clergy. Does the Episcopal Church today resemble the powerful establishment of the eighteenth century, or are they drastically different? If they are different, then what is the reasoning behind the change?
This paper will seek to demonstrate that the Episcopal Church has deviated from the scriptural mandates found in the Bible. Additionally, this paper will show that the reason for this is because of the change in the worldview of the leadership of the Church. They have relegated the power of Scripture to be subservient to cultural changes and, unless the trend is reversed and worldview changed, the Church will continue its decline in influence.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH: 1530’S - PRESENT
The Church of England was established by Henry VIII in the 1530’s as a break from Catholicism because of disagreements with the Pope. Thereafter, the Church of England became the official state religion of the British. It is no surprise, then, that when the British began colonizing the America’s their religion traversed the torrential seas with them. In describing the establishment of Jamestown in 1607, one author says that “the propagation of the Christian religion to those who ‘as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God’ remained a prime motivation”. 1 Virginia became the apex of British America, and thus the Church of England grew the deepest roots there. “The power of the Church of England…would be supreme in Virginia right up to the Revolution”. 2 As time passed the denomination evolved from the Church of England in the seventeenth century, to Anglicanism in the eighteenth century, and today is known as the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal church of today would be
1 Edwin Gaustad and Leigh Schmidt. The Religious History of America: The Heart of the American Story from Colonial Times to Today (New York: Harper One), 37.
2 Ibid., 31
completely unrecognizable to its early colonial adherents. In comparing perhaps the most famous early adherent of the
Episcopal Church, George Washington, to the doctrine of the church today, it will become painfully evident that the church is the same in name alone. This paper will seek to demonstrate that this change has been a departure from scriptural mandates and spiritual discipline and the Episcopal church of today has become subordinate to popular, modernist, secular culture. Essentially, the Episcopal Church has become the caboose of the metaphorical “culture train” rather than the steam engine it once was.
EIGHTEENTH CENTURY EPISCOPALIANISM: THROUGH THE EYES OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
The first presupposition one must lay down is that George Washington was himself an Episcopalian. Once this is established, then one can more adequately determine, based on the abundance of primary source evidence on Washington, what eighteenth century Episcopalians believed and how they practiced these beliefs. In an essay by Chaplain (Colonel) Edwin S. Davis on the religion of George Washington, Chaplain Davis cites that, “On 3 April 1732, when George Washington was less than two months old, he was baptized in the traditional manner of the Church of England (to become known later in America as the Episcopal Church).” This baptism, in eighteenth century Virginia, cemented one’s dedication to the church and assured one’s eternal salvation. It was a very serious occasion and one which was not to be taken lightly. 3 From the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church, in place when Washington was baptized, we read that baptism is a sign of “New-Birth” and that one receives “the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost”. 4 Additionally, Chaplain Davis notes that, “The young Washington's earliest known signature--written probably at the age of eight or nine-was inscribed on the title page of a book of sermons”. 5 It can easily be established that the Washington family was a devout Christian family in the Episcopal Church.
Exercise of Beliefs
Now that it has been established that Washington was, in fact, a devout Episcopalian Christian, it must be understood how he exercised his beliefs. The religious culture of eighteenth century Virginia was an altogether different world from the religious atmosphere of today. In modern religious circles,
self-expression is emphasized, and to be “evangelical” means
that one is to actively display one’s faith to others. This could not be farther from the Episcopal religion George
Washington, and a great many of his fellow congregants, believed and practiced. In colonial Virginia, in particular, “Faith was ultimately a private and family affair”. 6 It is because of this privatization of religion that many Americans today can readily propagate the slanderous rumor that George Washington was not a Christian at all. Jared Sparks, a Washington biographer of the nineteenth century, was curious about this very issue when he was preparing to write his book, “The Life of George Washington”. To find the answer, he went to the best available source – Washington’s grand-daughter, Nelly Custis-Lewis. Lewis spent twenty years with Washington in Mount Vernon and, in her adulthood, sought to make Washington’s character more widely known. Sparks wrote her a letter in which he inquired about the sincerity of Washington’s Christian beliefs. In her response, Mrs. Lewis recalled, “I never witnessed his private devotions. I should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those who act or pray, "that they may be seen of men". He communed with his God in secret”. Let it be undisputed that George Washington was a devout,
Episcopalian Christian. 7
Views on Homosexuality
With that, it is important to understand how Washington thought about certain issues that stem from these religious beliefs. As stated earlier, with the abundance of primary source documentation on Washington, and him being a devout Episcopalian, one could gather from Washington these beliefs and values instilled in him by the Episcopal Church. To focus our attention on how the doctrine and theology of the Episcopal Church has changed dramatically since it wielded great power and influence in colonial America, one specific issue demands attention. The issue of homosexuality is a “hot-button” issue in today’s religious circles. Recent legislation has made it legal for openly homosexual individuals to serve in our armed forces. More and more states are allowing homosexual couples to be wed in “holy matrimony” in government courthouses. Historically, across the board, all Christian denominations have condemned the act of homosexuality, including the Episcopal Church. This is based on biblical condemnation of the practice and, like every other sin, the need for sanctification by Christ from our sinful inclinations. 8 What stance has the Episcopalian
7 Sparks, Jared. The Life of George Washington (Philadelphia: F. Andrews Publishers), 521-522.
8 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Church taken on this issue in recent times? The church has not only not condemned the sin of homosexuality, but they have embraced it and even ordained it! The results, understandably, have been schism in the church. As one author writes, “the Episcopal Church has been on the verge of rupture since the 2003 election of an openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire”. 9 Is this a new direction for the Episcopal Church, or have their views on homosexuality simply been hidden from the public?
George Washington ran into a similar issue in the Continental Army. As Commanding General of the Army, Washington was responsible for discipline of soldiers and issuing orders regarding what acts were to be disciplined and how. Washington the Episcopalian was informed of homosexual activity within the Army. An officer had committed sodomy with an enlisted soldier – what action would Washington take? The soldiers were punished with what would today be called a dishonorable discharge. It is recorded what Washington thought of the crime: “His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence and with Abhorrence
and Detestation of such Infamous Crimes…” 10 This opinion of
9 Lockhard, Anne-Marie. "Homosexuality: Legally Permissible or Spiritually Misguided?" Conspectus 05:1 (2008): 136.
10 Heimbach, Daniel R. "The Bible in the Moral War Over the Rejection of Homosexuality by the Military Services: A View from the Pentagon" Faith and Mission 11:2 (1994): 50.
homosexual conduct was no doubt instilled in Washington from his religious studies – the Episcopal Church of Virginia no doubt reinforced this position. The words of Washington, “abhorrence and detestation of such infamous crimes”, are quite harsh. How do they compare to the words of the Episcopalian church today?
TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY EPISCOPALIANISM: THROUGH THE EYES OF MODERNISM
Views on Homosexuality
In an official document released by the ECUSA (Episcopal Church in the United States of America) in 2005 titled “To Set Our Hope on Christ”, the church articulated their official position regarding homosexuality. In Part II of the document they state that, “in good faith and in loving obedience to the saving Word of God, many Christians in the Episcopal Church have come to a new mind about same-sex affection, and of how this has led us to affirm the eligibility for ordination of those in covenanted same-sex unions”. 11 They state that the church has come to a “new” mind about the issue. This “new” mind is the grounds they cite as reason to “affirm the eligibility for ordination” for those who are in “covenanted” homosexual relationships. Does this “new mind” signify that all previous
generations of Episcopalians who were of the “old mind” were
incorrect in their theology? If so, then these “new” Episcopalians are essentially ripping up the foundation of the Episcopal Church in America – a church present since Jamestown!
Once again, let us contrast the attitude of these Episcopalians with the attitude of colonial Episcopalians using the example of George Washington. The ECUSA has looked at what Scripture has to say and, when they have not agreed with what it says, they simply overruled it. Rather than subordinating their minds to the Word they have subordinated the Word to their minds. If ever any man was in a position to think highly of himself it was certainly George Washington. The crowning moment of his career – the event which all previous actions built up to – was when he was inaugurated as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789. It was at this moment when Washington had the best opportunity to seize power and glory for himself – to elevate himself above the God he proclaimed to serve. As one author put it, “when George Washington assumed the office of president in 1789, all eyes fastened upon him in order to learn whether the untried nation had merely exchanged a foreign tyranny for a domestic one”. 12 There were no precedents as to how a president was to conduct himself or even as how he
12 Edwin Gaustad and Leigh Schmidt. The Religious History of America: The Heart of the American Story from Colonial Times to Today (New York: Harper One), 127.
was to assume his office. With limitless possibilities of how
to assume the highest office in the nation, with his action undoubtedly setting the precedent for all future presidents, how would Washington the Episcopalian choose to swear in as president? “George Washington insisted on taking his oath of office with his hand on the Bible”. 13 Perhaps, it can be argued, that this was simply a political chess move. Even if Washington were not a Christian, if he did not swear in on the Bible it would diminish his reputation. This is a fair argument, but the story does not end here. After placing his hand on the Bible in front of the entire city of New York – a very public act – Washington would immediately retreat into privacy. History records that immediately after swearing in, Washington “retired afterward to St. Paul’s Chapel for prayers and the Te Deum”. 13 The Te Deum is a hymn of praise to God and would be equivalent to modern-day worship. Even if one can argue that Washington used the Bible for political gain, his retreat to St. Paul’s Chapel for prayer and worship can only be understood to be
genuine acts of submission and thanksgiving before God.
Washington, the very embodiment of the values of eighteenth century Episcopalianism, demonstrated on multiple occasions his
13 Blamires, Harry. "Recovering the Christian Mind" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 33:3 (1990): 387.
submission to the authority of Scripture. Eighteenth century Episcopalians, likely to avoid being overly demonstrative and thus drawing attention away from Christ and on themselves, were fiercely private Christians. They were unwaveringly disciplined, however, in their submission to Christ and His Word. This was the message of the Episcopalian church of the eighteenth century in colonial America.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
Theory One VS. Theory Two
Clearly the Episcopal church of the twenty-first century is immensely different from the Episcopal church of the eighteenth century. The question, then, is what brought about this change? There are two possible explanations for this change which will now be explored. The first option is that the Episcopalian church is very progressive. This is not to say progressive in the political, liberal sense of the word, although that could certainly be interpreted as well. The use of the word progressive, in this context, is to be understood as advancement, improvement, or development. Meaning that, in an evolutionary sense, the Episcopal church of today is simply becoming more refined and changing and adapting as culture dictates. Likewise, eighteenth century colonial America was extremely uncultured and unrefined and the church then, like today, was simply a reflection of the culture. The second option is that the Episcopal Church is progressively deviating from scriptural commands. This is to say that the Episcopal Church of eighteenth century America was doctrinally and theologically a purer church - a closer resemblance to a church of scripture. This, of course, implies the opposite of progressivism in the same sense that the word was used in option one. Rather than the Episcopal Church being progressive, this option sees them as retreating, recoiling, or receding from their historical position. With that, both options ought to be explored further.
For those who subscribe to the first theory, that of the church being progressive, it is likely that their view of scripture is fundamentally different from those who subscribe to the second theory. Likewise, it is equally likely that their view of the relationship between church and culture is fundamentally different as well. If the Episcopal Church is seen as progressive – if one subscribes to the first theory – then it is highly probable that one’s view of scripture is very loose. This is to say that the same scripture, with the exact same words, can possess two entirely different meanings which are dependent on the culture and person who receives them. For example, Leviticus 18:22 says that, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination (NKJV)”. For those who subscribe to the first theory, they likely see this passage as applying to the culture to whom it was originally written – ancient, Middle-Eastern, Mosaic Jews. Similarly, they likely see this culture as unrefined and quite crude, and themselves and their culture as very refined and quite sophisticated. This is their view of scripture as it relates to culture. Equally, it is highly probable that their view of the relationship between church and culture is that the church is a reflection of the culture in which it lives. This view, naturally, limits the effects of church within the bounds and confines of culture. That is to say that if a culture is moving in one direction and the church wishes to travel the opposite direction, or even simply a different one, the culture will always win this tug-of-war. The church, under all circumstances, is a slave to the culture. If one subscribes to this view, it is only natural, and even unavoidable, that the Episcopal Church in America would begin embracing homosexuality. The culture is steadily advancing in the direction of toleration, and thus, even if the ECUSA does not wish to move in this direction, it is inevitable and predictable that they follow suit, for if they do not, they will be “out of touch” with the culture in which they live.
For those who subscribe to the second theory, that of the church being recessive, it is likely that their view of scripture is that it is unchanging, unwavering, and dictatorial. This word “dictatorial”, especially since World War II, carries a heavy negative connotation, yet it is not to be understood in this sense. Dictatorial is to be understood in the sense of providing stability to a changing and faltering culture. Those who subscribe to the second view likely see scripture as having the power to dictate the direction in which culture travels. Using the same example as above, if culture wishes to travel towards toleration and scripture demands uncompromising principles and values, then those who subscribe to the second theory believe that scripture has the power to win this tug-of-war – not necessarily that they always will, but the capability for effectual change is there. Similarly, using the example of Leviticus 18:22, this crowd likely sees that under all circumstances, in all cultures, for all people, homosexual acts are sinful without exception. Therefore, the fact the ECUSA is not only embracing homosexuality, but even ordaining it, is a clear deviation from scripture and is understandably dangerous. In the above examples of George Washington, these people view Washington’s religious beliefs as being effectual, as dictating the direction of colonial American culture. These people likely see the Founding of the American government as Christian, as uncompromising, and that modern American culture is diminishing in values from what was established by our Founding Fathers. Since only one of these views can be correct, which is it?
All of the above mentioned acts of George Washington, as being representative of the views of the Episcopal Church in the eighteenth century, can be viewed through one of the two above lenses. If you view it through the first lens, you likely see Washington as a reflection of his culture, as being limited by that culture, being unable to change it no matter how hard he tried. If you view it through the second lens, you likely see Washington as a strong Christian who refused to compromise his principles in the face of unimaginable and overwhelming odds to do so time and time again. Washington, and others, dictated through their religious principles to America the direction which they would take rather than being slaves of that culture. In deciphering which view is correct, the first thing one must do is to find some common ground between the Episcopal Church of the eighteenth century and the ECUSA of the twenty-first century. The most obvious and most effective is the use of the Holy Bible and the scriptures therein. In the literature discussed above in which the ECUSA articulates their stance on homosexuality, they use scripture, at times, to provide a basis for their change. While they use scripture, however, it must be understood that it is subject to their worldview – their “new mind”, which was discussed earlier. Since the Bible is the strongest common denominator, let us look at it to determine if the first or second view is correct. In doing so one can get a more accurate picture of George Washington, colonial America, and the direction of the Episcopal Church today.
Which is correct?
The first thing that becomes obvious is that the ECUSA subscribes to the first theory discussed above. In distinguishing between a “new mind” and an old one, they clearly hold to a loose interpretation of scripture. They see scripture as being subject to the culture and people in which it is received. Let us look at the Bible and see what we can find about the relationship between scripture and culture. The first thing that must be established is the principles laid out in John 1:1 which says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (NKJV)”. It is clearly understood that in discussing the Word one is also discussing God Himself. Another thing that becomes clear is that the Word is eternal. Upon closer examination of the verse, one finds that the phrase “the beginning”, in the original Greek means “that by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active cause”. 14 If one believes in the Bible, which the Episcopal Church has always claimed, one cannot possibly subscribe to the first theory. It becomes clear that the Word provides the
stability for culture rather than the other way around. While this evidence is sufficient, let us look at other scripture to
further cement the correct view. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (NKJV).” Since it has been established that Jesus Christ and the Word are one in the same, then this verse must be taken as corroborating evidence that the Bible has always, and can always, be interpreted to mean the same thing in all corners of the globe through the entire spectrum of time. Thus, when we read in Leviticus 18, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and elsewhere that homosexuality is an abomination before the Lord, and that anyone participating in such acts is in need of sanctification, then it can only be understood that this is the Lord’s view of homosexuality for all people in all cultures everywhere.
The ECUSA needs to understand that if they are going to continue to use the scripture as authority in their church, then they cannot tenably hold to the first theory we discussed above. They cannot subordinate the Word to their own minds or any other temporal object as the Word is clearly eternal and unwavering. It must also be understood that the Episcopal Church in colonial America, and Washington in particular, understood this to be true and that they did, in fact, alter the culture in which they lived. More importantly, it must not be lost on us that this can still be accomplished today. We live in a culture that is heading in a direction opposite of the Bible. Let us not subscribe to the first theory; let us not think that we are victims of circumstance or culture. The Bible in our hands is eternal and unchanging. If culture is to be altered it is through the power of God and His Word alone that will accomplish it.
Blamires, Harry. "Recovering the Christian Mind" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 33:3 (1990)
Edwin Gaustad and Leigh Schmidt. The Religious History of America: The Heart of the American Story from Colonial Times to Today (New York: Harper One)
Heimbach, Daniel R. "The Bible in the Moral War Over the Rejection of Homosexuality by the Military Services: A View from the Pentagon" Faith and Mission 11:2 (1994):
Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Lockhard, Anne-Marie. "Homosexuality: Legally Permissible or Spiritually Misguided?" Conspectus 05:1 (2008)
Sparks, Jared. The Life of George Washington (Philadelphia: F. Andrews Publishers)
NG, LR, NCU, USAR
My collection of personal papers written over the years