Letters to the Editor (July/August 2013)

Transforming word

The Rev. Adam Hamilton responded with grace to the critique he received from Revs. Tom Lambrecht and Rob Renfroe in the May/June issue; I pray I can respond with similar grace to Hamilton’s comments.

“The underlying issue regarding the church’s debate over homosexuality is how we read scripture,” Hamilton wrote, as he affirmed his love for Scripture and his trust in its authority.  Amen!  However, as he continued writing, I could not help but wonder if he had forgotten the very foundation upon which said love, authority, and trust is built.

The deep question is this: do we receive the word of God as the Word, alive with transforming power, or do we simply hear it as human words?  God congratulated the Thessalonians through Paul when he wrote, …that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers (I Thess. 2:13 NRSV).

The Word is Jesus — alive and sharp, life-creating and true!  The Word is grace and truth. The Word, truly received, transforms lives. Once receiving God’s Word gives way to merely hearing humans words, Exegesis (allowing the Word to speak into the reader) gives way to Eisegesis (reading into — or out of — the word whatever the reader pleases). I was frankly surprised by the amount of Eisegesis that marked the rest of Hamilton’s comments.

Hamilton mentioned the slowness of Jews and Christians to recognize that slavery was a sin.  Think how fast it would have happened if people would have received the Word as from God, rather than as from men!  Adam continued sighting various Old Testament Scriptures that call for the death penalty as if God were somehow wrong, or as if Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, is another culturally-bound mistake found in the Bible – God help us! Bound by that logic, Hamilton found it easy to dismiss all of Leviticus 20:13. How much more loving it is to receive the whole verse as truth, realizing that God’s will in Christ Jesus is to set all of us free from the detestable things that bind all of us to death in our flesh!

Yes, much of the last 2,000 years has witnessed a reading into the scriptures that has marginalized and segregated. Yes, that is sin. However, Priscilla, Paul, Junia, Apollos, Onesimus, Philemon, and a host of others seemed quite able to receive the Word for what Jesus is: liberating truth!

Following the argument Hamilton offered, “recovery classes” at his church might look like “the 12 steps to freedom from believing the Bible…” Forgive me, but at our church we will continue to help alcoholics, addicts, the sexually broken (across the spectrum!) liars, gossips, idolaters — folks like you and me  — to be liberated, healed, redeemed and restored by the Word, rather than giving the broken and hurting license to ignore God!

Rev. Hamilton, you are a much better theologian and a far deeper lover of Jesus than your response portrays. I love your heart, but I fear your words are truly leading people away from the Word — and I know that can’t truly be your heart!

Craig A. Green
First United Methodist Church
Livingston, Tennessee

 

Scripture’s authority

It was interesting to read, “A Response From Adam Hamilton” in the May/June 2013 Good News. It’s hard to understand how someone who has taken a vow to receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures would so discredit biblical teachings. Jeremiah (7, 20), Paul (2 Timothy 4, 3), and Jude (verse 4) all warned us about people who will reinterpret the Word of God to make it say what they want to hear.

To imply that our Creator was incapable of communicating his message to divinely inspired persons is just plain wrong. The “men” who put Genesis 2, 24 onto scrolls did not fail us. We know this is fact because Christ repeated that same verse when he came to sacrifice his life for our salvation.

God gave us that instruction because it offers our best opportunity for true fullness in life. His message was in no way a reflection of “first century” culture.  Moral decline is mentioned often in the Old Testament. It was a problem in Genesis, the first century, and continues today to be a major problem in this world. Our Savior is and has always been with us. God’s love is for all of humanity and we are expected to love God and all people. It certainly is not loving to tell anyone that their sins are somehow acceptable to God.

We are all born to sin, and sin can only be defeated when we hold dear to God’s Word. Our “own worldwide view” is no substitute for the authority of Scripture. Hamilton wasn’t specific about his “handful of verses that mention same-sex intimacy,” but the fact that they exist warns us that sexual immorality is a tool of the Devil. There is no doubt in my mind where Satan stands on this issue.

The fact remains that God told us once in the Old Testament and a second time in the New Testament that marriage is for one man and one woman joined together as one. How many times does God have to tell us?

Once should have been enough.

Mike Peters
Rockford, Illinois

 

Gracious and thoughtful

I want to affirm what Adam Hamilton said in his response to Rob Renfoe and Thomas Lambrecht’s piece in the May/June issue of Good News. The gay issue is certainly divisive and it will not be solved by harsh words and accusations. We have seen and heard far too much of that in recent days. Gracious, thoughtful words are needed and the three of you modeled that very well in the most recent issue. I commend you and encourage the rest of our denomination to sit up and take notice as we continue to debate this issue.

Mike Carey 
Elder
Iowa Annual Conference

 

Confronting sin

I commend you on a well-put-together magazine, with interesting articles and a visually attractive layout. As an Anglican priest (Church of England, Province of Kenya) serving as missionary in my home culture, I fellowship regularly and gladly with Methodist friends in my granddaughter’s church. I was intrigued by your May/June issue’s presentation of the Rev. Adam Hamilton’s views on homosexuality, balanced against the responses of the Revs. Rob Renfroe and Thomas Lambrecht, who put forward interpretations of sexual morality from Scripture which are similar to mine and those of my archbishop.

Like Hamilton, I, too have friends who do not fit negative stereotypes, and who are living in committed same-sex relationships. I love them deeply. Based on what we believe to be God’s definitive Word on these matters, however, conservative Christians are commanded to confront that far out of fashion term “sin” when it masquerades as a civil right equable to political freedom from being enslaved. As Paul points out repeatedly and eloquently, the enslaved ones are those who believe a lie when it is told often enough, and who then encourage its propagation.

Sexuality is a God-given gift, intended for loving marriage between man and woman. When we accept aberrant forms of sexual expression, we may be affirming the freedom of practitioners to do as they wish with other consenting adults of the same gender, but we fail our friends utterly when we – religious leaders – embrace homosexual practice as well as the persons themselves.

There are two issues here: if I truly love my friend, I will tell him the truth – that his lifestyle is wrong according to Scripture. If, however, I cannot accept that Scripture is clear and final in its statements on this matter, I have decided that inconvenient boundaries must be ignored, and anything goes. Theologians far more brilliant than many living today have addressed this issue repeatedly over 2,000 years. When we gloss over behaviors forbidden in both Old and New Testaments to help gay friends feel better, we leave open for them a final door to an end far more horrendous than any persecution they have faced on earth. And we become responsible for their suffering. Pilate washed his hands; are we handing him the towel?

Linda Tomlinson Berry
Vicar
St. Michael and All Angels’ Anglican Church
Raymond, Mississippi

 

Blessings

Thank you for the magazines and letters. I appreciate you. I am 86 years old and have been blessed by Good News for many years. I lead a Sunday school class of ladies half my age and are reading Good News. God bless and keep you.

Betty Fort
Tybee Island, Georgia

 

Passing on Good News

You are doing a great job of keeping us abreast of the issues. Thank you for all your hard work. The magazine issues have been great. I pass on the magazine after I read it from cover to cover. I continue to pray for you as you serve our Lord.

Prudence Walz
Lexington, Kentucky

 

Still reading

I always enjoy your letters. I am nearly blind now and must be read to. God bless you and all your old-fashioned Methodist work.

Ruth Seamands
Wilmore, Kentucky

 

Standing strong

Thank you for standing firm on the Word of God. I am so greateful to the Lord for giving me a child-like faith so I can believe that all of Scripture is true. I was reading this morning that God used the East wing to dry the Red Sea for the Israelites. I don’t find that so hard to believe when you see pictures of tornadoes lifting whole houses.

Thank you for helping me to stay in the United Methodist denomination. I’ve been a member for 82 years, having joined at age 9. Our world and even the church is changing, but God doesn’t. Someday the world will have to recognize that.

Marjorie Finch
West Lafayette, Indiana

 

Christianizing culture

Many thanks for your article, “A Matter of Interpretation: Engaging Adam Hamilton.” Very nicely done. Your tone and substance were just right. Like Jim Winkler, Adam Hamilton writes so engagingly and easily about moral-theological matters. When one is (more or less) Christianizing the popular culture of the day, that is possible. An orthodox witness, based on the Bible and the church, requires more heavy lifting. Let us thank God that the church, in all its dimensions, plays a determining role in the interpretation of the Bible. That rescues Scripture from the foolishness of radically individualistic-subjectivistic interpretation — most of the time.

Paul Stallsworth
Whiteville United Methodist Church
Whiteville, North Carolina

 

The prevailing church 

Thanks so much for what you and your staff are doing to save our church. I cannot believe what is happening to us. The Word teaches that the “gates of hell shall not prevail …” The Word does not promise that the Church will not have difficult days. I believe this promise really means that at the end of the day the Church will prevail.

While speaking at Asbury Theological Seminary in the 1960s, the late Bishop Bill Cannon said: “The Church is no longer setting the agenda for society; society is setting the agenda for the Church.” Never has this statement been more true than today. Thanks for all you are doing. We are praying for the Church and Good News.

H.W. Parker
Associate Minister (retired)
Caswell Springs UM Church
Moss Point, Mississippi

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