Editorial: We have A Moment

It took roughly a century for the now-called Copernican Revolution to establish the new paradigm for the solar system–a paradigm that removed the earth from the center of the universe and replaced it with the sun.  Between the initial proposal and its establishment, proponents were shamed, sunned, and even martyred.  The Church was one of the harshest opponents, because whenever theology is injected into an issue, it becomes much more debatable and divisive.

There are parallels between that revolution and others, including the current divisive debate regarding human sexuality.  My question today is simply: How many bonafide evangelicals are going to have to be shamed, shunned, and thrown into the ideological fires before someone says, “You know, these people have a point.”

As long as bonafide, orthodox Christians are dismissed literally or figuratively, only the illusion of correctness remains–rather than the creation of a new paradigm born of mutual respect and holy conferencing.  The easiest thing in the world to claim is correctness when no one else’s view is taken seriously.  As long as genuine evangelicals are tossed aside with little more than the cheap shot, “Isn’t it a shame that they used to be Christian, but are no longer,” the lies will be held as truth and the illusions will stand as reality.

And that is how things went with respect to the Copernican Revolution–for a while.  And that is how things are going to go again.  The blood of the martyrs is still the seed of renewal, and when that sacrifice is being made by Christians whose faith and status is genuine and indisputable, God will work to establish a new paradigm with respect to human sexuality–not one that is heretical, but one that is representative of new and valid considerations.

The first proposals put forward concerning the solar system were imperfect, and it took about 100 years for the paradigm shift to be fully rooted in the scientific community.   But once the vitriol, persecution, and caricaturing subsided, once the scientists got in the same room and compared notes, the world was headed for needed change. 

Similarly, we need not think the first draft regarding a new paradigm for human sexuality will be flawless. It will take time and courage to refine it and allow it to take root. But if we can put off the armour of denigration and put on the mantle of dedication, we will once again experience a revolution that will move us farther into the Light.  We have a moment.  Do we have the will?

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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4 Responses to Editorial: We have A Moment

  1. Fred Wallis says:

    It is not as if those who grapple with this issue and end up substantially unmoved from their original approach to dealing with homosexuality have done so at the expense of Scripture, tradition, reason, OR experience. There is also no warrant for placing their personal context in the same arena as those who have chosen to treat those seeing this differently as pariah. I personally have no vitriolic intent toward homosexuals, nor those who believe it’s only moral requisite is “genuine love and fidelity.” Christians behaving badly is an unfortunate product of residual carnality and there remains no excuse for it. Christ’s tough words directed to those He would repudiate seemed to be reserved for the most self-righteous. Shame and insult have no place in Christian discourse.

    If I could find a hermeneutic that would be consistent with finding God accepting/affirming homosexual practice while at the same time giving credence to His prohibitions of other conduct not acceptable, even conduct which is nonviolent, it would offer no little comfort. But I cannot get there. After 148 hrs of graduate theological, biblical, and educational study (not including a D.Min) I cannot find an avenue through Scripture that brings me to the conclusion that homosexual practice is a lifestyle that may be viewed as Christian. I wish such were not true. I have little hope that this issue will find resolution in a historic, traditional position. The portrayal of the conservative and traditional position on homosexual activity is consistently presented as homophobic and insensitive if not hateful.

    It never occurred to me that the easily interpreted meaning of Romans 1 could be so forthrightly dismissed. I hesitated to mention a particular text wanting to avoid a text war, but if Paul’s argument to this issue in Romans is summarily dismissed I fear there can be no end to the gradual movement toward a Wesleyan Trilateral.

  2. Yes, I do include science in my rationale, but I am a theologian, not a scientist, so my posts are intentionally within the context where I feel I have a credible vouce. But in my speaking and writing, I utilize the Wesleyan hermeneutic of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience–and within the reason element I do pay attention to science and try to benefit from what it teaches us.

  3. sprackle says:

    The theology of sexual morality, marriage and self-control is front and center in the public spotlight. This is a God-given opportunity to proclaim our understanding of personal holiness outside of the walls of the church, but instead we prefer to decline that invitation in favor of stirring a self-centered polemical fusspot containing only a few narrow wedge issues.

    That is mighty thin gruel for a Christian lovefeast. We do have a moment, but it is quickly passing us by. By 2016 same-sex civil marriage and most forms of private sexual behavior will be legally and socially accepted standards. Public attention will have moved on to a new hot topic and people will again prefer to push sex out of public discussion.

    Gay and straight Christians need to work together to secure a spot for personal holiness and a fully elucidated theology of sexual morality in public theology NOW. THIS CHRISTMAS! Jointly proclaim the Gospel we agree upon, and secure Christ’s rightful place as a valid participant in the public forum.

  4. John V says:

    Good morning, Dr. Harper: Entering the debate your posts engender comes with a bit of hesitation, but one observation may provide good grist for the discussion: The Copernican Revolution pitted science against theology and vice verse while the current debate about homosexuality pits morality against morality. The ramifications of that comparison alone, at lest in this one writer’s opinion, significantly weakens the aptness of your illustration, unless of course your position on the homosexual issues comes from a scientific rationale–which I have not noted in previous posts.

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