Comment on Adventist Review: Pastors Who Don’t Believe by Sean Pitman.
You people who claim to be so good at reading hearts and motives really do scare me more than most agnostics or atheists â€“ much more. You are setting yourself up in the place of God contrary to the warnings of the Bible. – Sean Pitman
Brother Pitman, I agree with you on this one.
Thanks Prof. That’s very kind of you.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Adventist Review: Pastors Who Don’t Believe
In any case, any further comments concerning the morality or lack thereof of those involved with the LSU situation will no longer be posted here on Educate Truth. However, You are free to send me a personal E-mail if you wish (my E-mail can be obtained by visiting my website listed below).
Well, Sean, atheists have written books explaining what, why, and how they have rejected Godâ€™s Truth. Those at LSU have explained what they believe and why they have accepted Manâ€™s word and rejected Godâ€™s Truth. You say we can never know anything about this, and they must not really â€œunderstandâ€ what they are doing.
I don’t know if they do or do not really understand what they are doing; and neither do you. Only God knows for sure…
Not only would I and others here disagree with you, but I believe the atheists would disagree. The idea that church members cannot be â€œjudgedâ€ by their words and actions is simply not biblical.
And the soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross would have claimed at the time that they knew exactly what they were doing too… but did they really? Jesus prayed for them saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34 NIV
It is quite possible that even if a person is very adamant that he/she knows exactly what he/she is doing, that this person may not really know. This is a possibility that only God knows for sure. You simply cannot make this particular type of moral judgment with complete accuracy. You and I can judge the rightness or wrongness of the word or act (specifically regarding a doctrine like the literal 6-day creation week), but we cannot judge the rightness or wrongness of the heart; the motive.
There is a difference between being mistaken and sinning. Sinning requires a deliberate rebellion against known truth – something that you cannot tell for sure in cases of doctrinal disagreements on such things as the literal creation week or the true origin of the Sabbath or any other such commandment that deals specifically with man’s relationship with his or her God and God alone.
Sean says Moses and the Prophets are â€œempiricalâ€ evidence then says they are not!
Moses and the prophets are only “empirical evidence” in support of the Bible’s credibility if they actually say something true regarding the real world in which we all live (which I think they clearly do).
However, if Moses and the prophets did in fact clearly contradicted the real world (i.e., real history), the hypothesis that the Bible’s credibility is supported by them would be effectively falsified (as is the case for the Book of Mormon, for example) in such a situation.
It is in this sense that things like biblical prophecy must be held up for testing before biblical prophecy can be rationally accepted as credible (at least any more credible than the Book of Mormon).
In other words, biblical credibility is dependent upon the empirical evidence. Without the empirical evidence, there would simply be no greater rational reason to believe the Bible as any more credible than some moral fable that someone simply made up as a “cleverly invented story”. – 2 Peter 1:16 NIV
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Your presumption and hubris are exactly what Jesus pointed out to those who brought the women caught in adultery. Have you learned nothing from the examples of what it means to be a Christian that you would indulge in such harshness and judgemental words and pronouncements.
Consider that while Jesus most certainly was very kind and gentle and forgiving to the woman caught in adultery (certainly one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible), that He did in fact tell her to “go and sin no more”.
I would say that the very same action and recommendation should be given to all who find themselves part of the LBGTQ+ community. God loves sinners and came to save all of us who find ourselves caught in the web of fallen and sinful lives. He doesn’t condemn us for being broken, but He does offer us a way out and tells us to “go and sin no more”.
In light of this, my problem with the efforts of Dr. Ness is that he is making the claim that there is no brokenness or moral problem with committed monogamous homosexual lifestyles – that the Bible says absolutely nothing in this regard and therefore there is nothing for God to forgive here. There is simply no need to say, “I love you, now go and sin no more”.
I’m also not quite sure why Dr. Ness draws the line with monogamy since he doesn’t accept the Biblical statements, often within the same passages as those discussing monogamy, that speak against homosexual activities? This seems inconsistent to me since it seems quite reasonable, given the arguments presented by Dr. Ness, that polygamy could also be argued as being even more consistent with God’s will and natural genetic mutations that God Himself designed. Upon what “scientific” or “religious” or “philosophical” basis does Dr. Ness draw the line at monogamy as being the clear Biblical standard where God draws the line? – when many have very strong and very “natural” polygamous tendencies?
Of course, I also have a problem with a paid representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who is responsible for teaching our youth in support of the primary goals and ideals of the Church, publicly arguing that these goals and ideals are completely wrong – on the church’s dime. Such activity, even if one is totally convinced as to the error of one’s employer, is unethical since it is a form of stealing from one’s employer.
At the very least, parents who are paying a great deal of money to send their children to one of our church schools should be very well informed as to what they can expect their children to be taught at our schools and what positions the teachers at the school are publicly promoting. Providing this information to such parents is my primary purpose in responding to Dr. Ness’s publicly published article in public forum.
Do you not understand what it is like in academia? Differences of opinion among scholars is not only tolerated, it is valued. I have nothing more to say concerning your accusations. Our church has no “official” stand on this issue, if by that you mean I am disavowing my membership in the church by simply believing that gays should allow ro get married to one another. That is not even how our church operates. I can point to many other church employees who openly disagree about certain issues of belief, including this one, and congregations that are fully affirming of same-sex marriage. They are a part of the SDA church just as I am.
My concern still is more about the tone and stance of your attacks. You are attacking fellow SDAs, some of them being the most vulnerable members of our church, and you seem to have no sense of the damage you are potentially doing to these individuals. By attacking me in the fashion you are you are also attacking all those for whom I am standing up. You may want to take Jesus’ words to heart:
But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6
I know very well what it’s like to be involved in leadership positions within the church and within academia. My own father is a retired pastor and teacher. It’s one thing to publicly present and even promote various opinions that do not directly undermine the church or school one is working for. However, it is another thing entirely to directly attack the fundamental positions of the church while being a paid representative of the church. Such activity is not at all encouraged and is, in fact, unethical – a form of theft from your employer. Sure, there are many pastors and teachers who think to do such things anyway. That doesn’t make such activities morally right. It’s still wrong to do what you are doing.
Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
Dr. Bryan Ness just wrote (in the comment section of the Spectrum website) a response to the article I wrote here, as follows:
This saddens me more than anything. When someone who knows nothing about how or what I teach in my classes assumes they know. It seems that the assumption is that I am indoctrinating students into a belief about LGBTQ+ individuals that runs counter to SDA teachings, when I am doing no such thing. I say very little about same-sex marriage to my students, but rather take the approach recommended by the NAD in it’s very fine booklet “Guiding Families” and approach the LGBTQ+ students I come in contact with in the fashion described here (which is from the booklet):
“While it is tempting to focus on causation, I want to resolve this question up front: the origins of sexual orientation and gender identity are highly complex, multi-factorial, and likely rooted in both nature and nurture. For any one person, it can be impossible to know the exact cause. For this reason, we propose that we shift our focus from causation to compassion .”
I also encourage non-LGBTQ+ students to relate to LGBTQ+ students in this fashion. I also encourage abstinence in the LGBTQ+ students I know just as much as I encourage it among non-LGBTQ+ students. I encourage a compassionate and loving attitude and open acceptance of all individuals regardless their sexual or gender orientation.
I do not go out of my way to encourage same-sex marriage nor do I promote on our campus and so it baffles me that the headline of the article cited here says PUC is “encouraging Homosexual marriage,” whatever homosexual marriage is. Neither do I keep it a secret that I think same-sex marriage should be affirmed, which as far as I am aware is not a punishable offense in any setting. I know numerous pastors who believe the same way, some of whom will not say so openly because they fear the kind of judgmental and hateful backlash that an article like mine engenders in some people.
What seems to get repeatedly lost in these kinds of discussions and attacks is that people’s lives are at stake. Suicide among LGBTQ+ individuals runs several times higher than in the general population, and those that experience religious persecution around their sexual or gender orientation are especially seriously affected. If for no other reason than to show true compassion for such individuals, this kind of judgemental and angry discussion and attack should never happen. I think, as I repeat often, that we must take seriously Jesus’ words from Hosea, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” I fear that those who speak out so forcefully against our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters are more willing to sacrifice these people than to try and understand and truly love them.
You just published a very public article expressing your position on this topic – a position that is in direct conflict with that of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Link). Have you not, therefore, as a paid representative of the SDA Church, taken a very public position that is in fact in conflict with the position of your employer? That’s a real problem as I see it. How do you see yourself around the conclusion that you are in fact actively undermining the clearly stated goals and ideals of your employer? How is this not an ethical problem for you? How do you not see it as a form of theft from your employer?
Beyond this, how is it being “loving” to our LGBTQ+ friends and family to say that the Bible says something that it just doesn’t say? I personally think the most loving thing to do, as a Christian, is to be honest about what the Bible has to say on this topic… even if I personally might not entirely understand exactly why the Bible says what it says.
Yes, the Bible is clear. there is NO condemnation of homosexuals or homosexuality in the Bible. Our Prophet never said a word about it. Jesus never referred to it.
Really? How then do you explain passages in both the Old and New Testament that clearly point out homosexual activity as being out of line with God’s will?
As far as the argument that Jesus never mentioned it, He never mentioned a lot of things that are classified as “sins” in both the Old and New Testament. So, I’m not sure what this has to do with anything?
As far as your argument that Ellen White never mentioned it, she did in fact mention passages in the Bible that discuss homosexuality as a sin. Ellen White declared that Romans 1:18–32, which details a descent into illicit sensuality (including homosexual behavior), as especially applicable to the last days.
“A terrible picture of the condition of the world has been presented before me. Immorality abounds everywhere. Licentiousness is the special sin of this age. Never did vice lift its deformed head with such boldness as now. The people seem to be benumbed, and the lovers of virtue and true goodness are nearly discouraged by its boldness, strength and prevalence. I was referred to Romans 1:18–32, as a true description of the world previous to the second appearing of Christ” (EGW, CG 440).
Paul’s book of Romans, in particular, includes language declaring that the sexual relationships at issue are characterized by mutuality, rather than exploitation. The phrase “men . . . burned in their desire toward one another [allēlous]” uses the Greek term allēlous, which indicates a mutuality, a shared experience of desire. Moreover, the reference to “women exchang[ing] the natural function for that which is unnatural,” also reveals a concern with elements beyond exploitation or dominance. Lesbian relationships were especially known in ancient times for their lack of hierarchy, domination, or prostitution. Paul speaks of those who “exchanged natural [physikēn] intercourse for unnatural [para physin]” (Rom 1:26). But the word “natural” (physikos) here does not refer to what is natural to the person who practices it. Rather, it means what is according to the nature of things as God created it, and “unnatural” is that which is “against nature” as God ordained it from the beginning as the immediate context speaks of God’s “creation of the world” (Rom. 1:20, 26). Indeed, even in the larger Greco-Roman world, homosexual conduct of any sort was understood as being against nature. It is only the modern conception of “nature” that means whatever the human desires. Paul, conversely, held that human nature, being fallen and sinful, would be expected to have desires against God’s created order, commandments, and plans for humanity (cf. Rom 5:15–20; 7:7–23). However, Paul also teaches that an escape from “the body of death” and a new victorious life are given through the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 7:24; 8:1). Further, in the vice list of 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul mentions the malakoi (lit. “soft men”), which likely alludes to men who are lain with as a man lies with a woman (see Lev 18:22 and 20:13). First Corinthians 6:9 also refers to the arsenokoitai “men lying with males,” and this term appears again in Paul’s vice list of 1 Timothy 1:10. Against those who see a Greco-Roman background behind Paul’s condemnation (and thus limit this term to something less than all same-sex intercourse), it cannot be overemphasized that this term never appears in the secular Greek of Paul’s day, but only in Jewish-Christian literature. The compound term points to the background of the LXX translators in their rendering of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, as they combined the words male (arsēn) and lying (koitē), corresponding to the Hebrew terms zakar (male) and mishkab (lying), to denote “homosexual intercourse.” The undeniable intertextual link between Paul’s use of arsenokoitai (1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10) and Leviticus 18 and 20, indicates that Paul is primarily referring to the OT Levitical background which forbids all samesex intercourse and not just issues of exploitation or orientation.
After surveying the evidence of both OT and NT, NT scholar Richard Hays summarizes well the biblical witness concerning homosexual practice:
“Though only a few biblical texts speak of homoerotic activity, all that do mention it express unqualified disapproval. . . . The biblical witness against homosexual practices is univocal. . . . Scripture offers no loopholes or exception clauses that might allow for the acceptance of homosexual practices under some circumstances. Despite the efforts of some recent interpreters to explain away the evidence, the Bible remains unambiguous and univocal in its condemnation of homosexual conduct.”
As far as your claim that only LGBTQ people can understand the claims of the Bible correctly regarding homosexuality, that’s just not true. Just because I may have motives to want the Bible to say this or that to support my own personal inclinations, doesn’t mean that the Bible actually supports what I may want it to support. The language is simply too clear and unambiguous to be misunderstood – except by those who are desperately looking for any way to make it say something that it just doesn’t say.
Now, you are certainly free and most welcome to strongly disagree with me in this great country of ours – as you obviously do. However, it is ethically wrong to try to force your beliefs on me or upon the church. It is also ethically wrong of you (and those like Bryan Ness) to expect to take money from me or the Seventh-day Adventist Church to support you as our paid representatives – while you continue your efforts to undermine those who pay your paycheck. That, my friend, is called stealing – an ethical wrong in anyone’s book.
Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
I wish you were right Floyd. However, unfortunately, I can’t see that you are right in your understanding of the claims of the Bible. I’m not sure anyone could claim in all seriousness that, “The Bible is quiet” on homosexual activity. The Bible has plenty to say when it comes to the expression of homosexuality. Now, having a sinful nature or sinful tendencies (which plague heterosexuals as well as homosexuals) isn’t, in itself, sin. Sin is the actual expression of sinful tendencies or propensities. On this, the Bible has plenty to say with regard to both heterosexual as well as homosexual activities that are not in harmony with God’s will.