phillip.e.johnston + christianity   7

Sex, Temptation, and the Gay Christian: What Chastity Demands - Mere Orthodoxy | Christianity, Politics, and Culture
I take ‘neo-traditionalists’ to be interested in an ‘untangling maneuver’: we want to distinguish the terminology of ‘gay’ and from the moral content of sexual desires, to help individuals who do experience same-sex sexual attractions to discover, name, and love the goods within their lives as God sees them. ... The deep affection of an adult brother for his sister must be bounded and pervaded by chastity, precisely because—however unlikely, and however repugnant—the involuntary and even unwelcome emergence of sexual desires in such a realm is not unknown. The duties of chastity and its handmaid modesty require remaining alive toward such a possibility. They require a fearful reverence within one’s love for another which does not fixate upon the emergence of such possibilities, but recognizes their power.
The combination of ‘needs’ and contraceptive use combine to transfigure chastity through destroying the environmental conditions in which the virtue is naturally (and therefore gracefully) engendered. Burk observes, rightly, that Paul suggests couple’s should only abstain from marital sex. But what for Paul is an admonition to not abstain too long should be for us an admonition to abstain for a short season, so as to prove within our marriages that we have the continence required to establish the gift of our sexuality to our spouse as a gift. Offering one’s body as a gift to one’s spouse in freedom depends upon the prior recognition that one’s body is a gift to be offered. But God’s gift of the body to us comes within limits: our liberty to alter it can only consign us to unfreedom. ... for the male and female to unite themselves in freedom, they must recognize and delight in the pre-existing gift of their own reproductive powers and the inherently procreative form of the sexual act. God has given us the form in which chastity takes marital shape: the entire artifice of bodily life impels us to pursue it through imposing upon us naturally short seasons of abstinence, unless we renounce them through the artifice of contraception so we can fulfill our ‘sexual needs.’ Burk thinks that it is enough for marriages to stand “squarely against the spirit of the age” by retaining a general openness to children, despite taking hormones specifically designed to prevent them. How this inherent contradiction can be explained, I have yet to hear. If one is worried about the bifurcation of the personal and the biological, of the will from the body—as one should be—it is impossible to denounce doing so with any meaningful moral authority while preserving the rupture for the sake of those married couples in our pews.
The perfection of Christ’s human life through his temptation by created goods includes and represents our own temptations to evils. We are free to meet even those non-voluntary desires with renunciation and not repentance, precisely because Christ’s experience reveals to us that not all temptations arise from and within our own sin. Christ’s temptation announces in practice the moral salience of the distinction between an intention and a desire, which Christ had himself proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount.
As long as disorder exist in the world around us, we shall at least be tempted to allow it to arise within us. The pure in heart see God within the man Jesus’s vulnerability in the Garden because they, too, know the deep humanity of wanting to enjoy goods that they are tasked with renouncing. The mature in the faith experience this form of temptation precisely because of their sanctity, not its absence. We pray to be kept from it, because in doing so we learn the humility that prepares us for it. But this sanctity can be reached only if within the fallen chaos of our desires we discover not simply corruptions that we renounce but also goods we can delight in. All that will remain, after all, of us are those dimensions that are swept up into Christ’s life. Yet this will include all manner of ways in which our lives have been indelibly and permanently marked by the sins and disorders of the flesh. We might say, in fact, that where we meant our lives for evil, God yet found within them good—because He found within our sinfulness His victorious life, having included our lives already within His own.
In one sense, I take gay Christians as trying to steal the meaning of the word back: to mark a certain kind of vivacity of life, of abundance, of joy within a profound intimacy of friendship and a stable set of ‘attractions’ to their same same, which removes the ‘pride’ in those attractions that raises its fist against God. Why should not Christians today stand in the long line of their forebearers who have said no to the world, but in so doing found within it a Yes that is more potent and powerful—and taken over its own language to name it?
Christianity  children  body  birthcontrol  contraception  WesleyHill  sex  sexuality  love  identity  gender 
june 2018 by phillip.e.johnston
Holy Ambivalence - Los Angeles Review of Books
So how we tell the story is crucial, as is how we name the ills that bedevil our times, and how we propose to respond. The truth is that, for many of our neighbors, matters are dire. And if Deneen is correct; if, that is to say, in the alchemy of ideas and their effects, liberalism bears culpability for the suffering of the most vulnerable in our society and for the deracinating void swallowing up so many others, then under God let it die. But can believers permit themselves such imprecations without succumbing to alarmism? Can they pair their criticism with patient — that is to say, long-suffering — trust in providence? Can the church abide living in the interim between advents, as the King tarries, without letting prophecy degenerate into dejection?

To follow Augustine means to allow for the tragic. The arc of history does not bend toward justice; it bent and cracked long ago under the weight of another Empire’s injustice, under Pontius Pilate; now it wends in unknown and sometimes wicked ways, under our own disordered direction. Faith confesses that it has been and will be righted, once for all, but we know not when or how the denouement will come; only that it will be beyond history. Until then, even our most well-meaning attempts to bend it aright will confound our intentions, come to naught, unleash some strange fire on generations yet unborn. Christians hope in spite of, not because of, the course that history takes; like hope, trust in providence means faith in what is unseen.
Deneen  Augustine  liberalism  politics  Christianity  worship 
march 2018 by phillip.e.johnston
Eight Theses on Sex by Hans Boersma | Articles | First Things
1. Sex is searching for God.
2. God invents sex.
3. Sex is not God.
4. God is chastity.
5. Sex is temporary.
6. Disordered desire makes for disordered sex.
7. Fallen bodies make for fallen sex.
8. Sex leads to kids.
theology  sex  sexuality  desire  Christianity 
february 2018 by phillip.e.johnston
The Anti-Theology of the Body - The New Atlantis (David Bentley Hart)
Transhumanism, as a moral philosophy, is so risibly fabulous in its prognostications, and so unrelated to anything that genomic research yet promises, that it can scarcely be regarded as anything more than a pathetic dream; but the metaphysical principles it presumes regarding the nature of the human are anything but eccentric. Joseph Fletcher was a man with a manifestly brutal mind, desperately anxious to believe himself superior to the common run of men, one who apparently received some sort of crypto-erotic thrill from his cruel fantasies of creating a slave race, and of literally branding others as his genetic inferiors, and of exercising power over the minds and bodies of the low-born. And yet his principles continue to win adherents in the academy and beyond it, and his basic presuppositions about the value and meaning of life are the common grammar of a shockingly large portion of bioethicists. If ever the day comes when we are willing to consider a program, however modest, of improving the species through genetic planning and manipulation, it will be exclusively those who hold such principles and embrace such presuppositions who will determine what the future of humanity will be. And men who are impatient of frailty and contemptuous of weakness are, at the end of the day, inevitably evil. [...]

The idea of the infinite value of every particular life does not accord with instinct, as far as one can tell, but rather has a history. The ancient triumph of the religion of divine incarnation inaugurated a new vision of man, however fitfully and failingly that vision was obeyed in subsequent centuries. Perhaps this notion of an absolute dignity indwelling every person — this Christian invention or discovery or convention — is now slowly fading from our consciences and will finally be replaced by something more “realistic” (which is to say, something more nihilistic). Whatever the case, John Paul’s theology of the body will never, as I have said, be “relevant” to the understanding of the human that lies “beyond” Christian faith. Between these two orders of vision there can be no fruitful commerce, no modification of perspectives, no debate, indeed no “conversation.” All that can ever span the divide between them is the occasional miraculous movement of conversion or the occasional tragic movement of apostasy. Thus the legacy of that theology will be to remain, for Christians, a monument to the grandeur and fullness of their faith’s “total humanism,” so to speak, to remind them how vast the Christian understanding of humanity’s nature and destiny is, and to inspire them — whenever they are confronted by any philosophy, ethics, or science that would reduce any human life to an instrumental moment within some larger design — to a perfect and unremitting enmity.
JP2  body  bioethics  technology  transhumanism  incarnation  christianity  theology 
february 2018 by phillip.e.johnston
Conservatism Fails to Act Responsibly | Mere Orthodoxy
Conservatism rejects the deterministic economics that denies people their agency, but the modern conservative movement has preached an atomizing freedom that eviscerates the structures and relationships that help people to exercise agency. [...]

Conservatism needs to decide what it is we’re trying to conserve and rewrite everything else around that. Conserving the institutions that help people to flourish – churches and families most prominent among them – is more fundamental than “liberty” or “small government”. A focus on the family will almost certainly require, though, that we buck the individualist-atomist elements of conservatism that have become ideological orthodoxy. [...]

Most of all, though, conservatism is doomed to degradation if conservatives neglect our pre-political relationships and do not use the freedom we have to be sympathetic and sacrifice for our neighbors. Here Williamson’s formulation is backwards: the more that one chooses to love and share in the pain of the poor, the more intimately you will want to know them and be friends with them. This is not only a necessary front in the war on the atomization, consumerism, and individualism that are picking us apart like crabs on a plate, but it is also what Christ demonstrates for us and demands of us.
conservatism  liberalism  poverty  politics  individualism  consumerism  Christianity  america 
february 2018 by phillip.e.johnston
True Story | The Point Magazine (Tish Harrison Warren)
Years ago, a non-Christian friend told me that he was glad that Christianity “works” for me. I said with a laugh, “Oh, it doesn’t work for me. Sometimes it seems I work for it.” What I meant is that in significant ways trying to live by the Christian story has made my life harder. It has cost me some likability in my urban, educated, progressive circles; it has motivated ethical decisions that have forestalled some happiness (in the short term anyway); it has squashed any impulse to “follow my bliss.” So why not choose a different story? Peculiar as this might have sounded to my friend, the answer is that I actually believe that Jesus rose from the dead—and that therefore I can know and interact with God. That is, I think the Christian story is true.

The Christian story is formed around an understanding of creation, fall and redemption through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is because of that story that Christians can give an intelligible account of who we are, where we come from, where we are going, what kind of place the world is, and how we should live. And essential to the Christian story is the belief that God himself has formed and preserved a particular and everlasting community, which we call the church. Michael Ramsey, a former archbishop of Canterbury tells us, “We do not know the whole fact of Christ incarnate unless we know his Church, and its life as part of His own life … the history of the Church and the lives of the saints are acts in the biography of the Messiah.”
christianity  church  worship 
february 2018 by phillip.e.johnston
Homosexuality & The Church | Commonweal Magazine
I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says? We must state our grounds for standing in tension with the clear commands of Scripture, and include in those grounds some basis in Scripture itself. To avoid this task is to put ourselves in the very position that others insist we already occupy—that of liberal despisers of the tradition and of the church’s sacred writings, people who have no care for the shared symbols that define us as Christian. If we see ourselves as liberal, then we must be liberal in the name of the gospel, and not, as so often has been the case, liberal despite the gospel.

I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality—namely, that it is a vice freely chosen, a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God’s created order.
sexuality  theology  bible  interpretation  Christianity 
february 2018 by phillip.e.johnston

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