26 March 2013

Oh dear: open letter edition

by Dan Phillips

Looks like someone monetized Frank's brainchild.
That's what you get for not copyrighting.

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30 comments:

Kerry James Allen said...

The Intellectual Property division of the Pyromaniac law offices will be looking into this immediately. The legal department has already made a great deal of progress in understanding and implementing all the complications of the Affordable Care Act.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KY3ncbgbUYk

SamWise said...

Is this a "Green Letter Bible" type of Franchisement?

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Do you think that the reason folks like me, who circulated the letter, sympathize with the Christian who was once a homosexual is because we would like someone to sympathize with our particular bent toward a particular sin? Sympathy is a lot of times a reflection of comeradery, so when we sympathize our hearts are identifying with a particular struggle - but in this case it may be a backwards wiring. It is for me, and I realized it this morning. Rather than identifying by our sin, we should be identifying by our Master and Savior who bore that sin in His body, put it to death, put it to shame at His resurrection, and is powerful to sanctify for Himself a people who look like Him, not like sin anymore.

To that end, I am sorry that I recirculated that letter anymore...

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

What I mean to say is that we hope to receive the same sympathy we give, but it's wrong because we make ourselves to be victims of sin rather than perpetrators, as though Jesus had not given us His Holy Spirit and His Word to do battle against the old man that is good as dead, yet still remains.

DJP said...

Oh Web, honestly, I think there are many goodhearted reasons for circulating it, including what you say. For my part, as I've often said, I have deep sympathy with anyone struggling with these desires. Every Christian should.

But there you go: every Christian should. Every Christian knows what it is to battle desires that we know would lead us to sin if we gave into them. How is homosexuality a special category? Why does it so feel like a special club today, almost cool?

And again: every Christian struggles with such desires. That's why we don't embrace and self-identify by them; that's why Paul says "such were some of you" and, in so doing, doesn't deny that they still have struggles.

It's a point I've made more than once. I don't think we're being compassionate in encouraging any Christian to identify himself by a sin. Christian men struggle with all sorts of lusts, but would not be glorifying Christ if they self-identified as a "Homicidally Violent Christian" or an "Adulterous Christian" or a "Pathologically Lying Christian."

Helpful?

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Very helpful. Another reason I'm holding off blogging until I get a little older, a little more mature - I'm either falling off one side of the horse or the other. Thank you again brother for your continuing encouragement in this blog that folks often conclude is nothing "like ministry".

DJP said...

Yeah, I should probably do that same thing. I certainly feel that way every time I read Thabiti "The Most Patient Man On the Planet" Abyabwile, or Doug Wilson... or Phil Johnson, for that matter, when he did this.

Chris H said...

Wait... I thought you were Phil

DJP said...

Not on my best day.

Robert said...

If you leave blogdom, Dan, who will point out the hypocrisy of Brian Loritts comments about the old, white, bald, reformed people coming out against MacDonald, Driscoll, and Jakes, coupled with his uncharitable comments about Doug Wilson and the lack of response from this same group of guys he described in the ER2 wrapup round table? Not that I really think you're leaving, but just saying that we're better off for having somebody with your following to keep us aware of these problems.

Sometimes I think an open letter should be written to the church in America because the the church here isn't drawing the lines where they need to be drawn and speaking out against false teaching and silliness that is out there.

Michael Coughlin said...

So much can be said, but allow me to ignore most of it and simply say that one of the take-homes from the original letter could be that each of us can ask ourselves if we are portraying a spirit of grace in our local church.

As I read the letter, in spite of whatever other problems it had, I couldn't help but wonder if there was someone in my church who felt that way but was afraid to confess and ask me for help.

DJP said...

In itself, a valid and needed takeaway.

Tom Chantry said...

We need someone to write an Open Letter to the Open Letter.

DJP said...

You could try.

They welcome all viewpoints.

Robert said...

Do you have to invite them over for a cup of coffee first?

yankeegospelgirl said...

I think the reason people are creasing their brows and sonorously pronouncing that this is "valuable/deep/needed/etc.," is that the church still has a guilt complex about homosexuals. Somehow, even conservatives have convinced themselves that The Church as a whole (as a WHOLE, not just the occasional wacko outlier) must have done SOMETHING to "hurt" the gay community. And so they still feel like we need a finger waggled under our noses, to elicit some sort of institutional apology (for exactly what, they probably couldn't articulate, but they're sure it's very nasty, whatever it is).

My hope is that if you started laying out examples, one by one, you could get the conservatives to admit that we don't need to apologize for things like not allowing unrepentant LGBTs to officially join a church, serve in church, take communion, etc. And as for the "anger" bit, I hope they would recognize that a certain amount of righteous anger against the radical gay agenda is something good and healthy which should be encouraged, not rebuked.

Suzanne said...

Hi Dan,

I wasn't aware Frank had invented the open letter..? :+)

Maybe I'm missing something? I actually thought the jist of what this woman wrote (though imperfect) was overall very helpful and a needed exhortation to the church at large today. Especially her final point:

"To those of you who would change the church to accept the gay community and its lifestyle: you give us no hope at all. To those of us who know God’s word and will not dilute it to fit our desires, we ask you to read John’s letter to the church in Pergamum."

I am thinking that even what may appear to be the best of the biblically informed, doctrinally sound, Spirit and grace-filled churches are full of imperfect people who, perhaps needed to read something like this, to be shown 'the view from here'. It was at least edifying for me. Of course, had she not included the last part about what the bible says, about sin and rightly caring for the soul it would have been a much different "exhortation". Anyway, I got her point-and thought it a good one.

Elephants notwithstanding, of course :-)

DJP said...

So Suzanne, what was the point of my post (above), clarified by my subsequent comments?

Suzanne said...

Dan,
I agree with your point 100%. Our self-identity changes completely-over from all things "self" to everything Him when we are born again. (2 Corinthians 5:17). I'd add it takes time to progress in our understanding of these things, more time for some than for others.

I guess I just didn't see what you saw in what was being conveyed in that letter. As I read it the thought never even occured to me that anyone was given permission (as such) to identify self by their sexuality or any particular sin, if even indirectly.

It is interesting how we can all have read the same thing and come away with such different impressions, for good or for naught. I appreciate those God-instilled differences in us though :-)

Thanks, and many blessings ~

Sir Aaron said...

I was thinking that if I had to identify myself by my sinful desires, it would take me a long time to introduce myself. And to add onto Dan's point...I'm annoyed that homosexuals think their sin is so much harder to deal with than a heterosexuals. Honestly, you can't walk down the street without somebody trying to tempt you to commit adultery (Matthew 5:27-30).

And as a side note, I like Doug Wilson but he's had some terrible positions too.

Paul Reed said...

@DJP 7:10 AM, March 26, 2013

Excellent post, but I almost have to say..."well, duh". We really need to explain why we shouldn't circulate a letter written by someone calling herself a "lesbian Christian"? I don't understand how this isn't just obvious to every Christian. It's like stupidity has this hold over most of evangelicals.

Suzanne said...

I am really out of my league in here, guess I'd forgotten that.

Grace & peace ~

Paul Reed said...

"Do you think an 'open letter to the church' from someone self-identifying as a rapist, a child molester, or a thief, would get circulation?"

We get them all the time from women who get abortions. All the time. And they're sent from people who claim to be pro-life. I wonder if they would circulate letters from mothers who killed their born child.

thenface2face said...

Well, you really get my attention with these "Open Letters!"

I have been reading Sibbes of late, and wondered if his way might be a better course for a young believer, than the one you suggest, that of insisting they give up a comforting way of describing themselves. Until they are fully understanding their identity in Christ.

"It is not the best way, to assail young beginners with minor matters, but to show them a more excellent way and train them in fundamental points. Then other things will not gain credence with them. It is not amiss to conceal their defects, to excuse some failings, to commend their performances, to encourage their progress, to remove all difficulties out of their way, to help them in every way to bear the yoke of religion with greater ease, to bring them to love God and his service, lest they acquire a distaste for it before they know it. For the most part we see that Christ plants in young beginners a love which we call their `first love' (Rev. 2:4), to carry them through their profession with more delight, and does not expose them to crosses before they have gathered strength; as we bring on young plants and fence them from the weather until they be rooted."

Karen Butler

(from "The Bruised Reed" http://www.monergism.com/bruisedreed.html#3)

thenface2face said...

Should read, "Because they are not fully understanding their identity in Christ."

DJP said...

I'll just be repeating myself, but quoting Sibbes really doesn't persuade me to depart from Paul's specific words and logic, and I can think of no NT precedent for continuing to identify oneself by sins from which one repented on conversion. Nor do I see compassion in patting someone on the head who dons a title that self-identifies as embracing a sin.

Practicing homosexuality is sin; a "gay" is someone embraces perverse desires so as to practice homosexuality; a "Christian gay/lesbian/homosexual" is a contradiction in terms. It is to say "I am an unrepentant pursuer of indulging perverse desires of whose indulgence I've repented."

Further, as we've often discussed, it's debatable whether there's any value to ongoing public reminders of what particular temptations we are fighting. To say you're a Christian is to say that you are in warfare against fleshly lusts (1 Pet. 2:11). It's definitional.

Sir Aaron said it perfectly: "if I had to identify myself by my sinful desires, it would take me a long time to introduce myself." Also, it's doubtful as to whether it would serve any healthy purpose.

thesgc said...

While I completely agree that Christians should not find our identity in our sins, I think you're not fully taking into account the ambiguity in the words gay/lesbian/homosexual. While they often signify that someone is practicing their sin, they can simply denote someone who feels homosexual desire. I would want to make sure I knew how someone was using it. And then the church needs to identify this trick of the enemy and preach clearly how sinful desires do not define our identity.

Also, the letter said some good things, and its effectiveness depended in part upon setting up false expectations in the reader, so I have more sympathy for its usage of the word.

DJP said...

Again, and I don't say this angrily, I think you're just repeating what has already been answered. Shall we all begin identifying ourselves by our temptations? "Hi, I'm Bob, and I'm a rapist. Oh, I've never even touched a woman, but in my heart..." This could get pretty nasty.

And unhelpful.

Is it a good thing that minority status buys the spotlight, or that homosexuality vies hard for special-sin status? I don't think so.

Tell me you're a Christian and I already know you're tempted to sin. Tell me a Christian and I know that you're taking your sin to the cross. That's really all I need to know, unless you're coming to me as to a pastor, for counseling.

Otherwise, all our readers had better start sending their "Open letters from an adulterous / lying / compromised / etc. Christian" for special promotion on Gospel Coalition blogs and elsewhere.

thenface2face said...

Here is the "healty purpose" for allowing a new believer to hold onto such a label, such as "Celibate Christian homosexual" for a season of time: He is inviting you to listen fully to a straggler's story and identify with his pain. I do not think it is a mark of unrepentance that this one is not yet ready to give up that ultimately unhelpful identity, and exchange it for the reality of their life hidden in Christ. It is simply a sign of their immaturity, and I believe, like Sibbes, it is better to be patient, and shelter and pray for such a one. I believe this is a more helpful approach, given especially that the debate over homosexual marriage has made this issue particularly fraught. Opposition to SameSexMarriage is now linked to racism, and in these kinds of superheated discussions perhaps it is good to take the approach Thabati Anyabwile suggests, in his recent dialogue with Douglas Wilson on racial insensitivity. He says about listening,

" Here’s where being dismissive of other people’s feelings—not to mention their statements, perspectives, cultures and the like—actually becomes a big deal. Insensitivity is fraught with feeling, and usually the lead indicator that something insensitive has happened will be one emotion or another Insensitivity provokes feeling, and if we’re dismissive of that feeling or insensitive toward it we’ll only compound the problems we have ...

I don’t know if they get the final word, but the person so hurt should at least have the first word. And the person doing the hurting should really stop and listen for what they missed. That listening turns out to be crucial because the nature of insensitivity is that it fails to sense something. When we’re insensitive we have a blind spot, at least. At worst, we’re knowingly and intentionally trying to cut and hurt. In either case, we’ll never properly fix the hurt or help the hurting feel differently or address our own heart issues (out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, right?) if we continue tone-deaf to that leading indicator—the other person’s feelings."

There was a time on another blog where the debate over this label of "Celibate Homosexual Christian" became heated, and a brother was hurt and angered by other's insensitivity, and here was my attempt to identify with his struggle, and just let him know I had listened and identified in some way: http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/out-of-the-closet-at-last/

And yes, I do pray this man is past that need now, and identifies himself in Christ alone.

Karen Butler

thesgc said...

I'm totally with you on how the church should not encourage people to use this is an identity. I just think your analogy is not quite spot-on because of the difference in the way our culture uses the word "gay". For "murderer", "rapist", etc., it unambiguous; it means you committed those sins. For "gay", it's ambiguous, it doesn't necessarily mean that. And especially with younger people, they've been trained that way--that "gay" is the way to describe someone who has these desires. So we have to spend more time explaining the nature of Christian identity, and we have to take into account their cultural conditioning. Basically, we have to listen to discern how they are using the word, and then bring an appropriate word of encouragement based on that.