Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Existential Baptists


The fall of every denomination begins with such thoughts as these from David Gushee given in a plenary address at the recent CBF sponsored conference on Sexuality& Covenant.

"Some of our most thoughtful leaders are functioning more with a repertoire of resources beginning with Scripture but extending to tradition, reason and experience. I think that there is an awareness in our part of the Baptist world at this time that tradition, reason, and experience are always operative when people are reading Scripture. You might call it a loss of naiveté."

And in this lies the problem of declining membership and increasing apostasy in mainline denominations. The “starting” with Scripture; not as a source of authority, but as simply a genesis for the theological underpinning of our doctrine and practices. And to add insult to ecclesiastical injury, Gushee then brings Scripture under the vicarious authority of tradition, reason, and experience.

In other words, in the frame of reference of the Conference on Sexuality and Covenant, despite the fact that the Bible clearly states that sex is to be confined to marriage partners, that marriage is to be between one man and one woman for one lifetime, and that homosexuality is sin, we can ignore these facts. Because tradition, reason, and experience trump that old fashion, unreasonable, and bland old doctrine, anyway. 

Tradition has changed to the place where the culture has welcomed the homosexual lifestyle as alternative, if not normative, but most certainly not sinful. I mean, really, why would any rational thinking individual try to stop true love or confine a couple to marriage for life? Maybe he will find a woman he loves more than his first wife. So?  We can clearly see that this teen age couple loves each other, why make them get married in order to have sex? The experience of young love should not be denied.

It doesn’t take long to see how little value the Bible has in the denominations that take a view of the Scriptures as relative. When the church views doctrine from such an existential worldview, ontologically speaking, the battle is already lost. With no clear, decisive, and authoritative source for our beliefs, the progression of thought will lead to where all existentialism leads…atheism.   If not an outright denial of God’s existence, it certainly plows headlong into practical atheism. A religion whose god is a weak-kneed, spaghetti-spined, limp-wristed, feeble, vacillating deity that cannot decide on what he or she wants. Hmmmm.

The only loss of  naiveté then, is the naiveté of believing that we can have a "God" that has no authority, no consistency, nor relevance in a word of ever changing ethics.