The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of Calvin College
are the Women?
Today, apparently, the word has been redefined for us: "affirmation of homosexual values with no dissension." In other words, we observe the amusing paradox that those calling for tolerance are themselves intolerant of dissidents (sort of like the statement "there are no absolute values" itself being an absolute value). In this spirit of revising time-honored definitions, I propose a new meaning for tolerant: "having no convictions or beliefs regarding right and wrong"; its antonym, then (actually an antonymous phrase; sorry I can't think of a single word), would be "having convictions or beliefs regarding right and wrong." The unfortunate consequence of dictionary definitions is that they ruthlessly apply to all; thus I must be as intolerant of my own sinful behavior as of that of others (although to be honest I would rather judge others by their actions but myself by my intentions).
If my behavior is
as execrable as is that of anyone else (and it assuredly is), does that
require my silence? No, for two reasons: (1) because God has by His grace
warned us of the consequences of our sin, so we in obedience to God and
love to others warn (not scold) them of the consequences of their sin;
and (2) because the consequences of sin generally affect entire communities,
not just the agents. I think the Bible's statements about homosexual behavior
are unequivocal: the individuals risk the destruction not only of themselves
but of their community. In our day the affirmation of homosexual behavior
puts our nation in grave peril of God's judgment. Not only that, but the
behavior is notoriously self-destructive. Who in the name of compassion
would refuse to warn our homosexual neighbors of the potentially lethal
consequences of their activity? If I am labeled a homophobe, so be it,
although I neither fear nor hate them. I appreciate voices in the wilderness
like Doug Houck who will not silently affirm.
William Stevenson's article on freedom, politics and grace asserts that historical efforts at defining freedom are largely inadequate and superficial, and claims that Calvinism synthesizes all of them into a "more intricate and comprehensive conception.." He then proceeds to lay out the standard orthodoxy involving sin, faith, redemption and "will" all grounded by sovereign grace. According to him, it all makes plain, logical sense.
I appreciate his concise synopsis of historical definitions of freedom, but his solution strikes me as superficial and inadequate as well. Such a belief system, so far as I can observe, serves more to stultify ongoing thought and worship than to produce a grateful love of one's brothers. It is too individualistic and too easy.
If he could have shown an immanent and transcendent God who, in the restoration of the world unto himself, requires the help of the creation (made in his image) for the completion of the kingdom, through the operation of his persuasive love and grace, then we might be getting somewhere.
As written, with
so little help as to how belief is to affect and improve our behavior,
I am not surprised at the continuing controversies in the letters on homosexuality
and mastodon deaths prior to Adam. The two are as closely related as cause
Bill Stevenson replied: The Spark article is an excerpt from the introduction to my book on Calvin's idea of freedom. My purposes in writing the book were, first, to articulate what I understand to be the important linkage between Calvin's theology and his politics, and, second, to argue for the legitimacy of Calvin as a political thinker in his own right. In doing these things my hope was to look ahead and suggest ways in which Calvin's stated "parts" of Christian freedom both anticipated Modern notions of freedom and served as appropriate antidotes to their larger pretensions. The letter writer appears to be unhappy not only with Calvin's theology but with anyone who sees it as helpful and/or enlightening. But as a person whose journey to see the wisdom of Calvin's orthodoxy began in a pose of skepticism, I would ask the letter writer only to do me the courtesy of reading the whole argument before labeling it "superficial and inadequate," and "individualistic and too easy."
Contact Steven Koster.