My posting of last Sunday, about Robert Gagnon's on concerning the Bible and homosexuality, was one of three that prompted the estimable Pontificator to respond with an essay decrying what he calls the politics of homophobia. That in turn touched off a spirited debate in the comments to his essay. It's worth reading.
One of my own contributions is reproduced below, slightly edited:
Timesawasting [# 20], the core message that Jesus
actually preached is immensely
compelling, and a wonderful fit with what we know of the way the world
works: Love God, for he loves you. Love your neighbor as yourself. You'd better work on changing your
life, because reality is going to catch up with you.
In contrast, the doctrinal barnacles that almost immediately started growing on that gospel, while not without a certain superficial appeal, simply lack credibility to many, many people. (Never forget that throughout history, and even today, the majority of the world’s inhabitants have rejected the message of traditionalist Christianity.)
Jimmy DuPre [# 21], the fantasty of Adam and the Fall is perhaps the crucial weakness of the entire traditionalist mindset. There is zero evidence that humanity has ever been in a perfect state from which to fall. (The Genesis story doesn’t count as evidence, for reasons we needn’t divert ourselves with here.) All the evidence we do have, seems to be to the contrary.
With no Eden and no Fall, there would appear to be little or no need to be “restored” to some prior blissful state of communion with God that we have no good reason to think ever existed. Take away the Fall, it seems to me, and the whole soteriological house of cards comes tumbling down, and with it, most if not all of traditionalist christology.
Therein may lie some of the reasons the mainline churches have been declining:
- The mainline churches seem not to be able to mount a credible intellectual defense of traditionalist Christianity.
- They don’t have anything more credible
with which to replace it. (That’s where I agree with traditionalists –
a lot of “liberal” theology seems a bit flaky to me.)
- And they’re too well-bred
to simply ignore the intellectual problems, and use impassioned preaching,
catchy music, and assertive leadership to draw and sway a crowd, as many “evangelicals” and
fundamentalists seem to do.
So, in the competitive marketplace of religions that we now seem to have, what do the mainline churches have left to offer?