“Aren’t You Supposed to Hate Me?”: Calvinism and the Politics of the Damned

The Scarlet Letter, by T. H. Matteson

Update: This post is now available as an audio recording at Ancient Faith Radio.

Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil. —Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “The Gulag Archipelago”

“Aren’t you supposed to hate me?”

That was the question once asked me by a homosexual friend and co-worker, back during my stagehand days (1994-2004), when she learned that I was an Orthodox Christian.

I thought about that moment again today while I watched my North Carolina friends posting online about North Carolina’s Constitutional Amendment One, which in a vote yesterday enshrined into the state’s constitution a legal definition for marriage as between one man and one woman. I lived in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area for eleven years, and from what I could tell, most of my friends there who are active online were very much against the amendment. In fact, I don’t think any of them were in favor of it. Nevertheless, it passed a popular vote with 61% approval.

What really struck me today was that several posters (who normally are not very interested in religious things) declared that anyone who voted in favor of the amendment was not a real Christian. It was kind of surreal to see some of these people making such religious statements when they never seemed to pay any particular attention to Christian doctrine before. Their statements seemed to be based on this syllogism: Voting for the amendment means you hate gay people. Jesus is loving. Therefore, if you voted for the amendment you are no real Christian. (Update: Did you catch that? These are pro-same-sex marriage folks who wanted others to oppose a piece of legislation for religious reasons.)

There were other variations on this claim, though usually without bringing Christ into it. The consensus seems to be that voting for this amendment means that the voter hates gay people (or others who may be affected). It does not seem in any way admissible that a loving person could ever vote for such a thing. One poster even said he simply could not fathom the logic that supporters were using when they voted.

In the course of related discussions, I was actually told by an old friend who (being convinced I would have voted for this particular amendment) essentially said that I believe what I do because my religion tells me I have to and that logic is always opposed to faith. There is of course a long and complex history of the interaction of faith and reason; some communions even go so far as to enshrine reason as a doctrinal pillar, but hardly any religions have ever actually rejected reason as being contradictory to faith.

Likewise, there is another problem with this assumption, namely, that I am actually someone who has chosen his faith and was by no means forced into it. Even had I been raised Orthodox, however, I would have to make a conscious choice to remain in the Church and faithful to its teachings. Come to think of it, I still have to do that. Even aside from simply the basic dynamics of trying to be a faithful Christian, it’s not like the world around me is exactly hip to Orthodoxy. The Church has always been counter-cultural.

Of course, on the other side of these things is the “GOD HATES FAGS” crowd, who actually have fairly little influence on anyone at all, but, if their ideological opposites are to be believed, somehow are identical to everyone who doesn’t all-out support homosexual activity. Still, I’m sure that there are folks who have traditional beliefs about the moral value of homosexual activity who do indeed regard gays as being damnably subhuman.

I also saw one post from an opponent of the amendment telling supporters to “go die in a fire.” Another one claimed supporters used only “weak” arguments from politics and religion and were therefore “fanatics” and “terrorists.” The first poster didn’t surprise me much, since he is given to that kind of language, but the second really did surprise me. (He was also one who said that supporters cannot be real Christians. That surprised me, too, because he’s not ever been, to my knowledge, remotely interested in church or even Christian “spirituality.”)

There seems to be little room here for the idea that someone can disagree, that they can even support unfavored laws, and still love the other. I think there is a little bit of the childish “You hate me, Mom and Dad” attitude here, chafing against anyone who won’t sanction a given behavior, but I believe overall it’s something much deeper, something actually theological, a vision of human nature.

In this view of human nature is also a reading of human history that admits of nothing but the progressivist narrative. “Social progress” always moves in one direction, and of course people who disagree with such “progress” are “on the wrong side of history,” etc. Never mind that history shows all sorts of “progressions” that such folks would find abhorrent. History sometimes moves in some pretty awful directions. And sometimes it even appears to “reverse” course, revealing what seemed to be an inexorable march toward progressive paradise actually to be a temporary anomaly. To one a certain thing is progress, while to another it may be regress, digress or even ingress. And of course everyone but me is wrong.

What’s underneath all of this is an assumption about human nature that almost never comes to the fore. It is essentially assumed that human beings are absolute objects incapable of actual dynamism and change. Reprobates can only be eliminated through force, whether of violence or of law (which always implies a threat of violence). That is, what is assumed is a theological anthropology, and it is the anthropology of Calvinism.

We Americans are hardly ever more Calvinistic and puritanical than when we are at politics. I observe this not about any particular political ideology or party, but about them all.

It is no wonder, of course. America was founded by such people. Calvinist anthropology is deep in our cultural DNA, and it is perhaps most prevalent in those who reject Christianity entirely. Their political opponents are “unloving,” “evil,” “hateful,” etc. There is little attempt actually to convince others of the rightness of their positions, only the assertion that opposing them makes the opponent a terrible person. You must hate me if you do not agree with me.

But “You hate me” is probably the silliest argument there is. It not only presumes a knowledge of someone else’s inner psychological state that is impossible, but it also is a defeatist attitude and presumes that one’s opponents are beyond redemption—and one’s own position is naturally what constitutes redemption.

In a world where everyone knows he’s a sinner and is actively working to repent, one can never have much ground to assume that one’s fellow sinners are “hateful,” etc. But in a world where I am perfect and right, of course anyone who disagrees with me is “hateful.”

When my gay friend asked me whether I was required to hate her, I told her no. She asked me why. I told her it’s because, even though I see homosexual activity (though not identity) as sinful, I believed my own sins were far worse than hers. It’s true. I really do. And I am (by choice) bound by my faith commitments to believe that, to see myself as the “chief of sinners.” I confess that every time I am about to engage in the most central act of my faith—receiving Holy Communion.

I do not in any sense believe that I am better than someone else just because the set of temptations I have and those I succumb to are different from someone else’s. How can I hate someone else for his sins or his temptations? I have so many of my own.

To be honest, I don’t really know how I would have voted on North Carolina’s Amendment One. I haven’t lived there for eight years now, so I’m not really a part of its life any more. I do know that I think the state should get out of licensing marriages entirely, if only because it almost inevitably leads to problems like this.

I do not believe that every sin should be illegal, and homosexual activity is one I do not think needs to be illegal. (And certainly one cannot criminalize feelings, either.) Yes, I do regard these things as symptomatic of a fallen humanity, but I don’t think that anyone’s salvation is furthered by criminalization.

I do, however, have a very serious concern about enshrining things at odds with religious communities’ doctrine as “civil rights,” because of what that does to religious liberty, a civil right long guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Once something is a civil right, then those who refuse to grant that right and not to hinder it in any way are subject to legal action—there have already been people successfully sued for not going along with gay weddings due to the dictates of their consciences, people who were minding their own business and just didn’t want to be a part of it.

I do hope that my friends can understand that I in no way hate them if I disagree with their politics or even with their personal moral choices. If I hated everyone who disagreed with me or who sinned, I would pretty much not have anything else to do with my time. But I’m a sinner, too, and my sins are far greater than theirs.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of friends, co-workers and parishioners who have identified as gay. To be quite honest, none of them ever seemed to be under the impression that I hated them. I don’t think it’s because I have any great virtue, but simply because I just didn’t hate them. I don’t understand why that possibility seems to elude so many.

For anyone who is not an Orthodox Christian or who does not subscribe in some way to the broad outlines of Christian moral tradition as it has generally been held without much real disagreement for centuries, I cannot of course expect that they will see themselves as sinners or that any particular action is a sin. If they don’t even believe in any transcendent divinity, then there is no reason to believe that there should be a transcendent “right” to which we are all responsible. I get that.

At the same time, however, I think it’s worth closely examining one’s presuppositions about such things as the nature of human persons, whether they can change, whether they have inherent worth, and whether it is actually possible to disagree without being consigned to the oblivion of the “hateful” category.

This kind of politics—the politics of hatefulness—comes out of a real theology. In this theology, there are only the elect and the reprobate—the damned.

Wouldn’t it be better to see others in a far more complex and (dare I ask it?) hopeful light? And let us especially remember the words quoted above from Solzhenitsyn: “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.”

Addendum: I liked this comment from Fr. Stephen so much that I’m reproducing it here in the body of the post. Some of the responses to it are quite interesting, as well.

I think the root of the issue you’re identifying goes much deeper than just Calvin’s anthropology. All of Western Christian thought since St. Augustine (obviously including Calvin) has been Platonist thought, to one degree or another. Even Thomas Aquinas (whose grand project was to try to reconcile the newly discovered Aristotelian science [with] the pre-existing Platonist Christianity he had inherited, over against the Latin Averroists like Siger de Brabant who were ready to discard the latter), as revealed in Book I of the Summa and his eschatology.

Why that’s important is this: One of the fundamental principles in Platonist thought is that distinction implies opposition. Unity, or ‘One-ness’ is a good, and therefore to be truly Good, anything must be One. So, for example, there can only be one correct interpretation of any given passage of Holy Scripture. All other interpretations are not just somehow faulty or incomplete, but are actually opposed to the correct interpretation and seek to subvert it. All of those other interpretations aren’t ‘nice tries’ or ‘alternate takes’ or ‘other applications in different contexts’, they’re sinful attempts to undermine the One Truth.

This results in this horrible confusion of epistemology and ethics, in which ignorance of certain facts, or differing beliefs, even if held with no ill will or ulterior motive, are still treated as sin, as evil acts. Therefore, if I hold that ‘x’ behavior is morally wrong, and you hold that it is morally right, our views aren’t just alternatives to each other, they actively oppose each other, and we ‘have to’ at the minimum, hate each other’s views. Neither God, nor you and I, can just [love] sinners, we have to somehow at the same time hate their sin. It can’t be overlooked, passed over in respectful silence, or ignored.

Comments

  1. Fr. Stephen says

    I think the root of the issue you’re identifying goes much deeper than just Calvin’s anthropology. All of Western Christian thought since St. Augustine (obviously including Calvin) has been Platonist thought, to one degree or another. Even Thomas Aquinas (whose grand project was to try to reconcile the newly discovered Aristotelian science the pre-existing Platonist Christianity he had inherited, over against the Latin Averroists like Siger de Brabant who were ready to discard the latter), as revealed in Book I of the Summa and his eschatology.

    Why that’s important is this: One of the fundamental principles in Platonist thought is that distinction implies opposition. Unity, or ‘One-ness’ is a good, and therefore to be truly Good, anything must be One. So, for example, there can only be one correct interpretation of any given passage of Holy Scripture. All other interpretations are not just somehow faulty or incomplete, but are actually opposed to the correct interpretation and seek to subvert it. All of those other interpretations aren’t ‘nice tries’ or ‘alternate takes’ or ‘other applications in different contexts’, they’re sinful attempts to undermine the One Truth.

    This results in this horrible confusion of epistemology and ethics, in which ignorance of certain facts, or differing beliefs, even if held with no ill will or ulterior motive, are still treated as sin, as evil acts. Therefore, if I hold that ‘x’ behavior is morally wrong, and you hold that it is morally right, our views aren’t just alternatives to each other, they actively oppose each other, and we ‘have to’ at the minimum, hate each other’s views. Neither God, nor you and I, can just live sinners, we have to somehow at the same time hate their sin. It can’t be overlooked, passed over in respectful silence, or ignored.

    • says

      This does not jibe with what I know of Plato, Augustine, or Thomas. Indeed, the latter two would vehemently deny that “distinction implies opposition”, and although I’m no scholar of Plato I cannot recall anything in his works which argues for this.

      Now, I can easily see it as a foundation stone of some branches of neo-Platonism which sought purity above all else and held this world as hateful. These branches, hand-in-hand with gnostic movements, did develop a dualist approach to philosophy and theology which has tainted much of Western culture. But this view has never found purchase in the heart of Western theology – at least, not till the Protestant movement. Perhaps the closest it came was in Boethius.

      You are correct that oppositional dualism has long been a temptation in Western thought; it goes back further than Plato, even, to Pythagoras at least, and likely earlier to the Egyptian wisdom they claim as their source. But it was resisted by Augustine, and denied by Thomas, and by no means forms the core or basis for all of Western thought.

      • sanabituranima says

        Thanks Robert. I agree, although I don’t know as much theology as I ought to. So I had probably get off the computer to read, pray and eat dinner.

  2. Darlene says

    Father, you gave your readers much to contemplate. I’m not certain yet of all that N.C.’s Contitutional Amendment One entails, having only heard about it yesterday. I am aware of one thing about this amendment; the majority of North Carolina voters oppose gay marriage. They do not want the lines of demarcation to be moved, namely, that marriage is between one man and one woman. That, in and of itself, is not wrong. Our Lord Jesus, when speaking of marriage, referenced it in terms of one man and one woman. There is no place in Scripture from which one can defend “marriage” or any kind of sexual union between people of the same sex. Should our laws and the public consensus deviate on this matter, which the trend seems to show that it is – i.e. the Scriptural testimony and the Church’s witness of marriage being between one man and one woman – the repercussions can only result in the continued moral erosion of our society with regard to the family unit and its structure. And the response of the Church and those who call themselves Christians must be one that emphatically supports traditional marriage and opposes gay marriage. That the state even involves itself in licensing marriages, I would agree, is regretable. Ah…but then where would the atheists, agnostics, and unbelievers go to get married? :-)

    With that said, I agree that the gay-haters are a scourge on the Christian landscape. “Christians” spouting hatred such as the GOD HATES FAGS crowd is an oxymoron. Usury is also a sin against humanity, yet need we carry placards written in bold writing stating GOD HATES USURERS? – notwithstanding that God does indeed condemn the act of usury. With the mentality of the HATERS, just about any sin could be filled in that place of GOD HATES _____. However, it seems to me that the gay-haters mean to single out homosexuals above every others sin, and to emphasize this particular sin as more heinous and horrendous than any other. I would like to add here that among those pro-lifers that are the most compassionate, they would deem carrying placards and publicly stating GOD HATES WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD ABORTIONS as being antithetical to their purpose and indefensible from a Christian understanding of the Scriptures. If the hate language were to be part and parcel of the Christian mindset, then I would have to complete the sentence in Father Andrew’s article in this way: If I hated everyone who disagreed with me or who sinned, I would pretty much have to hate everyone. Perhaps then that addage, which has become so trite due to its overusage, really does apply here, God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.

    As to whether or not I should see others in a far more complex and hopeful light, it depends what is meant by that statement. I would agree that human beings are complex creatures. The motivations for our behavior can be attributed to various reasons and rationale. It is often not evident on the surface why someone is inclined toward a certain kind of behavior that is damaging to their very person. However, whatever the reason or rationale, as a Christian I would have to state that sin, in whatever form it manifests itself, is a result of the fall of Adam, and that it is a rejection of the life and communion that our Maker offers us. Since all humans are subjected to this condition of the fall, we each have a dark side with which to contend. I acknowledge this reality about myself and all my fellow human beings. Whether this is seeing others in a more hopeful light I would venture to say more than likely not. We are all plagued with many besetting sins and the sad state of affairs in this world is a testimony to that fact. Yet, in view of this predicament, I can be hopeful in one regard. I can treat each person with whom I come in contact – who is created in the image and likeness of God – as a candidate for for His Kingdom.

  3. Sarah says

    Thank you for putting to word what’s so hard to answer. I often find myself asked by friends and coworkers – how can I be so supportive and accepting of them when I’m a Christian. This is wonderfully written answer gets straight to the heart of the matter: it all comes down to love and my own role as a sinful but loving daughter of Christ. Thank you!

  4. Darlene says

    Sarah,

    I’m not quite so sure what you mean by supportive and accepting. As Christians, we should not accept or support sinful behavior in ourselves first, but neither in another nor in society. It goes without saying that we should be merciful toward all, but mercy does not include tacit nor expressed approval of wrong-doing.

    Should our aim as Christians not be to evangelize the world? Part of this evangelizing must be to shine the light of Christ where ever we go. We are, after all, supposed to be lights of the world. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.”

    • says

      I think Sarah’s second sentence should be taken in the context of the first—that is, she is agreeing with the post, which is clearly not “supportive and accepting” of any sin, including homosexual activity.

      In any event, even just to look at the question grammatically, the prepositional object of “supporting and accepting” in her sentence is “them,” i.e., the people. She doesn’t say that she supports and accepts their sins.

  5. Darlene says

    Father,

    There are a few ambiguities I would like to clear up. Are you implying that we as Christians should be silent with regard to homosexuality and gay marriage? What do you think our role should be in society and in the Church as regards this sin? How do you understand the admonition in Ephesians, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame to speak of the things that they do in secret, but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.” I believe there is a way to take a stand against wickedness and wrong-doing in society without a harsh, Calvinistic approach. Many compassionate pro-lifers have learned this approach and have helped many women in choosing life for the child in their womb. As Christians, we can have a compassionate approach toward homosexuals, but that compassion should not be one of ignoring nor approving of their life-style.

    I realize that Calvinism’s cold and harsh view toward humanity is an extreme that has its own very real problems. However, one can go to the other extreme in being reactionary against Calvinism. I would say
    that a balanced approach must be arrived at, one in which we love our neighbor with the love Christ taught us (to the best of our ability). However, the manner in which this love is expressed toward otshould be in directing them to the One Who is able to forgive and heal their iniquities. We should not put our light under a bushel, and we should not be ashamed of Christ’s message to the world.

    • says

      Are you implying that we as Christians should be silent with regard to homosexuality and gay marriage?

      No.

      What do you think our role should be in society and in the Church as regards this sin? How do you understand the admonition in Ephesians, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame to speak of the things that they do in secret, but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.”

      Our role is to do what the Church has always done—to speak the truth boldly and to lovingly and gently show those who are convicted by it how to live the truth.

      If I didn’t know better, Darlene, I might think you’re convinced that I work for “the other side.” :) How you might think I’m somehow ashamed of Christ’s message is a little baffling to me. I mean no offense, but it at least appears to me that in your responses to things I write, you frequently assume a suspicious opposition from other posters that just isn’t there. Please try to be more of a conversant and less an inquisitor. Thanks!

    • says

      The difficulty is where to draw the line between evangelizing and insisting that the secular law of the land has to conform, lock-stock-and-barrel, with our faith. This is something I struggle with all the time. Faith and politics have gotten terribly mixed up, until too many Christians seem convinced that you can’t be a good Christian unless you vote _______ (and I’ve seen it from both sides. They can’t both be right!). This is why I focus my prolife efforts on NFP and trying to change people’s attitudes about the body. Legislating isn’t effective; only changing hearts really works.

  6. Matthew says

    Fr Stephen, That’s painting the whole of Western Christianity (and philosophy — back to Plato!) with a very large brush. (It’s also making “Platonism” sound a whole lot more like the Neo-Platonists than Plato himself). Augustine certainly upheld multiple senses of Scripture (see for instance his De Doctrina Christiana). And Aquinas taught a doctrine of the four senses of Scripture (as did Bonaventure, Bernard — pretty much all the major medieval Latin doctors). See Summa Theologiae, Prima Pars, Question 1, Article 10. Whether in Holy Scripture a word may have several senses?

    Objection 1. It seems that in Holy Writ a word cannot have several senses, historical or literal, allegorical, tropological or moral, and anagogical. For many different senses in one text produce confusion and deception and destroy all force of argument. Hence no argument, but only fallacies, can be deduced from a multiplicity of propositions. But Holy Writ ought to be able to state the truth without any fallacy. Therefore in it there cannot be several senses to a word.

    Objection 2. Further, Augustine says (De util. cred. iii) that “the Old Testament has a fourfold division as to history, etiology, analogy and allegory.” Now these four seem altogether different from the four divisions mentioned in the first objection. Therefore it does not seem fitting to explain the same word of Holy Writ according to the four different senses mentioned above.

    Objection 3. Further, besides these senses, there is the parabolical, which is not one of these four.

    On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. xx, 1): “Holy Writ by the manner of its speech transcends every science, because in one and the same sentence, while it describes a fact, it reveals a mystery.”

    I answer that, The author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves. So, whereas in every other science things are signified by words, this science has the property, that the things signified by the words have themselves also a signification. Therefore that first signification whereby words signify things belongs to the first sense, the historical or literal. That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves also a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal, and presupposes it. Now this spiritual sense has a threefold division. For as the Apostle says (Hebrews 10:1) the Old Law is a figure of the New Law, and Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. i) “the New Law itself is a figure of future glory.” Again, in the New Law, whatever our Head has done is a type of what we ought to do. Therefore, so far as the things of the Old Law signify the things of the New Law, there is the allegorical sense; so far as the things done in Christ, or so far as the things which signify Christ, are types of what we ought to do, there is the moral sense. But so far as they signify what relates to eternal glory, there is the anagogical sense. Since the literal sense is that which the author intends, and since the author of Holy Writ is God, Who by one act comprehends all things by His intellect, it is not unfitting, as Augustine says (Confess. xii), if, even according to the literal sense, one word in Holy Writ should have several senses.

    Reply to Objection 1. The multiplicity of these senses does not produce equivocation or any other kind of multiplicity, seeing that these senses are not multiplied because one word signifies several things, but because the things signified by the words can be themselves types of other things. Thus in Holy Writ no confusion results, for all the senses are founded on one — the literal — from which alone can any argument be drawn, and not from those intended in allegory, as Augustine says (Epis. 48). Nevertheless, nothing of Holy Scripture perishes on account of this, since nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by the Scripture in its literal sense.

    Reply to Objection 2. These three — history, etiology, analogy — are grouped under the literal sense. For it is called history, as Augustine expounds (Epis. 48), whenever anything is simply related; it is called etiology when its cause is assigned, as when Our Lord gave the reason why Moses allowed the putting away of wives — namely, on account of the hardness of men’s hearts; it is called analogy whenever the truth of one text of Scripture is shown not to contradict the truth of another. Of these four, allegory alone stands for the three spiritual senses. Thus Hugh of St. Victor (Sacram. iv, 4 Prolog.) includes the anagogical under the allegorical sense, laying down three senses only — the historical, the allegorical, and the tropological.

    Reply to Objection 3. The parabolical sense is contained in the literal, for by words things are signified properly and figuratively. Nor is the figure itself, but that which is figured, the literal sense. When Scripture speaks of God’s arm, the literal sense is not that God has such a member, but only what is signified by this member, namely operative power. Hence it is plain that nothing false can ever underlie the literal sense of Holy Writ.
    ……………………
    As for “hating” views which are seriously erroneous — we are supposed to hate sin. Do you not believe that there is such a thing as intellectual sin? It is possible to sin objectively and still be in ignorance and therefore bear minimal culpability. But a heresy itself is to be hated. And the Fathers certainly maintain a place for just wrath in the spiritual life.

    • Fr. Stephen says

      I’m very familiar with the Quadriga, but since I’m still a closet fan of the dumb ox, I don’t mind the extensive citation. You’ll notice, however, that in your own citation, the various senses of the interpretation of the text are grouped in a sort of Neo-Platonic ascent.

      The principle that I was referring to, of distinction implying opposition, is not Neo-Platonic but Platonic. Neo-Platonism’s much richer concept of participation is, if anything, more forgiving on this score in arguing for an immediate relationship between Truth and other deficient ideas. The middle Platonism that you find in Origen and St. Augustine, and which became the interpretive grid for Western Christianity by way of Boethius (who really deserves the blame, not St. Augustine) focuses not on deficient forms partaking partially of the Ideal, but the exact opposite, on the corruption brought about by their inferiority. So, for example, you find St. Augustine at one point arguing that because Christ’s body was material, it was constantly seeking to sin, but constantly being restrained by the Holy Spirit, and Adam before the Fall likewise constantly ready to give in to physical desire but forcibly restrained by God’s Grace. The clearest place to see the constant (and continued) dominance of this point of view is in any Western systematic theology in the section on the ‘Doctrine of God’, which nearly without exception follow Thomas in consisting of a long discussion of Divine Attributes (usually centered around Unity and Simplicity…see the above), which could have just as well been written by a Middle Platonist, with an epilogue somewhere about the Holy Trinity.

      And the problem with ‘hating sin’ is that sin is parasitic. It doesn’t exist in and of itself, it consists of choices that humans make, and so only exists in the real lives of actual people. Even in the Old Testament, when God saw a group of people like the Ninevites, who didn’t know their right hand from their left, He wasn’t angered at them for their ignorance. Nor did he punish them for their ignorance. He sent them someone to preach to them repentance thereby accomplishing His loving goal of restoring those people, much to the chagrin of the messenger who was more of a ‘wrath’ type of guy.

      Lets get very specific to this particular issue. From the perspective of people who are attracted to members of their same gender, what do they see? Well, they see a huge mass of people who call themselves Christians spending millions and millions of dollars on political campaigns. And what are these campaigns designed to do? To make sure that they and the person they love don’t get certain tax breaks. To make it more difficult for them to share their insurance coverage with the person they love. To make it more difficult, even impossible, for them to be involved in decisions about end-of-life issues with the person they love and have spent their life with. They definitely experience these ‘Christians’ hatred of homosexuality…but where in this do they experience any love for them as a person?

      You and I can rightly point out that their love is disordered, or as I would prefer to say, that they’re expressing their love for that other person in a way that is destructive, but in both cases, all we’re doing is reminding them of the Law. The Law which, if we believe Holy Scripture, is already written on their hearts. The Law which, if we believe Holy Scripture, is powerless to save. Our job as Orthodox Christians isn’t to promulgate the Law and try to force the world into submission to it…if that’s your thing, I understand that Islam is accepting recruits, even if Orthodox Judaism isn’t. Our job is to bring them Christ, to love them, and to show them the pathway that leads to healing and restoration in their lives of what they’ve broken through sin, whatever those sins are.

      • Matthew says

        Of course I agree with most of what you’ve written. That however does not take away from what I wrote above about a proper place for wrath or hatred towards heresy and lies. I also would not give such a congenial (or should I say sentimentally one-sided) reading to the movement to gain legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. Let’s not confuse the pastoral work of the Church — the work of love, healing, and restoration for all, as you rightly describe it — with countenancing of social revolution.

        • says

          One of the things I frequently point out to SSM proponents is that the movement couches its rhetoric in terms of what is “allowed,” but what is being sought out is not mere permission from the state but rather state sponsorship and enforcement. After all, I have never actually heard of police doing a raid on a gay wedding, but they have indeed prosecuted folks who refuse to participate in them. I rather wish the whole thing could be taken out of the “civil rights” category, because “civil rights” has now been defined not merely as what the state will leave you alone to do, but of what it will force others to do for you.

          Of course, if it were taken out of that category, then SSM backers would likely find little support, because their movement is based on a moral claim. But the moral tradition from which civil rights actually arose never countenanced this sort of thing and still doesn’t, which is probably part of why racial minorities in the US actually oppose SSM in far greater numbers than their white counterparts. That’s a consideration that will be interesting to see play out in the future, too—right now, younger folks tend to support SSM far more than their elders, so it is assumed that the future will belong to SSM. But the future will also belong to a different demographics than we have now, and the trends are decidedly weighted toward the groups who are now minorities and tend to oppose SSM.

  7. ngchase says

    Reblogged this on Ramblings of a Byzantine Catholic and commented:
    With so much misunderstanding (and dare I say hate) going on about Christian teaching and morality (which I would argue is not the Evangelical version expressed in America but found with the Apostolic Churches- Catholic and Orthodox) and the gay marriage debate in our country I read the blog of an Orthodox priest, Fr. Andrew, entitled Aren’t You Supposed to Hate Me?
    I find Fr. Andrew’s words to express my beliefs on the matter (both spiritually and politically). I (and all Christians) are called to love everyone even if they disagree with us or even loath us. Christ calls us to love our neighbor. Now our neighbor may be a saint or may be a sinner but that doesn’t matter Christ still calls us to love them. So I wanted to repost the wise words of Fr. Andrew.

  8. says

    When our holy father creates a soul, he creates a divine feminine aspect to that soul and a divine masculine aspect to that soul, this truth transcends all sexual gender, all in search of the other half.

  9. says

    Love with out wants! the path to your truth a truth we all share is the path of the heart! a divine heart we all share! concern you not with worldly happenings, serve your living god, follow your heart! the only separation between our living god and our self’s is the separation we create. blessed be his holy name!! then when you find your heart, you will heal this world Eden and remove satin forever.

      • says

        I find it very humourous that a human referring to himself as a FATHER reduces himself to immature goading/goating in an attempt to defend himself against support rather than attack… some of the most intelligent loving humans on Earth cannot spell according to society but spell according to sound… The most important example you may wish to refer to is a man by the name of Yeshua aka The Christ.. you know the embodiement of the Holy Spirit of which the religion CHRISTianity is based upon…. or perhaps refer to some Old Testament closest to the original translation and see where spelling is a factor… wonder what Mose’s spelling skills were… the biggest sin of all is stealing… stealing everything from the truth of oneself… to your neighbor’s integrity… to another’s food or an another’s respect… or using ill judgement that steals another’s truth.
        Much Compassion,
        Angelsightworldwide

        • says

          Honestly, I really am not sure what message in your multiple posts you’re trying to convey or how they relate to the original post.

          As for humor, well, that’s basically what I’ve got in the face of what at least appear to me to be incoherent admonitions couched in spiritualist terminology. Whether that’s goading or not, I suppose you can judge. If anything, recall that you decided to visit your peculiar brand of wisdom upon me, not the other way ’round!

  10. Salah says

    Sin is a disease, not a crime or a fault of logic…..that is Orthodoxy.
    But the fault of Orthodoxy is its avoidance of taking stand on hot topic until these topics become irrelevant. Western Christianity does not have that leverage.

  11. Salah says

    than you for your statement: “When my gay friend asked me whether I was required to hate her, I told her no. She asked me why. I told her it’s because, even though I see homosexual activity (though not identity) as sinful, I believed my own sins were far worse than hers. It’s true. I really do. And I am (by choice) bound by my faith commitments to believe that, to see myself as the “chief of sinners.” I confess that every time I am about to engage in the most central act of my faith—receiving Holy Communion.”
    totally agree
    blessings

  12. Darlene says

    ‘”If I didn’t know better, Darlene, I might think that you’re convinced that I “work for the other side.”‘

    Let me state unequivocally here and now that I in no way whatsoever think you “work for the other side.” :-)

    I mean no offense, but it at least appears to me that in your response to things I write, you frequently assume a suspicious opposition from other posters that just isn’t there.

    Hmmm…I’d say that I have a tendency to challenge things that you write, often because I’m pursuing clarity about a particular issue – and within your writing or response/s there seems to be an obscurity or ambiguity that needs further clarity. Now my perception could be way off, and I could be completely missing the mark with regard to a point/s you have made (or others for that matter). So it is that I press you (or others) for further clarification, and in that pressing the delivery could be perceived as overly assertive, even inappropriately aggressive. I apologize if this has been the case.

    Perhaps I’m just dense and that’s why a piece you have written or a response you have made seems unclear and imprecise. Communication in cyberspace is lacking in some respects as opposed to face-to-face, in- the-flesh communication. I’d say that just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, writing is also. Five people can behold a person, and those five people can react to and describe that person’s appearance differently. (This is one of the reasons why eye witness testimony in court cases is often unreliable). Likewise, five people can read an article and come away with different, and sometimes opposing ideas. You’ve heard the story about the elephant, right? Several people were told to describe the appearance of what was before them; some described a trunk, others a tail, others large legs, etc. They were not able to describe the appearance of the elephant accurately, because they were focused in on a certain part of the elephant’s body.

    On the other hand, I suppose I’m just an annoying Internet sparring partner. :-) Iron sharpens iron and all that.

  13. says

    Fr. Andrew, thank you for putting up with us commenting… Whew!
    And I thank you on behalf of my friends and myself for this post among your many others.

    Christ is Risen!

  14. gailf says

    This is a very interesting article and though I don’t agree with every point (especially when it comes to legal recognition of marriage) I do think you say a lot of interesting things. However, I don’t agree with the quote you appended by Fr. Stephen. At least in Catholicism, and I assume the same for Orthodox Christianity, there is plenty of room for differences of interpretation. Although there is and can only be one truth, not everything is an all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it matter. We are not required by our religion to “hate” opposing viewpoints, except about a very small number of things. Saying so actually reinforces the very concept your are trying to negate. There really IS a lot of neutral, unexplored, and disputed ground, and saying that everyone should be able to disagree about everything is just the opposite of the claim that everything is either true and good, or hateful and bad.

  15. says

    I fear your tactic of redirecting your friends’ ire towards the alleged distortions of Calvinism is ill-advised.

    In the light of what the Apostle says about believers going to court I think it is generally unwise to hand over Christian brethren (even those outwith the pale of what you consider the true church) to be condemned by non-Christians.

    Most of all, I regret that you are bayonetting a straw man.

    I don’t think you really appreciate what you call ‘Calvinism’ (Reformed Christianity); you are interacting with a very poor caricature.

    At the heart of Reformed anthropology and soteriology is not deterministic robot-like control, but the reality of God’s surprising work of wooing and persuading by which He lovingly wins over the wayward human heart such that *we* freely, willingly and gladly return to the Father’s house. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” In this sense Calvinism, far from being cold and harsh is intensely personal and focused on the human heart.

    Since we don’t know and cannot assume that any given person is not indeed elect, we must go on the assumption that they are and that they will respond to dialogue and persuasion.

    Moreover this does not apply solely to the elect, but also by common grace to all those created by God – including those who will be lost. By common grace God does not completely harden the hearts of those who do not believe. This world is not hell and unbelievers are not demons.

    In other words Calvinists most emphatically believe in the possibility but not inevitablity of dynamism and change. (We also believe in the inherent worth fo all those created in the image of God, but that is a separate issue.)

    There is no theological reason for Calvinists to be intransigent or unable to engage in persuasive and respectful dialogue – quite the opposite. Certainly in the UK there are many able Reformed Christians such as David Robertson from Dundee who are doing great work engaging society on these issues, not to mention many balanced and non-extremist ministries to the gay community, such as the True Freedom Trust.

    Which Orthodox priests are involved in such ministries?

    • says

      The Calvinism which is being addressed here is not the particularly nuanced variety you describe here (which, to be honest, doesn’t quite square with its representation I’ve seen even from Calvinists), but rather the sort brought by the Separatists who founded the US and gave us the kind of shunning culture depicted in The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible. You may argue, of course, that they were distorting “pure” Calvinism (and perhaps they were), but they also have a claim to the Calvinist tradition, and it’s their iteration of it that is at issue.

      As for which Orthodox priests are involved in ministry to homosexuals, I can hardly think of one I know who isn’t. Almost all of us have homosexuals in our congregations. That we don’t make a programme out of it doesn’t mean the ministry isn’t going on. Orthodoxy doesn’t tend to function that way, anyway. (Interestingly, I would point to the programmatic nature of Evangelicalism as another indication of this absolutist approach to human persons—they are ministered to as categories and classes, not as persons in community.)

      That aside, I really do not know what you are talking about in your comments about taking Christians to court. Where has anyone suggested such a thing?

      • says

        Perhaps my point was too oblique. You haven’t actually taken Christians to court, but I am suggesting that by directing the ire of the LGBT community towards Calvinists that you are ignoring the Apostle’s teaching that as those who will judge angels we should not litigate with one another in a non-Christian court (in this case the court of public opinion).

        Reformed Christians have indeed been guilty of the weaknesses you mention, including shunning and programmatic ministry.

        Having said that, it seems strange that a fellow Christian would base his church history on such sources as The Scarlet Letter and the Crucible.

        It won’t do to again redirect the criticism at the Separatists, not least because as a Baptist, you are redirecting the criticism at me!

        What I describe is not nuanced or pure, but mainstream Calvinism, as expressed for example in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms and as taught and practised, for example, in traditionally Reformed Scotland and the Netherlands.

        Before attacking Calvinism I think it is right that you should acquaint yourself with it. You might even find we have more common ground than you think.

        (You see, we do believe in the possibility of dialogue and persuasion.)

        Pax,

        • says

          I wasn’t aware that I was “directing” any ire. I was, however, pointing out the cultural effects of theology here in America, most especially that there is theology in play—specifically a vision of mankind—even among those who might not consciously subscribe to it. The point is not to direct or redirect any “ire” (indeed, it seems to me that the whole point here is not to have ire at all), but rather to indicate that doctrine has consequences, even for the decidedly un-doctrinaire. My point in this post is not really to criticize specific pieces of doctrine, but to criticize the culture that has come out of that doctrine. I suppose that does, by way of implication, criticize the doctrine, but this is not really a post about Calvinism per se but rather about the distortion that our Calvinist founders’ culture visited upon our politics.

          As for whether I was suggesting that The Scarlet Letter or The Crucible were sources for church history, well, that is something of a stretch. I did give them as examples of a particular kind of culture, however. I didn’t say they were history.

          As for what Calvinism and Orthodox have in common or different (which was not, by the way, the point of this post), we of course have many things in common. The Orthodox refuse to believe in the anthropology of total depravity, however, along with the soteriology of double predestination. Those are pretty critical pieces of theology.

          • says

            Since your post was all about the possibility of dialogue and persuasion, I am going to persevere.

            While I can’t speak authoritatively about the cultural *effects* I *am* questioning whether these can legitimately be traced to the theological *cause* you suggest, namely Calvinism. I don’t think that the deterministic, if-you-are-not-one-of-us-we-have-nothing-to-say-to-you ‘vision of humankind’ is Calvinism. Which Calvinists actually espouse it?

            You write: “The Orthodox refuse to believe in the anthropology of total depravity, however, along with the soteriology of double predestination.”

            It seems to me that it is not quite as simple as an outright rejection. You do believe a version of both of these doctrines, namely (1) the fact that sin affects every aspect of our beings as fallen people and (2) that however you understand predestination and its basis [eg foreknowledge] it doesn’t apply to everyone and therefore there is some sort of ‘un-predestination’ in respect of those persons who in the end do not end up being saved/glorified/deified.

          • says

            Culture is not something one “espouses,” but Calvinism’s basic anthropological dualism—the elect and the reprobate, the twain who never shall meet—is what is being mapped out here. That anthropology most certainly is what is espoused in Calvinism.

            As for total depravity and double predestination, the key words in those phrases that make them Calvinist are total and double. Sure, you can take those words off and find commonalities with other Christians, even Orthodox ones, but then we’re not really talking about the same doctrines. Similarity is not identity.

      • Tim the Farmer says

        “..but I am suggesting that by directing the ire of the LGBT community towards Calvinists that you are ignoring the Apostle’s teaching that as those who will judge angels we should not litigate with one another in a non-Christian court (in this case the court of public opinion).”

        Russell,

        How did you come to the conclusion that someone was directing the ire of the LGBT community towards Calvinists?

        Basing church history on The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible?

        Dude, where are you coming up with this stuff?

  16. says

    ‘Total’ and ‘double’ do not mean ‘absolute’ and ‘symetrical’.

    I am trying to interest you in engaging with us, but perhaps your made is made up and it is a hopeless exercise…

    Andrew, do you not remember me? You stayed in my home. My wife ironed your robes for the liturgy at Edinburgh Orthodox Church. You are personally acqainted with Nick Needham.

    • says

      Well, to be honest, I have engaged with Calvinist theology many times over the years, and as a result my mind is indeed made up. (If it weren’t, I certainly wouldn’t have become part of the Orthodox Church, since I wouldn’t believe in the truth of Orthodoxy. Not fair to marry one girl if you’re flirting with another.) I am of course aware that there are many kinds of Calvinism (your British lot are in many ways different from our American lot), but the core distinctives of Calvinism are truly monstrous to me, no matter how softened or nuanced they may get. My conversations with people who very much are experts in Calvinism (which I of course am not) have only served to confirm me in that position.

      Looking at your Facebook photo, I do now indeed remember you and staying at your home in Edinburgh back in the summer of 2001. I did not recall that you were a Calvinist. I honestly don’t remember if I’ve interacted with you or Dr. Needham in all the years since. It’s been a long time, in any event. (And I’ve also gotten hold of a cassock that doesn’t need ironing!)

      • says

        Thank you, Andrew, for your words of thanks. We remember your visit well.

        Incidentally, how you did not know I was a reformed Christian evades me; I was studying at a presbyterian seminary at the time of your visit and was friends with Nick Needham, who I assume you also know is a reformed Christian (‘Calvinist’).

        Maybe I should indeed be fatalistic, succumb to the inevitable and give up trying to defend reformed Christianity in such a forum. However, believing as I do that God is able to win over the human heart, I will soldier on.

        It seems to me that the reformed positions on such things as total depravity and double predestination evoke strong emotional responses, which mask the fact that these same issues are real within an Orthodox framework.

        It seems to me that Orthodoxy, especially at the level of pastoral ministry, speaks in very strong terms about the all-pervasive influence of sin within the human heart and the need for God’s grace to overcome.

        Likewise, as I have already stated, even if one understands predestination in collective terms (all those in Christ) and/or on the basis of divine foreknowledge, there is still an ‘unpredestination’ in relation to those who are not saved. In that sense even Orthodoxy believes in double predestination: those outside Christ who do not believe are ‘unpredestined’, aren’t they? And in that sense the same issues of theodicy arise: Why does God only predestine unto salvation those in Christ? Why did he create those whom he foreknew would not believe?

        Let me yet again reiterate that Calvinism is not deterministic. Determinism implies impersonality, fate and robot-like programmed behaviour. All those in Adam freely chose to turn away from God. God, in his love, wins over some of these such that they freely chose to return to him in Christ. It is we who chose to be without God (“Hell is a monument to free will” C S Lewis). And, having been won over by God’s love, it is we (not God) who repent and believe.

        I would never base my understanding of Orthodoxy on hearsay, but on interaction with the Orthodox themselves. It is not enough to quote passages you find offensive; you need to get to the heart of what reformed Christianity is about. Why aren’t you basing your understanding of Calvinism on myself and Dr Needham, both admirers of Orthodoxy and with whom you are personally acquainted?

        • says

          Incidentally, how you did not know I was a reformed Christian evades me; I was studying at a presbyterian seminary at the time of your visit and was friends with Nick Needham, who I assume you also know is a reformed Christian (‘Calvinist’).

          Well, I didn’t even remember that you were a seminarian at the time, nor that you were friends with Dr. Needham. I mean no offense, but it’s been many years since I even thought about either of you. I’m honestly surprised that you have much remembrance of me.

          I would never base my understanding of Orthodoxy on hearsay, but on interaction with the Orthodox themselves. It is not enough to quote passages you find offensive; you need to get to the heart of what reformed Christianity is about. Why aren’t you basing your understanding of Calvinism on myself and Dr Needham, both admirers of Orthodoxy and with whom you are personally acquainted?

          Yes, but that’s just the problem, isn’t it? The Orthodox all have a common Holy Tradition to which we are trying to be faithful, but the Reformed tradition is divided up into numerous groups who each have their own take on what it means to be Reformed. Some may prefer Calvin, others Zwingli, etc., and of course there are myriad ways that those writers and others are interpreted. So while I may well find more things in common with “soft” Calvinists and others, there are others in the Reformed world who could claim that those folks are not true representatives of Reformed Christianity. The ecclesiologies of Reformed Christianity are such that one can never really quite be certain when one is dealing with its true “heart.”

          Anyway, soldier on if you feel you must. I spent the first 22 years of my life in various iterations of the Reformation and have no desire to go back. It would at least seem to me to be going from intimate communion and direct contact with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to a world of merely talking and feeling about God. There’s nothing that can entice me back to that.

  17. Darlene says

    “Let it stand, therefore, as an indubitable truth, which no engines can shake, that the mind of man is so entirely alienated from the righteousness of God, thst he cannot conceive, desire, or design anything but what is wicked, distorted, foul, impure, and iniquitous; that his heart is so thoroughly envenomed by sin, that it can breathe out nothing but corruption and rottenous; that if some men occasionally make a show of goodness, their mind is ever interwoven with hypocrisy and deceit, their soul inwardly bound with fetters of wickedness.”

    – John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1

    “Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children.”

    – John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Ch. 23

    That about says it all when it comes to Calvinistic anthropology and the nature of God. God, in this model, is not good, nor the Lover of Mankind. What is even the purpose of common grace given to the non-elect when that grace is insufficient to lead them to salvation? As a non-Calvinist once stated, “Any tenet that portrays God exacting impossible demands of His creatures and punishing them for not complying is a slander against heaven. It will be asked with astonishment, How is it possible that men can hold these doctrines and yet maintain God’s goodness and equity? What principles can be more contradictory?”

    • says

      Here are some more representative examples from the Institutes:

      God preordained, for His own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.

      We are all made of mud, and as this mud is not just on the hem of our gown, or on the sole of our boots, or in our shoes. We are full of it, we are nothing but mud and filth both inside and outside.

      We may rest assured that God would never have suffered any infants to be slain except those who were already damned and predestined for eternal death.

      • Darlene says

        Father,

        Where is this stated in Calvin’s Institutes? The more familiar one becomes with Calvinism, the more one sees God as angry and vengeful, and deploring His creation. While many Calvinists today would emphatically state that they are “one of the elect,” and that their standing with God is sealed by His imputed righteousness that has been given to them, such was not the case among the strict Puritans. They continually examined themselves to make sure they had not made a “false profession” of faith. The problem that arose was an obsession with one’s salvation, often succumbing to a state of hopeless scrupulosity. I think Jonathan Edward’s sermon, Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God bears witness to this condition. Edwards was preaching to members in his congregaton – so there was not the assumption that they all were of the elect.

        Regardless of the nuances within Calvinism, the foundation upon which it is built is harsh and extreme determinism, i.e. fatalism. Either you’re one of the elect or one of the damned and further, there is nothing you can do about it. It’s set in stone. Calvinism in a nutshell.

  18. ME says

    Fr. Andrew: Thanks for a wonderful post, with which I agreed entirely until I read your addendum. In his comment, which you quoted, Fr. Stephen attributed the following opinion to Western Christianity, beginning with Augustine:

    “So, for example, there can only be one correct interpretation of any given passage of Holy Scripture. All other interpretations are not just somehow faulty or incomplete, but are actually opposed to the correct interpretation and seek to subvert it. All of those other interpretations aren’t ‘nice tries’ or ‘alternate takes’ or ‘other applications in different contexts’, they’re sinful attempts to undermine the One Truth.”

    Fr. Stephen’s statement is flat wrong, as any freshman reader of St. Augustine’s Confessions could tell you. See, e.g., Confessions XII.xxx (41)-xxxi (42), where St. Augustine suggests that a diversity of interpretations are not just possible but intended by the divine Author. I do wish Easterners didn’t feel obliged to take such ignorant swipes at Catholics.

    • says

      It’s important to read closely. He did not say that Augustine taught that, but rather gave that approach to scripture as an example of the Platonist approach to theology. Fr. Stephen is quite well versed in Roman Catholic thought, and so he knows full well what you mention.

  19. Ben the Atheist says

    Fr. Andrew–

    Thanks for the response. Even if there is no room in your faith tradition for marriage equality, why do you have to make that the norm for the entire society? We have a secular government founded on the principles of the Enlightenment, not Christianity. I even doubt that you would WANT a theocracy even if you could get it. Eastern Orthodox Christians should know best of all what happens when the cross and the sword mix.

    I would never support the state forcing an Orthodox Church to carry out or recognize a same sex marriage, but why do you want to stop the state from recognizing one (assuming that the government will continue to recognize marriages, which it will)? How does it hurt you, personally, if the gay couple down the street gets a marriage license?

    This seems to me yet another example of religion holding back social progress in the name of control. All the LGBT community is asking for is equality under the law, and if it wasn’t for religion they would have it.

    • says

      I am not interested in theocracy (the rule of government by clergy). Indeed, it’s even forbidden by Orthodox Church canons.

      All the rest of these questions are answered in the post.

  20. Ben the Atheist says

    I also don’t understand how you could look a gay person in the eyes and tell them that they must be celibate, lonely and unable to express love for another person of the same gender or someday be eternally damned by the very God that made them feel that way. While this is more nuanced and better than the evangelical position, it still seems unnecessarily cruel and in a way makes your God their biggest enemy.

    • says

      How do you know I would “look a gay person in the eyes and tell them that they must be celibate, lonely and unable to express love for another person of the same gender or someday be eternally damned by the very God that made them feel that way”? If it’s up to me (and it is), I wouldn’t, but that’s because I don’t agree with hardly any of the assumptions in such a statement.

      There’s a whole host of assumptions in there that I wonder whether you really want addressed, not the least of which is that (being an atheist) you have absolutely no idea what a pastoral confessional relationship with an Orthodox Christian priest is like.

      I may also suggest finding yourself an Orthodox Christian with same-sex attraction who is struggling to be faithful to the Church’s teachings and to talk to them about what that means for them and how they do it.

      As for celibacy itself, there are plenty of other people who are also called to celibacy (whether chosen or not) who don’t have same-sex attraction. Unlike the post-Freudian culture, Orthodoxy does not buy into the assumption that having sex is at the core of human identity.

      Look, if you’re really interested in Orthodox soteriology (our theology about salvation, sin, etc.), then you have some reading to do. There really isn’t room here in the comments to spell it all out. I would be remiss in my vanity if I didn’t suggest reading my book, which addresses, for instance, your assumption that we think someone is “eternally damned” because they commit sin. Sin never kept anyone out of union with God. It’s only a refusal to repent that does that. We also don’t believe that God “makes” anyone feel any particular way, especially not in a fallen creation where every single thing is out of whack.

      No offense intended, but you’ve got some homework to do. You seem to believe that we teach things we do not. I can’t really do catechesis in the comments section of a weblog post! :)

  21. says

    Fr Andrew,
    Thank you for offering this perspective. I respect what you have to say, but I do have one question–and it is a legitimate question (i.e. I am not trying to make a point). How do you envision the state getting out of the marriage business altogether? I don’t see how this could possibly work, given all the legalities and protections I would want to maintain for my spouse and children with such an arrangement. If anything, I would prefer the church get out of the marriage business. As I understand it, it was sort of forced upon us in the first place, due to the situation with Leo VI and his four marriages.

    • says

      Well, it must be said that I am neither a lawyer nor a legislator (thanks be to God). But my understanding is that nearly any protection that the state provides because of marriage could be granted by means of contracts and power of attorney. As far as benefits from the state are concerned (i.e., not just protections), well, I am not really in favor of such things for anyone at all, since they require taking other people’s resources away from them in order to make them possible.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “I would prefer the church get out of the marriage business.” I genuinely hope that you don’t mean that you think we should stop performing the sacrament. If what you mean is that we should stop being agents of the state in licensing marriage, well, that is what I mean, too, at least partly.

      • says

        I’m sure there are plenty of unemployed or underemployed attorneys who would love for the state to quit recognizing marriages in order to gain business writing contracts and powers of attorney. While they might be happy, I’m not sure such an approach would be good for society. Sure, people like you and me and most people reading your blog would probably take advantage of such opportunities, but I cannot envision some of the people who now enjoy the protection (and certain benefits) automatically provided by the state would do such things. This can then lead to serious issues later on regarding children and medical issues, etc.

        Furthermore, I believe marriage is, in fact, beneficial for society as a whole. Therefore, I think it is appropriate for marriage to receive at least certain protections. Not sure we need any “extra benefits” per se, but I think protecting the institution is good.

        As for me, I have no problem, at least theoretically, with my resources being taken to be used for other purposes than what I might decide if left on my own. Obviously, I would want limits to that so as not to go to the extreme of complete communism, but I am also not going to side with the libertarian argument at which you seem to be hinting. I’m sure we could have an entire series of posts debating that issue!

        Finally, in terms of the church getting out of the marriage business: yes, I agree with what you said. I don’t like acting as a civil agent for the state. At the rate the country is headed, we are either going to have a complete separation of church and state regarding marriage or we are going to be forced into performing SSMs if we perform any marriages. Let’s hope it is the former.

        From what I understand, the church has always blessed Christian marriages. However, acting as a civil agent for the state in these matters was pushed on the church rather late in its history. I don’t like the way it was forced on us then and I also don’t like the way it looks to be headed now.

  22. Salah says

    Dear Fr.
    I salute your brave stand on this issue. However, I believe the entire issue of GLT is being used for political manipulation of our culture. A few years ago, it was an issue of equality, which I believe that most people support. Thosevwho are dealing with this issue are entitled to life without intimidation or harassment….being God’s children and being humans. However, now the very small (or large-does not matter), turned the issue from seeking equality to another one of seeking to change the entire society. Marriage is a sacred relationship for the purpose of propagating love and life. It is an act that initiated by God when He made Adam and Eve. This is as fundamental as you can get.
    The more these issue are becoming political, the more muddy and confusing it will become. And at the end, will be decided by a secular culture which does not have a complete understanding, of God, man, and the universe.
    Peace and love and may God give you more of Hisvwisdom

  23. Tony says

    I am actually somewhat of a Calvinist myself, and will be the first to say that many Calvinists are generally grumpy. The grumpiness however is less wanting to be grumpy because of Calvinism and more wanting to be Calvinists because they are grumpy (though there are always exceptions). The main problem with the “GOD HATES FAGS” Calvinists, in my opinion, is not Calvinism, but their use of it. They misunderstand one of the core beliefs of Christianity which is found in Mark 12:30-31. Not that Jesus’ command to love your neighbor means in any way that homosexuality is okay or that it should be legally defined as marriage, but the attitude in which many Calvinists approach “standing up for what is right” is not at all loving or even effective, for that matter. Calvin’s teachings on predestination and the reprobate never indicate that we know who the reprobate are. Calvin himself said that we shouldn’t think too much about it! The “GOD HATES FAGS” Calvinists act as if they know that gays and lesbians will never believe and repent, so they present Christianity in a way as to make them not want to. I have struggled before with SSA so I often sympathize with some of the problems homosexuals have, but I also know that Jesus’ Death and Resurrection is more than enough to remedy our sinfulness including SSA (I must note that this remedy is continual in terms of repentance and trusting in Christ and not a remedy to be taken one time and then never again). Through Jesus, we no longer are slaves to sin. This is what Christians (Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical, alike) should be telling homosexuals, not that they are damned if they sin, but that through Christ they will no longer be slaves to sin. Anyways, just some thoughts.

  24. dancingcrane says

    Incredible post, which I intend to share widely. I agree with some respondents, however, that oppositional dualism is not a necessity in the theology of Augustine or Aquinas.

  25. says

    Father, this blog was shown to my from an Orthodox friend of mine. As a Calvinist (read: confessional Presbyterian), I cannot but say “Amen” to the section quoted below.

    “When my gay friend asked me whether I was required to hate her, I told her no. She asked me why. I told her it’s because, even though I see homosexual activity (though not identity) as sinful, I believed my own sins were far worse than hers. It’s true. I really do. And I am (by choice) bound by my faith commitments to believe that, to see myself as the “chief of sinners.” I confess that every time I am about to engage in the most central act of my faith—receiving Holy Communion.

    I do not in any sense believe that I am better than someone else just because the set of temptations I have and those I succumb to are different from someone else’s. How can I hate someone else for his sins or his temptations? I have so many of my own.”

    You seemed to use the words “Calvinist” and “puritanical” as synonyms, or at least related. I humbly suggest that those terms are not necessarily synonymous. Sure, there have been hateful Calvinists since the reformation, and there were hateful Romanists before them. The church has always been marred with those who have felt superiority because of their “status” as a Christian. The Apostle said in 1 Corinthians that we are to boast in the Lord (1 Cor. 1.26-31). The one who does not view himself as the chief of sinners (seeing as how we are most painfully acquainted with our own sins) does not know the gospel. Amazing Grace, written by a Calvinist (John Newton) who wrote the immortalized words: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me…. I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now, I see.” Grace properly understood should humble one to the core, and I submit that Calvinism, properly understood, removes even the slightest hint of pride and hate for the world. It should move us to love and evangelize more fervently. I am not desiring to get into a theological debate here, I have plenty with my orthodox friend. I just would like to say I appreciate this blog post and am troubled by any Christian who practices hate.

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