Saturday, April 6, 2013

Rossing's Hermeneutics of Diversity, Gay Activism & Revelation

Yes, they are all somewhat connected - at least in my little world.

Last year I stumbled across Lutheran Minister Barbara Rossing's "The Rapture Exposed" and thought it would be an interesting read. Rossing is considered to be a leading scholar and one of the go-to persons when it comes to debunking the "Left Behind" genre. Her 2004 book is still being praised by those who are academically offended by the likes of Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins and Hal Lindsey, yet know zilch about dispensationalism or any other people connected with it.

In my opinion, the only thing Barbara Rossing exposed was her lack of biblical integrity, inattention to detail, and a proclivity to mine quote sensational tidbits by the wrong people as if they represented the normative dispensational view. You'll note later that her issue wasn't really rapture timing, although she brought Bob Gundry into the mix (for some credibility?). Essentially, she wanted to make the LB franchise look stupid and inept because its fundamentalist positions conflicted with the type of ideology she holds sacred. Rossing caricatured dispies as irresponsibly anti-Green, anti-Earth and dangerously pro-Zionist, even to the point that they conspired to usher in Armageddon:

"Eschatology is something I am working on in relation to environmental issues and the LWF climate change program, how we can move away from the escapist, earth-denying eschatology of a text such as 2 Peter 3 to embrace a more new creation-oriented eschatology." ~ Rossing

She also had some unique insights on Revelation and wrote a book on the subject - just to set things straight. I haven't read it but, judging from "Exposed", I can only guess how Lutheran Ministers Joseph A. Seiss and George N. H. Peters might have reacted to her view of Revelation.

Glad I got that off my chest.

Her name recently popped up again as I was reading some news items regarding the current push for same-sex marriage, and how various Christians are handling it. I did some digging around and found a number of self-described Christian websites that have been set up to "biblically" defend the practice of homosexuality.

I also discovered that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), of which Rossing is a member, has been wrestling with the "gay" issue for some years. In a 2005 Lutheran Advent publication, I found an article called In casting Revelation as a “survivor” show, Tim and Jerry miss the boat. Author Cathy Ward-Crixell notes:

When my friends found out that I was reading Left Behind, their reactions were telling. None of them thought I was reading it for fun or because I agreed with authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Instead, they made slightly guilty, slightly disgusted faces. “I know I should read it, but I just can’t,” one of them said. “I guess I’ll have to read it sometime,” another said. “I know people in my congregation do.” I found Left Behind to be disturbing, infuriating, and ridiculous. But I am grateful that since I read it I have a better idea of what fundamentalists are doing to the book of Revelation. The most subversive book in the Bible, one filled with hope for diverse groups in an oppressive culture, has been transformed by Left Behind into violent, sexist, homophobic propaganda. Lutherans can’t afford to ignore Left Behind or to think of Revelation as too weird for mainstream Christians. We must claim the hope Revelation offers and not let LaHaye and Jenkins’ assertions about what is “biblical” speak for us.

In the very next paragraph she writes:

Homosexuality is “out”: Amy Johnson Frykholm interviewed Left Behind readers from various church and social backgrounds. Her conclusions are published in Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America. She describes “a position that is common among readers and common to the books—that homosexuality is a sign of the depravity that leads to the end of the world”

The publication is centered on "diversity" and a thinly-veiled defense of homosexuality. In fact "diversity" seems to be the sacred paradigm embraced by the ELCA. Notably, one gentleman even suggests that it's time to: "...close our Bibles for a few months. We won’t find the answer we’re looking for there—at least not in the places we’ve been looking." 

In one internal ELCA paper (apparently "Not for publication or citation") entitled Diversity in the Bible as a Model for Lutheran Hermeneutics, Rossing explores the "different types of biblical diversity".

Given the statements above it's not difficult to conclude where Rossing's paper is really heading. On the one hand, she affirms the "joy" that Lutherans derive from studying Scripture "together with others", yet she deftly segues into the inevitable warning that the Bible "can also become the locus of conflict."

You know, the stuff that fundamentalists obsess and attack others about: "war and peace, creationism versus evolution, slavery, economic issues such as usury or wealth and poverty, interfaith issues of Jews and Muslims, social issues such as roles of women, divorce, or homosexuality."

She notes that (pardon my citations): "Christian history shows that it is possible to use the Bible to foster intolerance and justify absolutist claims for one’s own biblical position over against the reading of others." 

Of course, what I think she really means is that her anti-LB-fundamentalist books are okay, even though they don't tolerate that particular view...because...well...because she's right.

Rossing regards the Bible as theologically diverse. Some clear examples for people like me would have been appreciated. I didn't go to seminary and hadn't realized that harmonizing biblical layers was a no-no:

"Some of the most fascinating diversity is not simply between different biblical documents, but also between different voices represented within a single document. This is especially the case in the Old Testament—the way in Genesis, for example, we can identify and retrieve different theologies of the Yahwist as contrasted to the Priestly writer, as seen in their different creation accounts. We need both creation accounts, with their different theologies and contexts. The richness is lost if we simply harmonize the layers."

This is the sort of fodder the ELCA feeds its congregation:

"The Bible is God’s word. But it is God’s word spoken differently through different communities and authors in different contexts. It is not a single monolithic book dropped from heaven. It is a library of voices. Various communities in the biblical conversation understood God’s word in different, even competing ways. The early church in its wisdom included many voices in the canon, canonizing not just one view but a range of views."

It's obvious to me that what drives ELCA hermeneutics is its obsessive need to embrace diversity at the expense of faithful theology. They're trying to cleverly find ways to keep the Bible relevant to modern needs rather than letting God's Word speak for itself. In other words, the ELCA has embraced a culturally driven hermeneutic. It uses that paradigm to achieve its activist goals. They interpret God's Word based on cultural needs. They are looking for escape clauses for justifying same-sex marriage, rather than sincerely seeking God's will.

Alan Kurschner of Eschatos Ministries recently touched upon the gay activism issue HERE and HERE. He warns that the church will be affected, and those who remain faithful to God's Word may be forced to go underground. He has hit the nail on the head!

Not that long ago, two Australian pastors were jailed*, ordered to pay hefty court costs, and ordered to take out newspaper ads for a public apology; all because they'd preached a sermon against Islamic jihad. Ironically, one of the pastors was originally from Pakistan and had suffered under Islamic persecution. The sermon was delivered at their church in a closed setting. Members of the Islamic Council of Victoria infiltrated the church and recorded the sermons.

* Correction: They were threatened with jail.

Think about how gay activists may walk into any church in the U.S. and monitor what is being taught regarding practicing homosexuality in respect to God's Word. In the current climate, that will have very real consequences for faithful Christians and pastors.

In contrast, the ELCA won't be bothered by such concerns. As Dan Skogen notes in Exposing the ELCA, they've already embraced same-sex marriage.

Some recommended resources:

Fred Butler of Hip and Thigh has spent some time on Answering the Claims of Gay “Christian” Apologetics.

Dr James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries responds to Matthew Vines' Gay Apologetics speech in "Gay Christianity" Refuted!

Frank Turk: Not That There's Anything Wrong With That (a continuing conversation)

Kevin Zuber: Exposing Barbara R. Rossing’s The Rapture Exposed

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