Author Topic: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?  (Read 15940 times)

Dan Fienen

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Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« on: November 20, 2019, 03:57:44 PM »
A side issue developed on the "Impeachment Hearings" thread that is not really germane to that topic but does raise some potentially interesting points.
Rev. Austin, you write:

"We have been moving as a society towards acceptance of same-sex marriage for some time; and it would seem - I don't know how you could deny it - that the acceptance is rather widespread with a married gay man (actively and vocally Christian) running for president and leading the polls in - wait for it! - Iowa."

You err when you assert that a man who is "married" to a man is actively and vocally Christian.  That is not possible.  A man who is "married" to a man is not a Christian.  He is not a Christian and he doesn't speak for Christians.  God's word is crystal clear on this.  Read Romans 1.

This post assumes that Pastor Preus has never sat down with Pete Buttigieg  and assessed the nature of his faith, but rather reaches his judgement on the basis of the fact that Peter is living in a state of unrepentant mortal sin. I suspect that many Lutheran pastors don't function with the idea that unrepentant mortal sins separate us from justifying grace because by committing them "faith and the spirit have departed from them"( Smalcald Articles Secton III:43 see also Apology IV and Thesis X Proper Distinction Between Law And Gospel.) but it is part of our tradition. I wonder, however, if Pastor Preus applies this theology equally unquestioningly to other forms of unrepentant adultery.  I am thinking of, of course, the commonest form adultery, divorce and remarriage without the reason for the divorce being adultery. I take great interest in obits for prominent conservative Lutheran pastors which describe his widow as "the love of his life" while omitting the minor detail of the "love of his life" is his second wife. I notice that we treat homosexual sins much more harshly than heterosexual sins.

None of these observations is to suggest that I support the ELCA's celebration of all things sexual (the newest twists being ethically sourced porn and throuples). Indeed people with good memories might recall a number of articles I published in the Forum at the beginning of the process of the ELCA rejection of traditional sexual ethics.They were considered very homophobic by the more enlightened. I still stand by everything I wrote. I comment rather that given the terrible nature of our commitment to marriage and the ease with which  divorce and remarriage is accepted, running immediately to absolute judgement on the nature of a gay man's soul might be seen as a tad hypocritical.

Homosexuality is a descent further into depravity than divorce and remarriage.  The acceptance of divorce and remarriage likely paved the way for same sex marriage.  When marriage is no longer upheld according to its institution by God, it will be twisted into increasing perverse forms.  Adultery is bad.  Pastors who divorce for reasons other than adultery and remarry should not be permitted to continue to serve as pastors.  There is a difference between adultery and homosexuality.  The one is the misuse of what is inherently good.  The other is the use of what is inherently bad.  It is unnatural.  It is perverted.  The very act is a denial of God the Father, almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  For representatives of the church to speak of manifestly impenitent homosexuals as Christians is to fall under the woes of Isaiah the prophet,

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

To identify Mayor Pete as a Christian, as Rev. Austin has done, is to define Christianity by the standards of an anti-Christian culture.  It is a skandalos.

The issue of homosexual marriage effects Lutheranism and the teaching of youth confirmation classes.
How does a married homosexual pastor in the ELCA teach the 6th commandment?   Youth need to be
taught that homosexual marriage undermines God's purpose for marriage between one man and one woman.

The ELCA decision to allow married homosexual pastors to have parishes was not God-pleasing.  The Exodus
of 1.9 million members from the ELCA demonstrates the foolishness of that decision.  Hopefully, the ELCA
with either drop the name Lutheran or repent of the idea that married homosexual clergy is God-pleasing.

One need not be Mayor Pete's pastor, nor must one engage in judging something beyond his vocation, to say that a man who is "married" to a man is not a Christian.
Sincere question--given that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, is it within the vocation of any human being (other than the Lord Jesus Himself) to judge definitively whether another specific person is or is not a Christian?  I generally prefer to leave such a determination entirely in God's infinitely capable hands, since He alone knows the heart.  Presumably we can all agree that being "married" to a man is not, by itself, the unpardonable sin.

Take this repetitive discussion on homosexuality to another thread, please.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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D. Engebretson

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2019, 04:12:15 PM »
The title of this new thread may not get at the core issue raised on the other one.  I don't think the issue was whether one was right or wrong about a given doctrine of the church, as such, but about what specifically is a sin and whether one is repentant of that sin if they are guilty of it. 

We obviously have two very different beliefs on this one.  On the one side we have those who see homosexual behavior as perfectly acceptable to God and compatible with His will.  On the other side we have those who see homosexual behavior as distinctly sinful and a direct violation of the 6th commandment.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a member of an Episcopal church which approves of same-sex marriages.  I'm pretty sure he doesn't see his behavior as sinful; in fact, he knows his church is supportive of it. He has been taught that the Bible also supports it.

We can debate this, but I already know where we are going.  Personally I believe that it is sinful and requires repentance.  But I and the church body to which I belong have a much different view of Holy Scripture than the liberal mainline denominations.  The discussion will be a non-starter from the beginning since we will immediately disagree on the premise itself.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2019, 04:13:53 PM by D. Engebretson »
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

David Garner

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2019, 04:18:33 PM »
I mean, I'm hesitant to say someone is "not a Christian" based solely on holding a wrong belief.  I'd think it takes more than that.  One who is persistent in arguing against the core beliefs of the Church is not a Christian, granted.  But then we get into reductionism if we aren't extremely careful. 

Worse, because of said reductionism, the conversation tends to devolve to the point that "not a Christian" = "not saved," and one can be a Christian and not be saved, so I think it's more of an apples and oranges comparison.  So my general take on that devolved discussion is "God will judge." 
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Dan Fienen

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2019, 04:19:42 PM »
We hardly need another thread to argue about homosexuality, that ground has been very well churned up. But I'd like a discussion on a specific point. It was assert that someone who has entered into a same sex marriage cannot be a Christian, because it is asserted that such a one would be living in unrepentant sin.

There are several crucial points here. One that has been discussed ad nauseum is whether or not living in any active homosexual sexual relationship is sinful. Could we for the moment just stipulate that some here agree and some disagree and we are not likely to reach consensus short of the Parousia. There is another point that could be and I think should be discussed.

Likely most of those who care about being Christian and who live in a same sex marriage believe that their same sex marriage is not inherently sinful. For those who believe that such a marriage is inherently sinful they believe that such people are wrong about that aspect of their faith. They are in error.

My question is this, does being in such error make their being Christian impossible?

Now I agree that if someone believes that engaging in same sex sexual activity is wrong but goes on ahead anyway because they have decided not to care what God says, that makes their faith questionable. But if they have been sincerely convinced that the old interpretation was wrong and while promiscuous homosexual activity, like promiscuous heterosexual activity, is wrong, a committed same sex relationship is permissible, could they still have saving faith even though they are incorrect about what God really teaches about this topic?

Many people are wrong about aspects of the Christian faith. From a Lutheran standpoint, people who believe in double predestination, millennialism, believer's baptism, Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, and many, many other things are wrong in their beliefs. Does that mean that they are not Christian? Or could they still be Christian, just in error on that point? I suspect that at various times in my life, especially when young before I studied theology in depth, I had a number of mistaken ideas about God. Likely if I were to quiz my members intensely I would find a number of errors. Can they not be still Christians?

Is being wrong about homosexuality inherently a worse error, a damnable error, than other errors that people might hold?

Can someone be wrong about a Christian teaching and still be a Christian?
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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Dan Fienen

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2019, 04:20:55 PM »
I understand the posts that were posted after my initial post, I hope my followup clarified what I was after. I broke my initial post into two sections because of length.
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Mark Brown

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2019, 04:25:16 PM »
Yeah, the title doesn't really fit.  Because one can be wrong about some teachings and still be within the faith.  Take the Power and Primacy of the Pope for instance.

This really is the question "Can one publicly and flagrantly deny the moral law and still be within the faith?"

And that is of course the dividing line between the old line protestant bodies and the conservative/evangelical bodies.  To the later, who take both the commandments and 1 John and elsewhere to mean what they say, the answer is no.  Because the one who says they are without sin, the truth does not abide in them.  To the former, please read this 100 page treatise that explains why the sixth commandment no longer means what it has meant for 4000 years.

peterm

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2019, 04:42:29 PM »
We hardly need another thread to argue about homosexuality, that ground has been very well churned up. But I'd like a discussion on a specific point. It was assert that someone who has entered into a same sex marriage cannot be a Christian, because it is asserted that such a one would be living in unrepentant sin.

This is a partial quote from a longer post upstream.  I clipped it this way because I couldn't figure out how to do it with the quote feature.  When we begin to enumerate sins and point to unrepentance I wonder if we aren't falling into the same trap as those who sought to test Jesus.  I know what Scripture says in Romans 1.  I also know that when Jesus talks about sin in the Scriptures he always moves the bar just enough that we all fall short.  I have my own unrepentant sins that I struggle with, that may not be as obvious...does that make me less Christian or not Christian?
Rev. Peter Morlock- ELCA pastor serving two congregations in WIS

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2019, 04:53:43 PM »
The title of this new thread may not get at the core issue raised on the other one.  I don't think the issue was whether one was right or wrong about a given doctrine of the church, as such, but about what specifically is a sin and whether one is repentant of that sin if they are guilty of it.



You raise a few different issues. One: Can we ever list what is specifically a sin, and, even more importantly, what is not a sin? As sinful human beings, whatever we do will be tainted by our sinful nature.


Two, does repentance require one to stop doing what they considered to be sin? Sometimes we can stop doing things. We can stop stealing. We can stop swearing. We can stop calling people unkind names. Other times we know that we cannot stop our sins. We will covet things that our neighbors' have. While we won't utter swear words or unkind names, they still pop into our heads - as does lust and pride.


I remember a seminary professor asking, "In ten years from now will I be less of a sinner than I am now?" The answer was and is, "No." Repentance does not stop us from sinning.


Quote
We obviously have two very different beliefs on this one.  On the one side we have those who see homosexual behavior as perfectly acceptable to God and compatible with His will.  On the other side we have those who see homosexual behavior as distinctly sinful and a direct violation of the 6th commandment.


You are overstating things a bit. Homosexual behaviors are as acceptable to God as heterosexual behaviors. This means that there are some sexual behaviors, such as     μοιχεύω and πορνεύω, that are not acceptable to God. There are some sexual behaviors, such as rape, while not mentioned in scriptures, are unlawful.


What, for some of us, makes a sexual relationship acceptable to God and us or not, is the quality of the relationship between the couple. μοιχεύω and πορνεύω occur between couples who are not married to each other. Rape happens when one exerts power over an unwilling partner.


Someone pointed out years ago when we were discussing this, that opponents to homosexual relationships stress the behavior(s). Supporters stress the relationship.


Quote
We can debate this, but I already know where we are going.  Personally I believe that it is sinful and requires repentance.  But I and the church body to which I belong have a much different view of Holy Scripture than the liberal mainline denominations.  The discussion will be a non-starter from the beginning since we will immediately disagree on the premise itself.


My question. which I've asked elsewhere is, What does that repentance look like? From what I've heard, repentance for a homosexual in a same-sex marriage looks different than repentance for a heterosexual who is in a second or third or fourth marriages after divorces. Specifically, homosexual repentance seems to mean: they will never engage in sexual behaviors with a partner of the same sex. Heterosexual repentance seems to mean: regretting that the earlier marriages didn't last; but it's OK to become "one flesh" with the new spouses.


Let's take another biblical passage that seems quite clear - that also talks about an abomination to the LORD, Deuteronomy 24:1-4:

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

I chose this passage, first of all, because it uses, תּוֹעֵבָה, the same word in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 in regards to a man lying with a male as with a woman. It is usually translated, "abomination."

Secondly, a clergy friend of mine did exactly this. He divorced his first wife with whom he had two children. Married another woman. Divorced her. Then remarried the first wife. Should he have been barred from serving any congregations because what he had done was "an abomination before the LORD"? He wasn't. He continued to serve congregations, but he is ELCA. Does the LCMS have rules against this abomination?

Thirdly, a member of my church asked my counsel on this. Her first husband and her had a child. He was abusive. They got divorced. They both remarried. The second husband was abusive. They divorced. She still loved her first husband and was thinking about remarrying him. (He was no longer married.) He had admitted and confessed his mistakes when they had been married before. Their daughter was all for it. What should our counsel be? Is it an abomination if she remarries her first husband; or that he remarries his first wife?

Have any others faced this particular situation? How do you respond?
« Last Edit: November 20, 2019, 05:04:17 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Dan Fienen

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2019, 04:57:33 PM »
We hardly need another thread to argue about homosexuality, that ground has been very well churned up. But I'd like a discussion on a specific point. It was assert that someone who has entered into a same sex marriage cannot be a Christian, because it is asserted that such a one would be living in unrepentant sin.

This is a partial quote from a longer post upstream.  I clipped it this way because I couldn't figure out how to do it with the quote feature.  When we begin to enumerate sins and point to unrepentance I wonder if we aren't falling into the same trap as those who sought to test Jesus.  I know what Scripture says in Romans 1.  I also know that when Jesus talks about sin in the Scriptures he always moves the bar just enough that we all fall short.  I have my own unrepentant sins that I struggle with, that may not be as obvious...does that make me less Christian or not Christian?
This is the question that I want explored. We all have opinions about whether or not honosexual activity is sinful and are unlikely to reach consensus. My question is about the assumption that one who lives I  a same sex  marriage cannot be Christian.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2019, 05:01:07 PM »
We hardly need another thread to argue about homosexuality, that ground has been very well churned up. But I'd like a discussion on a specific point. It was assert that someone who has entered into a same sex marriage cannot be a Christian, because it is asserted that such a one would be living in unrepentant sin.


What is it about a same sex marriage that makes it an unrepentant sin? Are there particular behaviors that they might engage in that are inherently sinful? (I note that every sexual behavior that homosexuals might engage in are also done by heterosexuals.) What makes a sexual behavior sinful?


I'm also trying to discover where the phrase "unrepentant sin" comes from. I don't find it in our confessions.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2019, 05:10:57 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

aletheist

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2019, 05:10:07 PM »
Worse, because of said reductionism, the conversation tends to devolve to the point that "not a Christian" = "not saved," and one can be a Christian and not be saved, so I think it's more of an apples and oranges comparison.
How can someone truly be a Christian and not be saved?  Obviously a man can be "married" to a man and still be a Christian in the cultural or sociological sense, but that is not what I took the original comment to be disputing.
So my general take on that devolved discussion is "God will judge."
That has been my approach, as well.

This really is the question "Can one publicly and flagrantly deny the moral law and still be within the faith?"
That is one way of framing it.  Another is, "Can one have incorrect beliefs about the moral law and live accordingly, yet still be within the faith?"
And that is of course the dividing line between the old line protestant bodies and the conservative/evangelical bodies.
It is not that simple.  I am firmly in the latter camp, but sincerely questioning the dogmatic assertion that no man who is "married" to a man can be a Christian; i.e., have saving faith.
Jon Alan Schmidt, LCMS Layman

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with great diligence in the Church, the Word of God is rightly divided according to the admonition of St. Paul." (FC Ep V.2)

D. Engebretson

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2019, 05:12:37 PM »
You raise a few different issues. One: Can we ever list what is specifically a sin, and, even more importantly, what is not a sin? As sinful human beings, whatever we do will be tainted by our sinful nature.

Two, does repentance require one to stop doing what they considered to be sin? Sometimes we can stop doing things. We can stop stealing. We can stop swearing. We can stop calling people unkind names. Other times we know that we cannot stop our sins. We will covet things that our neighbors' have. While we won't utter swear words or unkind names, they still pop into our heads - as does lust and pride.

I remember a seminary professor asking, "In ten years from now will I be less of a sinner than I am now?" The answer was and is, "No." Repentance does not stop us from sinning.

You had a lot of material in that last post and it seemed easier, for the moment, to respond just to the first part.

I guess you and I have different ideas about what is clearly knowable.  I find your approach, here and before, governed by a fair amount of relativism.  Since we are heading into Advent shortly I think the illustration of John the Baptist would be a good one to which we might refer.  When the people came to the Jordan to be baptized, they came confessing their sins.  In Luke we read that the crowds asked John: "What then shall we do?"  As you know John was very specific with his answer.  He did not seem to have any doubts about what was sin and what was not, especially as he confronted the religious leaders who also came to the Jordan.  We could go round and round debating what is a sin and what is not, but I suspect you and I will end up with different lists in the end, and in some cases yours will be heavily qualified. 

As to what follows repentance I think again John's words are appropriate.  He told them to "bear fruit in keeping with repentance."  Obviously, by the power of the Spirit, we are able to fight against sinful urges and behaviors. Paul said that in the midst of temptation God would provide a way out.  Simply saying it doesn't matter and we're just going to sin again anyway is defeatist.  Yes, we are always repenting.  Yes, we are always sinning.  But does this mean we remain complete slaves to those sins during the duration of our lives?  No.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2019, 05:16:37 PM »
And that is of course the dividing line between the old line protestant bodies and the conservative/evangelical bodies.
It is not that simple.  I am firmly in the latter camp, but sincerely questioning the dogmatic assertion that no man who is "married" to a man can be a Christian; i.e., have saving faith.


I wonder if the gospels ever portray the disciples as people with "saving faith." Mark ends with no one following Jesus. The men ran away when he is arrested. The women flee when the angel at the empty tomb talks to them.


Matthew presents the disciples in only a slightly better light. Five times they are described as men "of little faith."


Jesus told them (and us) that our faith were as large as a mustard seed we'd be doing great miracles. I suggest that our faith is not as large as a mustard seed.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2019, 05:17:54 PM »
You raise a few different issues. One: Can we ever list what is specifically a sin, and, even more importantly, what is not a sin? As sinful human beings, whatever we do will be tainted by our sinful nature.

Two, does repentance require one to stop doing what they considered to be sin? Sometimes we can stop doing things. We can stop stealing. We can stop swearing. We can stop calling people unkind names. Other times we know that we cannot stop our sins. We will covet things that our neighbors' have. While we won't utter swear words or unkind names, they still pop into our heads - as does lust and pride.

I remember a seminary professor asking, "In ten years from now will I be less of a sinner than I am now?" The answer was and is, "No." Repentance does not stop us from sinning.

You had a lot of material in that last post and it seemed easier, for the moment, to respond just to the first part.

I guess you and I have different ideas about what is clearly knowable.  I find your approach, here and before, governed by a fair amount of relativism.  Since we are heading into Advent shortly I think the illustration of John the Baptist would be a good one to which we might refer.  When the people came to the Jordan to be baptized, they came confessing their sins.  In Luke we read that the crowds asked John: "What then shall we do?"  As you know John was very specific with his answer.  He did not seem to have any doubts about what was sin and what was not, especially as he confronted the religious leaders who also came to the Jordan.  We could go round and round debating what is a sin and what is not, but I suspect you and I will end up with different lists in the end, and in some cases yours will be heavily qualified. 

As to what follows repentance I think again John's words are appropriate.  He told them to "bear fruit in keeping with repentance."  Obviously, by the power of the Spirit, we are able to fight against sinful urges and behaviors. Paul said that in the midst of temptation God would provide a way out.  Simply saying it doesn't matter and we're just going to sin again anyway is defeatist.  Yes, we are always repenting.  Yes, we are always sinning.  But does this mean we remain complete slaves to those sins during the duration of our lives?  No.


I think that Paul in Romans 7 has a different answer.


I also note that John's answers about what they should do has nothing to do with sexual morality; but with economics - don't be greedy.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2019, 05:23:21 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

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Re: Can Someone Wrong about a Teaching Still Be Christian?
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2019, 05:23:40 PM »
We hardly need another thread to argue about homosexuality, that ground has been very well churned up. But I'd like a discussion on a specific point. It was assert that someone who has entered into a same sex marriage cannot be a Christian, because it is asserted that such a one would be living in unrepentant sin.

This is a partial quote from a longer post upstream.  I clipped it this way because I couldn't figure out how to do it with the quote feature.  When we begin to enumerate sins and point to unrepentance I wonder if we aren't falling into the same trap as those who sought to test Jesus.  I know what Scripture says in Romans 1.  I also know that when Jesus talks about sin in the Scriptures he always moves the bar just enough that we all fall short.  I have my own unrepentant sins that I struggle with, that may not be as obvious...does that make me less Christian or not Christian?
In what sense do you struggle with your own unrepentant sins? That idea makes no sense to me. You struggle to decide whether or not to repent of your sins? Struggle to decide whether something you’re doing is sinful? Struggle to stop doing something you know is sinful?