[The reply is given below the inquirer's message.
Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible]
Dear Brother Allen,
Hi. My name is ?????. I am a 22 year old guy living in Philadelphia. I found your e-mail on the True Grace Ministries webpage. I have a few questions for you:
1. Your page says that membership is open to everyone that agrees with the basic beliefs. As someone who is questioning his sexuality, I have to ask: do you accept, tolerate and affirm homosexuals within your religious organization?
2. As someone who is very interested in the Unitarian Universalist church/institution, I'd like to know how closely related you are to them and do you share their liberal views? I am a liberal on many many issues and would like to know where you stand before committing to anything.
I must tell you that I was born and raised Jewish. I was never told or taught to believe in Jesus Christ. After about 8 years or so of violent atheism, I am trying to reclaim my spirituality. After going through a brief period of interest in Paganism, I made my way into the New Testament. I read a lot of it. Unlike the sexism, homophobia and rigid dogma of Judaism, I found the New Testament to be almost like a liberation document -- an emancipation proclamation, if you will. Jesus spread the message of love, compassion, tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness and non-judgementalism. I really connected to this message as well as to the very positive attributes associated to the God of the New Testament. I found the God of the Old Testament to be a malicious, vengeful, merciless murderer who imposed his will through the blind obedience of his flock of weary sheep (the Hebrews). I also read The Hidden Jesus by Donald Spoto and really liked it. I've been writing to many different liberal Christian denominational organizations because I am truly sincere about reclaiming my spirituality. I already know that my soul was NOT fulfilled trying to follow Mosaic Law and chanting mournful tunes in a foreign language to a brutal deity every Saturday -- so Judaism's out!
Please, at your convenience of course, let me know the answers to the above questions and any suggestions you may have for me vis-a-vis my spiritual path. I know it's very unusual for a 22 year old guy to want to reclaim his spirituality. Nowadays, the very opposite is occurring as most young people pursue materialistic means and ends. But, I want to believe. I'm just not sure where I fit in.
Thanks for reading this long letter.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for your message expressing your concerns and the frankness of its contents. I will endeavor to address each of them in my comments below.
First, the Bible is a book of faith.It expresses the faith of people and communities in the light they had of the Almighty God and His activities among them and the world at large. It's revelation is progressive. In its pages holy men of God spoke as they were MOVED by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). In this, God did not, as such, dictate what they were to say, or write, word for word, but they expressed their understanding of Gods revelation, in their own language and circumstances of their immediate environment. So passages that may seem harsh, especially in the Old Testament, of God and His dealings with mankind are expressed from the viewpoint of these people that wrote them and not necessarily in the light they were actually performed by God.
Consequently, to us living in the further light and revelation of the New Testament, it may seem as if the God of the Old Testament is a different God from that written about in the New Testament. This is not true. There is only one Almighty God. The God of the the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testement. It is just that the truth of His love for all mankind is more fully revealed in the New as His revelation progresses and is most fully shown and revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in and through Jesus, that we see the truth of the Almighty God revealed in completeness to mankind; i.e. the truth of His love and concern. Still, even today, in our limited understanding and comprehension, we are progressing in this understanding. "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will be done away with. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known. But now faith, hope, and love remain -- these three. The greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:9-13).
Now, as to our relation to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, basically there is none other than the fact that there are some Christians associated with the UU. These are relatively small in number as the UU overall is pluralistic. It does not adhere to Christianity as its base belief but encompasses other beliefs, or none in some cases. It is, in its overriding composition, mostly humanistic in its organization rather than religious.
True Grace Ministries is definitely Christian. While recognizing that there are some truths expressed in other religions, we believe that the embodiment of all truth lies within true Christianity; not necessarily in the separate organizations, churches and denominations existing in the world today, but in its truth as revealed in the Bible and expressed in the Holy Spirit of God's love.
Concerning your question as to homosexuals and homosexuality and basing our beliefs on the Bible as our complete rule of faith and practice, we read in the book of Romans the following:
"God also gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.I think the comments on this passage, written by David Stern, well express our beliefs concerning this:
For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions. For their women changed the natural function into that which is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural function of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another, men doing what is inappropriate with men, and receiving in themselves the due penalty of their error. Even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting" (Romans 1:24-28).
"When people stray from God, he eventually gives them over to the consequences of their horrific error - in physical (v. 24), emotional (v. 26) and mental (v. 28) dimensions, that is, in every aspect of their lives. Sexual sin (v. 24) and, in particular, homosexuality (vv. 26-27) are singled out as punishments from God, punishments which themselves are sins.I would also like to recommend for you to read the book "Dear Mr. Brown, Letters to a Person Perplexed about Religion", by Harry Emerson Fosdick, a liberal Christian. This book is out of print but you may find a copy of it in your local library or at a used book store. This is not a very long book, but I think it will help to answer many of your concerns and questions. The chapter titles are:
Homosexuality was rife throughout the first-century Roman Empire, as it is today. This is why the Gay Liberation movement can gain a wide hearing as it seeks equality, acceptance and approval of homosexuals and their behavior. It is why the Metropolitan Community Church, with tens of thousands of members in the United States, many of them openly active homosexuals, can refuse to condemn homosexual behavior as sin, yet seek acceptance as a Christian denomination. It is why outsiders condemn the Christian community when it rejects the MCC's claim and refuses to recognize homo. sexuality as an 'alternative lifestyle.'
The basic attitude of people who believe the Bible should be to love sinners while hating their sins. But believers must accept the Bible's judgments on what is and what is not sin. Moreover, denouncing the sin is an aspect of loving the sinner; this is what enables him to repent, be forgiven, and change. All of this can be done compassionately and effectively; the real tragedy is that few Christian churches try to minister to homosexuals.
Homosexuals who have put their trust in Yeshua [Jesus] the Messiah, acknowledged their homosexual behavior and fantasies (see Mt 5:28N) as sin, and become part of a community of believers in the Messiah who love, care for, and pray for them, have found that the Holy Spirit gives them strength to flee their temptations, turn from their sin and live godly lives, either in heterosexual marriage or in celibacy. Like former substanceabusers, many recognize that they are weak in the area of their former sin but rely on God day by day to keep them free of it (compare 2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Those who refuse God's offer of help receive in their own persons the penalty appropriate to their perversion - vice becomes self-perpetuating, self-avenging, and productive of its own punishment." (Jewish New Testament Commentary, pp. 332-333)
1. How fares goodness without God?
2. Is Christian faith credulity?
3. Why not be an agnostic?
4. How do you picture God?
5. What about supernaturalism?
6. What about modern science and the Bible?
7. How to explain the world's evil?
8. But how can we be sure?
9. How does one start to be a Christian?
10. Was Jesus an impractical idealist?
11. What about other Religions?
12. What about the Trinity?
13. What about the atonement?
14. What to do about the curse of conformity?
15. Why join a church?
16. How to surmount discouragement about the world?
17. How to distinguish good from bad religion?
18. How to handle tragedy?
I hope I have answered some of your questions, but if you have additional questions, please let me know.