Revisionism

We should be always reforming, allowing the Spirit to give us new vision and insight to re-vision what the Spirit says to us through Scripture.

Revisionism has been defined as the advocacy of revision of some political theory, religious doctrine, or historical or critical interpretation.

I recently attended a public talk on what the New Testament says about same-sex activity. Two points from Acts of Synod 1973 resonated with me: first, sexual orientation is unlikely to change, and second, the Christian Reformed Church has done (and continues to do) a lousy job of engaging with and meeting the needs of LGBT congregants. I’m troubled by the fruits of our current approach to these issues (depression, alienation, loneliness, suicide, rejection of or by the church).

The talk focused on contrasting traditional and revisionist arguments about the New Testament interpretations of passages that seem to address homosexuality. I reflected afterward that the comparison gave a negative connotation to the term revisionism when it comes to interpreting Scripture.

When I researched the term, I learned that historical revisionism sometimes brings to mind such faulty notions as denying the Holocaust. Yet some historians consider revision to be basic to historical scholarship, which continuously integrates new discoveries and interpretations of events. Consider, for example, events we might prefer to brush off, such as our past and current treatment of Indigenous peoples.

Similarly, with respect to Scripture, revisionism can be helpful or harmful. Recall some examples in Reformed thinking when revisionism was an important aspect of being Reformed. Without revisionism, wouldn't we still be stuck with traditional views of a flat earth and slavery? Or what would life today be like without John Calvin’s revised understanding of usury and interest in the economic context of his day?

Revision and reform are closely linked. We call ourselves the Reformed church as if it were past tense and complete. But we should be always reforming, allowing the Spirit to give us new vision and insight to re-vision what the Spirit says to us through Scripture.

Many people see the need for a closer look at the careful revisionist research into Scriptural, historical, and cultural context of arguments favoring reinterpreting the passages about same-sex relationships. Most, if not all, of these references relate to violent or exploitative relationships. Exploring these important details casts doubt on traditional conclusions when it comes to questions of same-sex activity.

I suggest we as a denomination take a closer look at the revisionist viewpoint. Listening to the stories of gay Christians who love Jesus but feel bruised and alienated by his church is also instructive. I’m ready to embrace the “revisionist” label in the positive sense.

About the Author

Rick Kruis is a retired emergency room physician in Gallup, N.M. Rick and his wife, Mary Poel, are members of Bethany CRC, Gallup.

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Comments

It may come as news to the author that the CRC is already taking "a closer look at the revisionist viewpoint" in the work of the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality.  In its charge from Synod 2016, the Committee is tasked to include the following in its report: "Discussion outlining how a Reformed hermeneutic does or does not comport with readings of Scripture being employed to endorse what are, for the historic church, ground-breaking conclusions regarding human sexual behavior and identification." The "ground-breaking conclusions" referenced there are undoubtedly the conclusions of revisionists.  Also to be included in the Committee's report is "Dialogue with, and potential critique of, untraditional conclusions arising from arguments about a new movement of the Spirit (e.g., Acts 15), as well as conclusions arising from scientific and social scientific studies."  

"Revisionism" of Christian theology led people away from the Flat Earth?? Pretty sure, Pythagoras predated Christianity by several hundred years, but hey, this is the Banner. 

This issue will continue to be pushed until the CRC capitulates or splits.  The "progressives" simply will not take no for an answer.  Either they are put under church discipline or the downward spiral continues.  They simply cannot accept that the Bible condemns homosexuality.  It was the exact same way with the ordination of women.  

I agree Izaak that this will "continue to be pushed" because for many of us who are pushing this issue,  the place where we are now is not acceptable.  It is my hope that we can at least arrive at a conclusion similar to where we are with the ordination of women that there are more than one reasonable ways to interpret scripture on this and to give eachother grace and space to come to different conclusions.

Anton,

People can say that there is more than one reasonable way to interpret scripture.  People can say that they are using reformed hermeneutics.  People can say that they view scripture as infallible.  People can say all sorts of things, but when it comes down to it, there is one right answer, and the answer in fact is clear.  The problem is many people simply don't like what the Bible clearly teaches.  And that is one of the biggest problems in the CRCNA.

Izaak,

I have a really hard time accepting that "there is one right answer."  It seems to me that God is much bigger than that.  I think we close too many doors when we say "our way or no way."

I’m very grateful that Rick took the time and effort to write this. I’m also grateful that the banner had the courage to print it. I hope it will provide courage to others who wish to continue the discussion. Thank you.

As members of the Christian Reformed Church who believe that the Spirit and Word of God continue to shape us more into the likeness of Christ, we are absolutely open to reformation. If we weren’t, what would be the point of preaching, studying the Bible, or praying? Believing every Christian and every church should seek transformation, we whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment expressed in “Revisionism” that the Reformation shouldn’t be understood as a historical event in the distant past but as something that the Holy Spirit is accomplishing today.

However, we disagree with Mr. Kruis when he asserts that an openness to revision will produce a retraction of our current teaching that homosexual activity is sinful. We are convinced that when we search the Scriptures, we’ll find the change needed in the CRC is that, in love, we should address all forms of sin with more urgency, including same-sex activity and teaching that promotes it.

In Revelation 2 Jesus addresses the church in Thyatira. He rebukes the believers in that city because they tolerate teaching that leads people into sexual immorality. The Bible is clear that homosexual activity is sin. Yet in the Christian Reformed Church we have tolerated contrary teaching and are in danger of Jesus’ words of judgment applying to us. Therefore, we call upon Shiao Chong and the editors of The Banner to cease the promotion of teaching that opposes God’s Word. “Revisionism” (and articles like it) does not build faith in the Christ of the Scriptures and trust in God’s Word, but casts doubt regarding the perspicuity of texts that address same-sex activity and marriage.

Just as Jesus loved the Thyatiran Christians through his rebuke, we hope our call to repentance is received in love. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth (1 Cor. 13:6).” Because we love the CRC we desire something more than revision or even reformation for our lives, churches and denomination. We are praying the Lord blesses us with a revival in which we experience justification, regeneration, and sanctification as each is defined in God’s Word.

The Council of Almond Valley Christian Reformed Church
Ripon, CA

Mark, but there are doubts regarding the "perspicuity" of those texts. Doubts held by many within the denomination, including pastors and teachers and lay people. Should those doubts be ignored? Swept under the rug? Is it not the place of the Banner and other publications to engage in these discussions so as to honour the doubts that people are having?

What the Bible tells us about marriage and sexuality is much more robust than a couple of “clobber” verses that we argue over – Ed Shaw does a super job in addressing this in this Center for Christian Living podcast (CCL is associated with Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia)

Mark is right in his call to the editors. 

If you affirm loving homosexual relationships as acceptable to God, work at the Synodical level for change based on Scripture. Meanwhile, you are bound to respect the positions of the CRCNA. If that offends your conscience, find a denomination welcoming of same-sex sexual activity. 

Articles like this show a lack of integrity. Rather than come right out and say, "I disagree with the denominal position," they cloak their agenda to gently sway those who have not studied the matter. Manipulation of this sort is inappropriate. I believe Rick is motivated by love and sincerity. But the result of this approach is deception and schism.

Scripture is very clear on this topic, far clearer than on many others (e.g. women in ministry). Sexual identity is the topic of our age. Mature Christians need to know what the Bible says on this topic, and do their homework. Follow the links Dave provided. 

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