Christians, Language and Authority Part II

I've been thinking a little bit more about the way people often use language in discussions about Christianity to shut down opposing views (see part 1) and here's another thing that troubles me.  At the moment, it usually comes up when talking about sexual sin of some sort (homosexual relationships, divorce etc.) and it goes something like this: "The church is obsessed with sin X and there are so many other things we don't talk about that are sinful."  I had a conversation a bit like this recently, where someone was upset when I pointed out that something was a sin in the Bible.  Similarly, I recently read a pastor lamenting that all people wanted to know about was his attitude on homosexuality and they never asked about greed even though more people were involved in it, which was another form of the statement I think.

Now this kind of language can point out a problem usefully.  If it's true that I'm taking a biblical line on sexual sin, but I'm ignoring greed, then I need to address it.  However, it would be odd if I addressed it by saying: OK I'd better ignore greed and sexual sin.  No, I'd need to address both biblically.

Similarly the criticism may be indicating a proportion issue.  The pastor who is always harping on about one particular issue is frustrating and may be implying that some people are particular sinners unlike us righteous people over here who don't struggle with that particular sin.  Such an implication is destructive of the gospel.

For all that, I've increasingly experienced this kind of language as a way of closing down discussion of a particular sin, or attacking someone who may be quite biblical on other sins and quite in proportion in their discussions.  It is particularly difficult in the context of a church and a society that is constantly raising particular issues and making them the issue of the day (sexual sin being the obvious contender at present).  A faithful pastor has to answer the questions people are asking him and a faithful pastor will prepare his people to answer the questions of the day.  It won't be all he'll do, but he will do it.

In the end, those trying to close down the discussion are being very unhelpful, because we are all blessed by those who call us back from sin and to repentance, however uncomfortable it might be (James 5:19-20) and if we stop talking about a sin, people will stop believing it is a sin (presumably the aim of some in trying to shut the conversation down) and the consequences will be catastrophic for individual Christians, churches and our society as a whole.


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