Editor’s note: This is a response to the post-General Assembly Outlook article, ” Assembly approves removal of fidelity, chastity; presbyteries to vote again” Aug. 9, 2010).
Our pastor counsels me to continue our debate about ordination requirements “in a rich, fruitful and scholarly way, which helps us understand what God is calling us to be and to do now and in the future.” The debate questions whether the Word of God as found in the Bible affirms, and calls us to, our church’s ordination requirement as stated in our Constitution (Book of Order G-6.0106). Making reference to the Bible and John Calvin’s Institutes, focusing on the Word in the Gospel of John, leads me to the following comments in the affirmative.
The Gospel of John (1:1-5 KJV), beginning with the Word, sets forth a Creation that is whole and complete, without incongruity or dissonance, a perfect Creation, which in Adam we have drastically disfigured. In Romans 8:18-22 (KJV) Paul writes of a fallen Creation awaiting redemption, a Creation which Isaiah 11:1-9 (KJV) foretold shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord. In The Institutes of the Christian Religion (I.xv.1) John Calvin notes “how far men are fallen from that purity which was bestowed upon Adam.”
Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, (Hebrews 12:2 KJV), is Himself the Word (John 1:1 & 14 KJV), our Creator (John 1:1-3 KJV), and in God’s Providence our Sustainer (Psalm 3:1-5 & 55:22 KJV). He is isolated from no one. He is our intimate companion and friend. His familiarity with Nathanael (John 1:45-51 KJV), his personal compassion for the Woman at the Well (John 4:5-26 KJV), his sorrow over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37 KJV) and his engaging conversation with Cleopas and Simon (?) on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32 KJV) testify to his familial knowledge of his Creation. The Psalmist (Psalm 139:3 KJV) reminds us about our relationship with the Lord that Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
Beyond an inward affinity between them (C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, p 22) the natural and spiritual orders are united in the mind and person of Christ (The Second Helvetic Confession 5.016, 5.017, 5.018, 5.067). John 14:6-11 (KJV) records Jesus’ words, I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me, and, Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me.
When as a congregation we repeat our Brief Statement of Faith (10.2) we affirm our “trust in Jesus Christ.” In Acts 9:4 (KJV) Jesus calls Saul to account with the words, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? and in Acts 9:15-20 (KJV) Jesus tells Ananias of Saul that he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel; that Ananias, putting his hands on Saul said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Verse 18 tells us that Saul received sight, and arose, and was baptized. Verse 20 records that immediately he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
Paul makes plain his understanding of the sacredness of marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33 (KJV).
The fruitfulness of Paul’s unique relationship with Jesus (Galatians 1:1 KJV) is analogous to the fruitfulness of the marriage relation, The Lord tells us in Hosea 14:8 (KJV), From me is thy fruit found.
Paul in Romans 8:38-39 (KJV) assures us that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, which in this debate begs the question, How can the misuse of human sexuality, however considered expedient according to the flesh, not be seen as disobedience, as a definitive departure from our Lord’s Word, from His created order?
Calvin considered that God has made “earthly blessings for our benefit, and not for our harm.” (Institutes 3.10.5 and The Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, translated from the Institutes by Henry J. Van Andel p 86). Calvin writes that it is the Lord who “with his own mouth condemns all pleasures which lead us away from chastity and purity, and which make us foolish and stupid.” (Van Andel, p. 92). Observing the Lord’s created order, Jesus asks (Matthew 19:4 KJV), Have ye not read that he who made them at the beginning, made them male and female? Genesis 2:18 (KJV) tells us, And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help fit for him.
Paul in Romans 1:26-28 (KJV) comments on the Gentile world, a world analogous to our contemporary secular world, that … their women did exchange the natural use for that which is against nature; And likewise also the men, . . . .men with men working that which is unseemly, Calvin in The Institutes (II. viii. 41) writes categorically, “every other union, but that of marriage, is cursed in his sight; and … the conjugal union itself is appointed as a remedy for our necessity.”
On the face of it, accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior precludes behaving deliberately in ways contrary to the majesty and magnitude of his Created order, an order which is self-evident according to Paul in verses 18-20 of Romans 1 (KJV) which tell us, For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, and 1 Corinthians 12:18 (KJV), which tells us, But now hath God set the members, every one of them, in the body, as it hath pleased him. In Matthew 4:4 (KJV) Jesus tells us, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
According to Calvin (Institutes III.x.2) and Van Andel (Golden Booklet pp 86-87), “the use of the gifts of God cannot be wrong, if directed to the same purpose for which the Creator himself has created and destined them”, and “Even the natural properties of things sufficiently point out to what purpose and to what extent we are allowed to use them.”
Calvin (III. vii.1) reminds us that “We are not our own; therefore neither our reason nor our will should predominate in our deliberations and actions. … We are not our own; therefore let us not propose it as our end, to seek what may be expedient for us according to the flesh”. Paul (1 Cor. 6:19 KJV) tells us, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you … ye are not your own.
During Sunday morning worship services we often declare, “In life and in death we belong to God,” the opening statement of our Brief Statement of Faith.
From the beginning Jesus, without whom was not anything made that was made (John 1:1-14 KJV), has blessed us, giving us a perfect Creation, including Adam, and Eve the woman made a “help fit for him” (Genesis 1:26-27 & 2:18 KJV). Jesus called Saul to be his chosen vessel to bear his name before the Gentiles. (Acts 9:4 & 15 KJV). Jesus inspired Calvin’s Institutes, wherein His ordering of Creation is fully acknowledged, commended, and enjoined.
James 1:17 (KJV) reminds us that Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
References quoted above from the Word of God do indeed affirm and call us to our church’s ordination requirement as it is stated in our Book of Order (G-6.0106) so that, as Ephesians 4:14-16 (KJV) puts it, we may henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.
However, despite the light of the witness of Scripture, the guidance of Calvin’s Institutes and the assurance of Ephesians 4:14-16 (KJV) the challenge to our denomination’s ordination standard continues, making it difficult to fathom our General Assembly’s reiterated vote to remove the requirement in our denomination’s Constitution that those being ordained practice fidelity if they are married or chastity if they are single, once again asking our 173 presbyteries to remove it (Leslie Scanlon, The Presbyterian Outlook, August 9, 2010).
Although we are all sinners (Romans 3:23 KJV) and although we are assured that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord, (Romans 8:38-39 KJV), full credence and obedience to our Lord’s Word should give serious pause to those among us who support ordained leadership which favors the employment of sexuality in a manner which is disobedient, and is incongruous and dissonant with the created order as that order is declared by Jesus, who is the Creator (John 1:1-3 KJV), the Builder (Hebrews 11:10 KJV) and the Master (Matthew 23:8 KJV) of the House (2 Corinthians 5:1 KJV).
Our Lord’s created order is fully acknowledged, commended, and enjoined by John Calvin, our denomination’s preeminent theologian whose Institutes are understood to be the most important document of the Reformation after Luther’s translation of the Bible.
DICK IRVINE is a Presbyterian elder living in Pine, Ariz.