Lipscomb University and the Christian Scholars Conference
The Christian Scholars Conference (CSC) convened in June, 2008 on the campus of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee (formerly known as David Lipscomb University). With support from several sister schools, e.g., Pepperdine University, Abilene Christian University, Oklahoma Christian University, and Harding University, it was the twenty-eighth annual gathering of some of the most radically liberal, self-designated “scholars” on the planet. There were dozens of presentations (all of which were characterized as “high quality” productions), delivered by both men and women, representing sixty-eight colleges and universities, along with twenty-four additional institutions.
The conference was a heterogeneous blend of sectarian personalities (all of whom were identified as “Christian”), combined with a conglomerate of digressives who have surrendered virtually every vestige of interest in the restoration of New Testament religion. “Restorationism” is not merely ignored, it is repudiated emphatically.
The CSC platform affirms that it “is dedicated to the virtue of diversity which expands world-views, fosters collegiality, demonstrates the highest quality of scholarship, and provides opportunity for all Christian scholars.”
The sacred Scriptures enjoin unity; the emerging anti-restorationists applaud diversity. The lineup demonstrated how very far from New Testament teaching this aggregation of “elitists” has strayed.
One of the most startling participants was former Abilene Christian University student, Jared Cramer. Cramer is currently affiliated with the Anglican (Episcopal) movement (working toward priesthood). On his blog the “Reverend Cramer” (as he likes to designate himself) emphatically declares he has abandoned the ideal of “restorationism.”
I don’t believe in Restorationism or Primitivism. I just don’t. It’s not Biblical, there’s no call to it. I don’t care two bits if today’s church looks like the first century church, and I don’t think God does (Becoming Quicksand).
The most stunning thing, however, was the topic for which Mr. Cramer contended, with the obvious tolerance of the CSC screening committee and/or those affiliated with this program. According to an abstract that appeared on the Lipscomb University website, the author’s presentation was titled "One New Humanity: Reconsidering Homosexuality in Light of the Ecclesiology of Ephesians.” The abstract states:
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians presents an ecclesiology founded on unity in Christ rooted in the fullness of God. Ephesians builds on the fundamental truth that in Christ, God has broken down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles and is creating one new humanity in place of the two. After examining the ecclesiology of Ephesians, this paper engages in a case study on the place of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) Christians in the Episcopal Church. Perhaps a deeper understanding of Paul’s message in Ephesians can lead to a renewed perspective on the issues facing Christians today.
This may represent an all-time historical low as an approach to Paul’s Ephesian letter.
The material submitted to the CSC (with only a slight alteration to accommodate a transition to the newer CSC format) is a regurgitation of Cramer’s previously published views. His position was set forth in an article titled Homosexuality: But Why?.
It was submitted in a more extensive format as a thesis written while at Abilene Christian University and presented to Dr. James W. Thompson, November 28, 2006 (see the thesis here). The CSC submission (June 27, 2008) is virtually a carbon copy of his ACU thesis. It can hardly be claimed, therefore, that his position caught CSC officials by surprise.
Cramer contends that his defense of homosexuality is a response to an increasing number of questions he has received regarding his position on this subject. Incredibly, the author asserts that any discussion of homosexuality “is shallow until a person actually engages in an actual relationship with a person of a different sexual orientation.”
The main proposition the author attempts to argue is that there is nothing “wrong about a faithful, loving, monogamous same-sex relationship.” He says, “I fail to see what it is about homosexuality that declares it as inherently evil” (“Homosexuality: But Why?”). He contends that Paul’s “oneness ecclesiology” in the Ephesian epistle applies to gays and straights just as it did to Jews and Gentiles!
If this is so, the apostle contradicted his earlier instruction in both 1 Corinthians (6:9), Romans (1:26-27), and his later letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:10).
This brief review is not designed as a comprehensive rebuttal of the author’s superficial treatment of the Scripture texts that condemn homosexual conduct. He dismisses the biblical data with a cavalier wave of the hand and his personal assertion that some of the scriptural condemnations are “conditioned by time and culture”; thus they are not relevant to today’s gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered phenomenon. Other texts, he maintains, address “abuses” rather than loving homosexual liaisons.
The following questions are appropriate:
How does a “scholar” determine it is “wrong” if: (a) a homosexual relationship is breached by “unfaithfulness”; (b) is flawed when lacking “love” and is solely a matter of lust; or, © is unwarranted if it is polygamous instead of monogamous? How does one deduce that fidelity, lovingness, and monogamy are to be preferred over their opposites?
Might someone not contend that Bible teaching about faithfulness, love, and monogamy likewise are culturally flexible, and thus promiscuity, lust, and multiple sex-partners are permissible? These sexually inclusive attitudes and actions are common in numerous “cultures” within certain segments of the modern world.
One of Cramer’s arguments in defense of homosexual relationships (as he ideally depicts them) is that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered frequently bear “all the fruits of the Spirit” (cf. Galatians 5:22-23), hence such must be evidence of their approval by God. He contends that “the holiness seen in the lives of these Christians has stood in ‘stark contrast with many sinful patterns of sexuality’ (e.g., promiscuity, prostitution, incest, pornography, pedophilia, predatory sexual behavior, etc.)” (“One New Humanity”). The “logic” is unbelievable.
What is to be said regarding the atheist who loves his wife, is joyful in his occupational employment, and is peaceable with his next-door neighbor? Do these qualities demonstrate that he enjoys the approval of the very God he denies?
What possible justification could Lipscomb University and its affiliates have for arranging and/or supporting a program that embraces a defense of this debauched level of moral irresponsibility?
What a disservice to the godly memory of the founder of this school! If this does not awaken a somewhat lethargic brotherhood to the gross level of corruption within a number of our universities, could anything bring us to a state of reality?
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.