It’s Nothing to Do With Equality

The Supreme Court of the United States is currently hearing oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry in which the issue presented is “Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the· union of a man and a woman.”

Let’s get beyond whether the Supremes will extend the 14th even further beyond all intent, stretching until it has got to finally snap. The Nine – and their various incarnations over the last 50 years -have  made the 14th into whatever they have want to fashion it. And one may argue that they can do so. The 14th Amendment is a creation of the people of the United States and those who are the lawful representatives of the United States, whether in matters legislative, executive or judicial, will do what they may.

What all the “fair-minded people” in front of the Supreme Court building and all of their friends in the blogosphere have missed is that whilst the 14th Amendment is the creation of the people, marriage isn’t it. Marriage isn’t the creation of any people, “fair-minded” or not.

I can understand why there might be some confusion by those who think that either marriage laws or individual marriage licenses create marriage. From at least  the time of Moses, there has been civil regulation of marriage. The Biblical concern was degrees of consanguinity. In more recent times, there have been age regulations and occasionally health precautions. All of these are concerned with the core purpose of marriage: procreation.

Likewise the purpose of a marriage license is to prevent those who should not procreate from doing so and to register the initiation of the marriage, should such information be needed later in the case of a dissolution. That there are those who will procreate unlicensed does not invalidate the purpose. After all, the law formerly addressed adultery and fornication to curb that factor.

But we need to get this clear: marriage was created by God and is merely regulated by the State. That marriage was created by God to be between a man and a woman is patently clear from Scripture. It’s very institution is linked to the creation of woman as distinct from man. Scripture never suggests that it could be otherwise. All of human history until this most recent blink of an eye has been a universal witness to this. This is, of course, not surprising, as this is the only means of procreation.

And what of the constant cry that we shouldn’t stand in the way of two people loving each other? Love only enters into the matter within the bounds of the institution itself. There are many loves in the world that are not the love of marriage. Each of those must respect the bounds of the type of relationship in which the love grows.

Our affections for other people do not define us. Our desires do not define us. Love itself is not subject to our definition. It is an attribute of God and a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

The legislatures of the several States have the authority to create a type of contractual relationship which persons of the same sex can enter into that carries with it the same legislated advantages that marriage has in the eyes of the law. These legislatures can pass laws regarding real property ownership, taxation, and intestacy.  If the 14th Amendment were going to apply, it would be that these new contractual relationships would be allowed to heterosexual fornicators as well.

So once again, let us be clear. Marriage equality is not about marriage equality. All marriages are equally marriages. However, to declare something a marriage outside of the inherent definition of marriage in creation is to directly defy the Creator. We can throw ourselves on the floor and have a tantrum and say, “But it’s not fair!” all we want. “Fair”, along with “righteous,” “just,” and “true,” are not ours to decide or define.

If the Supreme Court of the United States decides that the State of California is prohibited from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman on the basis of the 14th Amendment, it will really be saying states must recognize the marriage of any two people – though logically the next step must be to overturn polygamy laws – but I’ll leave that for now. This is not really about the 14th Amendment or equality before the law. It is about who or Who has the authority to define marriage.

Defrauding the Church

Recently I was looking at the résumé of a famous preacher who was outed as a adulterer some years ago by another famous preacher (who was himself then outted in the same way). I was looking mostly because he calls himself “Dr.” Under his education he lists “Correspondence Courses Continuing Education – Berean School of Bible”, then an honorary MA (who gets an honorary MA?), two honorary doctorates, and what purports to be a Ph.D. in Religion from North Carolina College of Theology. I had never heard of this institution, but you, dear reader, can probably can probably smell the same rat I did. It is just a bit unusual to go from correspondence courses with no certificate, diploma, or not to mention degree, straight to a Ph.D.

How do you get a doctorate from NCCT? Let them tell you how in their course catalog (spelling, capitalization, grammar and punctuation, including random elipses, from the original):

The North Carolina College of Theology does award degrees for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE. The specific requirements for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE Degrees are outlined in this catalog. NCCT DOES NOT sell degrees…Qualified applicants must submit proof of verifiable time in ministry in order to receive the degree for which he or she has applied….All applicants must meet NCCT requirement with approval of the President and Executive Board. Each individual application is assessed with consideration of various jobs and positions in which an applicant has worked within the church or ministerial realm. Many pastors and five-fold ministers are NOW deserving a Doctorate, and should rightfully be awarded. NCCT LIFE-EARNED DEGREES are identical to the degrees that are issued to students who graduate from the Satellite Extension Program or “Individual Study Program”. It is the desire of the NCCT President, Board, Staff, and Faculty to be a blessing to those in the field of ministry and offer confirmation of education to the many deserving men and women of God.

That’s right. If you have been in full-time ministry for ten to fifteen years, and you have $2,750.00 plus $60.00 application fee, plus $100.00 administration fee, plus the $860.00 graduation fee, you deserve a doctorate. They would like you to write a 25,000 word paper, which they even have the gall to call a dissertation, but that can be waived. That will get you a Doctor of Biblical Studies. If you want to have a Ph.D. you need to have been in ministry 20 years, have bought one of the other doctorates, and it will cost an additional$5,500.00, plus all the other fees. Because you deserve it. And because you have a ministry that can afford to spend the $10,290.00 in total from the offerings you have received from other people. The one thing NCCT is very clear about: no money, no degree, and absolutely no refunds if you ever realize that you paid for a worthless piece of paper.

From whence comes this idea that a degree of any kind is deserved? A degree is earned through a demonstration of academic achievement in a field of study.

NCCT will tell you not to worry about the value of your LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE degree, because it is accredited. According to the course catalog, NCCT is accredited through Accrediting Commission International, Inc. of Beebe, Arkansas. ACI is run by non-trinitarian Pentecostal preacher “Dr.” John Scheel who is the bishop of the Lighthouse Pentecostal Jesus Name Church of Beebe. “Dr.” Scheel got his Ph.D. from Toledo Bible College and Seminary, which had to be re-branded when it was run out of Ohio by the authorities. ACI is also a rebranding of the International Accrediting Commission (IAC) which was run out of Missouri after a sting operation.

But why have one fake accreditation with four is better? A real college doesn’t need the approval four accrediting agencies, but according to the NCCT website, they are accredited by three other bogus accrediting agencies in addition to ACI.

NCCT likes to keep things tightly controlled. The President is “Dr.” J. L. Cook. The Senior Vice-President is “Dr.” Judy Cook, the wife of J. L. Cook. The Executive Vice-President is “Dr.” Jon Cook, the son of J. L. Cook. The rest of the Executive Board includes “Dr.” W. L. Baltimore with two diploma mills doctorates, including one from NCCT;  “Dr.” Varnie Fullwood, who got his Bachelor’s from diploma mill Zoe University (also accredited by ACI) before getting his Master’s and Ph.D. from NCCT; “Dr.” Stephen Thomas, with two diploma mill doctorates, one from Rhema University (accredited by one of ACI’s competitors and not to be confused with Rhema Bible Training Center, which does not offer degrees) and one from NCCT; and Revs. Dan and Tim Cook, who bears a striking resemblance to the other Cooks and each other.

All of the Cook sons, Baltimore, and Thomas also serve on the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board, though how the two Cook non-doctors serve on a doctoral dissertation review board further boggles the mind. Ever other member of the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board about whom I can find any further information also appears to their doctorates from NCCT or another mill.

NCCT is just one of many purveyors of bogus theological degrees. I just picked them out by chance, due to their association with Marvin Gorman, mentioned in the first paragraph. I’m sure there are others who are making just as much money out of spreading false credibility throughout the Church. But be clear about this: it is fraud and it is rife.

It may be found predominantly, but not exclusively, in Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Baptist circles. Does that mean that there is anything wrong with these groups within the Church? Absolutely not. It does mean that there is a need to be extra vigilant. Does it mean that someone has to have a real doctorate or even a real degree of any kind to minister in the Church? No. God uses all sorts of men from all sorts of backgrounds and all levels of formal and informal education.

It does mean that no one should represent that they possess formal educational achievement that they have not earned. I don’t care what else they want to say about how great their ministry is, or how fruitful it is in whatever way their group acknowledges fruitfulness, they are defrauding the Church.

Two Wrong-Headed Views

I don’t know if I have ever come across two boned-headed people coming from such completely different perspectives about the same thing.

Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother contestant Jade Goody told a magazine that she felt her miscarriage was God’s punishment for the row caused by racist remarks she made to and about Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on CBB. Apparently the British public got angry, the Indian public got really angry, but God decided somebody had to die.

Why the Anglican Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Rev Nick Baines felt the need to step into this, I don’t know. Nonetheless he issues a statement, saying, “Jade Goody can be sure that losing her baby wasn’t a punishment from God.” Master of the obvious, Bishop Nick. But then he continued, “God doesn’t punish people. He stands by them and shares in their suffering as we see in Jesus Christ.” What? I’m not sure how he sees the latter sentence relating to the former.

God doesn’t punish people? Tell that to Ananias and Sapphira. Or Herod Antipas. Or anyone who has read the book of Hebrews:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “ My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

Chastening and scourging sounds like punishment to me. It sounds like God is a bit harder than I am on Aidan, who I have chastened but never scourged. Bishop Nick must be one of those liberals whose theology is entirely independent of the Bible.

Hindsight

Many of you who are Orthodox probably already regularly visit Fr Stephen Freeman’s blog. Fr Stephen is an OCA priest in East Tennessee.

He has a post today about The Spirit, the Modern World, Pentecostalism and Orthodoxy that I found particularly enlightening. He knows of what he speaks on more than just an academic level:

My wife and I met in a charismatic house Church so that I do not write as a stranger on the subject. I spent two years, as well, living in a charismatic commune. Many years ago I would have been about as hard core as they come. Today I judge the matter quite differently and see, with fear and trembling, Pentecostal thought and practice in a different light.

Though his spiritual journey does not mirror mine exactly, he has expressed the same concerns I have over a number of issues more eloquently and pastorally than I could.

Protestant Pontiffs

In a bit of an ironic follow up to my previous post, I discovered on Clifton Healy’s blog that Dr Francis Beckwith, president of the Evangelical Theological Society, has been received back into the Roman Church.

I have to admit that I didn’t know who Dr Beckwith is. I’m not really up on Evangelical leaders like I used to be. But still, this seems to be big news. I clicked from Clifton to Dr Beckwith’s blog, where there were what seemed to be hundreds of combox theologians, some welcoming him home, but others telling him how he had forsaken the faith, offering prooftexts (like he is unfamiliar with Scripture, or suddenly forgot it all because he returned to Rome).

It reminded me of how it is that some of the most simpleton Protestants accuse Catholics of being simpletons. Then there are some guys out there who are supposed to be theologians, like Doug Groothuis or James White. After taking Beckwith to task on Beckwith’s (shared) blog, Groothuis posted this bit of nonsense on his own:

Frank has done some excellent work over the years, but was apparently never well-grounded in the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, as articulated by the Five Solas of the Reformation.

The Five Solas are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith? Whatever happened to the Nicene Creed? Herein is the essense of the difference. Both sides (regardless of what some idiots who refer to things like the Council of Trent without any understanding of the theological nuances involved) believe the Scripture to be the Word of God written. Admittedly, the Catholics (like the Orthodox) use the same OT canon as Jesus, whilst the Reformers chopped out a big chunk, but as to the concept of Scripture being the Word of God there’s no actual debate.

I suppose it comes down to whether you get your essential doctrines formulated from the Church Fathers, particularly those participating in the Ecumenical Councils, or a French lawyer, a German monk, and a Swiss priest with a concubine.

It’s fun to read all the Protestant pontificating about Beckwith. It makes me realise that I might listen to Evangelical music more than I do Orthodox music (I’m just not into the octoechos on my car stereo on the way to work – I need a bit of Geoff Moore or Delirious? to get me pumped for the day) but while I’m evangelical (and every Christian should be, because we have good news to tell) I’m not an Evangelical. I’m glad I don’t have a dog in this fight.

Educational Anthropology

Once again report writing time has snuck up on me. Year 7 full reports are due tomorrow.

I’ve written in the past about reports and their merits. Someone told me very recently that they’d heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another I’d been messing around in educational heresy. I’ve never been one much for what I call the REO Speedwagon style of criticism. I think if you have something to say, say it to the source.

I hope I haven’t implied anything negative about my school this area. When it comes to data and reports, I think we are a model of the spirit of the age. The Government would be proud. I think all of my colleagues from the top down do a fine job. I try to do as good a job as they do, though I would certainly count myself as the least of my brethren. This is certainly a job where great value is place on rendering under Caesar. Read more of this post

The Cost of Conservatism

The conservative/liberal split in the Anglican church has become deadly.

A British missionary was fatally poisoned after helping to prevent a London vicar from becoming a bishop in Central Africa, The Times has learnt.

It appears that Canon Rodney Hunter was a little too conservative in his views. He had been in Malawi for many years and really considered himself Malawian rather than English. He was a mentor to the Archbishop of the very conservative Province of Central Africa and had taught him in seminary.

He opposed the election of the liberal Rev Nicholas Henderson as Bishop of Lake Malawi, because in contrast to Canon Hunter,

Mr Henderson, Vicar of St Martin’s Acton West and All Saints’ Ealing Common, was elected as Bishop of Lake Malawi last August. He had known the region for 18 years, raising funds for religious, social and humanitarian projects, and was learning the local language, Chichewe. At the time, few in Malawi knew of his record as a leading liberal theologian and that he had been chairman of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union. There was also concern in Africa at reports that he had a male lodger.

As a result, the Primate of Central Africa, the Most Rev Bernard Malango, wrote to Mr Henderson asking him to confirm that he subscribed to the Creeds, the Bible and the Thirty-Nine Articles and that he “fashions his own like and his household according to the doctrine of Christ”.

The diocese’s Court of Confirmation blocked Mr Henderson’s consecration, deeming him “a man of unsound faith”, and instead appointed the retired Bishop of Zambia, the Right Rev Leonard Mwenda.

The Province of Central Africa may be strongly conservative, but that isn’t to say Rev Henderson didn’t have his supporters. Vociferous supporters.

Even though he was living in retirement, appointed assistant priest at All Saints’ Cathedral, he had been physically attacked in the pulpit. Then,

In November Canon Hunter was found dead at his home in Nkhotakota, Malawi, with a strange black substance around his mouth. The day before his death he had complained of severe stomach pains, and postmortem examination has now shown that he was killed by three poisons.

Malawi police have charged his cook with murder and are investigating rumours that the poisoning was organised by supporters of Mr Henderson, who had no knowledge of the alleged plot.

Given the previous violence against him because of his views, I hope the rumours will lead to a trail of evidence.