What Martin Modéus is actually saying
The discussions about biblical interpretations and viewpoints that have long been expressed within the Christian churches have in recent days also moved into the national press. Not totally unexpected, it is the (church's) perspective of homosexuality that has come into focus. We are many, of course, who’d wish that they rather talked about something of a more general concern, but we don’t choose the era in which we live, so unfortunately it’s just a matter of accepting the situation. Issues related to sex, relationships and marriage are, of course, also very important - both for society and for the individuals concerned with these issues.
On Monday Bishop Martin Modéus wrote a post in Svenska Dagbladet (Swedish Daily-pages) Opinion, where he went heavy handed in an attack on 22 Pentecostal pastors who on Friday spoke out on these issues in Dagen (Today – a Sweden’s large Christian daily). As a priest and bishop Modéus has many virtues, and his letters contain a good number of choice comments about the Christian faith’s message of love. But beyond this - what is it really that one of the Swedish Church's foremost representatives says? Let me give some examples of what I find is deeply problematic - if not dishonest - in his reasoning:
The first is that Modéus talks about love in a way that makes the boundaries between God's love for us, our love for God, our love for ourselves, to others and to God's creation and in addition (to) our erotic love flows into each other. When he draws it all together with the statement that since; "All love comes from God," it becomes very confusing. The ability to love comes from God is a given. But does the bishop really mean that all expressions of this love is blessed by God? This, then, is quite different from what the Christian Church has taught through the centuries! There are numerous Scripture examples that clearly speaks to the contrary.
Modéus has a solution for this as well. He writes, "to understand the message of the Bible, we must start from a general impression of the message of love." Here, I would like to have chapter and verse in support of the bishop's thesis. Different Christian traditions raise up different interpretation keys to present biblical drama. Some highlight God's kingdom, others the covenant and still others justification by faith. To the extent Modéus is correct, that it is in fact "message of love", which is the central tenet of the Bible, I believe that this needs to be defined on the basis of Jesus' sacrificial death and obedience to His heavenly Father (see John 15: 10-14; Philippians 2: 5-8 ; 1 John 4:10, etc.). But in contrast to this, the bishop writes that we can ignore those parts of the Bible's teaching that does not tally with the love vision that "... motivates us to think about including human love". It is worth noting that sin and man's rebellion against God are not mentioned in Modéus text. Rather, the impression that’s proffered is that God's love is one enormous confirmation of us humans - no matter how we choose to live our lives.
Finally Modéus says that "the Church woken up" in that it now stands "on the side of love" as expressed by having affirmed the gender-neutral marriage law. By "church", you can then assume that he means the Swedish (State Lutheran) church, and even here it reveals a deeply problematic approach to other believers. What the bishop is saying is, in practice the following: The Catholic Church has neither understood the Bible's center or definition of love. The Orthodox church family have neither understood the Bible's center or definition of love. The Pentecostal Charismatic movement have neither understood the Bible's center or definition of love. Most Lutheran churches around the world have neither understood the Bible's center or definition of love. And so on.
One could call this all too much. But contrary to the viewpoint that Modéus claims and espouses it can hardly be called either loving, or with humility, an honest match. Personally, I would - with a heavy heart - call it a betrayal of the Gospel.
April 14, 2015
April 14, 2015
TRANSLATION: Sven Ljungholm