The liberal PCUSA caucus the Witherspoon Society has posted on its Web site the statement Paul Capetz made at the Twin Cities presbytery meeting on Saturday. Check there to read the whole thing. I’ve already dealt with some of this, but given his position as a professor of historical theology, this part of it jumped out at me:
It was during that time in graduate school that I began in earnest to study the Protestant Reformation. I vividly recall reading Martin Luther’s depiction of his own despair as he struggled to live a celibate lifestyle in the monastery. I saw my situation and my own despair mirrored in his words.
Except that Luther would have considered Capetz’ same-sex attraction to be a crucial distinction between the two of them.
Once I understood why Luther, Calvin, and the other Protestant Reformers categorically rejected vows of celibacy as incompatible with what they believed was the essential tenet of Reformed faith, namely justification by faith alone, I found the key to making sense of my own plight as a gay Protestant.
The Reformers rejected life-long vows of celibacy that stood in the way of marriage, not celibacy for unmarried people. They also rejected those vows within the context of what they saw as the works-righteousness doctrine of salvation taught by Rome, which maintained that living a life of celibacy would garner one merit before God. The notion that they rejected living chastely outside of marriage is simply nonsense.
I realized that by requiring of gay persons like me a vow of celibacy as a condition of our moral acceptability as Christians, the contemporary Protestant church had fallen back on its own sword that had originally been used to attack what they identified as distorted in the Roman Catholic doctrine and practice of their day.
A vow of celibacy doesn’t make one morally acceptable. A holy life, which includes a life in which sexual expression is confined to marriage, also doesn’t make one “morally acceptable,” at least not to God. It is, instead, expressive of one’s faithful devotion to the One who has saved us, and in the process transformed us, and continues to transform us, into the image of Christ. The fact that a holy life is supposed to spring from the work of grace that we embrace by faith, rather than the other way around, doesn’t make that life unimportant, or any less incumbent on Christians. What Capetz is doing here would have been unequivocally rejected by all of the Reformers (check out Luther’s Treatise Against the Antinomians for one repudiation).
Not only did I see my despair around sexuality reflected in Luther’s account of his despair about sexuality, but I found my answer in the answer Luther first propounded and which gave the Reformation its start.
For the first time in the history of Protestantism, a vow of celibacy is being required of an entire caste of persons as a condition of their suitability for leadership in the church though the original platform of the Reformation was unambiguously opposed to vows of celibacy as contrary to the nature of the gospel.
His use of the expression “vow of celibacy” is patently dishonest. Clergy in the PCUSA are being asked to live lives that conform to the moral law of God revealed in Scripture, and given that we are talking about a Reformed denomination (one that supposedly believes in the “third use of the law” (as a pattern for life and a guide for sanctification), it shouldn’t be hard to see a requirement of sexual fidelity/chastity as conforming completely with a Reformation approach to vocation. Capetz is clearly an antinomian, and as such way outside the Reformation norm, however much he’s like to claim its authority for himself.
In its categorical opposition to all expressions of homosexuality, the Protestant church has unintentionally found itself having to deny one of its own essential tenets, namely that vows of celibacy are wrong because they imply works-righteousness before God.
To see how wrong this is, ignore the word “vow” as a red herring, and imagine this version: “In its categorical opposition to polyamory, the Protestant church has unintentionally found itself having to deny one of its own essential tenets, namely that monogamous sexual behavior is wrong because it implies works-righteousness before God.” The Reformers, of course, didn’t object to the requirement, laid upon all Christians in the New Testament, for all sexual behavior to be monogamous, even to the point of making vows of monogamy in the wedding ceremony, and never hinted that either the requirement or the vow meant compromising with “work-righteousness.” The stricture against homosexual behavior is no different–it is wrong because God in His Word has declared it wrong, and avoiding it isn’t a matter of a vow, or of “works-righteousness,” but of being faithfully obedient to the commands of God. It’s a pity that the Twin Cities presbytery didn’t see it that way, for it is they, as well as Capetz, who have abandoned the Reformation in the process.