In Newburgh, just 14 miles north of here, the Dundee Courier reported this week that the local Church of Scotland minister intends to “marry” her lesbian partner (edit: dead link removed, see update below). For some reason, the Courier chose to quote one of the most extreme voices in Scotland on this topic, the Rev Dr John Cameron.
Dr Cameron stated, “It is actually against the law to discriminate against gay people … and the church must obey the law.” Perhaps Dr Cameron should inform himself before pontificating. Issued by the Government Equalities Office (ed: link fixed 5 Sep 2011):
In the case of Ministers of Religion and other jobs which exist to promote and represent religion, the Bill recognises that a church may need to impose requirements regarding sexual orientation, sex, marriage and civil partnership or gender reassignment if it is necessary to comply with its teachings or the strongly held beliefs of followers.
It is not “against the law” for a church to “impose requirements” in this area. Dr Cameron is an intelligent man, but is wrong, and has been repeatedly wrong on this point for some time.
Nor must the church “obey the law” should the law require us to disobey the clear teachings of Scripture. From the earliest days of the church, when authorities abused their position to try to forbid obedience to Christ, the answer was direct: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). We obey the law as completely as we are allowed to do so within the constraints of Scripture, but when human authorities try to dictate to us beyond those constraints, we must obey God. Is the government the head of the church, or is Christ?
Has Dr Cameron of St Andrews forgotten his own church history? Would he have told Patrick Hamilton, George Wishart, and John Knox, “We must obey the law”? Is he a member of the Church of Scotland, or of some other organisation?
Dr Cameron is wrong about the law, and wrong about the Christian response to law. The early church was full of martyrs who wouldn’t obey the law and worship Caesar. God has always been and always will be a Higher Authority than human law, and true Christians have always been prepared to live out that truth by obeying God and suffering, if need be, at the hands of abusive authorities.
The article cites Dr Cameron further:
Dr Cameron said it was “spurious” to cite biblical disapproval as grounds for concern.
“The bible, if you go back to the original text in Greek and Hebrew, is actually very ambivalent about the issue,” he continued. “However, many modern translations are from groups that are pretty much homophobic.”
Dr Cameron is wrong on the Greek and wrong on the Hebrew. He engages in what is known as an “ad hominem” attack against Bible translators, ignoring the substance of whether their work is sound or not by making unsubstantiated and malicious attacks on their character and integrity.
The Bible is not in the least ambivalent. Dr Cameron may have studied Greek, and if so he knows that the Greek of I Corinthians 6:9 is perhaps more explicit in its condemnation of homosexual behaviour than any English translation, old or modern. He also knows that the following verses give hope for the homosexual, as with any other sinner, to be forgiven and changed by the power of God. That is not “ambivalence”, that is redemption and hope.
Dr Cameron is also wrong to call those who leave the Kirk over this issue a “sect”. A sect can be defined as “a religious group which has developed from a larger religion and is considered to have extreme or unusual beliefs or customs.” Again, I would remind Dr Cameron of his own church history, in which a religious group “developed from a larger religion” (Roman Catholicism) and was considered by many to have extreme beliefs.
Was the founding of the Church of Scotland a “sect”? We must accept that the time comes to leave a larger religious group because it has abandoned truth. That is what Knox and the reformers in Scotland did, and that is what people who leave the Kirk today are doing.
Dr Cameron only gets one thing right in his comments in this article. “People who cannot accept it really need to go.”
If you have friends in the Church of Scotland who really do believe the Bible is the Word of God, and that it means what it says, it seems it is time for them to go. Dr Cameron certainly wants them to leave.
The Church of Scotland has made its direction clear, and it won’t be turning back. The Kirk (according to the Courier article, second page) refused to comment because it is a “private” matter. The Kirk has completely discarded the Biblical teachings in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 on the qualifications of ministers. It is under the control of people like Dr Cameron, who is more interested in how relaxed the younger generation is about this issue than he is about what the Bible says.
Some have already left the Kirk. More will follow. If they don’t leave and won’t be silent, eventually they will be pushed out, unless their financial contributions are needed to support the whole corrupt edifice. The Dr Camerons of the Church of Scotland won’t be content until all voices opposing immorality are silenced. They run a decaying and dying relic, no longer holding to the truth, but rather “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (II Timothy 3:5). Why would true followers of Jesus Christ prop it up any longer?
Can anyone really doubt that II Timothy 3:5 describes the Kirk today? It teaches a form of moralism, but it isn’t a Biblical morality. It teaches a God of forgiveness, but then implies that actually, you’re ok with what you are doing and there is nothing much really to forgive. Some ministers are effectively atheists, who simply found a nice job where they don’t have to do much real work. Many ministers don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God, or that He actually rose from the dead. Many would deny parts of the Bible, such as the Creation accounts. Many would teach, not salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, as the reformers (including Knox taught), but a moralistic “do the best you can” salvation. “If you do the best you can, God will accept you.” That is what their teaching boils down to, in essence — and it is found nowhere in Scripture.
I only quoted part of that Scripture above, but I’ll give the rest of it now: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (II Timothy 3:5).
Maybe you have friends in the Kirk. Maybe you yourself are in the Kirk, and you believe in the authority of the Bible, you believe in the faith of the reformation, you believe that God actually meant what He said in His Word. Isn’t it time to go, to turn away from those who deny the power of godliness? Thousands of godly Church of Scotland ministers who have served faithfully through the years, if they were still alive today, would have left long ago. A church cannot be a holy church, a pure and true church, if it acts as if immorality doesn’t matter, if it ignores false teaching, if it rejects the authority of Scripture. It ceases to be a church at all, and becomes merely a social club.
This is much more than one woman in Newburgh and her personal actions, and one strident campaigner in St Andrews. The latest news is only representative of what has been happening for years. The Kirk has gone further and further down the path of rejecting the Bible, “modifying” the Gospel, watering down morality, denying the power of godliness. If you are a Biblical Christian in the Kirk, you know this is true. If you believe the Bible, then you believe there comes a time sometime when you must obey the last part of I Timothy 3:5, and “turn away”. If the time hasn’t come for you to go, will it ever? What exactly is needed before you will do what the Scriptures say and “from such turn away”?
Update (11 March 2013): I’ve just learned that the Courier article cited above is no longer on their website, for some reason. Most of the text of the original article can be seen on the Scottish Christian News site.
I googled Dr John Cameron’s name. He seems quite an extraordinary person:
John Urquhart Cameron (born 1943) is a distinguished academic and social reformer and a former parish minister of the Church of Scotland. He was born in Dundee, Scotland. He is the eldest son of Alexander Cameron, a miner who went up from the West-Central coalfields to Glasgow University to read Divinity in the depths of the Depression. His maternal grandfather, Hugh Urquhart, was a leading Scottish railway engineer in the early decades of the 20th century.
He was educated at Falkirk High School and at Pomona College in California, St Andrews University and Edinburgh University. He holds a PhD in both Physics and Theology.
During his time in California he became friends the great theoretical Physicist Richard Feynman and they remained close until Feynman’s death in 1989. Cameron and another friend and associate of Feynman, Freeman Dyson, later became leading critics of the Global Warming hypothesis popularized by Al Gore.
Cameron was an outstanding athlete and was selected for the Scottish international athletics team while he was still at school and later gained one of the first American sports scholarships awarded to a Scottish runner. After the Tokyo Olympics he turned to golf, playing for St Andrews University in the 1960s and Edinburgh University in the 1970s before becoming a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
Following his time with GlaxoSmithKline in London he entered the Church of Scotland ministry. He was parish minister of Broughty Ferry for thirty five years during which time he also taught religious studies at the High School of Dundee. At other times during his career he lectured in Physics and Mathematics at Napier University, Dundee University and Abertay University.
A member of a distinguished extended family of journalists which included James Cameron he wrote articles for The Courier, The Scotsman, The Good Ski Guide, The Good Holiday Magazine and The Scottish Review. He was also a senior chaplain for many years in the Royal Naval Reserve and later padre to the Black Watch
He is best known as the leading social reformer among the Scottish clergy and has often collaborated with the Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance of Princeton University to address some of the most controversial topics of the day. He has been a powerful advocate and supporter of gay clergy, the right to physician assisted suicide, women’s right to choose and the decriminalisation of narcotics.
He joined Torrance and Dr Jim Swire to launch the initial campaign for the retrial of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi the Libyan controversially convicted of the Lockerbie Bombing. His highly critical report of the scientific and forensic evidence presented at the trial in The Hague marked a water-shed in the Scottish public’s attitude to al-Megrahi.
Hi, Marci, thank you for the comment. I thought about giving some background on Dr Cameron, but decided not to, because I didn’t want to distract from the main point, which is the dilemma facing Bible-believing Christians in the Kirk.
But I’m glad you posted this, because you’ve provided helpful background to understanding Dr Cameron and what believers in the Kirk are facing. Dr Cameron is obvioualy a highly intelligent and very accomplished person. That is part of what is so troubling about his comments. I can’t believe that someone of his intellectual capability doesn’t know what the Greek and Hebrew say, and yet he cites them wrongly. He will have had enough training in logic to know that an ad hominem as he used is not appropriate. He knows he is using charged language when he says “sect”.
Dr Cameron has been very involved on a political level, and he is using the techniques of political discourse (defining the debate, portraying opponents as extreme, only citing evidence that supports your view and ignoring contrary evidence, etc) in a church matter. This is never appropriate. I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that we are to play political games. If he were dealing with this honestly, instead of demonising those who disagree with him, he would at least acknowledge that there is a lot to be said for their point of view, even if he disagrees with it.
II Timothy 2:24-25 says, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Even if Dr Cameron were right on this topic (which he clearly is not), the Biblical approach would not be to use inflammatory language which can only drive your opponents away from you. The Biblical approach would be to take them to the Bible and show them, in humility and with respect, what the Bible says.
John Cameron’s methods do not invalidate his position. People with the right position use wrong methods all the time. In this case, though, the Bible clearly contradicts his position, so he is in error on both substance and method. Unfortunately, few within the Kirk who agree with his position are even willing to condemn his methods, as the Church of Scotland drifts further and further from the Scriptures. Not only has an anti-Biblical view of homosexuality been adopted by the Kirk, but so also has a political methodology that is contrary to Scripture.