“Oh, THAT Chestnut!” Gay Christian Logic

I believe the day has past when the answer to homosexuality was simply read them the “clobber” texts (the seven or so Scripture passages that condemn homosexuality). It’s not that the Bible does not have power. It does. The problem is that the so-called gay Christian community completely reinterprets those passages in a way that supports their lifestyles.

So, if a simple reading of the Biblical texts is not working, what are we to do? That’s a great question. I will let you know when I have a definitive answer. In the meantime, my conviction is that the battle for our culture (and not simply where it concerns homosexuality) is being waged on philosophical, academic grounds. Accordingly, I have for some time now been cataloging the logic on display in the many, many books, articles, and videos available from those who are pro-gay, pro-abortion, pro-evolution, etc.

With that in mind, I want to share some of the underpinning gay Christian  “moral logic” (as James V. Brownson, author of Bible, Gender, Sexuality, is fond of referring to) that I have encountered in recent weeks.

Ancient Means Sinful, Contemporary Means Righteous

This particular chestnut of wisdom says that the Bible, where it condemns same-sex activity, is not talking about loving, monogamous, committed same-sex relationships like we see in our world today. This has become a defeater belief (click here for an excerpt from D. A. Carson’s book, The Intolerance of Tolerance, where he defines what a defeater belief is). Essentially, a defeater belief is one that, when believed, rules out any belief to the contrary. If A is true, then B can’t possibly be true. Therefore, since I believe A, I can discount B altogether. The gay Christians can therefore dismiss any assertion that the Bible is against homosexuality by claiming that it is only speaking of unhealthy same-sex activity, i.e., temple prostitution, etc. No matter what may be said about the Biblical texts that prohibit and condemn homosexuality, the final salvo fired is, “That passage is not addressing loving, monogamous, committed same-sex relationships.”

Good Tree/Good Fruit

Based on the Jesus’ “good tree/good fruit, bad tree/bad fruit” teaching, Dan O. Via writes in Homosexuality and the Bible, “If the heart is loving, the acts that flow from it cannot be evil….The inner nature of a homosexual relationship does qualify the acts (Quoted by Brownson in Bible, Gender, Sexuality).” Matthew Vines, currently a rising star in defending homosexuality and gay Christianity, explains,

Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. . . . Good teachings, according to Jesus, have good consequences. . . . Good teachings, even when they are very difficult, are not destructive to human dignity. They don’t lead to emotional and spiritual devastation, and to the loss of self-esteem and self-worth. But those have been the consequences for gay people of the traditional teaching on homosexuality. It has not borne good fruit in their lives, and it’s caused them incalculable pain and suffering. If we’re taking Jesus seriously that bad fruit cannot come from a good tree, then that should cause us to question whether the traditional teaching is correct (From a manuscript of Vine’s video sermon).

As they love to say here in New York, “You can’t make this stuff up!” If your self-esteem and self-worth are founded on a sexual orientation that is forbidden by Scripture what do you suppose will happen if someone comes by and informs you of that? So, if I help someone commit suicide, or if I commit adultery, or pederasty for that matter (look it up), I am not sinning as long as I am loving in my heart towards that person. Amazing that we have not yet seen fire and brimstone falling in America!

The Exchange

I don’t care what anybody says, this next one is very creative! In Romans 1:26-27, Paul says,

Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.

The key word is exchanged. According to gay Christian logic, Paul was talking about heterosexuals engaging in same-sex activity, which violated their God-given nature or orientations. However, gay persons are “naturally” attracted to people of the same-sex, thus not violating their natures or orientations when they engage in same-sex behavior.

One must accept the premise that homosexuals were born that way for this to make sense, which I don’t. If they were not born that way, then they have indeed “exchanged” the normal for the abnormal whether they were conscious of the choice to do so or not. The onus is upon any of us: when we realize we are out of the way before God it is up to us to present ourselves to Him and allow Him to dictate how we will live and how we are to proceed.

The “Jesus never said it!” Approach

A transgender person made this statement in a comment on one of my blog entries, Why the Focus on Homosexuality . . . 

Jesus said that if a man look at a woman with lust in his heart, he had already committed adultery. He did not say the same if a man look at a man.

The utter nonsense of such a statement should be obvious. If we took this statement as true, we would have to assume that Jesus’ was saying that it is not OK for a man to lust after a woman but it is OK for a man to lust after another man!

Any thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

Failing the Smell Test: Evangelical Christian Publisher Endorsing Gay Christianity?

Here comes more of what we are going to see a whole lot of: Christian ministries, organizations, publishers, and business leaders trying to thread the needle of compartmentalization between what they say they believe and what they are actually practicing or willing to endorse. In the last three weeks, there have been three notable instances demonstrating the struggle that is coming and which, in fact, is already here.

 

World Vision

First it was the World Vision fiasco when the decision was made to hire same-sex couples for the U.S. World Vision staff (See the Christianity Today article). Though the decision was reversed, it revealed some startling logic from its president, Richard Stearns. After “the World Vision board had prayed for years about how to handle the issue” of “recognizing same-sex relationships,”  World Vision decides to look the other way and hire same-sex couples saying, “We have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue,”  as though that was a good thing. Not only does such logic fail to realize that by making the choice to hire same-sex couples, World Vision was siding with particular churches, but it also demonstrated World Vision’s willingness to check its spiritual and theological integrity at the door for the sake of the operation of its mission. 

 

Chic Fil A and Dan Cathy

Then, it was Dan Cathy who, in the midst of a campaign to promote his new food line and push his business ventures into the gay-rights holy ground of New York, who told USA Today,

All of us become more wise as time goes by . . . .We sincerely care about all people. . . . I’m going to leave it to politicians 
and others to discuss social issues.

Once again, the idea that it is a noble gesture to “pass the buck” and defer to “politicians and others” to decide what is right and wrong. I’m not saying that a person has to take his beliefs and create a media storm as Cathy did when he publicly stated that he supported the traditional biblical view of marriage. But now, though his views have not changed, he seems to have retreated for the sake of “customer service.”

 

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group

Finally, WORLD magazine reports online that,

Convergent Books, a publishing imprint under the same corporate umbrella and leadership as the evangelical WaterBrook 
Multnomah Publishing Group, is scheduled to release God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines next Tuesday. Vines, a 
24-year-old former Harvard student, attempts to refute biblical passages that declare homosexuality a sin (Can a divided 
publishing house stand?).

Waterbrook Multnomah publishes such authors as John Piper, David Jeremiah, Kay Arthur, and David Platt. Steven Cobb heads up both Waterbrook Multnomah and Convergent. In fact, according to The Christian Post, the two publishers or imprints are virtually the same: same leader (Cobb), same staff, same everything. Just a different name. The CP also reports from an inside source that

Multnomah is now consciously trying to hide from NRB [National Religious Broadcasters] and its members the fact that it is putting out this new project. Insiders are reporting threats should they release any such information outside the company… 

Essentially, Steve Cobb is asking traditional evangelicals to ignore the fact that he is also willing to publish titles that are pro-gay Christianity. More compartmentalization. It is hard to imagine that someone in a board room did not at one point say, “Wow! There’s a whole new market with gay Christianity! Evangelicals aren’t going to like it if we publish gay Christian material but there is too much money at stake if we don’t. So, let’s publish the material under a different name. Maybe no one will notice.” We noticed!

 

Yet Another Example: Thomas Nelson Publishers

Last year, I expressed concern to the Thomas Nelson Publishing company my concerns about an author they endorse, Rachel Held Evans. (Not that they had published a pro-gay Christian book, but that an author they publish also endorses gay Christianity, and by implication, Thomas Nelson.) Just visit Evans’ website and soon you will realize that she is a liberal Christian trying to reform traditional evangelicalism. In part I wrote,

I have always held Thomas Nelson in high regard, assuming it to be a trustworthy publisher upholding evangelical beliefs and values, I am greatly disturbed that you have chosen to stand with an author who openly supports gay Christianity, the Gay community, and by association at least, same sex marriage. . . . The issue is not about the church’s need to lovingly embrace those who are struggling and need the love of God. The issue is that she accepts gay Christianity on its own terms and thereby the whole “Christian LGBT” agenda and perspective. She directs her audience to the Gay Christian Network and others who support the gay “Christian” lifestyle. Am I to assume, by association, that Thomas Nelson also supports the same? 

A rep. from Thomas Nelson replied, in part,

The personal opinions and political views expressed by an author are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect that of the company. Thomas Nelson publishes products written from a Christian worldview, and we respect our author’s right to express their personal opinion. We cannot comment on anything concerning Ms. Evans other than the book that she has published through us.

In other words, We only want to be responsible for what we publish. If one of our authors stands against traditional Christian values, we kindly ask you to forget that while you are reading her books that we publish. 

 

Failing The Smell Test

Back when Bill Clinton was elected the first time, he astutely realized that if he would focus on the economy (“It’s the economy, stupid!”), Americans would look the other way and ignore his Jennifer Flowers discretion if they thought it would help their pocketbooks. He was right. Then, after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he was able to stay in office, even though he was impeached by the House. Is this where the country began to get comfortable with compartmentalizing personal indiscretions as long as publicly the job gets done? Maybe. But when did the Church get comfortable with turning a blind eye to a person’s character or beliefs just so long as they don’t sin around us? It’s like saying to someone who is accusing a man for beating his children, “Hey, he’s never beaten his children around me so it’s none of my business.” Whether it is raising money for the needy, selling chicken , or selling books, it seems that some of the leaders and influencers looked up to by traditional evangelicals are willing to suspend or table their convictions for the sake of business.

Perhaps World Vision Should Ask Evangelicals: “Who Did You Think We Were?”

By Scott Fowler

John Mayer, the popular guitar player and singer, has a song called “Who Did You Think I Was?” Part of the lyrics go like this:

Every mornin when the day begins

I make up my mind but change it back again

I’m a shifter of the shape I’m in

Who did you think I was?

This article asks this question of World Vision and its leadership.

In his article, How World Vision Can Regain Trust, Dr. Michael Brown’s perspective is right on. We must accept World Vision’s statement of repentance. I also think his list of questions for President Stearns are essential to answer moving forward. But there is something else we should ask of ourselves: What is World Vision? Does it claim to be evangelical? Who did we think they were before all of this happened? Were we accurate? I am fully aware that there are genuine evangelicals working in the midst of World Vision but are they in the minority? I personally never assumed World Vision was evangelical. Yet we find that evangelicals are holding World Vision to an evangelical standard. Who did we think they were?

I have read World Vision’s statement expressing its core values. It is a laudable expression of Christian faith and compassion. But we have made certain assumptions. We have assumed that we define Christianity the same. We have assumed that we share the same definition of sin. Do we?

While I agree with Dr. Brown that we should accept World Vision’s statement of repentance, I believe it is fair to ask of Wolrd Vision and its leadership, “Are you repenting of causing displeasure to your evangelical supporters or are you repenting that you slipped into a compromised view of homosexuality? How is it possible that after praying for years about this issue you can make such a decision only to reverse it just two days later? When you made the initial decision to hire same-sex couples was it because you decided that homosexuality was normative? Yes, you said you were deferring to the authority of the local churches, but it seems that you deferred to the authority of local churches that accept same-sex marriage and embrace gay Christianity! Did you decide that it just didn’t matter in the face of doing good deeds unto humanity? If so, isn’t that the definition of a social gospel?

After reading Mr. Stearns’ interview with Sarah Pulliam Baily in the Huffington Post given after the reversal, I have concerns that cause me again to ask, “What do we think World Vision is?” In response to the question:

Did anyone come out in the time between the announced decision and the reversal? In other words, are there any employees in same-sex marriages currently?”

Mr. Stearns answered, “

As far as we know, we don’t have any World Vision U.S. employees involved in a same-sex marriage. With a population of 1,100 employees, I’m sure we have people with a same-sex orientation on our staff. But I think it’s important to say that we respect the privacy of our employees. We don’t ask about sexual orientation in the interview or in hiring because we do welcome people regardless of their sexual orientation if they can affirm the Apostle’s Creed and the statement of faith, and if they can abide by our conduct policy. The conduct policy applies to heterosexuals and homosexuals. We’re not trying to exclude someone because they have a same-sex orientation, but we do have a conduct standard that governs all employees.

So, World Vision has no problem with gay Christianity.

When asked,

What kind of church do you attend, and has that informed your personal view on same-sex marriage?

Stearns answered,

“It’s a Presbyterian Church (USA) in the Seattle area, but I don’t want to drag them into this. I’m not telling people where I stand on same-sex marriage because I don’t think it’s relevant.

Even the Huffington Post recognizes that a person’s church affiliation affects one’s opinions and that those opinions affect one’s decisions!

When asked about his opinion concerning the emphasis evangelicals put on sexual morality, Stearn, in part, said,

“But we all have to admit that issues like this distract us and take up more time than they should or than they ought to. We’re trying to call people to our mission and let’s come together and change the world. I wrote a whole book called “Unfinished” that’s about the kingdom mission that was given to Christ is unfinished 2,000 years later, and we need to finish the job, working across differences. That’s not saying we shouldn’t violate core principles of our faith in various faith communities, but we have to come together to finish this kingdom mission.”

As far as I can see from World Vision’s statement of their core values, their mission is to relieve human suffering among the poorest of the poor. Who doesn’t applaud that? But that is not the kingdom mission! The mission is to go into all the world, preach the gospel, teach people to obey Jesus commands, baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and to make disciples. In the process of fulfilling that great commission, yes we meet human need, regardless of our success at converting those in need. BUT, we can’t compromise the biblical truth and principles of the spiritual mission for the sake of completing the social aspect of the mission.

Some will say this article is mean-spirited. It is not meant to be. But we must answer the most fundamental questions concerning where we stand on gay Christianity. If we don’t, the same thing that happened to World Vision is going to happen to churches and ministries all across America. Genuine evangelicals must consider their endorsements and ask themselves, “Who did we think they were?”

What hath Uncle Remus to do with Phyllis Tickle? The Tickle Chronicles Part 3

Uncle Remus as portrayed by James Baskett in S...
Uncle Remus as portrayed by James Baskett in Song of the South (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is part 3 of The Tickle Chronicles. Tickle, an extremely articulate and highly influential voice in the Emergence Christian movement, answered some of my questions via email and gave me permission to share her thoughts with you.

By Scott Fowler

“Actual” vs. “Factual”

 I was riding the Splash Mountain ride at Disney World a few weeks ago, and a phrase written on the wall reminded me of Phyllis Tickle. The phrase derives from the lyrics of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah (listen to the song below), a song from the censored Disney movie, Song of the South. In the song, Uncle Remus sings,

Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder. It’s the truth! It’s actual! Everything is satisfactual!

Ah! The simplicity of Disney in the 1940s and the naïve idea that things that were true were actual and factual!1

In the last article (Phyllis Tickle’s Dangerous Hermeneutic), I shared with you Tickle’s response to my question about her view of Biblical authority. When I suggested that she was part of the crowd that no longer sees the Bible as the final authority, she took exception:

NO! Now this one surprises me, for so far as I know I am not usually misunderstood or misquoted here. As an observant Anglican, I believe, and continue to believe, that authority rests in Scripture, reason and tradition. Like Emergence Christians, I believe that Scripture must be seen as “actually” true, rather than reduced to the confines and strictures of human “fact” or being “factually true” in the sense of Protestant Inerrancy, as that term is normally defined. It is one of the prime roles of the Holy Spirit to lead the believer to correct discernment of Scripture, and as Christians we read with and through the tutelage of the Spirit. The odd thing about this point’s being questioned is that I say a dozen times every lecturing day that if there were such a thing as an “average” Emergence Christian and an “average” Protestant or Roman Christian [which there is not, of course], it would be the Emergence Christian who exhibits the more radical and emphatic devotion to the ‘accuracy’ of Holy Writ and to believing in its absolute function as the Word of God Almighty, Now and Always. Of course, the Emergence would also be appalled by the need, esp. on the part of Protestantism, to reduce that same Scripture to non-paradoxical exegesis, to “acceptable” doctrine, to the kind of consistency human reason can perceive and approve of. The two, then…i.e., actuality vs. factuality… are entirely different approaches to Scripture, the Emergence being not only a more passionately persuaded one, but also a much, much humbler one. (Emphasis mine.)

So, here we encounter the concept of the Bible as actually true rather than factually true. I think Uncle Remus would be puzzled by this idea as many of us are! I am not sure if this concept originates with Tickle or not. Quoting David Sloan Wilson, Michael Dowd (someone who calls himself “America’s evolutionary evangelist) defines practical truth versus factual truth:

Practical truth is that which reliably produces personal wholeness and social coherence by motivating people to behave in ways that serve the wellbeing of the group. Factual truth is that which is measurably, scientifically real.

A very quick Google search did not yield much on the comparison either way. Nevertheless, Tickle stands by it. So, what is she really trying to get at here?

“Non-paradoxical Exegesis” or “Reason Trumps Truth”

We have to take account of Tickle’s entire statement and at this point pull in her reference to “non-paradoxical exegesis.”

the Emergence [Christian] would also be appalled by the need, esp. on the part of Protestantism, to reduce that same Scripture to non-paradoxical exegesis, to “acceptable” doctrine, to the kind of consistency human reason can perceive and approve of.

It sounds like Emergence Christians demand that the Bible not be reduced to straight forward truth but that it be allowed to be paradoxical. I think I can accept the reality that Scripture can be paradoxical. The grace of God is paradoxical. But does Tickle ever allow for Scripture to be factual, straight forward, literal, un-twistable? Is every doctrine of evangelicalism open to the kind of interpretation that somehow “paradoxically” turns the Bible’s prohibition against homosexuality into a celebration of it instead? If, as Gingerich reported,2 Tickle declares that the Bible does not support homosexuality, then how does one arrive at the “paradox” of gay Christianity as Tickle does?3

The last part of the quote above is curious as well and gives us the answer to how Tickle and the Emergence Christians who agree with her arrive at such beliefs. According to Tickle, Emergence Christians:

would . . . be appalled by the need . . . to reduce . . . Scripture . . . to the kind of consistency human reason can perceive and approve of.

Isn’t this what Tickle’s “actual-sans-factual” “paradoxical exegetical” approach does in the first place? The only way to embrace homosexuality while at the same time agreeing that Scripture prohibits it is through the constructs of and a mandate for a socially palatable human reasoning. In her interview with Andrew Marin, Tickle showcases her own use of human reasoning. Speaking of the various Scriptural prohibitions that she says the Church has “gotten over,” and of divorce in particular, Tickle said,

the Church itself is gonna have to come to grips with the fact that we have changed over the years, we have evolved, the law. We now admit divorce. Our Lord does not speak much about sexuality, but He’s very clear about divorce. It’s the only thing He’s really clear about. And we have managed because out of compassion, and I certainly am for that change, out of compassion and out of common sense and out of a recognition that our times and ways of being are different from those. We have managed to get around the divorce issue and now even ordain divorced clergy, and that kind of thing. The same thing is going to happen with the gay issue. It’s in process. (Emphasis mine.)

Ah! Human reasoning at its finest!

In her previous statement, Tickle must be referring only to Protestant human reasoning which one can only surmise is not as acceptable because, paradoxically speaking, it does not lead to doctrines acceptable to our present society. But in theory, Protestant human reasoning is that which has been influenced by a view of Scripture as “truth” and as “actual” as understood through their proper definitions. And, even though we are faced with difficult situations when our human reasonings collide with its truths, Protestants find the Bible to be, in the end, very “satisfactual!”

The Tutelage of the Spirit

As far as reading Scripture “through the tutelage of the Spirit” and “correctly discerning Scripture,” what can be assumed here but that Tickle has in mind what any of us would agree with: a belief that we come to Scripture by faith through the agency of the Holy Spirit and that He helps us to rightly divide the Word of truth? Words like these cause one to be almost persuaded that, indeed, Tickle is at last an evangelical! Then, we remind ourselves that when Tickle reads the prohibitions against homosexuality, acknowledges them, and yet embraces homosexuality and gay Christianity, we realize that either she is not an evangelical, or the definition of evangelical has changed.

Next Time: I asked Ms. Tickle a follow-up question concerning her stance on gay Christianity. Her response was passionate, reverent, and devotional, but was it Scriptural?

1 The word fact and the word satisfaction have in common the Latin facere “perform; do.” So, the word fact has its meaning in the idea of an event which has actually happened and which can be verified evidentially. The prefix satis means “enough,” so in the word satisfaction, a deed has actually been done enough.

2 http://juicyecumenism.com/2013/01/18/emergence-christianity-comes-to-memphis/

3 See the last article.

Scott Fowler is the founder of the Christ and Culture Initiative. He is a pastor/theologian living in New York. You can learn more about him at Scottythinks.com. 

Four Qualms with Alan Chambers’ Apology from the Exodus International Platform

If you have not heard about Exodus International and the recent apology by its president, Alan Chambers, you can read his apology here. Just Google it and you will get all the background you need. 

By Scott Fowler

The recent apology by Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, is quite the hot topic this week. There may be any number of issues we could discuss, but he said four things in his apology that I would like to address in this article.

Item One:

Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church.

This is a loaded statement that leads me asking, Which church? In what way is the Bible-believing, evangelical church angry with Exodus International? I can’t say that I am aware of the feedback Exodus International has gotten over the years. Apparently there have been gross indiscretions in its operations at times. If this is what Chambers means, OK. But I kind of think he must be trying to say that somehow the church is angry at his stance towards homosexuality, same-sex marriage, reparative processes, etc. If this is what he means, then he is talking about a certain part of the “church,” an inclusive part that is no way to be characterized by what used to be known as evangelicalism. So my complaint here is that it seems as though he is reflecting a change in the believing Church’s stance on homosexuality and that is not the case. My words here are not in defense of any abusive behavior towards the LGBT community which no right-headed genuine believer would advocate anyway.

Item Two:

But if the Church is a body, with many members being connected to the whole, then I believe that what one of us does right we all do right,and what one of us does wrong we all do wrong. 

This is nice fireside, “kum bah yah” language, but it doesn’t wash. First of all, there are too many instances where this statement on its face is disproved over and over and over. Second, I sort of resent Chamber’s appointing himself to speak for the church and to drag the church into what he is saying. I am tired of people beating up on the church. How easy it is to cherry pick all the things that the church has done wrong over the years and blame everyone for it. How easy to dismiss righteous claims because some individual skewed off-center and did something shameful. So, on one hand Chambers is facing “an angry church” and on the other he is saying the church did wrong with him. Well, the jury is still out on the reasons for Chambers’ apology, but in the mean time he isn’t speaking for the believing Church.

Item Three:

 And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there.

The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.

I am truly not trying to be unkind or even judgmental, but this sounds like Chambers is “coming out.” It also sounds like he is trying to say that he was “born this way.” He also seems to be suggesting that God accepts homosexuality, or at least its desires, as normal and OK. And it all seems to be firmly based in Chambers’ subjective experience and perspective. Finally, his message would seem to be, “Don’t be ashamed of your homosexual desires. They are normal and God accepts them.” Again, Chambers does not speak for the believing Church if indeed this is what he is saying.

Item Four:

You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good. Moving forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing.

I wonder what the changes are going to be in Chambers’ own life? I also want to know what kind of “resolution” Chambers is hoping to bring about? Who has shown displeasure to Chambers with such ferocity that he has arrived at this moment of what many will call capitulation? But here is the part I am most concerned about with this quote. His future focus on “peace,” “common good,” and “human flourishing.” My problem is not that those things aren’t good, but they can be disastrous when the foundation they are built on is compromise or fear of man.

Conclusion

I must reiterate that I am no expert on Exodus International, nor do I have any insight into the spiritual or theological veracity of Alan Chambers. It is not my desire to castigate him or his walk with God. But even though I have stated here that he is not an official spokesman for the believing church, when a leader like Chambers speaks out the culture invariably groups the church in with his words.

Why the focus on homosexuality, abortion, evolution? Aren’t all sins the same in God’s eyes? Part 1

By Scott Fowler

I am frequently asked if all sins are equally bad or if some sins are worse than others. Sometimes I just hear the statement being made in passing, “Well, we know that all sins are equal in God’s eyes.” Usually, this idea is tied to the sentiment suggesting the Church should not spend so much time harping against homosexuality, abortion, and evolution (the “big 3”), and spend more time dealing with Christians who lie, cheat on their taxes, and commit adultery. Surely those things are just as destructive as the big 3.

Without a doubt, sin separates us from God. And, barring a discussion on the possibility that the punishment of hell will be intensified upon its inhabitants by degrees based on the degree of their sinfulness, we can agree that once a person goes to hell it may not matter at that point whether it was murder or lying or tax evasion that sent him or her there. He or she is separated from God.

So, why does the believing Church spend so much time talking about the big 3? Aren’t all sins equally bad in God’s eyes? Let’s gradually get to the first question by starting with the second. And let’s begin the discussion by asking a series of questions and by considering a few different scenarios.

Is there a difference between the sin being committed by a young man and woman, both single, both unmarried, who are engaging in premarital sex, and a man and a woman, both married to other people, having an affair with one another? How do we normally feel about the young couple that doesn’t want to wait compared to how we feel about the couple cheating on their spouses? There is something categorically different between the sin of the young couple and the sin of the adulterers. Both couples are engaged in damnable sins,1  but there is something extra deceitful and hurtful happening with the adulterous couple. They are in deeper. They are not only disobeying God but they are breaking their vows and hurting their children and living a lie! Perhaps the question is not “Is one sin is worse than the other?” but rather “How deeply mired in bondage is one couple compared to the other?” or “How many people are hurt by the sin of either couple?” Let’s keep going with more questions and another scenario.

Is there anything inherently different between the sin of adultery happening between a man and a woman and the same-sex sexual relations happening between two gay men? Both “couples” are committing damnable sins,2 but something is different. While we could never condone or justify the sins of the adulterous couple, we are not surprised when people find themselves in the midst of emotional and physical attraction and falling into the trap of adultery. Why? Because, while an adulterous affair is shameful and sinful, we understand that men are attracted to women and vice versa and, given the right set of circumstances, they can all too easily find themselves in a weakened state and falling into the grossest of sins. And while we would condemn such acts, we would not normally say that there was something unnatural about what they are doing, beyond the view of what is natural for believing Christians, because it is normal for men to be attracted to women, etc. The issue in this case is that the man and the woman have failed to stay faithful to God and to the ordained relationships they have already committed to. Similarly, we do not say that a man has sinned because he has the capacity to be tempted by looking at another woman, but we would say that he is responsible for what he does with the temptation.

But when it comes to homosexuality and two men or two women in same-sex sexual relations with one another, we do not simply say that they have done the wrong thing with temptation. Much more is involved. While it is true that the man and the woman who are having an adulterous affair with one another have indeed gone against God’s laws by giving themselves to forbidden sexual relationships, their violation is different in kind than that of the two men or two women involved in forbidden same-sex sexual relationships. The homosexual relationship represents a twisting of God’s laws in a much deeper, more deviant way. God certainly condemns sex outside of marriage and sex that violates the marriage bed and vows, but He has not condemned human heterosexual sexuality. He reserves the right to decide for us who we should mate with, but He has not condemned the human sexual act between a man and a woman. He has, in fact, endorsed it and encouraged it within the bounds of His laws. In the case of homosexuality, He has condemned the act altogether; forbidden it. So, homosexuality is in a different category because it twists what God originally intended in a way that premarital sex and adultery between a man and a woman does not. There is no way for the homosexual act to ever be sanctioned by God.

If we imagine a person simply making a random decision to engage in a same-sex sexual act, we could also imagine saying to that person, “Don’t choose to do that anymore. It’s wrong.” We might not understand why a person would do such a thing, but there it is. But when we come to the realization that gays and lesbians have this desire (not born with it but somehow mired in it) and that they approve of it, now we are dealing with individuals who, in the face of God, are not just saying we want to have sex, but we want to have sex in a way that you have said is not natural, normal, or accepted.

As mentioned above, perhaps the question is not degrees of sinfulness, but degrees of bondage. The stronghold of homosexuality is different in its intensity than, say, a little boy of four who has trouble telling the truth, although Stephen Charnock wrote,

“All sin is founded in secret atheism. Atheism is the spirit of every sin; all the floods of impieties in the world break in at the gate of a secret atheism, and though several sins may disagree with one another, yet, like Herod and Pilate against Christ, they join hand in hand against the interest of God. Though lusts and pleasures be diverse, yet they are all united in disobedience to him. All the wicked inclinations in the heart, and struggling motions, secret repining, self-applauding confidences in our own wisdom, strength, &c. [sic], envy, ambition, revenge, are sparks from this latent fire; the language of every one of these is, I would be a Lord to myself, and would not have a God superior to me.3 

For this reason, we don’t take lightly the little boy who tends to lie. But we understand that little boys and girls sometimes have trouble with the truth and need teaching concerning the reason the truth matters. And although we have all known people who are liars, it is rare to find someone who vouches for lying or claims that a life based on falsehood is a noble path to choose.

What I am trying to say is that at least one of the reasons that homosexuality is seen differently than other behaviors that the Church considers to be sinful is that the bondage and the stronghold that it represents is significantly different and arguably more difficult to deal with than the occasional temptation to swear when one hits his or her thumb with a hammer.

I will deal with the first part of the question in Part 2, but let me finish this article by saying that I am more and more sensitive to the argument against the believing Church that when it speaks against sin, particularly against homosexuality, that it is of necessity spewing hate out for homosexuals outside of the faith and now more and more inside even the evangelical church. To those arguments I would say that indeed many Christians have spewed hatred for the sin and that hatred of sin has been virtually indistinguishable from the feeling they have expressed for the homosexuals themselves. For that I am deeply sorry and in agreement that Jesus loves the homosexual and so does the true believing Church. However, in our present culture, any expression of disagreement is seen as hate. But the believing Church has no choice but to speak the truth. So, all I know to do is to genuinely love people, declare the truth from that genuine love, and become sensitive to ways in which we can better communicate that genuine love.

Stay tune for Part 2.

1 Revelation 21:8 says: But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

2 Along with Revelation 21:8, Romans 1:18-32.

3 Stephen Charnock, B.D., Discourses Upon the Existence and Attributes of God, Volume I (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987; reprinted from the 1853 edition by Robert Carter & Brothers), page 93, emphasis mine

 

Scott Fowler is the founder of the Christ and Culture Initiative. He is a pastor/theologian living in New York. You can learn more about him at:  http://scottythinks.wordpress.com/about/