It’s not about same-sex marriage! It’s about gay Christianity!

By Scott Fowler

It is time to re-frame the discussion going on in evangelical Christianity concerning homosexuality. For a very long time now we have allowed the discussion to be couched in terms of same-sex marriage. But the elephant in the room is gay Christianity! The reason true evangelicals can’t support a ministry willing to hire same-sex couples is that we can’t support gay Christianity! It is as simple as that! It’s not about hate. It’s not about politics. It’s not that we don’t care about hungry children. It’s about the fact that biblical Christianity does not endorse same-sex attraction, same-sex relationships or for that matter, celibate homosexuals who embrace homosexuality as normative and God created! Genuine Christianity cannot embrace homosexuality. And we cannot support a ministry that operates in Jesus’ name but rejects His commandments.

Two Typical Responses

The responses to the forgoing statements will be predictable. From inside the church will come those who say, “We support Christians who have committed adultery or who have been guilty of lying and stealing! Why do we single out the sin of homosexuality?” Anyone with this response simply isn’t paying attention to the flow of logic and reason. First of all, this response is an apple to my statement about oranges. Gays and lesbians are not showing up at our churches and asking us to accept them in the midst of their sin of homosexuality. If they were we would embrace them (don’t judge all Christians by the few who would not embrace repentant homosexuals). On the contrary, gays and lesbians are showing up to our churches and saying, “Accept our lifestyle as godly.” (By the way, we don’t embrace adulterers and thieves, we embrace people who have fallen into those sins and we call them to repentance!)

Others from inside and outside the gay community will ask, “How can you reject gay Christians simply because they have a different interpretation of Scripture and a different theology?” There are some issues where Christians can differ and remain in fellowship with one another: predictions about the Rapture, whether or not it’s ok to drink, sprinkling or immersion, even speaking in tongues. But no serious Christian would suggest that a community of Christians embracing open sex among their families should be accepted into fellowship! We would point out the error of their ways and if they did not repent we would distance ourselves from them and expose them because adultery and promiscuous sexual activity are sins! So, how can we embrace homosexuality as simply a different theology when we believe it is a sin before God? We can’t! We can preach and teach the truth. We can share with the gay community the error of their ways. But if they do not agree and cannot repent, we cannot embrace them and fellowship with them as Christians.

Rights and Double Standards

A gay person can certainly reject my perspective on this matter and embrace homosexuality and even proceed to embrace Christianity as well. Likewise, I have the right to reject homosexuality as a lifestyle and walk according to my convictions. But this is not good enough for the gay community because it demands that all people accept them as normal. Biblical Christianity simply cannot do this!

Here’s an example…

Typical evangelical churches are being asked to accept gay Christianity in the same way we would ask a Baptist Christian to fellowship with a Pentecostal: put away your non-essential differences and rally around your profession of Christ or around your desire to feed children. We can’t do it. Our differences are essential! But do you imagine for one minute that a congregation of gay Christians would hire a pastor for their staff who rejects homosexuality as normative? No way! Because they too believe that acceptance of homosexuality is essential!

Gays can be gay. They can marry where it’s legal (coming to a state near year if it hasn’t already arrived). They can form unofficial marital bonds if they like. They can live together. They can promote whatever they want to promote. It’s America. But I am free to stand by my convictions and preach and teach biblical truth exactly as I see it. The reason this is increasingly hard for the culture and the gay community in particular to accept is that homosexuality has been elevated to the level of a civil right.

The Impasse and the Hate Card

Finally, we are at a fundamental, immovable, insurmountable impasse. Okay, that happens. But it is childish for the gay community to continually characterize Christians as haters and murderers simply because we disagree. Disagreement is not hate. It is not murder. And I have to wonder what kind of arrested emotional development identifies disagreement in such a way?

Genuine Christians will love people regardless of their sins or even their wrong beliefs and views, but we cannot compromise  our convictions.

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.