What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?

bible-homosexuality

Fewer issues cause more handwringing among Christians in our day than that of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. For some, it’s not a lack of clarity on what they believe, but about how to express it without being accused of being the sort of folks who picket funerals and angrily shout, “God hates fags.” And so, many in this group, because they are uncertain of how to speak winsomely, say nothing.

Others, the issue itself is extremely cloudy. They don’t really know or aren’t really sure what, if anything, the Bible says about the issue, and how to interpret what’s there. So when they read the arguments of affirming or revisionist authors, they have no idea how to respond or what to think. And because they aren’t grounded, they risk falling into serious error.

You can see why pastor and author Kevin DeYoung would be compelled to write a book on the subject then, can’t you? Which is why What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? exists. In this book, he wants to bolster the faith of those who know what they believe, but are unsure of how to communicate. He wants to bring clarity to those for whom the situation seems murky. And he wants to challenge those who, flying under the banner of Christ, would seek to revise what the Bible really says about homosexuality.

Where you start affects what you ask

Divided into two parts, DeYoung begins by first examining the texts which directly speak to humanity’s design and homosexual practice: Genesis 1-2, Genesis 19, Leviticus 18, 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1. The inclusion of Genesis 1-2 might surprise some, since it is the creation account, but including it makes complete sense. After all, we can’t truly understand what the Bible says about homosexuality without first understanding how God created human beings.

For the Christian, there is nothing more basic than this: humans were created unique in all of creation—the man and the woman were made in the image and likeness of God. They were made to be something like him, as unity in diversity. And this is repeated referenced all throughout the Bible. It is the foundation and framework of marriage in Ephesians 5, and in Jesus’ own teaching on divorce in Matthew 19:4-6. It is a picture of the gospel, and a type of the marriage that is to come in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 19). Thus, DeYoung writes,

Marriage, by its very nature, requires complementarity. The mystical union of Christ and the church—each “part” belonging to the other but neither interchangeable—cannot be pictured in marital union without the differentiation of male and female. If God wanted us to conclude that men and women were interchangeable in the marriage relationship, he not only gave us the wrong creation narrative; he gave us the wrong metanarrative. (32)

DeYoung’s point here is pretty simple: how you view the male-female relationship is inevitably going to influence whether the validity of same-sex marriage is even a question in your mind. If you function, as some Christians do, within the complementarian framework of gender—that is, each gender is uniquely designed to perform separate, but complementary functions—honestly, you’re probably not asking any questions about whether or not homosexual practice is compatible with Christian belief. In this framework, the two are not interchangeable, and therefore homosexual practice cannot be compatible with Christian belief. The conversation, therefore, shifts more toward answering the challenge winsomely.

For the egalitarian, however, the challenge is significantly different. If you believe that gender distinctions fundamentally have no bearing on your role and responsibility, you’re more than likely having to deal first with the compatibility issue. I don’t say this to disparage those who do hold this viewpoint, but merely to show that what we believe about male-female relationships may have drastic affects on our starting point on this issue (and potentially our end point).

What’s the fruit we’re talking about?

Part two of the book focuses on answering the common objections to the historic orthodox view of homosexuality:

  • the Bible’s limited discussion of homosexuality in general;
  • the cultural distance argument (that is, the kind of homosexuality the Bible talks about isn’t the kind revisionists advocate the inclusion of);
  • our lack of condemnation of sins such as gluttony and divorce outside of the biblically permissible reasons;
  • the church being a safe place for broken people and sinners;
  • being on the wrong side of history;
  • the fairness of encouraging same-sex attracted Christians to commit to life-long celibacy; and
  • love as the overriding attribute and characteristic of God.

Each topic, as should be expected, is handled very carefully, though DeYoung is not afraid to be a little jabby in places. On this point, it’s important to remember that DeYoung is not being hostile toward those who experience same-sex attraction, nor is he particularly hostile toward revisionist authors. What troubles him greatly—and shines through on every page of this book—is his overriding concern about the seemingly blind acceptance of false teaching in our midst, and the diminishment of the authority of Scripture as a result.

This is especially apparent when DeYoung writes on the fairness issue, countering the oft-cited “good fruit/bad fruit” claims of of Matthew Vines and other authors who ask, “If embracing their sexuality were really a step away from God… why are so many ‘gay Christians’ spiritually flourishing?” (116) In other words, how can it be wrong if it’s yielding “good fruit”?

The problem, DeYoung argues, is that the definition of “good fruit” proposed is wrong. In revisionist writing, experience has a tendency to trump the what Scripture says. Thus, the good fruit is fulfillment, satisfaction or personal happiness. It is a feeling. This is necessary for us to remember in a culture driven by experience—what we feel is not unimportant, but we cannot escape the fact that as fallen human beings with hearts and minds corrupted by sin, our feelings will lie to us. “The heart wants what the heart wants” is true enough; however, what the heart wants is not always what the heart needs. Tim Keller said it well in a recent conference message, when the heart wants something, the mind will find it reasonable and the emotions find desirable. Thus, we should probably be a little more clear about fruit is, biblically.

Instead of a feeling, Matthew 7:21 reminds us, good fruit is obedience. One only bears fruit when doing the will of the Father. Thus, if one is doing something contrary to the will of God, it is bad fruit, regardless of what we feel.  We must remember “there are no genuinely healthy trees apart from obedience to Christ and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-24)” (118).

Falling on deaf ears

As true as this is, and as beneficial as it is to be reminded of it, the reality is, as much as we might want them to, the revisionists aren’t likely to heed the warning DeYoung issues in this book. As I read the book, I kept thinking of how they might attempt to refute his claims. To be sure, those who hold the affirming position of same-sex relationships will almost certainly stand against it’s message, but those who do will be doing so on a shaky foundation.

The place I could see those standing in opposition to this book’s message appealing to most readily is experience.Because DeYoung doesn’t deal with same-sex attraction personally, one could argue, he doesn’t have a basis for writing this book. It’s a desperate argument, and a poor one, but one could still attempt to make the case. However, we should always remember that experience does not trump the Bible. Experience, as I said earlier, doesn’t supersede truth. And one does not need firsthand experience of something to be able to speak intelligently about it. Do we really expect pastors to develop a porn addiction before they can speak out against it? Or get divorced? Or become a drunkard?

And even if the argument were valid, one could just as easily point to Sam Allberry’s excellent book, Is God anti-gay?, which largely makes the same case as What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?—but he does so as a man who experiences same-sex attraction. Nevertheless, no matter how winsomely communicated, and no matter how rigorously defended, revisionists will likely remain entrenched in their position, despite its intellectual and theological dishonesty.

Pastoral responses and an urgent plea

Whether they are uncertain of what to believe, or simply struggle to effective communicate the truth, this book will be a great help to its readers. What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? offers clarity on disputed texts, pastoral responses to the common arguments, and most importantly, an urgent plea to hold fast to the truth in the face of mounting pressure to compromise. Lord willing, we will all carefully consider what DeYoung has to say in this book.


Title: What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?
Author: Kevin DeYoung
Publisher: Crossway (2015)

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots (LOTS!) of Kindle deals today from Zondervan:

Be sure to also grab What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? by Edward T. Welch, which is free today.

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung’s latest, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, officially releases today and Westminster Bookstore has a great sale on it for the next few days: $10 for a single copy; $8 each when buying five or more; $6 each when purchasing a case (60). Look for a review really soon!

Leading strong-willed people

As a strong-willed person (and the parent of a couple of strong-willed little people), this was really helpful.

Rolling Stone and the Culture of Lying

Russell Moore:

Rolling Stone magazine printed serious criminal accusations against a campus group, accusations the periodical now admits are completely false. Despite all of this, both the article’s author and the magazine editor will keep their jobs according to the publisher. This matters, and matters to far more people than just those on the campus of the University of Virginia or even to the target demographic of Rolling Stone. Behind this scandal is a larger point. In our society, it’s become acceptable to lie about people and ideas, as long as the crisis created is in line with a perceived social good.

Should We Give the Death Penalty to Adulterers?

Mike Leake:

We don’t burn witches anymore. And I imagine all of us celebrate this fact. But what is your justification for saying that the Old Testament no longer applies on these issues? This is an important question because how we answer this determines whether we’ll give muddy responses to contemporary issues related to morality.

10 Pointers for “Untrained” Preachers

As a mostly untrained preacher, I really appreciated reading these ten tips from Peter Mead.

Quiet the Fear, Do the Work

Jon Bloom:

Being strong and courageous was not some kind of self-confident swagger for Joshua. It was trusting God’s promises more than his own strength and acting on that trust. Courage meant faith-filled action in the face of fear.

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A Tip for Seminary Students

Mike Leake:

I came to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of 2009. I was excited to be able to learn from some of the world’s greatest professors. I figured I would learn so much and that I would grow in my relationship with the Lord in ways I didn’t imagine. My first semesters didn’t disappoint.

After awhile, though, my soul started to ache a bit.

Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting

Heather Barwick:

Do you remember that book, “Heather Has Two Mommies”? That was my life. My mom, her partner, and I lived in a cozy little house in the ‘burbs of a very liberal and open-minded area. Her partner treated me as if I was her own daughter. Along with my mom’s partner, I also inherited her tight-knit community of gay and lesbian friends. Or maybe they inherited me?

Either way, I still feel like gay people are my people. I’ve learned so much from you. You taught me how to be brave, especially when it is hard. You taught me empathy. You taught me how to listen. And how to dance. You taught me not be afraid of things that are different. And you taught me how to stand up for myself, even if that means I stand alone.

I’m writing to you because I’m letting myself out of the closet: I don’t support gay marriage. But it might not be for the reasons that you think.

Of Crows and Crowns

Check out this video for a new song from Dustin Kensrue’s upcoming album, Carry the Fire (which you should really pre-order):

Are All Christian Denominations in Decline?

Joe Carter tackles the common notion that all denominations are in decline. But is it true? His answer: Not even a little bit.

Christians and college debt

Samuel Jones:

Student loan debt is no longer a minor macroeconomic footnote. Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies instead dubs it a “time bomb,” a gravely serious economic stranglehold on millions of Americans. Collins notes that student loan debt is already higher than the US’s total credit card debt and will, according to some economists, balloon even more at the turn of the decade. One report released last year estimated that 70% of graduating seniors carry debt out of college and that the average student debt was just south of $30,000.

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Isn’t the Christian View of Sexuality Dangerous and Harmful?

Sam Allberry:

You won’t find Jesus teaching that your life isn’t worth living if you can’t be fulfilled sexually—that a life without sex is no life at all. You won’t see biblical Christianity insist that our sexual proclivities are so foundational to who we are—and that to fail to affirm such proclivities is to attack people at their core. All this comes not from biblical Christianity but from Western culture’s highly distorted view of what it means to be a human. When an idol fails you, the real culprit turns out to be the person who urged you worship it, not the person who tried to take it away.

On a related note, you should also read Christopher Robins’ response to City Church San Francisco’s announcement regarding their stance on homosexuality and same-sex relationships.

God, Make Me a Looker

Lore Ferguson:

This past week my pastor taught on active faith expressed in works. I don’t know that I would have had ears to hear his words quite so well had I not been soaking in the richness of George Muller’s biography for the past few weeks. Multiple times while reading a physical sob rose in my throat and tears filled my eyes. It was not wonder at the faith of Muller (though that was there), but wonder at the God in whom he trusted and the gift of faith on which he acted.

Who was St. Patrick?

A great excerpt from Christian History Made Easy:

On Sentimentality and Christian Writing

Ted Kluck:

That said, many people rip Christian writing because of how overtly sentimental it often is. But, I don’t think it’s sentimentality that kills Christian writing as much as it is a propensity for making the message trump the characters in the story. In making the “takeaways” obvious, we kill any shot we had at telling a decent story. Writing is hard enough without having to include an obvious subheading every four lines and having to shoehorn in a Bible verse that was specially harvested (often out of context) to prove my point.

Switching to a 5 day work week

Justin Buzzard shares some really good stuff here about why he’s made this switch. Pastors and ministry folks, consider it carefully (especially if your “season” of busyness too closely resembles winter in Narnia).

The evolution of the Batman films

This is a really great piece of art:

Batman evolution poster for print

If you’re a fan of such things, be sure to order a print from the artist.

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Amazon’s Big Deal sale is now on, with tons of great eBooks on sale. Here are a few standouts:

Several volumes of the Holman Commentary series are also on sale for $1.99 each:

Today is also the last day to take advantage of this week’s eBook deals from Crossway:

 The Nine Types Of Christians You Meet On Facebook

Yep.

Cage-Stage Calvinism

R.C. Sproul:

Cage-stage Calvinists are identifiable by their insistence on turning every discussion into an argument for limited atonement or for making it their personal mission to ensure everyone they know hears—often quite loudly—the truths of divine election. Now, having a zeal for the truth is always commendable. But a zeal for the truth that manifests itself in obnoxiousness won’t convince anyone of the biblical truth of Reformed theology. As many of us can attest from personal experience, it will actually push them away.

A Good Mentor Points Out the Cliffs

Mike Leake:

This is why we need mentors. We need people who have felt the pull of the plummet. We need those who have tasted the lustrous fruit and found it empty—men and women who know where the edge of the cliff is to be found.

Why Can’t the Church Just Agree to Disagree on Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung:

All of these third ways regarding homosexuality end up the same way: a behavior the Bible does not accept is treated as acceptable. “Agree to disagree” sounds like a humble “meet you in the middle” com­promise, but it is a subtle way of telling conservative Christians that homosexuality is not a make-or-break issue and we are wrong to make it so. No one would think of proposing a third way if the sin were racism or human trafficking. To countenance such a move would be a sign of moral bankruptcy. Faithfulness to the Word of God compels us to view sexual immorality with the same seriousness. Living an ungodly life is contrary to the sound teaching that defines the Christian (1 Tim. 1:8-11; Titus 1:16). Darkness must not be confused with light. Grace must not be confused with license. Unchecked sin must not be con­fused with the good news of justification apart from works of the law. Far from treating sexual deviance as a lesser ethical issue, the New Testament sees it as a matter for excommuni­cation (1 Corinthians 5), separation (2 Cor. 6:12-20), and a temptation for perverse compromise (Jude 3-16).

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The Real Faces Behind the Gay Issue

Jasmine Holmes shares a moving story.

How to Think about Persecution When You’re Not Very Persecuted

Erik Raymond:

The first step in this is define what we mean by persecution. At its core we are talking about active opposition to the people of God because of their commitment to Christ. This obviously has varying levels. There is the boldest and most extreme, which involves the torture and murder of someone for their faith. The watching world was horrified to see this take place this weekend with the beheading of 21 Christians in Egypt by Islamic terrorists. There is also the far less intense persecution that comes simply from claiming Christ as Lord. This may include shunning from family, lose of promotion, mocking, ridicule, or other forms of opposition.

Brandon Smith’s new blog

My friend Brandon Smith’s now blogging over at Patheos. Go check it out.

Secondary Sources and Sermon Preparation

Joey Cochran:

From time to time Redeemer Fellowship receives honest questions from pastors curious about how we do things. Sometimes I have the pleasure of responding to those questions, especially when the topic falls within the wheelhouse of my skill set. Recently, a young pastor e-mailed Redeemer and asked about how Joe and the other pastors at the church use commentaries for sermon preparation. After fielding this question for this pastor, I thought that the response might also be beneficial for others to think through how they might use secondary sources and what priority they should have in sermon preparation.

Why the British are better at satire

This is interesting.

When Eternal Life Doesn’t Woo

Lore Ferguson:

The Christian life, I am finding, does not grow easier with time. I somehow thought it would. I envisioned the sage men and women we would become and find only that my flesh is just as prone to wandering today as it was four years ago or four months ago or four minutes ago.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And Crossway’s Foundations of Evangelical Theology series is on sale for $4.99 each:

What did you see in heaven?

Painfully accurate commentary from Adam Ford.

How to write a joke

A Soiled Bride He Will Not Have

Lore Ferguson:

But the presence of the gospel doesn’t change the presence of messy theology. In fact, the presence of the gospel sets us free to work all things out in submission to a singular reality: broken beyond repair in our sinfulness, the Father sent the Son to suffer, die, resurrect, and leave the perfect love of the Holy Spirit with His children in order that we might have a helper to bring us into all truth.

Is glorifying God a hate crime now?

Russell Moore:

Of course the chief wants to glorify God in his job. That doesn’t mean annexing his fire department for the Southern Baptist Convention. It means living with integrity, respecting other people, dealing honestly, as one who will give an account for his life.

That’s hardly surprising, just as it is hardly surprising the chief holds to a typical evangelical Christian (and Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox and Orthodox Jewish and Muslim) view of marriage and sexuality.

Doing and being

Jeremy Walker:

There are times when – because of fear, weariness, laziness, busyness, sickness, doubt or other reasons – we have to take ourselves in hand and stir ourselves up and spur ourselves and others on. Nevertheless, we should not need to be beaten into testifying of the grace of God in Christ. It bubbles out of a man like the apostle Paul under a variety of motivations, but it rarely seems to need to be drawn out, only directed as it flows.

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

In case you missed them, here’s a look at this week’s Kindle deals:

Don’t Hide Behind “The Gospel”

Barnabas Piper:

The gospel is only a solution when it drives us to do, only when what we believe about the free grace of God in Jesus makes us move. Only when we can make the connection between the gospel and the centuries of racial inequality in the United States, the lasting impact on our government and social structures, and the insidious and subtle effects on our own minds and hearts is it a solution. (If you do not acknowledge racial inequality historically, societally, and governmentally please keep reading. The gospel applies to my view and yours; we both need it.)

Sinners Are Also Sufferers

Kevin DeYoung:

It is always true: we have sinned against God more than anyone has sinned against us. Which means our suffering does not excuse our sinning.

And yet, it is also true that every sinner is in some way, often in profound ways, a great sufferer.

7 Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality

Jean Lloyd:

As a Christian, the conflict between my sexuality and my faith would become the deepest and most intense of my life. Now in my forties, I’ve gone from being closeted to openly lesbian to celibate to heterosexually married. The fact that I need to qualify my marital union as a heterosexual one reveals how much the cultural landscape has changed in that time—just as much as my own personal landscape has, though in very different ways.

Is Russell Moore a “Social Liberal”?

In which Samuel Jones nails it.

The mandate for Christian ministry

Great stuff from Albert Mohler:

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Book deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals to start you off:

Today’s $5 Friday deals at Ligonier include:

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Finally, you can get Banner of Truth’s lovely three-volume set of The Complete Works of John Bunyan for $59 at the Westminster Bookstore. This might make a really snazzy Christmas gift for the theology nerd in your life.

Not That Kind of Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung offers a whole pile of block quotes to remind us of an important truth: “Scholars all of different stripes have said the same thing: the cultural distance argument [about homosexual practice] will not work.”

Prepare Today for Tomorrow’s Conflicts

David Noble:

Regrettably, many church leaders overlook the reality of spiritual warfare. We mistakenly believe that being attentive to Satan and his schemes is unnecessary when our congregations are flourishing. Sometimes we assume that merely thinking about spiritual warfare invites trouble.

The most important thing about any church

Ray Ortlund:

The most important thing about any church is not their structure, their governance, their systems, their musical style, not even the nuances of their theology within a gospel framework, whether Baptistic or Presbyterian or Anglican.  Those things matter.  But the most important thing about any church is its spirit.

Little Things Matter

Kim Shay:

Young women who stay at home with your children, hear me: the scope of your service is not what makes it valuable; bigger is not always better. You don’t have to do elaborate things to serve and to encourage. The smallest of gestures can encourage someone more than you can possibly know. You may not be writing books, going away for weekends to speak at conferences, or traveling across the world to minister to someone, but you can be an encouragement right where God has put you.

Gotham Begins

Such a great parody trailer (language warning: there is a bleeped out bit of cussing at the very end):

Links I like

Book deals for Christian readers

Let’s start with a few new Kindle deals:

Over at WTS, there are a couple of really good deals going on: You can get Tim Keller’s latest, Prayer, for $17, or $13 when you buy three or more copies. Mindscape by Timothy Z. Witmer is $12 or $9 when you buy five or more. And Marty Machowski’s latest family devotional, Prepare Him Room, is $7 (this one ends tomorrow, so act fast!). And on the digital side, you can get a number of new eBook titles from Crossway for as low as $3.99.

Be ready to suffer

The Myth of Hate

Alan Shiemon:

I’m told writing this post won’t matter. I can clarify until I’m blue in the face and nothing will change. It doesn’t matter what Christians actually think or believe about homosexuality. It seems the world will still believe what it wants to believe no matter what anyone says.

But I still have hope. So, I’m putting this out there. The most common misconception about Christians and homosexuality is that Christians hate homosexuals. Though there are some things Christians have done to contribute to this impression, it’s largely untrue.

How to Leave Your Church Without Hurting It

Mark Dance:

Those of us who have the privilege of serving on a church staff will eventually leave our ministry posts. I recently resigned from the church I have loved and served for thirteen years in order to accept my new ministry assignment to serve pastors with LifeWay. I would like to share a few lessons I learned from this transition that may help make your last Sunday a happy ending rather than a hurtful one.

Why I’m a Single Issue Voter

Joe Carter:

God, as has often been noted in this election season, is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. From this obvious truth many people draw the conclusion that their choice in candidates and policies is therefore morally equivalent. It isn’t.

There are certain issues that transcend political parties and partisan politics and for Christians who believe in the Biblical ideal of justice, the protection of innocent human life, and defense of human dignity, are nonnegotiable.

How Christians Will Know They Can Join Hands With Rome

This is an important reminder of the real issues dividing Protestants and Roman Catholics. While appreciating our points of agreement is a good thing, we shouldn’t ignore our significant differences.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple of big ones for you today:

Spurgeon’s Calvinism, edited by Stephen McCaskell, is $2.99 through today, and How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp is free until the end of the day. Also on sale are Visit the SickPrepare Them to Shepherd, and Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals by Brian Croft (2.99 each); The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard ($2.99); Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones ($3.79); God’s Will by J.I. Packer ($2.99); Autopsy of a Dead Church by Thom Rainer for 99¢; and Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin Holcomb is $1.99. Be sure to also check out this post for more terrific Kindle deals.

Martin Luther’s definition of faith

This is super good stuff.

God Has Changed You and Is Changing You

Colin Smith:

Would you be more likely to say “God is changing me” or “God has changed me”?

Many Christians are comfortable saying the former, but some of us might hesitate to say the latter: “God has changed me.” We are much more likely to say, “I have a lot more changing to do. I’m a work in progress. I haven’t yet arrived.”

There is indeed a continuing process of sanctification happening within the believer, but the completed work of regeneration is of equal importance. Regeneration is the complete transformation that begins the continuing process of sanctification.

It seems that many Christians have a good grasp on the continuing process, but perhaps a more tenuous grasp of the completed work. So here are seven Scriptures that speak clearly of Christ’s completed work in you as a believer.

Russell Moore interviews Rosaria Butterfield

Very challenging and encouraging stuff here from the ERLC conference:

How an awakened conscience speaks

Ray Ortlund shares a moving letter from Steve Tompkins, one of the remaining pastors at Mars Hill Church.

On Being a Pessimist in a Progressive Age

Matthew Lee Anderson:

I was once asked by a reporter whether I thought the “young evangelicals” were going to give up the bigotry of their parents. After I finished laughing, I promptly rejected the question and provide a different one of my own. The poor reporter (probably) wasn’t malicious, but she didn’t have many theological categories either. We talked for an hour…and exactly three of my sentences appeared in print.

I tell that story only to highlight one fact about the press, which by now is well known: many of its members simply don’t “get religion.” Just two days ago, a major news organization published a story that would be laughable, except it isn’t: it’s sad, and media theological ignorance does genuine harm to the cause of Christ.

“Stop feeling that way” doesn’t work

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Last night, Emily and I had an interesting discussion about a little booklet we’d been reading, Help! My Teen Struggles with Same Sex Attractions. Although the booklet had some good points throughout, and presents a solid (albeit extremely brief) rebuttal of common redefinitions of the so-called “hammer” verses on homosexuality, there was something just not quite right about it. In fact, if I had to sum it up in a couple of words, it would be this: naïvely simplistic.

Unless I’m completely misreading it (which I hope I’m not), the approach seems to be, more or less, “repent or you’ll keep being gay.” Keep contemplation and confession logs. Have Bible verses around the house to remind you of what God’s Word has to say on the issue. If your teen does these things, then they won’t succumb to temptation.1

Now, obviously, repentance is right when sin is committed either in the heart or in the body. If a Christian who deals with same-sex attraction entertains immoral thoughts, he or she should repent of that (just as a heterosexual Christian should). If he or she commits an act of sexual immorality with a member of the same sex, then repentance is required, just as it would be for Christian doing so with a member of the opposite sex. The response on the part of the one committing sexual sin, whether in the heart or in the body, is the same whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, absolutely. And likewise, those temptations can only be resisted with a new heart, one inclined toward Christ, and a new identity, that of being a child of God in Christ.

But the booklet does not seem to make a distinction between temptation and action itself. Based on some of its language, it seems to view the issue of inclination (which may or may not be welcomed by the one dealing with it) as an act of rebellion itself. But the reality may be more complicated than this.

We should not forget that sin wreaks havoc on every aspect of creation. This is why some of us are predisposed to be overweight, even when we have healthy eating habits, or why healthy people’s bodies suddenly turn on themselves as cancerous cells develop, or why hard working people live in poverty. It’s not that these people have necessarily done anything to cause these things: they simply are as a result of living in a fallen world.

Sin represents a disruption in God’s good creation that affects everything.

So, too, it is with our affections. We are naturally designed a certain way; and I believe God’s design is for men and women to be attracted to members of the opposite sex. But the fall disrupts even this aspect of God’s good design, in effect inverting our orientation for some of us. While this does not excuse acting upon these inclinations, it should serve as an important reminder: we should not treat a teenage or adult Christian as though they rebelling against God simply because of these inclinations. If we fail to recognize this, we may do far more damage to Christians—including our own children—than we realize.

This is not to say we should be soft on sin. Far from it. It is simply a recognition that we can’t expect “stop feeling that way” to work, no matter how many memory verses we post around the house.

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The Hidden Work and Power of God’s Word

Mark Altrogge:

When I’m preaching on Sundays I can’t see what’s happening in people’s hearts. I can’t see if any are born again, or encouraged or sustained or convicted. Some people may be smiling or nodding, but many have unreadable expressions.  If I were to judge by some peoples’ faces I’d guess nothing was happening in their hearts.  When we’d have family devotions when the kids were young, most days they were sleepy, distracted and squirmy.  I couldn’t tell if God’s word was having any effect on my kids.  Often when I share the gospel with someone I’m met with a blank stare or “Oh yeah I believe in Jesus. I go to church.”  They don’t cry out “Brother, what should I do?” like on the day of Pentecost.  And even when I read God’s word myself, I don’t experience fireworks or goosebumps. At times I’m convicted or challenged or encouraged by a Scripture, but many mornings my devotions feel rather routine and unremarkable.

But our lack of seeing immediate fruit in our children when we read the Bible to them or in fellow believers when we encourage them with Scripture or unbelievers when we share the good news of Jesus or even in ourselves when we read God’s word, doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening. God’s word is at work.

The State of Theology

This is fascinating stuff. On a related note…

Does my local church have the authority to say I’m not a Christian?

Nine out of ten evangelicals say no, but what do church leaders say?

Are Millennials Leaving the Church Because of Homosexuality?

Aaron Earls:

While many of the specific reasons for an individual church’s or denomination’s decline are complicated, there are two over-arching reasons for extended drops in membership and attendance – the lack of orthodoxy (right beliefs) or orthopraxy (right actions).

To ignore one or the other will undoubtably lead to decline, regardless of how well we think we have the other handled. That is of particular importance because of the way both sides have treated the issue of homosexuality.

Evangelism is Fueled by Knowing God is at Work

Erik Raymond:

Nearly 20 years ago I was an unbelieving, angry guy. I hadn’t previously been exposed to “Bible-thumping” guys but, now that I was, I utterly despised them. I hated their smiles, humility, hopefulness, charity, and confidence. Oh, how I hated their confidence. I would mock, insult, and try to get them to “sin” or blush. They just kept on like they understood me better than I understood myself.

I didn’t listen to them. I don’t even think I ever really heard them–but, they got to me. They were different. I knew it and so did they.

If sin has to be whispered…

“If there’s a sin that has to be whispered in our congregation then we are not truly Christian.”—Russell Moore at ERLC 2014 (HT: Todd Adkins)

Moore-ERLC-quote

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Brittany Maynard, Rachel Held Evans, and Not Giving Up

Samuel James:

What Evans is too tired to do is the hard work of theology. Putting together the doctrine of God’s love and mercy with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and righteous condemnation of sinners is too difficult. The paradox has created an irreparable dissonance within her spirituality. Rather than submitting to the view of Scripture that Jesus endorsed, and trusting in the goodness of the Spirit that illuminates the meaning of the Word, Evans believes she has to make a choice: Scripture or conscience, Bible or values, Joshua or Jesus.

A non-answer is an answer

Andrew Walker:

Let’s be very clear on that. It’s also a very vapid answer. What we’re seeing in many corners of evangelicalism is a pliability that makes Christianity an obsequious servant to whatever the reigning zeitgeist is. With non-answers like this, it isn’t Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Culture is. Perhaps Hillsong would rather abide by a “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” policy on matters of orthodoxy. That’s their prerogative. But let’s be clear that this is not the route of faithfulness.

Sexuality and Silence

Andrew Wilson:

I’ve heard rumours of a silent trend beginning to take hold in some city churches in the UK and the US. I don’t just mean a trend that takes hold silently; presumably most trends do that. I mean a trend toward silence: a decision not to speak out on issues that are considered too sticky, controversial, divisive, culturally loaded, entangled, ethically complex, personally upsetting, emotive, likely to be reported on by the Guardian or the New York Times, uncharted, inflammatory, difficult, or containing traces of gluten. Since I do not attend a city church, but am a proud member of the backward bungalow bumpkin brigade, this is coming to me secondhand, and it may turn out to be a storm in the proverbial teacup, or even (for all I know) entirely fictional.

But let’s imagine that there were such things as well-written booklets which had been discontinued simply because they were about sexuality, and leaders who were avoiding making any public comments at all on controversial ethical issues, or churches whose lectionaries or sermon series were systematically avoiding passages which addressed pressing contemporary questions, presumably in the name of being winsome or wise or likeable or culturally sensitive, because of the number of Influencers and Powerful People in the area. Without knowing any of the behind-the-scenes discussions that had taken place—all well-intentioned, I’m sure—what would I say then?

Seven things.

How To REALLY Help Someone Change

Stephen Altrogge:

We tend to get this wonky, thoroughly unbiblical idea in our minds, that we can actually change people. That by the force of our will, we can move a person from ungodliness to godliness. We think that if we get sufficiently angry, they will see our point and change. They will feel the force of our anger, come under the cutting conviction of the Holy Spirit, and repent. Of course, this is complete nonsense. We know this both from Scripture and from experience.

The Healthy Elder Board Is a P.C. Elder Board

Thabiti Anyabwile:

The abbreviation “P.C.” has an almost universally negative connotation. We hear “P.C.” and we think “politically correct.” Being “P.C.” is synonymous with cultural capitulation, a kind of cowardice that refuses to call things what they are.

If that’s all the letters “P.C.” could stand for then we’d be right to suspect a “P.C. elder board” of unfaithfulness and ineffectiveness. But, thank God, there are other words for which “P.C.” can stand. And some of them actually help us define what a well-functioning eldership looks like. In general, I think we need “P.C.” elder teams. Here’s what I mean.