Problems with pro-gay theology – 1 of 5 – introduction

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Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5 

Many churches today are being torn apart by false teachings about human sexuality, so we can’t ignore this topic.  In addition, the rapid radical changes in public schools are a serious issue and hate speech laws are a blatant attempt to shut down debate. 

Many people who hold the orthodox Christian view would love to move on to other issues, but the problem is that the pro-gay theologians aren’t giving up.  Therefore, we need to stand firm and do a better job of educating those in the middle ground.

While this issue isn’t an essential of the faith, such as Jesus’ divinity and exclusivity for salvation, those who take the pro-gay theology view typically have to deny the essential of the authority of scripture to arrive at their conclusions.  And that is a dangerous thing.

The general Biblical ignorance of many Christians on this topic isn’t helping things.  I know of people who have gone to church their whole lives and have been in multiple Bible studies but still ask questions like, “Does the New Testament say anything about homosexual behavior?”  (Short answer: Yes.)  And it goes downhill from there. 

Before I dive in, let me state that while I firmly believe that homosexual behavior is a sin, I do not think it is something we should grandstand on.  We all have temptations and stumble and fall at times.  Romans 1 explains in no uncertain terms that homosexual behavior is an affront to God, but it also lists greed, gossip, deceit and other things as serious sins (anyone squirming yet?). 

Do homosexuals have a legitimate complaint when they point out how many Christians are softer on divorce, adultery and pre-marital sex than they are on homosexual behavior?  Yes.  Grandstanding on sins that aren’t a temptation for us and downplaying or ignoring sins that are a temptation is not a Christian thing to do.  But the lesson is to hold consistent Biblical views on all sins, not to water things down more.  We need to raise the bar back up on all these sins because they have huge consequences and, more importantly, because that is in line with what the Bible says. 

With all due respect to a fellow blogger with this name, I consider myself the Voice of Reason on this issue.  Hey, I was even accused on my Bible Study Blog of dispensing pro-gay theology! I wasn’t, of course, but it shows just how fair and balanced I was being that I could be misunderstood that way (heh). 

But we shouldn’t call evil good and good evil.  I support the Methodist position on homosexuality, which regards the behavior as sinful but the people as having worth.  I think it should be illegal to abort babies just because they might be homosexual (Ironically, that position puts me at odds with many liberals whose support for abortion is such that they think it should be legal under any circumstances).  I mention these things simply to pre-empt any nonsensical allegations that I am homophobic, a childish and false putdown designed to stifle debate. 

I also believe that homosexual behavior is a forgivable sin and can be overcome by the power of the Gospel.  When I meet gays I don’t view it as my job to change them.  I treat them like I would anyone else, developing relationships and hoping to be able to share the Gospel with them at some point.  The real work is the job of the Holy Spirit. 

I was sharing the Gospel with a young man once who happened to be gay.  He was all over the place with his religious beliefs and questions.  At one point he asked, “Doesn’t the Bible say homosexual behavior is a sin?”  I could have glossed over it and said it was a debatable matter, but that wouldn’t have been true or loving.

I also could have spent an hour explaining all the verses around this topic, but that would have been overkill.  Instead I just confirmed that yes, the Bible does say it is a sin – despite how some try to twist it.  Then I just shifted back to the basic Gospel – namely, that we are all sinners in need of a Savior and Jesus is that Savior.  It was a great back-and-forth conversation on a lot of topics and I pray that it planted a seed and that the young man kept searching.

Pro-gay theology tends to fall into one of three categories.  They are all wrong, but for varying reasons.  Sometimes they overlap categories.  I’ll cover each one over the next few days.

  1. The Bible is either not the Word of God, or most parts of it aren’t.  This view claims that we can ignore the prohibitions against homosexual behavior because they were written by homophobic Jews.
  2. The Bible is the Word of God, but it doesn’t really say homosexual behavior is wrong.  This view holds that people just aren’t reading the Bible properly, and that God’s Word is actually affirming of gay relationships.
  3. The Bible is the Word of God and does clearly and emphatically condemn gay behavior as sinful.  However, the Holy Spirit has given additional revelations such that this behavior is now acceptable.  This view holds that God has changed his mind on this moral issue and not only is it now acceptable, but it is sinful if you don’t affirm this behavior and same-sex relationships. 

Come back tomorrow for an analysis of the first type.

Comments are welcome, but please stick to the topic.  We aren’t debating secular views, we aren’t demonizing anyone (pro-gay or orthodox) and we don’t need straw-man arguments (“You just don’t love them,” etc.).

Remember, if homosexual behavior is a sin – and I believe the Bible clearly identifies it as such – then affirming and encouraging that behavior is also a sin and providing the orthodox Biblical view is the loving thing to do.

31 thoughts on “Problems with pro-gay theology – 1 of 5 – introduction

  1. Neil,

    Did you wiretap my phone call with Queen of Swords tonight? She went on a tear about homosexuality and how Christians react to it. She concurs re: your last paragraph – said almost thoe exact words. ;)

    My personal take is that it is foolish to pick out one sin as worse than any others. We know that everyone around us is imperfect, but we don’t condemn them for it. We don’t condone bad behaviour, either – it is the people who love us best who tell us when we are messing up.

    Grandstanding on sins that aren’t a temptation for us and downplaying or ignoring sins that are a temptation is not a Christian thing to do. But the lesson is to hold consistent Biblical views on all sins, not to water things down more.

    A few months back, you quoted me when I said something similar about feminism – how the point should be to make men act better, not to encourage women to act just as badly as men.

    I simply cannot understand people who see disparate treatment of two groups and whose solution is to lower the bar to make them equal.

  2. “Did you wiretap my phone call with Queen of Swords tonight?”

    Uh . . . probably not . . .

    Yes, we need the bar where it belongs on all issues. We typically have people looking the other way on heterosexual sins but not coming right out and preaching that premarital sex and divorce are OK. But on this topic we actually have people teaching the opposite of what the Bible says and trying to put God’s seal of approval on it.

  3. Let me start by saying where I agree with you:

    1. I thank you for your reasoned tone
    2. I thank you that you forcefully acknowledge that, from your point of view, homosexual behavior is a sin, but just one of many sins – right along with greed, envy, heterosexual acting out, etc – and not to be singled out as especially egregious somehow
    3. I agree that there’s general Christian ignorance on the topic – although my experience has been that the ignorance shows itself in assuming that the Bible is chock-full of anti-gay passages when that is not the case in the least. Five-seven verses, tops, and questionable ones, at that
    4. I agree that one can be wrong on a sin and still be a Christian (if being perfectly correct on every sin, then we flawed humans are a bit screwed!)
    5. I think you’re mostly right on the 3 categories of pro-gay theology

    So, to begin with, some agreements.

    Would now be a good time to ask for a clarification? You stated, “It is a forgivable sin.” What is your position on any Christian who is sincere in his/her belief but just never comes to the conclusion that Sin X (whatever that may be) is a sin?

    Suppose this Christian gets to heaven and finds out – to his horror! – that drinking alcohol is a sin (supposing it is) and he has had a bottle of beer every Saturday for the last 30 years of his life and never repented of it, not knowing it was a sin.

    Is he doomed?

    Or does it matter on the sin?

    What if the fellas who dropped nukes on Japan and who firebombed Dresden found out at Judgement Day that those actions were horrifying sins – sins that they should have realized were sins (not little “oops! I’ve been drinking and didn’t realize it was wrong” sins). They thought they were doing the right thing and never repented of those actions.

    Are they doomed?

    Do you get my point? Does one have to “get it right” on every sin to go to heaven?

    Does one have to “get it right” on certain sins to go to heaven?

  4. Neil,
    I hope that I can find enough time to read the remainder of these posts. So far, I appreciate your “voice of reason” (where has that guy been the last month?).

    I hesitantly agree with all of your thoughts. Homosexuality is a sin, along with other kinds of fornication. We should also remember that Paul told us that we were just like these people. The only reason I say I am hesitant is that I want to see all of your posts on this subject before I completely agree.

  5. “With all due respect to a fellow blogger with this name, I consider myself the Voice of Reason on this issue. ”

    He hasn’t blogged since June, I doubt he will mind or notice.

    “Did you wiretap my phone call with Queen of Swords tonight?”

    Ummm, well….that was me. Sorry.

  6. I read part of Timothy Johnson’s article. I did not take the time to read it all, and don’t claim to have the overall view of it.

    That said, I agreed with many of Mr. Johnson’s initial thoughts. Christians ought to view heterosexual sins in the same light as homosexual sins (I’ll let Neil comment on his statements – but I think he agrees with that). I do take a little offense at the suggestion that the relationship bewteen Jonathan and David was homosexual in nature – there’s nothing in the scripture to indicate that it was.

    I begin to differ with Mr. Johnson when he says “I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good.”

    In this one statement, Mr. Johnson says that he rejects the scripture and appeals to another authority. He says that he appeals to “the weight of our own experience.”

    Let’s see, he’s putting himself and the experience of thoursands of others at the same level, no he’s putting those experiences ABOVE the authority of God? Where have I heard that before? Maybe in Genesis 3:5?

    For the record, I hold the Word of God to be the highest authority. I believe he gave his Word to me personally. Each verse in it has something in it specifically for me. By understanding the ENTIRE Word of God (not just pick-and-choose verses) I can see His Wisdom for my life.

    Side note. Only yesterday, my step-daughter called me for wisdom. After hearing her story and my wife’s answer, I agreed with my wife and pointed out that God said the same thing through David many, many years ago. Proverbs 26:20 was the reference (I cheated and looked it up). Amazing how he knew some 3000 or so years ago that I would need that knowledge.

  7. From what I’ve read, I don’t think LTJ would ever claim to put anything above the authority of God. Though I believe in a wholly objective truth to God’s Word as presented in the Bible, I am fully aware of that I do have an interpretive lens/framework from which I operate from. Discernment is never easy, and in LTJ’s case, because of his experience with his daughter, he came to the conclusion he did.

  8. More from Luke Timothy Johnson’s article:
    “I will say a further word about “experience,” a term that without careful discernment may become simply an excuse for irresponsible behavior. First, though, it is important to acknowledge that terms like “sexual orientation,” and even “heterosexual” and “homosexual” are themselves distorting oversimplifications of complex human realities. One reason for paying attention to specific human stories, in fact, is that they so often prove more complex and obscure than the categories that polarize debates and block discernment.

    Implicit in an appeal to experience is also an appeal to the living God whose creative work never ceases, who continues to shape humans in his image every day, in ways that can surprise and even shock us. Equally important, such an appeal goes to the deepest truth revealed by Scripture itself-namely, that God does create the world anew at every moment, does call into being that which is not, and does raise the dead to new and greater forms of life.”

    I’m sorry, but this is a big problem I have with a lot of “religious” people. And this, supposedly from “one of the best biblical scholars alive.” People like Luke take from the scripture only what they want – what they feel comfortable with. The rest they apply weird logic to twist and distort until it becomes more of what they feel comfortable with.

    Neil – I am not religious as you can tell – but I continue to read you’re posts because you post on a variety of topics that I AM interested in and you apply (at least so far) consistent logic through a variety of conditions. It is the consistency that appeals to me. Not that I necessarily agree with your conclusions, but I certainly appreciate how you reached them.

  9. Mark–

    I recognize your apprehension w/ LTJ, but my reason for linking his article is because of the breadth of his work. He is a very careful scholar who simply doesn’t “take what he wants” from scripture. His conclusion is based on studying scriptures for a long, long time, studying the history of interpretation (which too-often is overlooked and I believe is pertinent to this debate) as well as interacting with his own family. What I am suggesting that even within more conservative scholarly circles there is some debate regarding this issue and I think LTJ provides a good counterpoint that isn’t based on a “liberal” theological outlook.

  10. Hi all – thanks for the comments. My goal is to make this comment shorter than the original post.

    Dan – If your question is, “Do I think you need perfect theology to get into Heaven?,” then the answer is “No.” The prototype I typically use is the criminal on the cross who trusted in Jesus. I’m going out on a limb but I don’t think he had led too many Bible studies.

    Having said that, sound doctrine counts for a lot. Sin has consequences, and affirming sinful behavior is very unloving. Encouraging gay people in their sins is akin to encouraging people to have sex outside of marriage, in my view. And, of course, there is the whole bit about about unnecessarily dividing denominations.

    Re. David and Jonathan allegedly being gay: 1) That is silly. 2) If someone makes that claim and eventually goes to Heaven then I expect David and Jonathan to beat them up. Just kidding! Probably!

    I have never heard of Luke Timothy Johnson, but based on the quotes by him that Randy and Mark noted above I don’t think he has much to offer to this conversation. He sounds like he’s in category 1 or 3 above or some type of hybrid.

    Either way, by his own words he rejects the authority of the Bible, or at least lets something else trump it. That isn’t remotely similar to orthodox Christianity. People who let “experience” trump scripture are confusing God’s patience with his approval. Bad idea. He gives his common grace to everyone, but we ought not interpret that as ratifying all our beliefs.

    Dan, please note that at least this pro-gay “Bible expert” acknowledges that he is rejecting the “straightforward commands of Scripture.” I do agree with him on that point.

    The quote Mark pointed out is just man-made gibberish, in my opinion. Even an atheist / agnostic (Mark, I’m not sure how you classify yourself) can see that. His analysis was dead-on!

    Mark, thanks for the compliment. Hopefully one day you’ll like my logic and my conclusions!

    Peace!

  11. Well, I know I should just let it go but I really do encourage people to seek out LTJ’s work (as well as read the full article). He’s done a fair amount of work defending Orthodox Christianity against rampant theological liberalism. Much of his writing is on par with say Ben Witherington, III in outlook and content, but from a more Roman Catholic perspective. I guess ultimately the question comes down to this regarding homosexuality: is there room for disagreement on this issue within the Orthodox Christian tradition, which I believe is vital to this conversation?

  12. Jeff, I’m glad you linked to that article. I won’t over-complicate this analysis with a brand new category for him, but I do appreciate his candor in saying that 1) The Bible is clear that homosexual behavior is sinful and 2) He rejects that based on his experience. I’ll quote him in one of the later posts.

    If I am understanding him properly his disagreement isn’t with what the Bible says, it is with the authority of the Bible itself. And I guess I don’t find room for disagreement on that within orthodoxy. I’m glad he defends against rampant theological liberalism, but he appears to have made up a new problem of his own.

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  14. Neil,

    Nice article. I look forward to the rest. Like the other’s mentioned, thanks for the reasonable tone. And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head by pointing out that this issue is really over biblical authority rather than one particular sin vs. another.

    When experience is our authority over Scripture, we can rationalize any of our temptations and justify any of our sins.

    God forbid any of us do that.

    Blessings,
    Tony

  15. I think faith in Jesus and the grace of God get you into heaven.
    Avoiding sin helps you have a better life here. Faith and acceptance of the Holy Spirit should ultimately convince you of that.
    I don’t think one sin is worse than another, but some sins are more obvious than others. We can’t help a brother or sister with a sin we don’t know about (other than to keep reminding each other what is sin), but we do have a duty to try to help them when we know.

  16. “Having said that, sound doctrine counts for a lot. Sin has consequences, and affirming sinful behavior is very unloving.”

    I agree fully and 100%. For instance, those who’d support this Iraq invasion – even though they may think they’re being loving and righteous – are, as I read the Bible, very, very wrong. I’m not willing to say that those who support the invasion are not Christians, but there are severe consequences of their actions (in this case, lives are being lost – even of little children!) and affirming that behavior is not loving in the least.

    Nonetheless, while I would continue to encourage them to re-evaluate their position, they must do what they understand God’s Word to say, right? And I encourage them to do so to a degree.

    Do you encourage me to do so in regards to gay marriage?

    Now, where I think the war/gay marriage analogy breaks down is that lives are in the balance with war. That’s why I sorta like the Eleutheros’ Razor logic I posted at my blog. It tells us to pursue what we think God wants BUT STOPPING AT THE POINT where you’re forcing “god’s will” on others. By all means, embrace God’s will in your life, but when “god’s will” involves killing others or making others do what you want, I suggest a slowing down of pursuing god’s will.

    The reason for this is our fallen nature. Our propensity to be wrong. If we pursue God’s Will for our life the best we can, that is right – and if we’re wrong, as is not uncommon with us humans – well, we’ve only harmed ourselves. But if we pursue god’s will and that involves us harming or forcing our will on others and we’re wrong, well God forgive us!

    Yes? No?

  17. Dan, let’s not over complicate this with Iraqi war situation. There can be reasoned debate there over the best way to handle difficult situations, but there are times when force is required to do the right thing. Pure pacifism is immoral.

    If you are wrong on this topic then lots of people get harmed. The gays, the church, etc.

  18. My Jesus defines sin as lack of love. What is unloving about homosexuality? Martin Luther’s Bibel (1545) translated Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as “man shall not lie with a BOY as with a woman”. Agreeably, his translation condemns pederasty and so had no contradiction. So how did pederasty become sex between two mature adults?

  19. “Dan, let’s not over complicate this with Iraqi war situation. There can be reasoned debate there over the best way to handle difficult situations, but there are times when force is required to do the right thing. Pure pacifism is immoral.”

    I’m not bringing up the Iraq Invasion to debate it (Lord, there’s quite enough on our plate as it is…) but as an illustration of a way that I think you are clearly wrong from a biblical and Christian point of view (“Pure pacifism is immoral??!!” sheee-itt!), and yet I’m not saying that you are not a Christian.

    The point about people being harmed has to do with US choosing to harm people. If I “let” a gay person get married, I’m not harming anyone. If you are right and the gay marriage harms them, then it’s on their heads.

    What I was trying to get at is that:

    1. It is vital that we try to do the Right, that we try to follow God’s will

    2. It is a reality that we “get it wrong” sometimes, that our interpretation of right and wrong is, well, wrong.

    3. Since it is a reality that we get it wrong sometimes, we certainly ought to be about the vital work of doing right, but we ought to be extremely cautious or avoid altogether the “forcing” of other people to do what we think is right.

  20. “If I “let” a gay person get married, I’m not harming anyone. If you are right and the gay marriage harms them, then it’s on their heads.”

    This is a very laissez fair attitude to take concerning the eternal condition of our friends and neighbors. But to make sure I am reading you right, are you abdicating responsibility to warn them that their actions are sinful? Or are you merely saying that we can not employ force to make people refrain from sin? I would agree with you on the latter, but we would disagree on the former. To take your example, there is nothing wrong if you don’t run in and crash the wedding ceremony. But I would argue that you are wrong for not pointing out the sinfulness of their actions (and even more so if you encourage their actions).

    Dan since you have a very liberal (no offense intended) definition of what constitutes a prophet I would refer you to these verses.

    “When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.” Ezekiel 3:18-19.

  21. “Dan since you have a very liberal (no offense intended) definition of what constitutes a prophet…”

    No offense taken, although you misspelled “literal”!

    “This is a very laissez fair attitude to take concerning the eternal condition of our friends and neighbors. But to make sure I am reading you right, are you abdicating responsibility to warn them that their actions are sinful?”

    Good question. Just to clarify, I don’t think gay marriage is a sin, so I’m not abdicating any responsibility to “warn” anyone of sin.

    But do we in general have an obligation to be a watchman? To speak prophetic words of warning to individuals or a whole society of naughty behavior?

    In a word, yes. We ought to speak prophetically of God’s truth. We ought not, though, act as the example is shown sometimes in the OT and march in and enforce God’s Truth (as we understand it). We ought not kill sinners nor legally force them to accept our word that we’re speaking God’s truth.

    Now, in a democratic society, we can certainly come together and agree upon certain rules for polite society. Let’s not murder one another, for instance. But we ought not insist that this be the rule because I say that I am speaking for God on that point.

    Seems to me.

    As an aside, the Biblical examples are most often examples of speaking these sorts of truths to whole peoples, not individuals. With the exception of prophets speaking directly to some kings and those in positions of power individually.

  22. “”Pure pacifism is immoral??!!” sheee-itt!”

    Yes, pure pacifism is immoral. If you stand by while an innocent victim is getting raped / murdered / whatever when you could stop it, and the only reason you don’t is because you don’t like violence, that is immoral.

    “My Jesus defines sin as lack of love. What is unloving about homosexuality?”

    Hi Fred. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    In John 14:21 Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” Jesus is God. All the commands are his. Homosexual behavior is physically, spiritually and emotionally destructive, so to affirm/encourage that behavior is a sin.

    “Martin Luther’s Bible (1545) translated Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as “man shall not lie with a BOY as with a woman”. Agreeably, his translation condemns pederasty and so had no contradiction. ”

    No offense intended, but do you this verse as authoritative or is this just a smokescreen? Because if you view this verse as authoritative then you’ll need to change your view when you understand what the original Hebrew said. (Hint: If you have to use a 462 year old bad translation to make your point then you may be on the wrong side of the issue).

    “I’m not bringing up the Iraq Invasion to debate it . . . but as an illustration of a way that I think you are clearly wrong from a biblical and Christian point of view . . . and yet I’m not saying that you are not a Christian.”

    Dan, you are missing my point. If you think I’m wrong on a verse or an issue that doesn’t offend me. I’ll let you use the Bible to argue your point. My objection with people in this first category is that they love the verses that support their view but rationalize away others. I object to that and find it to be the opposite of what the Bible claims and what orthodox Christianity has held as an essential.

  23. “Yes, pure pacifism is immoral. If you stand by while an innocent victim is getting raped / murdered / whatever when you could stop it, and the only reason you don’t is because you don’t like violence, that is immoral.”

    This statement is a complete misunderstanding/misrepresentation of pacifism. You’re talking about passivism, and I agree completely that standing by and doing nothing to help someone being attacked is wrong.

    But that is not pacifism (although there are small pockets of “do not resist evil” pacifists, they’re an extreme minority – and even they would not likely be passive in the face of evil).

    Are you unfamiliar with Just Peacemaking, Non-Violent Direct Action and traditional pacifism (in the anabaptist tradition, for instance) thinking?

    Quakers

    Just Peacemaking

    Totally off-topic, so I’ll let it go at that.

  24. Hi Dan – thanks for the clarification. I added the word “pure” for a reason, to emphasize that some people think violence is never an option.

    Looks we’re in agreement on that one!

  25. There’s not really any such thing as “pure” pacifism, I’d suggest. Pacifism is a belief in peace and opposition to violence and that covers a range of beliefs. You’re talking about “pure” non-resistance, perhaps.

    On with the show…

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