A Timely Reminder to my Brothers and Sisters

The following is a list of people and organizations who do NOT speak for God:

President Donald Trump
Colin Kaepernick
Rush Limbaugh
Hilary Clinton
The United States government
The NFL
The Republican party
The Democrat party
The NRA
Black Lives Matter
Fox News
CNN
NPR

 

Here is a list of people who have, in fact, spoken for God:

The prophet Moses:
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.  Love the alien, therefore, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”  (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

The prophet Isaiah:
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the straps of the yoke,
To let the oppressed go free,
And to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into your house;
When you see the naked, to cover him,
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
And your healing shall spring up speedily;
Your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger,
And speaking wickedness,
If you pour yourself out for the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then shall your light rise in the darkness
And your gloom be as the noonday.”  (Isaiah  58:6-10)

The apostle Peter:
“Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.”  (Acts 10:34-35)

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.  For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.  Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.  Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”  (I Peter 2:13-17)

The apostle Paul:
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:27-28)

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man with its practices and have put on the new man, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of his creator.  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”  (Colossians 3:8-11)

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.”  (Acts 17:30-31)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” (Romans 13:1-5  )

The apostle John:
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  (I John 3:15-18)

“And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’”  (Revelation 5:8-10)

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”  (Revelation 7:9-10)

The Lord Jesus Christ:
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.  But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”  (Luke 22:25-26)

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

Advertisements

Spending the Equinox with Piper

Happy Autumn Equinox!

About seven weeks ago, I wrote in a question to the “Ask Pastor John” podcast at Desiring God.

Today, it’s the featured question:  http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-does-it-mean-to-abide-in-christ

What’s funny is that in the transcription that they include on the page, they misspelled my name two different ways.
First, it says, “Kasey,” which is actually how I spelled my name from kindergarten through 8th grade.  (There’s a boring little story behind that.)
Then they have it as “Casey,” which has never been my name.  The first one is right at the beginning; the second is at the start of the section titled “Can We lose Our Salvation?”
Here’s my guess as to how it happened:
There is some transcriptionist at DG who did not have a copy of my actual full email message (where I signed my name clearly as “KC”).  They asked, “How is that name spelled?  With a K, or with a C?”  And somehow, after getting the answer “both,” was still confused and decided to spell it each of these two ways.  They must have figured that they would get it right at least once that way.  But as it turns out…   🙂

Anyway, I am thrilled to think through the various aspects of John Piper’s response.
If you have a chance to listen or read, may the Lord bless you with it!

Sh’lom!

Don’t Be an Idiot!

Ever been called an idiot?  Ever called someone else an idiot?
Do you actually know what that means?  If not, your use of the term may be rather ironic.

Check out these Greek words:

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The first of these two descriptive terms is the adjective agrammatos, literally, “unlettered.”  The second is the noun idiōtēs (pronounced id-ee-OH-tace), the fourth of the five terms listed in the box above.  Yes, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem saw Peter and John as idiots, unlearned men.  But they had been with Jesus and, therefore, had a biblical and theological education far beyond anyone in the history of the Sanhedrin.  Whatever else they may have been, they were emphatically not idiots.

The basic idea in the idio— root is that of “one’s own.”  This comes out clearly when we speak of someone’s idiosyncrasies, that is, the peculiar characteristics, habits, or manners that are their own.

The idiot, it turns out, is someone who has not benefited from the wisdom and knowledge of others and has only his own with which to work.  In antiquity it was a word to describe someone who was uneducated in general or untrained in a given area.  This is its use in Acts 4:13, which is shaded from the author Luke’s perspective in a basic way and from the perspective of the Jewish leaders in a more pejorative way.

Clearly, an idiot is not something one would aspire to be.  Yet many people manage to achieve it.

“How I have hated instruction,
And my heart spurned correction!
I have not listened to the voice of my teachers,
Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!”  (Prov. 5:11-12)

Like this fool, many people are going through life armed only with whatever intellectual and sapiential powers they can muster from within themselves.  Rather than learn from others, they must do all their thinking and learning and opinion-forming on their own.  In other words, they are idiots.

In fact, we have now become a society of idiots.  One can easily picture here a jokey meme of the Osment character from “The Sixth Sense” saying, “I see idiotic people walking around like normal people.  They don’t know they’re idiots.”

It is an everyday phenomenon to see man-on-the-street interviews in which a TV news reporter sticks a microphone in the face of some idiot to ask him or her what he or she thinks on practically any issue under the sun.  Often it is clear that the person has never before put a moment’s thought into the idea under consideration.  But that doesn’t matter.  All that matters is he or she has a voice.

This is why we must pay careful attention to the “I think” language of ourselves and others.  Sometimes it is appropriate to begin a sentence with “I think.”  Many times, however, the need to begin that way may betray the fact that we probably do not know enough to comment intelligently and should perhaps refrain from the attempt.

Nowadays, it is common to hear people thinking out loud for the first time about something but doing so with utter boldness and a shocking lack of embarrassment.  They have a brain and a mouth and a whole bunch of “rights” to free thought and speech, et cetera; and this, it seems, qualifies them to weigh in on practically anything.  “I think…”  And off they go.

Yet there is a semi-conscious awareness of many people under, say, the age of thirty that neither they nor their peers are generally qualified to opine about most things.  This awareness does not deter them from doing so, but it is there nonetheless.  You can hear it in the new popular formula for introducing one’s idiotic thoughts: “I feel like…” or “I mean, I feel like…”  Many sentences are now begun with these words, sentences which are not meant to convey feelings at all, but rather opinions:  “I feel like the press has pushed this Trump-Russia thing for long enough.  I mean, I feel like it’s time to move on.”

Sometimes people even use this rhetorical formula to introduce statements of ostensible fact.  “I feel like Oslo is the capital of Norway.”  This always freaks me out a little.

And, of course, what troubles me is that we are now getting to hear from idiot theologians in the church.  “I think my relationship with God is between Him and me.”
“I mean, I feel like it’s all about relationships.”  And so on.

How often do you find yourself responding to questions and concepts of theological significance with the language of “I think”?  If I’m honest, I must admit I do it too much.  At the very least, there are numerous times when my contribution should be either a sentence that begins “Scripture says…” or just silence; but instead, I say, “Well, I think…”  And off I go.

[Sighhhhhhhhhhhhh…]
Lord, save me from the wisdom of idiots!…  Including the one I too often am.

For My Wife on Mother’s Day: a Husband’s Confession

20170505_143600Well, I took out the garbage today
And expected a “Hip-hip-hooray!”
So it did get my goat,
When my wife took no note,
Let alone had a “thank you” to say.

When I pointed out what I had done,
She just paused and said, “Oh, thank you, Hon…”
Then went on scrubbing floors
And with other such chores
On her list of a hundred and one.

How she gets so much done, I don’t know,
But it’s clear that it’s never for show.
Yet I would be remiss,
If I didn’t say this:
That her setting is always on “Go!”

And all of it’s done with the touch
Of a gentle, sweet Mom who gets such
Little rest for her lids,
Taking care of her kids
And the husband who loves her so much.

Some Thoughts on Christian(?) Divorce

I have been asked to answer the question, ‘How does the church deal with marriages moving to divorce?’

A Ton of Preventionhosea-and-gomer
The first thing to say is that marriage should be handled more biblically and less Americanly from the start.  This would vastly reduce the phenomenon of “marriages moving to divorce.”  But it implies a more biblical and less American understanding and practice of the church itself, one in which Christians are committed to the local church more deeply than they are to any other social group in their lives, including their blood relatives.  And this is difficult to foster in modernity in the West.  Yet it must be done.

Romantic/sexual/marital love has been privatized and secularized—which is to say it has been dis-ecclesialized.  Where it is understood that a Christian marriage is the not the private property of the couple and that the elders and others of their church have a proper claim to involvement in it, there is early detection of the things that bring death to marriages.  In such a context, mistreatment between spouses will be under the discipline and loving correction of the church while the marriage is merely sick so that it will not as easily end up in the throes of death.

As a vital part of this ministry to marriages, it must be taught and rehearsed often in the church that marriage is not a means of personal happiness or fulfillment, but rather a school of sanctification into which some believers have been called.  It is not a place where we go to find ourselves, but to lose ourselves and to receive ourselves anew.  It is full of pain and death of the kind to which followers of Jesus are called (Phil. 2:1-11).  But no one—no couple—is called to walk this road alone.  Instead, we are called to walk it together in the church in the power and grace of the Spirit of Christ.

Dealing with Reality
Nevertheless, it remains true that we live in a world where evil sometimes is able to take up an entrenched existence in the human heart to such a degree that the realities of marital dissolution, even if reduced to great extent, will probably always be something with which we must deal in the church.  Thus, it is worthwhile for the church to consider its way of dealing with marital disintegration.  For two reasons, it is probably not the best idea to set forth a specific policy.  First, policies have a way of inviting test cases, or at least a view of legitimacy of that which they address.  Second, each marital situation is unique, and the complexity of a policy which would adequately address all the various minutiae would make it unmanageable.

Thus, the church should take as a single rule that all considerations of divorce should be addressed to phenomena of abuse.  Abuse here is broadly defined as the harmful, objectifying treatment of one human being by another such that free forgiveness cannot be the only response.  As such, we can see that abuse is a property of many different kinds of relationships, not just marriage.  But most non-marital relationships may be dissolved without the level or kind of scandal before heaven and earth that is divorce.  So the understanding and handling of abuse in the context of marriage is on a much higher plane of importance.

Every day, human beings fail to love each other in Christ.  Thus, harmful, objectifying treatment occurs all the time.  In terms of our discussion here, it is abusive when it is simply impossible (not just difficult) merely to forgive the sin and leave it at that.  Factors such as a refusal to repent or ongoing danger of serious harm may be present.  In such cases, it may be necessary to bring to bear on the relationship measures which protect a victim or which force a perpetrator from his or her settled position.

With this understanding, then, we can see that the presence of abuse does not necessarily entail the dissolution of the relationship, whether marital or whatever kind.  In dealing with endangered marriages, the elders and pastoral counselors of the couple can examine the nature, level and degree of the abuse present in the relationship.  And they can do so with a constant application of the brakes so as to keep divorce out of the picture until it absolutely must be allowed a place in it.  In this way, there are numerous other steps which may be taken before divorce is even allowed in view.  For example, in a case of physical abuse, physical separation may be necessary for an indefinite period, but it is possible that divorce may be kept out of the picture.  And God may bring full restoration through the ministry of the church.  In many cases, less drastic levels of church discipline may be sufficient.

It is more likely that the need to allow divorce into the picture will arise in the context of spiritual and emotional abuse where the spiritual toxicity threatens the very life of the spouse and/or children (usually in the form of depression or other kinds of spiritual ruin).  This is precisely because of the ability of such abusers to deceive themselves and thereby resist the need to change.

In some cases, it may only be the reality of divorce that is able to shake such people from their self-deceptions.  And this might happen at different points: when divorce is decided upon by the spouse they have abused, when the papers have been filed, when the divorce is final, or maybe a few years down the road when the realization of all that he or she has lost and the realities of the horrors he or she put the spouse through finally dawns on the abuser.  And of course, it is possible that the abuser may finish life on earth stubbornly hanging on to his or her delusions like most of the characters in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.

Whether divorce is or is not to be allowed into the picture should be the decision of the elders; the abused spouse must follow their lead as they serve under the Lord.  Whatever the actual outcome, it is important that both the church leadership and the abused spouse only make movements toward divorce with the goal of restoration always in view.  In the most extreme of cases, a spouse may need to leave and, because it is necessary for their sanity, do so with a finality of mind.

Perhaps all this sounds rather like a policy, which we said above should be avoided.  In the sense that it provides a basis for approaching endangered marriage and the possibility of divorce, it might be called a policy, but it intentionally eschews the clear categorizations and flow-charts of contingencies that usually characterize policies.

How Biblical is All of This?
In Matthew 5:32, the Lord Jesus seems to allow for divorce on the one ground of sexual immorality (porneia).  Upon close inspection, however, it appears that what He actually says is that any man who divorces his wife on any ground other than this forces her to commit adultery.  The truth is, while the Bible is keenly aware of the reality of divorce, it never gives any clear permission for it.

Anyone who reads the Prophets knows that God certainly understands how divorce can seem to be the only viable option when dealing with recalcitrant sinners.  Debate continues as to whether YHWH actually divorced Israel or merely filed for separation for a while to wake her up.  But there can be no doubt that He understands that it is sometimes necessary to let the possibility of divorce enter the picture.

Can we use the example of YHWH’s dealings with Israel as a guide to allowing divorce into the picture of endangered marriages?  Before answering in the affirmative, we must take note of two differences between God and ourselves.  First, there is the goodness gap.  The most innocent human spouse of the most horrible human abuser is much closer to that abuser in goodness than any of us is to God.  Israel was unfaithful to an infinitely good Husband.  We must keep this clearly in mind.  The second difference, however, is the power gap.  God is also infinitely stronger than any of us.  So it is that, while he was genuinely injured by Israel’s sin, He was not in danger of being destroyed by it.  The human spouse of a human abuser simply may not have the strength to withstand the onslaught of abuse.  It may actually lead to his or her destruction.  And this may occasion a broken-hearted movement toward separation.

But lest anyone be tempted rashly to take comfort in the thought that he or she is following God’s example in approaching or enacting divorce, we must hasten to remind ourselves—again—that we are not God.  We do not have His wisdom.  We do not know very well how to use the power of righteous anger and righteous battle to love a stubbornly sinful heart.  We do not have the divine strength needed to bring the awfulness of divorce to bear on a relationship while never wavering in a perfect commitment always to desire full reconciliation.  So an abused spouse, following the lead of a praying and trembling eldership, may attempt to trace the steps of the divine Husband of Israel toward the tragedy of divorce, but not with anything less than the utmost of caution and humility.

(Some of) the Truth About Homosexuality

I have been asked to answer the question ‘How should the church minister to people with same-sex attraction?’

It is possible to answer the question in short bursts which are right and true but which are not greatly helpful in and of themselves.  We might give answers such as, ‘With the love of Jesus,’ or ‘With grace and truth,’ or ‘With the good news of the gospel,’ and these would all be right and true.  But it can be seen immediately that more is needed.  It is not merely a question of the practical outworking of these things, though that is part of what remains needful; it is also that there is need for more examination and clarity of the concepts surrounding the discussion.

four-views-homosexuality-book-front-coverMy Appraisal of a Recent Collaborative Book
I have recently finished reading a book exploring this issue.  It is called Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church.  It includes contributions from four authors.  Two represent what the book calls the “affirming” view, that is, the view that the church should affirm homosexual lifestyles and couples as legitimately Christian possibilities; and two represent what the book calls the “traditional” view (they wanted to stay away from the negative connotations of a term like ‘non-affirming’).  The aim, then, was to have one author from each viewpoint approach the subject biblically and one approach it theologically.  I am not sure they succeeded in separating it as neatly as that, but that is not a real problem with the book.

Following each author’s chapter, there were responses given by the other three, which were then followed by brief rejoinders from the author of the chapter.  At the beginning and end, there are introduction and conclusion provided by the editor, Preston Sprinkle.

I am sad to say that none of the five writers, in the end, gave a satisfactorily accurate view.  (Of all the people who are actually involved in this conversation and writing and speaking authoritatively on the subject, I would take Rosaria Butterfield to be the most right on.  I will point to her more a bit further on.)  Loader does pretty good exegesis of the various texts (Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1, I Corinthians 6).  He concludes, against an increasing number of liberal interpretations these days, that the Scriptures and Paul in particular, are univocal in condemning not only homosexual practice, but even homosexual feelings and desires as sinful.  Despite this, he says that the church today finds it necessary to “supplement” (which really means set aside) the teachings of Scripture in light of things we now know to be true.  According to Loader, Paul knew nothing of the loving and stable same-sex relationships that we know in our day, and so we must flex our understanding of Christian sexuality to fit what we find in our world now.  Along with Holmes, I will say we must never, NEVER set aside the teachings of Scripture.  Loader’s ideas are out of the question.

DeFranza says she came from a conservative evangelical background and always believed that homosexuality was wrong.  But somewhere in the course of her post-graduate studies, she began to do research on the biological phenomenon of intersex people, hermaphrodites, etc. and found that there were sexual anomalies already built into nature for which a purely biblical view of human sexuality does not account.  Pointing to the existence of amphibians (which she says do not neatly fit into the categories of either land or water animals) as evidence for “space” opening up between the categories and norms of creation, she suggests that there is room for non-majority sex-types in the unfolding story of creation such that human sexuality may legitimately include more than just male-female complementarity.  I simply cannot take the time right now to engage this point.  I only include it here, because it seems to be a major building block for DeFranza.  Suffice it to say that she fails to prove much of anything by this line of thought, a fact which is sufficiently shown in the responses of the other authors.

A more major issue brought out in DeFranza’s chapter is the claim that the biblical image of God and His people or Christ and the church as a matrimonial relationship is based on what she disparagingly refers to as “patriarchal” marriage, not the egalitarian kind of marriage which we all now (supposedly) understand to be better and more Christian.  “Patriarchal” marriage is “the union of an inferior person to one who is superior and to whom one owes obedience” (p. 89).  It is the “imbalance of power between humanity and divinity that led ancient writers to see a parallel in the imbalance of power between wives and husbands which was assumed by them to be natural.”

There are two errors here.  First, it simply is not true that this is the essence of the biblical imagery of marriage between YHWH and Israel or Christ and the church.  The fact that all human marriages in the Bible and in the history of the world fall short of the reality—indeed, that most have been pretty far from the mark—is not the fault of the reality.  DeFranza has the reality-image relationship backward, confusing the object for its shadow.  Second—and this is a common problem running throughout the book and much modern work on the Bible in general—there is the assumption that the meaning of the eternal word of God is located in ancient history.  It simply is not.  But I do not have time to develop this idea right now and must move on.  Suffice it to say that as one who is committed to a literary-canonical hermeneutic (as opposed to a literal-grammatical-historical one), I generally don’t run into problems of trying to figure out how to relate ancient and modern concerns and modes of thought.

Wesley Hill’s chapter is probably the best in the book, but it too has a major flaw.  He identifies himself as a gay Christian and explains that following Christ and obeying Scripture means he is called to a life of celibacy.  With Holmes, who makes the point most emphatically, he reminds the reader of the importance of recognizing that we live in a culture which has over-emphasized sex and romantic love to the point of making everyone believe that they are not living authentic lives unless they are experiencing romantic and sexual fulfillment.  We live in an age where, as one of the authors put it (Hill, I think, but I do not remember which for sure), the existence of a “forty-year old virgin” is self-evidently laughable.  Hill rightly sees through this lie.  His contribution is full very well-seen and well-written insights.  Pointing to Aelred of Rievaulx and others, he calls for a recovery of the ancient practice of Christian friendship.

four-views-homosexuality-book-table-of-authors

The trouble with Hill’s view is that it legitimizes being “gay” as a type of Christian.  This idea, it seems, includes for Hill an ongoing, settled identity of being gay which even includes same-sex relationships which are not physically played out in sexual activity, which is forbidden by Scripture.  Reading Hill’s description, I find myself oscillating between celebration of his call to enhanced and deepened Christian friendships and dismay at his assumptions that ‘gayness’ can be a good feature of these relationships.

Here is where Butterfield is helpful.  She was a practicing homosexual for many years and then came to faith in Christ.  She is now the wife of a Reformed pastor and mother of several children.  While she has respect for Hill and others, she is clear about the fact that it is both tragic and dangerous to remain in a state of identifying as “gay.”  This normalizes something that God has called sin and is unnecessary for anyone who is standing in the robe of righteousness that is provided by Christ.

Holmes’ chapter is the last of the four in the book.  Thus, I first encountered him in his responses to the other three authors.  Based on those brief thoughts, I was looking forward to his chapter.  It turned out to be a great disappointment.  Almost his entire argument was based on an Augustinian model of marriage and a consequent assertion that the primary purpose of marriage is procreation.  This, then, requires a massive pile of explanations and qualifications for how it is that it okay for heterosexual couples to marry and engage in sexual activity despite infertility, being of post-menopausal age, etc. (to say nothing of the holiness of sexual activities in the marriage bed which do not include the physical possibility of conception!).  It ended up being a soft, underhand pitch right over the plate, which Loader and DeFranza obligingly knocked out of the park.

The essence of marriage is NOT procreation, though that is important.  The essence of marriage is, rather, the complementarity of unity in difference with the specific halves of male and female.  By definition, there is no such thing as same-sex marriage.  Regardless of what the state or the culture or liberal churches may say, it does not exist.  And Christians should not speak of it as if it did.  That is why I and others are always careful to use phrasing such as “so-called same-sex marriage.”  This should have been the argument presented by Holmes.  But it was not.

That is not to say that Holmes offered nothing of value.  On the contrary, he brought some very helpful points to bear on the discussion.  In fact, it is worth quoting him at length to get the force of the best thread of his contribution:

[E]very desire of every person is wrongly directed; the church is a company of sinners.  The acceptance offered to lesbian and gay people is exactly the same as the acceptance offered to straight people: we are all invited through the mercy of God and the sacrifice of Christ to come as we are, desiring wrongly in multiple ways, and to find ourselves gradually transformed to desire rightly through the work of the Spirit.  (p.64)

Responding to Loader’s assertion that it is “very unfair and inconsistent to tell people that it’s OK to be gay, but not OK to give natural expression to their sexuality,” Holmes writes,

But that is exactly what we say to all people: it is not OK to give natural expression to our sexuality—or indeed to any other natural desire we have.  Instead, the gospel calls every one of us to repentance and transformation in every area of our lives.  Christian marriage is not permission to indulge our sexual desires, but an ascetic discipline through which our wayward desires are transformed (just as celibacy is).  (pp.64-5)

What Homosexuals and Other Sinners Need
Along with Butterfield, I will say that what all of us need, throughout our lives, is the healing power of our God to conquer and reconcile and restore to Himself all the little parts of us which remain sick and broken and rebellious.  Christians who experience same-sex attraction do not need to settle into a life of “being gay.”  They need healing.  We all do.  The role of the church is to walk the path of healing with all of her members.  This is not to deny the likely reality that there is something in the psychological and perhaps even bio-chemical hardwiring of some folks which gives them a “natural” (read: “fallen”) propensity toward same-sex attraction.  Nor is it to give approval to any of the sinister schemes of “reprogramming” which think of same-sex attracted people as “patients” in need of a “cure” and treat them as objects to be dealt with.  (Butterfield refers to “reparative therapy” as a heresy of the prosperity gospel that says, ‘commit your life to Jesus, and all will be well.’)

Biblical healing in the church means friendship—deep, close friendships between equals in Christ, where the Spirit of God is growing people into the likeness of the Son.  This brother is seeing growth in his years-long struggles with anger, that brother in his critical and prideful spirit, this brother in his lust toward women, that brother in his same-sex attractedness—all of them walking together, building one another up, praying with and for one another.  For any of these people, the struggle may continue throughout their lives.  The same-sex attracted Christian may go to his grave ‘feeling gay,’ just as the Christian power-monger may struggle to his dying day with his idol of controlism.  Nevertheless, the trail will be marked by victories (even if it also includes some failures), and Christ will have been learned and known in the process.  This is sanctification.  Meanwhile, it will not do for any of them to settle into an identity which frames their lives according to their brokenness.

Church and World on the Issue of Homosexuality
One thing that is of great importance is that the church maintain her own clarity of thought.  In many cases in 21st century America, this will mean she must first recover it and then maintain it.  Without a doubt, there are several claims constantly broadcast by the surrounding culture which find their way into the church.  I finish this post by listing several ingredients, in no particular order, that add to the over all confusion we suffer here in this time and place.  Some of these have broader significance than just their bearing on the issue of homosexuality.  After each, I will offer a thought to try to clear the air a bit.

  • Cultural fog:  Everyone–at least all normal and decent people–are affirming of homosexuality as a good thing.
    • Clearing the air:  The ad populum fallacy is an informal fallacy which claims that something is either true or false because practically everyone thinks so. As I have written before here on TLW, ‘Most people believe the things they believe, because they believe most people believe them.’  This is a tremendously powerful weapon in the propaganda arsenal of culture.  It wins a free pass on so many things from evolutionary theory to Whoopi Goldberg’s “god of love and acceptance.”  It certainly holds enormous sway in the public perception of many questions involved in the discussion of homosexuality.
  • Cultural fog:  We have now arrived and know all truth—or at least sufficiently vast amounts of it to make our judgments about practically everything superior to all who have gone before us.
    • Clearing the air:  The Chronological Snobbery fallacy is also alive and well in today’s culture. This is the fallacy that assumes that, simply because an idea is old, it must be wrong.  (It can go the opposite way too,saying that something is wrong or bad because it is new.)  The culture of the day operates with the assumption that we have now arrived and know all truth.  With regard to the discussion of homosexuality, we can now arrogate to our time and place the seat of authoritative truth with disregard and disdain for many other times and places in the history of the world.  The irony is that, far from being a new height of clarity and enlightenment, it is actually a new depth of blindness and ignorance.
  • Cultural fog: True love is what we have been taught to believe it is by our televisions (et al), and it is the most important thing in the universe.
    • Clearing the air:  Romantic/sexual love, especially as a “private” affair “between two people who love each other,” has been elevated to religious status in our culture, and the church has largely bought into it. Romantic and sexual involvement is now seen as necessary for personal fulfillment.  This has resulted in the privatization and secularization (or we might say, the dis-ecclesialization) of ordinary marriages.  It is this unbiblical and sub-Christian understanding of marriage that is in view when the culture says all people deserve the right to be married.  Indeed, it is difficult to defend against such a claim when we have already agreed to this wrong definition.
  • Cultural fog:  Being ‘nice’ is the most important thing in our interactions with each other.
    • Clearing the air:  This is particularly expected of anyone who makes any claim to have faith in God.  Anyone is welcome to speak from a “religious” perspective provided that they only say nice things.  In the church, we tend to fall for a more insidious form of this in connection with the homosexual issue and others.  We have been pressured into believing that it is incumbent upon us to take the nicest position on homosexuality that we possibly can without utterly violating clear biblical teaching.  And when we do express biblical teaching, we hem and haw and apologize.
      As I have written elsewhere, “niceness” is not a Christian virtue.  Kindness, goodness, patience, gentleness–these are the fruit of the Spirit.  But they are not the same thing as niceness.  Niceness is a thin veneer over relationships that usually involves being fake.  Biblical love never involves being fake.  It is real and is the partner of the truth.  Without such a distinction between cultural niceness and actual Christian virtue, the writings of the New Testament apostles are unintelligible.
  • Cultural fog:  “Being gay” is just the way some people are; the discussion of whether homosexuality is innate or elective is settled and closed.
    • Clearing the air:  Similar to the way that evolutionary theory eventually reached the status of unquestionable acceptance throughout the culture, it is now assumed by most people that “being gay” is just the way some people are. (All five of the Christian authors of the book I discussed above seem to take this as a given.) To speak of it as a choice that some people make is to reveal oneself as desperately behind the times.  This has been a huge accomplishment for the ‘LGBT’ agenda in attaching itself to the legitimate plights of people of color, who, in fact, do NOT get to choose their ethnicity.
  • Cultural fog:  The culture, not the Bible or the church, gets to define the terms and set the parameters for discussion.
    • Clearing the air:  Among other things, this means that everyone is expected to accept and use the words “gay” and “lesbian,” the very use of which lends a constant legitimacy to the ideas that these are not only real ontological categories (which itself should be questioned) but ones deserving of acceptance and support.  Moreover, we are expected to use new definitions of terms like “marriage” and “spouse” and to use phrases like “his husband” and “her wife.”  In the case of so-called ‘transgender’ people, we are expected to use the gender pronouns that fit the sex which they claim to have become.  While I will not say that Christians must not acquiesce to these things, I would at least say we better be clear with ourselves and one another as to just what we are doing.
  • Cultural fog:  Being put together means being right and good.
    • Clearing the air:  This idea comes in the form of pointing out that, contrary to other times and places in history (e.g. ancient Greece and Rome), homosexuality is no longer to be associated with abusiveness or sickness.  Gays and lesbians, we are assured, are among the most put together, well-adjusted people in society.  They are responsible professionals who make good parents, etc.  It is important to remember that the measure of the moral quality of a person, thing or phenomenon is not how orderly or robust it appears to be.  In the proclamation of the gospel, the church has always sounded clear warnings to the healthy, happy and well-heeled that their apparent stability was not to be trusted.  Thus, the increasing amount of social polish among homosexual people should not be mistaken for God’s approval of their homosexuality.
  • Cultural fog:  The popular cultural narrative correctly teaches us that gay and gay-affirming people are heroic and “religious” and non-affirming people are goofy, if not downright villainous.
    • Clearing the air:  While it is certainly true that there have been times in the past when homosexual people were cruelly mistreated by society and were terribly hurt by people in the church, those days are pretty well gone now.  And in fact, the tables are quickly turning.  It is no longer brave to be gay or gay-affirming.  It is brave to be otherwise.  Ask any Christian student at a state college or university.

Before signing off here, I do want to try, at least, to avoid having people unnecessarily think of me as a jerk who hates homosexual people.  As I mentioned above, I cannot just say nice, politically correct things at the expense of the truth.  But that doesn’t mean that I have either a license or a desire to be a brash, uncaring jerk.  Never mind anything like a Christian duty to love, I honestly cannot remember ever meeting a homosexual person (unless maybe I didn’t know they were) whom I didn’t find it easy to like.

The aim of this post has not been to get into a public argument with homosexual people.  My aim has been to lay things out in what I believe to be a clear and accurately biblical way for the sake of other Christians.  In fact, I do not know whether any homosexual people will even see this.  In one sense, I hope not.  The things I have written of here have nothing to do with loving and serving actual homosexual people.  It has been, and I trust it will continue to be, my great pleasure to know and interact with homosexual folks.  They are sinners just like I am.  In actual relationship with actual people, I would not stand there laying out these arguments.  I would sit and listen and love.  As Rosaria Butterfield puts it, ‘Strong words belong the context of strong relationship.’

May the Lord Jesus Christ magnify His holy name among us all!