Tag Archives: same-sex attraction

What Was the Sin of Sodom?… (Taking A Closer Look)

Colorado cake artist, Jack Phillips, who recently won a Supreme Court case, in a United States freedom of religion case, that opponents say legitimizes discrimination against gay persons. (credit: Sam Brasch, Colorado Public Radio)

To bake the cake, or not bake the wedding cake?

Nothing gets a group of Christians animated like the topic of same-sex marriage. Go ahead. Try it. The next time you are in a Bible study, or share a meal with believers, just mention “same-sex marriage.” I guarantee you that for the next twenty minutes, the conversation will be anything but boring.

Ever since the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, that legalized same-sex marriage, many Christians have besieged themselves with questions as to how to reach gay and lesbian people, while still affirming the Bible’s teaching that God created marriage between only a man and a woman.

Some say that Christians have focused too much on the issue of same-sex marriage. Others are concerned that the church is gradually capitulating to the culture, in accommodating “the sin of Sodom.”  A recent Pew survey even suggests that among younger evangelicals, there is an increased acceptance of gay marriage, at least in terms of its legality, in the wider culture, if not also, in the church.

Many say that the church needs to “preach the Word.” Specifically, we should preach against “the sin of Sodom.” Every Christian should surely agree with that.

However, the problem is that we often fail to understand what “the sin of Sodom” really is. Is “the sin of Sodom” gay marriage? Would this include a society’s increased acceptance of gay marriage as normal? What really is “the sin of Sodom?”

Let us take a closer look at the biblical text, and see if the common, traditional understanding of “the sin of Sodom” actually matches what the Bible teaches. Continue reading


Statements: What Does Nashville Have to Do With Chicago?

On August 29, 2017, a group of evangelical leaders announced the signing of the Nashville Statement. If you have not heard of it, you should go and read it for yourself.

The Nashville Statement was crafted by the leadership of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), in response to recent cultural changes regarding the public acceptance of gay marriage and transgender identification. For those Christians who have felt that the evangelical church has not taken a firm enough stand against these cultural trends, this is a boldly direct statement that such Christians should spend some time carefully studying.

CBMW originally had its beginnings, in the 1980s, opposing the acceptance of women as elders and/or pastors, in churches, as well as affirming male-headship in the home. But now, with the Nashville Statementunder the leadership of Bible professor Denny Burk, CBMW has broadened its scope to “equip the church on the meaning of biblical sexuality.”

Why is it called the Nashville Statement? Well, because, like other Christian confessional documents, ranging from the Nicene Creed, to the Augsburg Confession, to the Westminster Confession, it was written in Nashville, Tennessee. It contains a listing of articles, made of various affirmations (“WE AFFIRM”) and denials (“WE DENY”), that seek to address a biblical approach to gender dysphoria and same-sex desire and behavior.

The written style of the Nashville Statement is therefore much like the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, drafted in Chicago, in the 1970s. Like the Chicago Statement, the Nashville Statement enjoys some of the same positive characteristics as well as suffering some of the same problems that these type of documents have.

As I have written about before, the Chicago Statement succeeded in defining a view of biblical authority, that many evangelical Christians could rally around and support, rightly affirming the Bible’s truthfulness. On the other hand, the Chicago Statement was unsuccessful in resolving a number of issues surrounding how the Bible is to be interpreted. Much of the challenge that has arisen, since the Chicago Statement’s signing, involves how terms, like inerrancy, that are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, are to be defined and applied in Christian hermeneutics.

The Nashville Statement carries much of the same properties, but within a different scope. The Nashville Statement is already gathering an impressive number of Christian leaders, across a wide set of backgrounds, who have publicly signed onto the document. It affirms the beliefs that Christians have held for 2000 years. In our sexually confused world, this is a big deal. I would not be surprised if the Nashville Statement becomes a unifying banner for many, if not most, conservative evangelicals.

Alas, the Nashville Statement has its difficulties. It uses terminology and language that some might find antiquated, offensive, or otherwise, difficult to define, such as “homosexual,” “divinely ordained differences between male and female” (Article 3 & 4), “homosexual or transgender self-conception” (Article 7), and “transgenderism” (Article 10). What does all of this mean?

For example, does the Nashville Statement mean that those who identify as gay and celibate persons can consider themselves as being fully Christian, or does it preclude such self-identification? I honestly do not know. As far as I can tell, many of the signers (and non-signers) of Nashville themselves are deeply divided on this.

There has been a firestorm of criticism from the progressive wing of Christianity, such as this counter-statement, Christians United: In Support of LGBT+ Inclusion in the Church.  However, there have also been a different set of criticisms from other conservative evangelicals.

From my perspective, I would not have written such a document in the same manner. While the Nashville Statement affirms central ideas that I would strongly endorse, like in defending a biblical concept of marriage, I doubt that it successfully casts a vision of how to reach out to an LGBT+ population, that remains either hidden in silence in, or already alienated from, evangelical churches.

This is a pastoral crisis in our churches, and it has been that way for years. A 2009 study shows that teenagers who struggle with same-sex desires, many of whom come from Christian families, who experience rejection from their families, are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide, than other teenagers. I personally know a number of folks who have left evangelical church communities, feeling that evangelical churches are not safe and supportive environments for addressing LGBT+ questions.

I pay close attention to the writings of Mark Yarhouse, professor of clinical psychology at Regent University, in Virginia Beach, who believes that the Nashville Statement lacks the type of nuanced, mature reflection necessary to address extremely difficult and complex questions surrounding gender dysphoria, that many Christians, and often even scientists and psychologists today, do not know that much about. I also agree strongly with the critique offered by theologian Preston Sprinkle, author of People To Be Loved. The Nashville Statement will be a rallying point for many Christians, in that it affirms an approach to biblical sexuality. But it offers very little in terms of how Christians can faithfully love and care for friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members who struggle with sexual and gender identity issues. As Preston Sprinkle puts it, the evangelical conversation in this area typically “has been profoundly impersonal and one-sided (lots of truth and very little grace).”

Will the Nashville Statement have the staying power of a Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, or even a Nicene Creed? I do not know. Either way, I do hope for something better in evangelical churches, a Christian vision that fosters a spiritual posture that enables Christians to be agents of healing, as opposed to having the reputation as being agents of condemnation.


Thinking About Ditching Your Copy of The Message? … Consider This

(UPDATE 4:30PM:  PLEASE READ TO VERY END OF THE POST). As some of you probably already know, the veteran Christian author, Eugene Peterson, has apparently changed his views regarding same-sex marriage. Twitter lit up like crazy yesterday, after an interview with Peterson suggested that the author, of great books like, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and the popular paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, would perform a same-sex wedding, if he was asked.

Peterson is getting up there in years, and he says he is withdrawing from public life. But with the news yesterday, he joins a growing chorus of evangelical leaders, who have changed their views on same-sex marriage in the church, such as Tony Campolo and HGTV’s Jen Hatmaker. This is disconcerting to those who believe the church is capitulating to pressure from the culture, while others believe that this is a long-due, over-corrective to the church’s mistreatment of gay and lesbian people.

Lifeway Christian Stores is talking about refusing to sell Peterson’s books, while others are suggesting that Christians stop using Peterson’s The Message, in their Bible reading. There are few things to consider here:

  • Peterson’s books have proven to be very helpful over the years, before anyone knew about yesterday’s news. Furthermore, while The Message is still a helpful paraphrase of Scripture, for getting a long overview of different books of the Bible, by reading long passages of Scripture in one sitting, it is no replacement for a good study Bible. I frequently run into people who try to put verse numbers into The Message, to help in their study, but I am afraid they are sorely missing the point. My New Testament professor in seminary, Donald Hagner, was asked years ago to be a consultant for The Message. But when the book came out in print,  “The Hag,” as his students affectionately called him, felt embarrassed by some of the things that Peterson did with the text, to make it more readable. I have teased my old professor for years about this, and after every time I mention it to him, I still get a rise from him. I am sure Professor Hagner feels even more embarrassed today! But still, the point is, The Message is a good tool for what it was designed for, and not for what it was not meant for.

 

  • Regarding the gay and lesbian topic, Christians need to own up to the fact that the church has had a lousy track record in caring for and ministering to gay and lesbian people over the years. When Newsweek journalist, Kurt Eichenwald, went on his infamous, multi-dozen page tirade against the Bible, in the Newsweek Christmas issue of 2014, he did so when he learned that a neighboring family, who were evangelical Christians, kicked their son out of the house, and put him on the street, when that teenage son finally had the gutsy courage to come forward to his parents, to tell them that he was wrestling with sexual feelings for other boys, that he did not seem able to control. Folks, stuff life this happens all of the time in evangelical churches, and we simply have to do a better job in reaching out to people who struggle with same-sex desires. It is possible that doing something positive is the thrust behind Peterson’s motivation. Prudence demands that we give Eugene Petersen some latitude.

 

  • Nevertheless, Eugene Peterson’s change of views, assuming he genuinely holds them, is not warranted by what the Bible teaches. The Bible does teach that marriage is between a man and a woman, and we do people no favor by side-stepping parts of the Bible that are unpopular.

A brief look at Peter’s example in Scripture might help. The Apostle Peter was like a lightning rod for the early church, as documented all throughout the Book of Acts. But even though Peter was perhaps the most significant leader in the church, he was not perfect. When Peter started to shun table fellowship with Gentile Christians, the Apostle Paul totally got in his face for his error (Read Galatians 2:11-14). Paul knew that the Gospel was meant for all people, not just the Jews, and persistently challenged Peter upfront. But Paul never discredited the good things Peter had done to promote the Gospel. In the end, Peter eventually changed his mind, and supported Paul’s ministry.

To this day, we are still reading Peter’s two letters (1 and 2 Peter) and the Gospel of Mark, that he collaborated with Mark. If we were to have prematurely written off Peter as being without hope, we would have lost a large chunk of our New Testament! So, there is something to hope for, too, that Eugene Petersen might rethink his position.

For that reason, I plan on keeping my copy of The Message…. but I am still not going to put verse numbers in it!!

UPDATE: July 13, 2017, in the PM.

Okay, folks. Back away from the bonfire! …. You can put away that gasoline that you were going to pour on your stack of The Message Bibles. ChristianityToday reports this afternoon that Eugene Petersen has retracted his earlier statement regarding same-sex marriage. That was pretty quick, and the whole debacle has some telling lessons on how public statements, issued and heard in sound bites, taken out of context, can cause harm for Christian witness. To the extent, that I said something that misrepresented Eugene Peterson, a man I respect and admire, I sincerely apologize   …… Still, I AM NOT GOING TO PUT VERSE NUMBERS IN MY COPY OF THE MESSAGE, AND YOU SHOULD NOT EITHER!!

UPDATE: July 16, 2017

As the initial controversy has died down, I will link some helpful posts here, from a variety of perspectives, regarding the Eugene Peterson affair this week, or The Message as a translation/paraphrase. Your feedback is welcome:


Jen Hatmaker and the Frustrated Evangelical Response to LGBTQ

The Babylon Bee, a Christian satire website, unloaded a clever piece on Jen Hatmaker today, expressing the type of dismay that many evangelical Christians are thinking. But are we really hearing the message underneath Jen Hatmaker's public pronouncement?

The Babylon Bee, a Christian satire website, unveiled a clever piece on Jen Hatmaker recently, expressing the type of dismay that many evangelical Christians are thinking. But are we really hearing the message underneath Jen Hatmaker’s public pronouncement?

Over the past week or so, Jen Hatmaker, the funny and vivacious reality TV star of the HGTV show, “My Big Family Renovation,” rocked the social-media world of evangelicalism asunder. Jen Hatmaker, a favorite in MOPS circles (that is, Mothers Of PreSchoolers, a very active group in our church), and popular speaker at various Christian women’s conferences, in an interview, publicly stated her affirmation of gay and lesbian marriages as potentially holy.

Well, this probably had the same effect as setting a stack of Bibles on fire.

Jen Hatmaker is but one in a steady stream of high-profile, evangelical celebrities and leaders to jump ship from supporting a traditional, evangelical view of human sexuality, to supporting gay and lesbian marriage in the church, over the past few years. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Rob Bell, Tony Campolo, and singer songwriter Jennifer Knapp, too. What was unthinkable ten or twenty years ago, is now becoming more common, as otherwise traditional “Bible-believers” are willing to discard 2,000 years of Christian teaching, particularly in the wake of the June, 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

What makes Jen Hatmaker a bit different is because she is not a pastor, or a theologian, or a super-talented singer. She comes across as a very down-to-earth, spunky, disarmingly honest and homespun happy mother, who has the same type of problems all of us have… and she has 109 thousand Twitter followers. That means that there are probably at least a handful of busy MOPS women in your conservative, evangelical church, who are probably a bit bewildered as to why Jen Hatmaker is making such a public stand on this topic.

These are not folks out there in liberal, mainline churches, who long ago dropped their commitment to biblical authority. Rather, they could be sitting next to you at your Bible-believing fellowship.

There is confusion in our churches.

What are we to make of this trend? How does someone with a high view of Scripture respond?  Continue reading


Transgender, Intersex, and Christian Love

If you have been wrestling with, as a Christian, how you can love people who identify as transgender in some way, you owe it to yourself to view the following sermon video by Andrew Wilson, pastor of Kings Church in Eastbourne in the United Kingdom1. On the one hand, there is tremendous pressure from the wider culture today to minimize gender differentiation, and it has an impact on how the church understands issues involving men and women in church ministry, same-sex marriage, and just what it means to be a male or female person. On the other hand, there are clues in Scripture where Jesus recognizes that there are eunuchs, those who do not fit certain biological gender expectations at birth.

What does Christian love look like, when we reach out to people whose biological sex does not match their experience of gender? Justin Taylor, of The Gospel Coalition, has a great summary of Andrew Wilson’s talk:

Notes:

1. Veracity featured another, short video by Andrew Wilson last week, for you “End Times” people. 


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