Homosexuality, the Bible and the Church - Part 1
This is a blog on one of the most controversial issues to hit the church in some time. It is a needed blog, but it is one that I approach with fear and trepidation. My desire in these posts is to be, as Albert Mohler Jr. says, a compassionate truth teller. The following 4 blogs are expansions of the sermon on this topic. This first blog is intended to introduce the need for discussion of, and the difficult nature of this topic. It will set the stage for the discussion as well as the tone that I believe Christians must possess and display as we discuss the issue of homosexuality and homosexual marriage in our churches and in our culture at large.
I’m going to assume that there are three kinds of people that may read this post and listen to my sermons on this issue. (Thanks to Kevin DeYoung for this acute observation of audience and its consequence on this topic.)
Those who believe in the biblical view of marriage and therefore reject homosexuality on biblical grounds;
Those who are convinced of a contrary view to #1 for either biblical or non-biblical reasons;
Those who are unsure of what to believe.
I’m not sure of what I can say to those in camp #2, except to ask to be heard fairly, to ask them to allow the Bible to speak plainly, and to listen to what I am and am not saying. My primary intention is to speak to those in camps 1 and 3, in an effort to show that the Bible is clear and unequivocal on the issue of homosexuality, and how we should deal with those who struggle with same sex attraction and orientation.
Before we deal with the issue we need to understand the cultural milieu that has brought homosexuality to the fore. We are stepping into a firestorm that has been raging for some time now.
The definition of marriage in our country makes this an ever present issue – At Covenant Reformed Church we define marriage in this way – “We believe that marriage is a covenant designed and instituted by God to be between one man and one woman.” This is called the ‘traditional’ view of marriage, although it is best called the biblical view of marriage. It is also a view of marriage that is not shared by our government. The definition of marriage in Canada was adopted in 2005. The acceptance of Bill C-38, defined marriage as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.” Thus in Canada it is perfectly legal for two members of the same sex to be married. This is simply a reflection of the reality that...
Our society and its attitudes toward homosexuality have changed and will change even more – Or to put it a different way, our culture is pressing in on us, it is forcing the issue. Our current culture has a much more open attitude toward homosexual behavior and homosexual marriage than it did even just a few years ago. The church, as a result of its biblical definition of marriage and its conviction that homosexuality is a sin, is seen as a stronghold of bigotry defended by misinterpretation of an ancient book that needs to be modernized and readjusted to our current cultural situation. The issue is pressing on us, not just as a church but for each one of us as individuals who profess the Bible as our sole authority. Our culture is teaching us that homosexuality is prevalent and that, regardless of religious conviction, we simply need to accept its present and not make a big deal about it. We need to battle the temptation to give into this attitude and teach ourselves, instead, from Scripture. As our culture increasingly views homosexuality as a cultural norm, we are encountering it more and more on a personal level. I’m sure that most of us know somebody - son, daughter, nephew or niece, co-worker, etc., who have ‘come out of the closet’. It is not a stretch to say that we all are, or will, have to deal with these things much more intimately than previous generations. This means that...
The pro-homosexual worldview is rapidly becoming a cultural defeater belief of Christianity – Tim Keller calls a defeater belief, ‘a ‘common-sense’ consensus belief that automatically makes Christianity seem implausible to people.’ Denny Burk in his book The Meaning of Sex recognizes that the homosexual agenda in our society is such a thing. The reason? Because it is now seen as a civil rights issue rather than just a sexual preference issue. The leaders of homosexual groups are putting forth a moral claim - “Gay is good” and they don’t want mere toleration of this statement, they want endorsement, they push back hard against anyone who would say the opposite. Since it is framed as a civil rights issue, it is no longer socially acceptable to say that gay is NOT good. Anyone who does, is seen as standing in the way of human rights and social progress and not merely sexual preference. Thus Christianity is seen as out of touch, irrelevant, full of bigots and therefore our Xian faith is defeated with the wave of a hand simply because of its views of human sexuality and marriage. Which leads to the inevitability of. . .
Conflicts have, are, and will continue to arise – Those who hold to a biblical definition of sexuality and marriage are increasingly becoming the minority. Those who do not conform to the new definitions of sexual freedom, marriage and the ‘civil rights’ of the gay agenda are labeled ‘fundamentalists,’ ‘homophobes’ or ‘bigots’ or worse. The conflict is here, and will continue to get more intense for our children as they will have to deal with the realities of what the Bible says versus the defeater beliefs of our culture as it relates to human sexuality.
The prevalence of fringe Christian perspectives – Watch any discussion or read any article from a secular news agency, or the like, where a Christian is consulted and you will usually get something like one of these two scenarios:
Snippets of edited discourse that don’t allow the Bible to actually speak in its fullness. This then projects the Christian stance as simply one of tradition or mere historical belief or one of fear or ignorance or intolerance or backwardness or some combination of all of them;
Some crackpot fundamentalist who is unreasonable and inarticulate and doesn’t argue well (or at all) from the Scriptures. This kind of thing confirms for everyone that Christians are, indeed, fearful or ignorant or intolerant or backward and more than likely all of the above. Which results in the discussion of homosexuality producing,
More smoke than fire – as a result of the kind of thing just described and the battles that ensue as a result, there is little genuine understanding of what the Bible actually says on the issue of sexuality and marriage and what it means for our lives. To be blunt, the Bible is really quite clear about homosexuality. We simply need to be understand it, believe it and live it, regardless of what our culture says we must do.
I want to be open and upfront about where I and our church stand on this issue and why. Our church is a Bible-based church; we believe in the Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura and all of its implications (cf. Westminster Confession, ch 1). Which means that what we affirm as true and good and right is that which the Bible teaches regardless of our wider cultural or the people immediately around us – The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:10 is worth quoting at this juncture, for it reflects what is my approach and the approach of our church to the authority of Scripture.
[The Bible is the] “supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other than the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”
Once this doctrine is affirmed the issue of homosexuality and homosexual marriage becomes uncluttered for the Christian. The Bible is clear and unequivocal on the issue – homosexuality, both orientation and action, is sinful. Scripture will not allow us to say anything different than this. Some within the Church at large have tried to argue the contrary, saying things like – Genesis 1-2 is not relevant to the discussion; the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 was a lack of hospitality not homosexuality; Leviticus 18 and 20 are part of an antiquated Law that Jesus has fulfilled and therefore is irrelevant to us; Romans 1 has nothing to do with monogamous homosexual relationships; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 speaks only of homosexual rape not monogamous, consensual homosexual relationships. But, quite frankly, these perspectives cannot stand the weight of the biblical texts in question when properly interpreted. As Albert Mohler Jr. states, “If the Bible does not speak clearly to the issue of homosexuality, it does not speak clearly about anything.” And in this case there is no doubt, the Bible speaks loud and clear on the issue of homosexuality. Any position that affirms homosexuality as acceptable Christian behavior is simply speaking against Scripture.
In the next blog posts I will argue, from the Scriptures, that homosexuality, both in orientation and action are sin. But before we delve into these things, let’s remember two very important points that must surround our discussion:
Let’s not elevate one sin above another – My fear in preaching only two sermons and writing four blogs on the issue of homosexuality is that we will elevate this one issue above other sins. Read Romans 1:28-31. Notice the sins that are included in this list? How many of us can stand innocent before this list? None. So let’s make sure we are seeing things in proper biblical perspective as we move forward. Homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is clear about that. But so is slander, backbiting, hetero- or homo- sexual lust, covetousness, disobedience to parents, lying and on and on we could go.
Let’s always remember that this is about people – This is not an theoretical issue to discuss and then move on once we have exegeted our texts and dealt with arguments and counter- arguments. This is about people who are made in the Image of God and who are dealing with the results of the Fall in their lives, often in very painful ways. This is not an issue to be discussed only in the abstract, it is about people. And not just people out there, but people who are close to us, people who are our friends, family, co-workers, fellow members of churches, etc.. This means that when addressing this issue we need to speak from the the deepest of biblical convictions while all the while communicating the love of Christ in that very act.
Soli Deo Gloria