About Topher

I'm a pastor, husband, and bookworm in northwestern PA. I started this site as a platform for creating and curating solid resources that make for solid men and women of wisdom, virtue, discipline, and faith. Become a patron and support my work at www.patreon.com/christopherpreston.

Christians and Homosexuality [What if they love each other?]

Love, Homosexuality, and Presuppositions

In the last two posts, we talked about homosexual desires and homosexual orientation. Another common argument given to, and by, Christians in defense of homosexuality is by appealing to love. The question is how anyone can rightly prohibit someone from being with someone they love. The argument goes something like this: “God is love, and wants us to love. I love this person and want to be with them. Therefore, it is right that I be with them, and you can’t tell me otherwise” (or, “and God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy”).

Again and again, the central issue is the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. The truth is, that if someone does not have Scripture as their authoritative starting point, then this argument is completely legitimate. If we throw out Scripture, if we throw out a holy God to whom I am morally accountable, than what more is there in life than to seek my own pleasure and satisfaction? But because the Bible is true, I understand that humanity is fallen and corrupt, and that the heart can—and usually does—harbor sinful affection. In other words, the argument from “love” assumes that positive affection for someone or something is always a good thing, and that thing desired or loved must therefore be good. But the Bible tells a different story. As fallen and sinful beings, we often love sinful things.

The argument, “but they love each other,” does not override God’s holy standard, because morality is determined—not by our affections—but by God’s Word.

If my desires and affections are what determines morality, than selfishness, pride, anger, adultery, and a host of other sins could be declared right and good based on my affection for myself or for someone to whom I have no right. A married man may have a strong desire and affection for another woman—perhaps he feels that he loves her—but this in no way makes adultery permissible. Why? Because adultery is clearly stated to be sin (Ex. 20:14; Lev. 20:10; Matt. 5:32; 19:9; Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:11; Gal. 5:19), and one’s affection does not overturn that standard. Likewise, one may have a strong affection for someone of the same sex, but if Scripture clearly condemns the practice of homosexuality, than one’s sinful desire and affection does not and cannot override God’s holy standard.

The Bible teaches that God’s created design and ordained order for human sexuality is for there to be a complementary relationship between a man and a woman, within the covenant of marriage. Homosexual acts and desires violate God’s creation design and are thus sinful. Therefore, the church today must stand fast upon the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God, no matter the consequences.


Resources:

The Grace of Shame: 7 Ways the Church Has Failed to Love Homosexuals” – Tim Bayly

Blame it on the Brain?” – Dr. Ed Welch

God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines” – ebook edited by Dr. Al Mohler

A Biblical Response to Homosexuality” – The Master’s Seminary

God, the Gospel, and the Gay Challenge – A Response to Matthew Vines” – Dr. Al Mohler

Christians and Homosexuality [What if it’s genetic?]

The issue of a constitutional, genetically predisposed, homosexual orientation is a common ground used for the advancement of homosexual civil rights. However, genetic studies have shown that there is no sufficient evidence for a “gay gene” that biologically determines, or even influences, a homosexual disposition. Scientific studies have continually failed to provide sufficient evidence that genetics determines, or even seriously influence, sexual orientation (1, 2, 3). Instead, studies seem to suggest positively that biology does not cause homosexual desire (1, 2). Christian counselors and theologians, such as Ed Welch and Michael Grissanti notably, have argued well against the genetic view, citing the evidence from secular scientists themselves, while approaching the issue from a biblical perspective (1, 2).

Here is the real issue, however. Even if there is some genetic predisposition discovered, this fact would hold little relevance to the question of whether it is right or wrong, because our instinctive inclinations do not define morality—God does. So while homosexuality is not “natural” (it goes against God’s created order), there may very well be instinctive tendencies toward homosexuality in some people, just as some have “natural,” or instinctive inclinations toward anger, or arrogance, or selfishness, because different people struggle with different sinful inclinations, and our fallen bodies may well have an influence in that. The fact that some people are born with an instinctive tendency toward a particular sinful pattern does not mean, however, that what they feel strongly inclined toward is right and good. Dr. Ed Welch says that “Homosexuality is natural, but only in the sense that it is an expression of the sinful nature.” Ultimately, this discussion must continue to drive us back to the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word over man’s word.

But what about love? If two people of the same sex truly love each other, who are we to say they shouldn’t be together? God want’s us to be happy, right? Well, we’ll talk about that next time. In the meantime, here is a great resource for further study in this topic — much more thorough than I can be in three short posts.

Christians and Homosexuality

Homosexuality is one of the most controversial issues in America today. As more and more political sanctions are designed to punish Christians and Christian institutions for “discriminating” against persons based on their sexual orientation—or for that matter simply to fail to properly celebrate their sin—it is ever-increasingly crucial for the church to take its stand for the authority of the Word of God, and to submit to that authority no matter how unpopular or punishable. While we must recognize that the Scriptures can be difficult to interpret at times, and even more difficult to apply graciously and faithfully to our time, our every theological proposition must be firmly rooted, not in emotion and trend, but in the clear teaching of the authoritative and sufficient Word of God.

The fundamental issue is that any attempt to soften the Bible’s statements about homosexuality compromises the sufficiency of Scripture. One thing that is absolutely and sufficiently clear from Scripture is that at every mention of homosexuality, the Bible unapologetically condemns it as sin (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9; Jude 7). Proponents of homosexuality will argue that the Bible only speaks to unnatural homosexual practice, but not to natural homosexuality. In other words, Scripture only speaks against the homosexual acts of people who are heterosexually oriented; it does not condemn homosexuality for people who are naturally homosexually oriented.

However, it is critical to recognize the presuppositions involved in this sort of statement, and to recognize that as Christians, our foundation for thinking in every area of life must be Scripture. If we approach the issue with a biblical worldview, we will recognize that what is “natural,” is not defined by what people feel like doing, or by what the majority of people in a given culture do or believe. Rather, nature is that which is built into the created order. In other Words, God defines what is natural by the way He created the world to be. From a biblical foundation, therefore, homosexuality is not natural, but rather entirely unnatural, because it violates God’s created design for man and woman (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:18-24).

If homosexual acts are not natural (because they violate God’s design for the relationship between men and women) what about mere homosexual desire? Many Christians, understanding Scripture to clearly teach that homosexual acts are wrong, believe that as long as someone is not engaging in homosexual acts, that is good enough. This is the focus of much counsel given to those struggling with homosexuality. “Just don’t do it, and all will be well.” The logic is that it is not inherently wrong to merely be tempted; it is only wrong to act on that temptation. However, the reasoning for this position is skewed by several faulty presuppositions. For example, this view assumes a very loose definition of “temptation.” While there are times when the experience of being tempted is not necessarily sin (Christ was tempted in every way), the entertainment of those desirous thoughts is certainly sinful—to allow oneself to dwell on the temptation is to lust after that thing.

Now, technically, the Bible does not speak to a constitutional, homosexual “orientation.” Rather, strictly speaking, it condemns homosexual acts. In fact, in the culture of New Testament times, only the passive homosexual partner was considered “homosexual” and this was shameful. However, the dominant partner (who was often also married) was not considered “homosexual” and this was not viewed with the same shame as the other. But in 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul actually coins a term (a composite word that means “men who lie with men”) to comprehensively include anyone who participates in homosexual acts. Paul goes out of his way to teach that any homosexual involvement is sinful. But where does that leave the argument that only the act is sinful? Does it seem like I am strengthening that argument? Well, the Bible has more to say.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus argues against the Pharisaical view that the physical act is all that matters. The Pharisees (and many today) believed that as long as one does not physically commit adultery, they have not sinned. But Jesus states that even if a man merely looks at woman with lust in his heart, he has sinned, because sin is a heart issue before it is ever a physical act (Matt. 5:28). Is being physically attracted to women inherently sinful? No. But to lust after a woman is to dwell on—to entertain—that sexual temptation, or to covet (imagine how one might take) a woman who does not rightfully belong to oneself. Jesus clearly teaches that lust, or covetousness, is a sin whether one acts upon it or not, because the act or thing one is desiring is in itself wrong. Lusting after a woman is wrong because engaging in sexual acts with a woman outside the covenant of marriage is wrong. In short, entertaining the desire to commit a sinful act is itself a sin. Thus, with discussing homosexuality, in finding that Scripture condemns homosexual acts, we also find that because homosexual acts are in themselves sinful and against God’s created design, to allow oneself to entertain thoughts and temptations for those acts is itself a sin.

If a Christian is faithful to admit that homosexual practice is wrong, then he must also hold that homosexual desire is to be battled against, the mind is to be transformed, and every thought is to be taken captive to the obedience of Christ (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 10:5). But when Christians hold that only homosexual acts are wrong, they inevitably compromise the authoritative pronouncements of Scripture. As Dr. Ed Welch puts it, “The very least that will happen is that the church will back away from the severe warnings of Scripture, such as ‘homosexuals cannot inherit the kingdom of God’ (1 Cor. 6:10).” Sinful desires and affections must be battled and rooted out at the level of the imagination.

In the next post, we’ll look at the objection that homosexuality is determined genetically, and thus not a choice that can be argued against, or condemned, or changed.

Who was St. Patrick?

Happy St. Paddy’s Day! St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. The way my wife gets excited about Valentine’s Day, I get excited about St. Patrick’s Day. I love listening to and playing Irish music… I’ve dabbled in learning Irish Gaelic… I love the old Irish culture, idiosyncrasies, wit, and work ethic… I love Irish food and drink… I love Irish dances… and one of my favorite movies is The Quiet Man. Most of all, I love my own family’s Irish history.

But as we watch the annual drunken parades and pop-culture consumerism of this March holiday, you may think that no one could seem more distanced from biblical Christianity than St. Patrick. And yet, Patrick’s life looked more like a revival meeting than a shamrock-decorated drinking party named in his honor. Yet today, the dominant features of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations include green beer, leprechaun hats, and Americans making complete fools of themselves. Well, let’s take a look into the history behind the holiday and the man behind the legend.

st_patricks_causeway_ireland

Patrick was born with the name Maewyn Succat, in what later became Scotland, to wealthy Christian parents in AD 387. At the age of sixteen, Irish raiders attacked his family’s estate and took him captive, forcing him to work as a shepherd. During this time, he learned the language and customs of the Irish people. In his solitude, Patrick remembered the Scriptures that he had been taught as a young boy, and turned to God for comfort. Alone in the hills, he developed a rich, personal relationship with Christ. After six years of slavery, Patrick escaped and made his way back to his family in Britain. God later called Patrick back to Ireland — back to the people who had enslaved him — to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to the pagans of Ireland. So he began to study the Bible more deeply and train for mission work. Once he was ready, he returned to Ireland and tirelessly preached the gospel for 40 years before he died. As he converted the Irish, he made disciples out of them. And many of his followers went on to become renowned religious leaders as well.

By the time of his death, at the age of 73, Patrick had led tens of thousands to Christ, and established hundreds of churches. In fewer than 100 years, the pagan country of Ireland became predominately Christian, eventually sending missionaries of its own to Scotland, England, Germany, and Belgium. I have an excellent book titled “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” and a great deal of the book is devoted to tracing the incredible impact that Irish Christianity has had on the world. And the preaching and pastoring ministry of St. Patrick was the initial catalyst for this revival and spread of the gospel to the nations.

I’m impressed by the ministry of Patrick to the Irish people for several reasons; but think   about this for a moment with me. He could have hated the people who stole him from his family, and forced him into slavery (wouldn’t you?), but he knew that they needed God’s love. He loved his enemies and wanted for them to know Christ like he did. That shows amazing maturity on his part, and an intense desire to follow the will of God for his life. Also, in addition to converting many, many people, he spent time training them to lead others. We need to learn from his example of not only evangelizing the lost, but training them in God’s Word after they are saved, so that we can, like Paul tells Timothy to do, train men so they can then instruct others in the Word. Disciples making disciples — that’s what we need today!

I think it’s also important for us to review the history of men like Patrick so that we can remember real history, so that we don’t get confused and unnerved by the revisionist historical claims of anti-Christian liberalism, as well as the pagan revivalists. For example, there is little to no evidence of a “golden age” of equality among the sexes within the Druid cult. In reality, wherever the message of Christianity was preached, the truth and love of Christ brought harmony among the sexes with the understanding that men and women are joint-heirs with Christ — and the relationships between men and women flourished.

I think there is a lot that we as evangelical Christians in a post-Christian culture could learn from St. Patrick. Patrick’s context was a Celtic culture deeply entrenched in paganism, led by the native earth religion of the Druid priests. This is especially relevant in this era, where pseudo-Celtic and earth-worshiping paganism is increasingly en vogue in both America and Europe.

March 17th, the date of Patrick’s death, is an Irish national religious holiday. Until the 1970s, Irish laws even mandated that pubs be closed on this date. Isn’t it interesting how much has changed just in the last 40 years?

So as you celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day, remember the real meaning behind the holiday: celebrating the life of a missionary and pastor who faithfully preached Christ to a pagan culture, and transformed the nation in its early history into a catalyst for the gospel!


Logic of the Trinity

Why do Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity?

Christians believe that the one true God exists eternally as three distinguishable but inseparable persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—equal in every divine perfection and executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption. These three are identical and unchanging in nature and attributes, equal in power and glory, and one in essence and being.

This is what orthodox Christianity holds to, but how do we get there? How do we argue from Scripture for the doctrine of the Trinity? This post from the Cripplegate does an outstanding job of summarizing the argument.

Although the term Trinity does not occur in Scripture, the concept is inherently biblical. The Trinitarian nature of God is revealed implicitly in the Old Testament and explicitly in the New Testament. The doctrine of the Trinity is founded on two fundamental theological realities…

Read the rest of the post and learn how to defend the doctrine of the Trinity here!

My Philosophy Summarized

If I were to try to summarize my socio-political philosophy at the level of first principles in one (long) sentence, it would look something like this. I’ll probably have to return to this with a few more posts to unpack it practically, but here it is at the highest level.

I believe that neither individual nor society can long maintain a peaceful and quiet life—which ought to be the aspiration and pursuit of all men (1 Thess. 4:11-12; 2 Thess. 3:12; 1 Tim. 2:2)—without seeking to cultivate, within both themselves and others, wisdom and virtue, which are inextricably tied to and derivative of a firm belief in absolute, transcendent standards of truth, goodness, and beauty.