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.

Facility Use Policies for Your Church

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d like to share a couple of statements and policies we use at my church, with the hope that they may be of some interest or help to you as well. Below, you’ll see my church’s facility use policy. If you have any questions about why we included certain elements, or excluded others, feel free to inquire. The importance of such a policy, I believe, is made plain in the policy itself. So then, the policy:

By God’s providence, and through the generosity of the membership, the Lord has blessed FBC with a building and property useful for the work of ministry, the fellowship of the saints, and the glory of God. With that provision comes the need to establish certain guidelines for the use of the facilities in order to preserve and further the mission of the church—to know Christ and to make Him known. This policy contains basic guidelines for the use of our facilities, and is subject to careful emendation at the discretion of the elders.

Use of FBC facilities will not be permitted to persons or groups advancing, advocating, or explicitly holding beliefs, or advancing, advocating, or engaging in practices that conflict with the church’s faith or moral teachings, which are primarily summarized in the church’s constitution. Nor may facilities be used for activities that contradict, or are deemed by the elders as inconsistent with, or contrary to the church’s faith or moral teachings.

This restricted facility use policy is necessary for two important reasons. First, the church may not in good conscience materially cooperate in activities or beliefs that are contrary to its faith. Allowing its facilities to be used for purposes that contradict the church’s beliefs would be material cooperation with that activity, and would be a grave violation of the church’s faith and religious practice.[1]

Second, to allow our facilities to be used by groups or persons who express beliefs or engage in practices contrary to the church’s faith would have a negative impact on the message that the church strives to promote. It could also be a source of confusion and scandal to church members and the community because they may reasonably perceive that by allowing use of our facilities, the church is in agreement with the beliefs or practices of the persons or groups using the church facilities. It is very important to the church that we present a consistent and pure message to the community.

Approval for Use

  • Use of FBC facilities will be approved by the senior pastor as the schedule allows and in accordance with this policy. In the case of potentially difficult decisions, the elders are jointly responsible as the final decision-makers on whether a person or group will be allowed to use the church facilities. Priority will be given to members and official ministries and sponsored activities of FBC.

Cleaning and Damages

  • Anyone who uses the facilities is responsible to see that the area used has been cleaned, any moved furniture or equipment returned to its original placement, and the facility left in no worse a condition than they found it—or to make arrangements for this to be done.
  • The person or group using FBC facilities will assume legal, material and financial responsibility for any damages incurred during use.
  • All lights must be turned off and doors locked upon departure.

Fees

  • The church generally does not charge a fee for the use of our facilities.
  • However, a fee may be requested on an ad hoc basis at the discretion of the elders.

Bible Studies and Other Ministry Activities

  • Bible Studies and other ministry activities conducted at the church will be limited to those official activities of FBC facilitated by a member and under the oversight of the elders.
  • We encourage members to study Scripture together as often as possible, and to seek the counsel and advice of the elders when considering a topic or direction of study. However, studies and small groups are not to be conducted in the church building unless specifically approved by the elders and conducted under the oversight of the elders.

Weddings

  • We believe that the only biblical marriage is the formal union of a man and a woman in a lifelong, exclusive covenant.[2] Any other sexual activity, identity, or expression outside of this definition of a biblical marriage, including those that are becoming more accepted in the culture and the courts, are contrary to God’s natural design and purpose.[3] FBC facilities may only be used for weddings that are in accordance with this biblical standard.
  • Weddings conducted at FBC will be restricted to those in which at least one member of the couple getting married is a member in good standing of FBC.
  • Additionally, in accordance with the teachings of Scripture, FBC facilities may only be used for weddings by couples in which both the man and woman are believers.[4]
  • Only officiants approved by the FBC elders may officiate weddings at FBC.

Showers, Birthday/Graduation Parties, and Other Non-Ministry Events

  • Non-ministry use of FBC facilities will not be prioritized over ministry use, but will be approved on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the senior pastor and elders, as the schedule allows.
  • Events run by or for members of the church will be prioritized, followed by regular attenders, and finally non-attenders.
  • The restrictions enumerated in the opening paragraphs of this policy apply to all activities conducted at the church facilities.

Miscellaneous Guidelines

  • Smoking in any indoor church facility is prohibited.
  • No alcohol may be served at any function on FBC premises.
  • Groups are restricted to only those areas of the facility that the group has reserved.
  • Abusive or foul language, violent behavior, and drug or alcohol abuse are strictly prohibited while using church facilities. Any person exhibiting such behavior will be required to leave the premises.
  • Food is prohibited in classrooms and worship space except for special events pre-approved by the governing board. Snacks for classes served by teachers are an approved exception.
  • Beverages with tight-fitting lids are permissible in classrooms and worship space.
  • A facility usage request form may be required.

__________________________________________________________

  1. 2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Thess. 5:22
  2. Gen. 2:18–25; Mal. 2:14–16; Matt. 19:4–6; Mark 10:6–9; Rom. 7:2–3; 1 Cor. 7:10–11, 39; Eph. 5:22-33
  3. Ex. 20:14; Lev. 18:1–30; Mark 10:6–9; Rom. 1:26–29; 1 Cor. 5:1; 6:9–10; 1 Thess. 4:3–8; Heb. 13:4; Jude 7
  4. 1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14

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Gluten-free Communion?

Ironically, the Lord’s Table can often be an area in which there is much discord and discontentment, as I’ve written about before. At my own church, we’ve recently switched to having gluten-free bread/wafers for everyone, all the time. Unfortunately (unfortunate for a number of reasons), in our day, this is something we have to think about and be aware of. And, while I would prefer it wasn’t made a big deal of, it is something churches should acknowledge as they make that kind of change in a more intentional manner.

Here’s my basic argument: it doesn’t hinder anyone for the church to use gluten-free communion bread; to use bread with gluten will hinder a segment of the congregation—whether rightly or wrongly—from partaking in the Lord’s Supper with the rest of the congregation; it’s incredibly simple now to change to gluten-free bread; why would we not jump at the opportunity to remove an unnecessary obstacle to unhindered participation?

There are two possible answers: 1) people are selfish; and 2) the bread Jesus used wasn’t gluten-free. Well, to make argument #2, you better be ready to switch back from grape juice to wine—which I’m happy to do, as I think we ought to stay as close to the original elements as possible—just be consistent.

Below are some of the thoughts I shared with our congregation when we made the change.

What we want to avoid is giving any believer any reason to refrain from participating in the Lord’s Supper (beyond the restrictions of Scripture: unrepentant sin). This is a meal celebrating the fellowship we have with Christ, and thus with one another; and it’s meant to be taken together, because we are united in Christ. Because of this, we want to make sure there’s no reason for someone who refrains from eating gluten (for any reason)—whether of our own congregation or those visiting—to refrain from partaking of the elements.

Many churches have attempted to address the issue by having a gluten-free option, so that most people will take regular communion bread, and over there is the gluten-free option. But what that does is effectively divide the body into gluten-eating, and gluten-free people—turning a comparatively inconsequential matter into a matter of table-fellowship. This tends to lead toward either self-pity or pride on the part of the gluten-free folks, and either disdain or bitterness on the part of those eating the regular bread. It also defeats the very symbolism of the Lord’s Supper when we make this dietary issue a matter of identity, instead of celebrating our fellowship and communion with one another because of our identity in Christ.

Division in the body is precisely the opposite of what the Lord’s Supper is all about. So we make this adjustment as a wonderful opportunity to show our love for our brothers and sisters, and to seek to maintain that visible unity in partaking of the Lord’s Supper together as one body. This can easily become an area of contention, but we must seek to outdo one another in showing honor and deference to the needs and preferences of others. If the Scriptures’ instruction on grace has taken root at all, we will be eager to remove any obstacle possible in the communion meal so as to show our love for and unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Communion is a time of celebration, remembrance, and thanksgiving for the salvation God provided for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s a meal of fellowship for Christians to enjoy together. As such, this is only for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. It also means that if we are out of fellowship, with another believer, or just in our relationship to God, we need to make that right before we partake of communion as well. 1 John 1:9 says, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So we examine ourselves, as to whether we have any unconfessed sin in our life that is hindering our relationship with God, or with our fellow believers, and we confess that to the Lord, so that we are prepared to partake of the bread and the cup together—as one body in Christ.

“Because there is one bread, we who are many are on body, for we all partake of the one bread.” — 1 Corinthians 10:17

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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!