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.

In Praise of Manly Pastors

I recently had a post about some men—mainly pastors—I would recommend other men follow. That prompted the question: Why is masculinity important in a pastor?

Well, there’s a larger theological discussion to be had here. Masculinity is important because excellence is important, and virtue (moral excellence) in a man—of which elders are to be exemplary—is necessarily masculine. Masculinity is important in a pastor because pastoral ministry is, by nature, agonistic, combative, confrontational. It takes courage, grit, fortitude, perseverance.

(Note the header image e.g.—John Calvin barring the Libertines from the Lord’s Table.)

But the simple reason I wanted to point out a few men to be aware of is because, on the practical level, men want to find pastors whom they can follow into battle. It’s that simple. If you’re a wife reading this, you need to understand that while the children’s ministry may be the most important aspect to you for finding a good church, for your husband it will be having a pastor they would follow into battle. They may not consciously word it that way. Perhaps it’s not even the best way to word it. But wives, you should want to go to a church where your husband respects the pastor. The programs, fellowship, coffee, and “atmosphere” may be terrific; but if your husband does not respect your pastor as a man, he won’t last long.

I hope to explain that a little further soon.

The video below is a good example of the need for manly men in the pulpits of America. I don’t link to this video because I endorse Maxwell. I don’t. I disagree with much of his approach and his theological views (including, ironically, his take on masculinity). But he’s hitting a niche precisely because he is accurately pointing out the failing of modern evangelicalism when it comes to masculinity, engaging the world manfully, and, thus, retaining real men in the churches.

This is why we need men like Wilson, Baucham, Cunningham, Conn, Wiley, and others.

In this video, Voddie Baucham explains that one of the primary reasons men aren’t interested in church is because the pastor is not a man they respect and feel they can follow as their leader.

In this article, C.R. Wiley discusses how to get and keep masculine men in the church.

And when we talk about masculine pastors (or men in general), we don’t—or shouldn’t—mean the machismo and posturing that so often is presented as manhood. Alastair Roberts has some helpful thoughts on that in two articles here and here. I’ll leave you with a quote from Wilson’s Future Men. This is essential in our endeavor to not continue losing future men from the church.

Boys should be able to see masculine leadership throughout the life of the church. From the pulpit, to the session of elders, to the choir, boys should be able to see men they respect. They should not see what is too often the case—missing men or silent men just along for the ride. When men go to church simply to sit in the back, they are teaching their boys to do exactly the same thing, if that.

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Podles on Honor

In light of my recent posts on honor, here and here, discussing the nature of honor and the importance of seeking honor for and from God, you may be interested in the talk Lee Podles’ gave at the 2018 Touchstone conference. You have to be a subscriber to Touchstone to access the session right now. But that’s also well worth your while. Here it is: “Honorable Men & the Honor of God: The Centrality of Honor in Masculinity & Christianity.”

I’d also commend to you C.R. Wiley’s session on piety from the same conference.

And to learn even more about the honor culture of the New Testament, why it matters for reading our Bibles, and why it’s a shame we’ve lost so much of that culture and understanding, I highly recommend this fascinating work by David de Silva: Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture.

Learning to be non-androgynous men…

Most Christians—including, unfortunately, many complementarians—speak of men and women as though they are basically interchangeable in every way except with regard to specific formal offices in the church and home. We often act like humans have largely androgynous souls that just happen to get stuffed into gendered bodies. The problems and dangers of that view are myriad, and it comes out in the way pastors and Christian leaders give advice to men—advice that really would be equally as relevant to women.

Where is the gender-specific, real-world, biblical and practical wisdom for men to learn how to cultivate godly masculinity? Where is the biblical doctrine of the household? Where is the fatherly advice that makes men want to be good at being men? Allow me to reiterate a few places to start.

First, I can’t recommend highly enough the project from Michael Foster and Bnonn Tennant called “It’s Good to Be a Man.” Right now, it’s only a Facebook page, but they’re hoping to gain some momentum and start a site to post articles and continue helping men any way they can. I’d love to see them start a podcast. Anyway, even though it’s only a Facebook page right now, I’m telling you these guys are worth following—helpful and real. Set it so that you get notifications everytime they post, and enjoy!

Here’s some more to get you off the ground:

Recommendations for some books, blogs, and podcasts men ought to know about.

Recommendations of some specific men worth following. This is how you really learn and grow—by following men who are already being the kind of men you want to be.


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Federal Husbands and Masculine Responsibility

I’ve been reading Federal Husband, by Doug Wilson. It has been, far and away, one of the best books on being a husband and father I’ve ever read. It’s challenging, insightful, and convicting. Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

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This short book is unlike any other you’ve ever read on godly manhood and marriage. I highly recommend every man, married or single, purchase a copy and take Wilson’s instruction to heart. Get Federal Husband here. Wilson’s wife also has an excellent companion book on being a wife and mother called The Fruit of Her Hands.

Man of the House

In his seminal work, Man of the House, pastor C.R. Wiley explains what it takes to build and manage a sustainable and godly household. Here are just a couple of my favorite quotes.

“One reason there is a crisis of authority in many households is that everyone knows that there is nothing to lose, because nothing is at stake. (Just what is the head of the house in charge of, the television remote control?)… The best way to reinvest household headship with authority is by giving households something worthwhile to do.”

“When buddy-dad befriends his kids he’s actually abdicating fatherhood, at least temporarily. It is usually an unconscious decision, and sometimes he comes to regret it, usually when discipline is called for. Often, that’s when buddy-dad realizes that no one takes him seriously.”

“Perhaps the thing that distinguishes a just man from a tyrant more than anything else is self-mastery… Few things are more terrifying than a strong man who can control everything except himself.”

“Domestic tranquility is best secured through the wide distribution of coercive force—not by giving the officials in charge exclusive right to it. The police should supplement rather than replace household self-defense. And there should always be enough coercive force distributed throughout a community to hold a police force accountable.”

“By separating children from parents, and locating them in age-specific cohorts, public schoolchildren are made to overvalue the opinions of their peers and devalue the convictions of their parents.”

“If you’ve ever said, ‘I don’t want to be a burden to my children’ then you need to get over yourself. If you live so long, you will be a burden, if not to your children, then to the children of other people.”

This book is short, but packed full of wisdom. Buy it, read it, start taking responsibility, and be the man of the house! Get Man of the House here.