We hear so much about the importance of love these days, and we providentially called our conference “The Two Loves” which we now understand to mean the Love of God and love of humanity, in that order. This really is the guiding thesis of this conference. The most loving response to same-sex attracted people is not to undertake actions based upon sentimental feelings of concern (itself important), which is the guiding principle of “Gay Christianity,” but to seek to show to them the person of God and thus who we are as human beings. Jesus had already, in a way, claimed this title we are using. In his response to the Pharisees he spoke of two loves: You shall love the Lord your God, the… first commandment… the second: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:37-39).
In other words, the ultimate issue facing us as creatures in God’s universe, is first and foremost, how we love God and second, in this order, how we love our fellow human beings. These two commandments have much to say about the subject of our conference, “Gay Christianity.” If we wish to respect Scripture as God’s revelation of himself, both the distinct human and divine identities must be preserved because they are integrally related, but also must be preserved the correct order of priority. God must be first because we human beings depend entirely on the being of God. Only then can we truly understand ourselves. I only have two points: the Being of God and the Being of humanity.
Our mail is sometimes discouraging. People who follow TXC often tell us with sadness, that their children have walked away from the faith. This is not unusual. Studies show that a large percentage of Christian Millennials, after the first year in college, abandon the faith of their youth. There are many reasons: the radical thinking of college professors; the cultural marginalizing of orthodox faith making belief “uncool”; mere experientialism typical of modern Evangelicalism no longer has appeal since they can find “religious experiences” in all kinds of alternative spiritual options available today.
Our culture is careening out of control. We in our lawless “good intentions” – ever seeking our godless utopian world – have left out of the social equation the notion of a God-fearing father and mother, personal responsibility, accountability, morality, the Laws of Nature and the fear and reverence of Almighty God the Creator of Heaven and earth. To put it simply and to visualize our current state, we, in our reprobate lawless bent and narcissistic mindset, have sought to put out the culture’s ravishing social fires with ideological gasoline, as the prophet Isaiah said: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20). Is that not simple enough for all to understand? Yet to convey such common sense reality today is to be called insensitive, bigoted, extreme, radical and a host of other slanderous names in an attempt to silence truth and hold onto subjective, godless and lawless delusions (Rom. 1:18-32).
Our rising generation desperately needs to be trained in cultural apologetics, that is, the theological analysis of contemporary culture using terminology that speaks to this new, de-christianized situation. For most of us, the “Christian experience” of our parents is not enough. We need to see how Scripture addresses the whole of reality when faced with a radically pagan culture, like our own has become.
In cultural apologetics, Christianity’s teaching about the nature of the world and the being of God is not merely a sentimental or spiritual preference. Christianity is inextricably tied to a cosmology that fits the deep nature of existence. The apostle Paul takes us to ground-zero with his statement that there only two ways to exist, either worshiping creation or worshiping the Creator (Rom 1:25).
I called the worship of creation Oneism because worshiping creation implies that everything is divine. If that is true, then essentially everything is the same and, ultimately, there are no distinctions. This is the essence of paganism and polytheism, but also of atheism. You could call this worldview a homocosmology. (All Is One)
If, on the other hand, you worship the Creator, you have understood that there are two essential realities in existence—the reality of God the Creator and the reality of everything else, which is fundamentally different from God because it is created. You could call this worldview a heterocosmology. (All Is Two)
I came to cultural apologetics through culture shock. I needed to understand what had happened to the culture. For 18 years I taught theology in secular “godless” France. When I returned, I wrote my first book in English: The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age (1992), arguing that the New Age Movement was not a weird sect but a major apostasy that would change the very soul of the culture. This once Western “Christian” culture has returned to ancient but new-look “religious paganism,” going from a form of Twoism towards radical Oneism.
In biblical terminology, the equivalent of Twoism is “holiness,” not to be confused with “wholeness.” Behind these two English words are two unrelated Greek words—hagios and holos. In the Bible, the Greek term hagios translates the Hebrew term, qodesh from the verb, qod, “to divide.” Things that are holy, like “holy ground” (Ex 3:5) or the Sabbath day, are separate, set apart. God “blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Gen 2:3). To “sanctify” something is to dedicate that thing to God’s possession “as something exclusively belonging to him.” This term is supremely applied to God as separate from his creation.
On the other hand, in Greek, holos is translated as “whole” or [w]holistic, from which we get “catholic.” “Kat’ holos” means “according to the whole, or “universal.” Holos thus means “whole,” “complete,” “full.” Nothing is set apart, as in “holiness.” Everything is included.
In this sense they are opposite in meaning. Behind these two words, wholly and holy, so close in sound, is a world of difference, indeed, two antithetical worldviews, Oneism and Twoism. They just sound similar but the etymology that ties them together is false.
By holistic, modern spirituality means what Jung taught about the joining of the opposites. An ex-Jungian academic correctly shows that Jungian “holism” constitutes a rejection of the moral order. He states: “For Jung good and evil evolved into two equal, balanced, cosmic principles that belong together in one overarching synthesis.” The pagan joining of the opposites is what progressive spiritualists mean by “wholeness,” the holistic joining of the dark and the light side.
How interesting that via these different terms of “holy” and “holism” we come back to our starting point, the fact of only two religions, Oneism or Twoism. Oneism is a form of spiritual holism where everything is included—including God. Twoism is the very essence of holiness, where things are not confused but have their special, God-ordained distinct places. The two terms could not be more different.
As we look for a meaningful response to our contemporary world that explains everything from a Oneist perspective, we have a compelling cosmology of holiness, that is, the biblical vision of an ordered, God-created cosmos. As I suggested, this is the biblical way of speaking about cultural apologetics. We will examine three related topics:
1. a holy God;
2. A holy universe;
3. a holy people
To be Continued…
 Stauffer, Hagios, 89.
 Stauffer, Hagios, 91.
When his ship, The Beagle, docked in Southern Australia in 1831 on the way to the Galapagos Islands, Charles Darwin, one of the leading intellectual skeptics of his day, witnessed naked Aboriginal natives dancing themselves into delirium all night long. In his diary, Darwin wrote that he found this animistic display “a most rude, barbarous scene.”
Times have changed. This year 70,000 people have thronged to the annual countercultural Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert. Leading hi-tech worthies like Google founders Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and chairman Eric Schmidt, and Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, along with celebrity visitors like Katy Perry (31), socialite Paris Hilton (35), and British actress and model Cara Delevingne (24) now find such “rude, barbarous scene[s]” totally normal and perfectly cool. These contemporary definers of popular culture have thrown off even the outward standards of public decency dear to Charles Darwin. Burning Man sets the agenda for popular culture. In acts of shameless self-expression, they abandon all inhibition and wander around naked in the desert doing ecstasy and acid, visiting the anonymous-sex-orgy dome (open 24/7), joining in fire dancing, yoga, and meditation. No one is allowed a hint of judgmentalism.
Indeed, the right to define one’s self-identity has become the ultimate moral touchstone. A sophisticated and clean version of the Burning Man philosophy came from Supreme Court Justice Kennedy: each person has “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Such a definition gives every individual the right to declare: “I am whatever I say I am and you must accept my assertion and behave accordingly, otherwise you are a bigot who is oppressing me.” Past ethical norms are obsolete. The new norms are on display at Burning Man in vivid Technicolor.
This temporary city in the desert is equipped with an airport, radio stations, daily newspapers, a postal service, an overnight courier service, taxicabs, a drive-in movie theater, bars, clubs, yoga classes, hair salons, pancake houses, and – no government. It claims to be an “annual utopian experiment in temporary community, dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.”
It is founded on a decidedly Oneist ideology. The founder of Burning Man, Larry Harvey, a self-described atheist, says: “I do not believe in a supreme being but I believe that being is supreme.” It is like the title of a progressive spiritual book, by Gabrielle Bernstein, Nature Has Your Back. Burning Man seeks to create its own mythology since, as one spokesman says: “All mythologies were created by humans…no god rushed down from wherever to ‘give’ a human some special message. Therefore, what really matters at Burning Man is imagination.” The meaning of Burning Man seems to be impermanence (as the 70 foot “Man” being burned at the end of the week seems to suggest), a principle deeply entwined with Buddhism. Impermanence becomes for burners an annual reminder of the transience of life, the eternal return of Osiris. Jewish/Buddhist “gay” rabbi, Jay Michaelson, an avid burner, gives meaning to the burning of the “Man” when he states: “if religion creates boundaries, mysticism and spirituality efface them.” All boundaries, all binaries must be burned up.
Is such a utopian life possible except for one week in the desert? Alas, it is not even possible there. This year in “Black Rock City” a sad event happened. A band of burners attacked “White Ocean,” an upscale camp for the very rich who fly in on private jets, stay in luxurious air-conditioned RVs and are served elegant cuisine by full-time employees. In this utopia, the unthinkable happened. In the words of one luxury camper, “A band of hooligans raided our camp, stole from us, pulled and sliced all of our electrical lines leaving us with no refrigeration and wasting our food and glued our trailer doors shut, vandalized most of our camping infrastructure….This is evil. This should not happen at Burning Man…This is supposed to be about love, happiness, sharing, giving and appreciating.”
As the burners celebrate liberating impermanence, real sinful humans need help to sustain life. What can a Oneist world do with evil except live with it? If Nature is “supreme” or “has your back,” how trustworthy is it? Perhaps, after all, we need “a god rushing down” to “give us a special message”; a God who tells us that only Jesus can overcome evil by bearing the consequences of our evil on his back. That unique, perfectly just, loving man, is the real “burning man,” who was consumed by the fiery judgment against our sin, but was raised by the justifying, life-giving power of God the loving Creator of Nature. In him, we overcome evil and gain eternal life.
The tXc staff discuss the key doctrine of imago dei as well as what it means to be an image bearer of God and loving your neighbor.
Those in the newspaper business do what it takes to sell papers, even if that means claiming that the God of the Bible is “transgender,” like the pagan gods of old. Such is the theory of a New York Times article by Rabbi Mark Sameth, “Is God Transgender?” (Aug 12, 2016).
Sameth claims that the Hebrew Bible, “when read in its original language, offers a highly elastic view of gender….In Genesis 3:12, Eve is referred to as ‘he.’ In Genesis 9:21, after the flood, Noah repairs to ‘her’ tent. Genesis 1:27 refers to Adam as ‘them.’”
These minor textual oddities are easily explained by Hebrew experts like Robert Gagnon and Michael Brown. In addition, many languages do not employ gender signifiers in a sexual manner. In French, for instance, a car and a bottle are feminine, yet no one accuses the French of gender fluidity, a culture known for its expression—vive la différence.
Sameth’s thesis becomes even more speculative concerning the name of God. He employs a deeply imaginative argument, speculating that the name YHWH, “Yahweh,” could have been read backwards, spelling “He/She.” Gagnon shows that biblical scholars are generally in agreement that YHWH is derived from the third-person singular of the verb “to be” (hayah), meaning either “he is” or “he will be.” Michael Brown, a Hebrew scholar, argues that “there is not a stitch of evidence to support this.” He adds: “…of the more than 6,000 times that the name YHWH occurs, it never occurs with a feminine adjective or verbal form.”
According to Gagnon, there is “No historical evidence that supports Sameth’s reading—only his own sex ideology.” Sameth’s “sex ideology” is his attempt to justify the actions of a male cousin, among the first in America to undergo sex-reassignment surgery.
But his motivation is more than sentimental: It is theological. While he is “saddened whenever religious arguments are brought in to defend social prejudices,” he does not hesitate to use the “social” example of his cousin to justify his own religious arguments. He maintains that in the ancient world, well-expressed gender fluidity was the mark of a civilized person. Such a person was considered more “godlike.” In Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, the gods were thought of as gender-fluid, and human beings were considered reflections of the gods.
He then speculates that “the Israelites took the transgender trope from their surrounding cultures and wove it into their own sacred scripture.” Here Sameth defends his theological commitment to polytheistic interfaith and to his “god-within” theology rather than to his own Scriptures, the Old Testament, which are full of warnings against imitating the sexual practices of the nations. Leviticus 18:22 states: “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” In Deuteronomy 22:5 God commands that: “A woman must not put on man’s apparel, nor shall a man wear woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is abhorrent to the LORD your God.” These are sexual abominations, about which the Leviticus text states: “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled…And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you” (Lev. 18:23–28).
Rabbi Sameth’s theology is definitely open to “these ways.” In his synagogue he leads Jewish meditation and is open to other spiritual teachings, “Jews, non-Jews, Buddhists, non-Buddhists, Juddhists, non-Juddhists!” His openness to various genders reflects his openness to various pagan religions. Poly-sexualism is an embodiment of polytheism.
Who would have thought that this ancient idolatry would mark a civilized 21st century citizenry and religion of the modern West? As Michael Brown rightly says: “[Sameth’s] attempt to use the Hebrew Scriptures to support transgender activism is utterly misguided, fatally flawed, and unworthy of serious consideration.”
The Bible nowhere presents God as a sexual being. Sexuality is a human characteristic, designed by God for procreation but also as an embodiment of the differences knit into the created order (land/sea; human/animal; light/dark; male/female, etc.). Just as God is a transcendent Creator, distinct from creation, so creation also reflects distinction—supremely seen in the male/female distinction.
We are again faced with only two options: worship of creation or worship of the Creator, who is blessed forever. The former is the Oneist Lie, the latter is the Twoist Truth (Romans 1:25). I doubt you could sell newspapers today with that line from the Apostle Paul, but at the end of history, God’s salvation picture of male and female will find its fulfillment as the Bride of Christ forever delights in the inexhaustible love of her heavenly husband. Vive la différence!