Do members of your congregation come to you because of relatives or friends who have come out as gay? Perhaps you yourself have friends or family members in that situation.
The rise of homosexual theory and practice has pastors and other Christian leaders around the country hesitant to speak out on LGBT and homosexual issues and pondering how the church can maintain the biblical principles of sexuality while increasing our love for and Christian witness to those who have chosen aberrant sexual behavior.
As followers of Christ who face growing cultural hostility, we must not compromise the bold, biblical and historical witness of the Christian faith concerning sexuality. Our response must not be based on fear, gay-bashing, judgmentalism, a desire for political power or an attempt to take America back. It must, rather, be based on the simple Creator/creature distinction and on Christ-centered, gospel-focused truth.
Our 2016 truthXchange conference, Two Loves: A Biblical Response to “Gay Christianity” will not give you all the practical answers you will need for your own situation, but it will help you understand how the theory and practice of sexuality is affected by our acceptance or rejection of the Creator/creation distinction. We seek to lay a theological foundation for all Christians considering the ramifications of the gender discussion.
We hope to accomplish two main goals in this conference:
1. We will analyze the incompatibility of what is known as Gay Christianity with the creational and gospel truths the Bible has revealed. To do so, we will show that homosexuality is a logical physical outworking of the rejection of the Creator/creature distinction.
2. We will show the truth and superior beauty and goodness of God’s male-female model for marriage, rooted both in creation and in God’s plan for salvation.
We pray that those who attend will be equipped to articulate and defend their Christian faith in stronger ways and will better know how to “give an answer for the hope that is in us.”
Don’t miss out on our early bird rate that ends June 30th. Click here to register.
Our time, though intimidating, may be one of the best for evangelism. Let me explain.
A headline from my much beloved [!] BBC just revealed a troubling state of affairs: “Gender identity clinic for young people sees referrals double.” The number of young people referred to England’s only gender-identity clinic has doubled this past year to nearly 1,400. That is one clinic in one year with a 100% rise in gender confusion issues. This is clearly a significant cultural trend. The head of the clinic puts a positive spin on the data: “Young people now have more freedom to define themselves. We live in a world where people alter their bodies, surgically or otherwise, and this freedom is available.” Being “born free,” whether in “natal male” or “natal female” (the new terminology) bodies is no longer a deal-breaker. The expert adds: “It’s not really for us to approve or disapprove. What matters is … whether they lead rewarding lives.”
If you cannot define your sexuality in any objective way, how can you define a “rewarding life”? No wonder no one feels able to approve or disapprove. For that, you would need religious criteria, in other words, a worldview. With nothing to go on for self-identity, we go on our “feelings.” Says one young person interviewed: “I anticipated being a man as feeling happier within myself. I felt it the right thing to do.” Says another, “The decisions I made were absolutely right for what I needed then. I believe now, on looking back, that there may have been more options.” “Absolutely right” feelings are surely the worst things by which to determine your future. As people march towards the unknown, it is little wonder that the professionals wash their hands of responsibility, deciding merely to observe “this social revolution and see how it transpires.” The BBC article goes on: “The social landscape will shape and influence how people feel about their role in life.” The social landscape (i.e. the sum total of everyone’s conflicted feelings at a given moment) becomes the criterion for gender identity and for a “rewarding life.” This brave new world of cosmological confusion sounds like a scary place.
It is certainly a place of conflict. Changeable feelings and the dictates of the “social landscape” have unleashed hysteria. Because North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill that essentially says men and boys should stay out of women’s locker rooms, the ACLU has sued, and a corporate lynch mob (made up of Apple, PayPal, Bank of America, Bruce Springsteen, a popular pornography site, and the NBA) with moralistic fervor, has threatened to pull business from this offending southern State.
So why may this chaotic and conflicted time be one of the best times for evangelism? Unbeknown to itself, our culture is using apologetic terminology (as in “apologetics” not as in “I’m sorry”) to defend its own view of existence, and in particular, that of sexuality. This is advantageous for contemporary Christian witness, since we hear, in the heated cultural discussion of gender, such programmatic phrases as the “denial of the binary”; “all is one,” or a call to live by the truth of advaita (a Sanskrit term meaning “not two”). The terms “one” or “two” set up the fundamental debate about existence.
In Romans 1:25, the Apostle Paul asserts that there are only two worldviews, which can usefully be expressed using the terminology of “one” or “two”:
- Oneism: Everything is one, and there is nothing outside of us, including God;
- Twoism: There is God the Creator and (separate from him) everything that he created with its structure and purpose, including humans with gender identity, either male or female.
Sexuality is not so much an expression of feelings as a bodily expression of what you believe to be ultimately true. Contemporary views of homosexuality frame the debate in terms of eliminating “twoness” or “busting the binary.” Dartmouth College seeks to provide a living environment “not limited by the traditional gender binary.”
Gender confusion is thus one powerful expression of spiritual confusion and of Oneist rebellion, which are both answered in the Christian Gospel. Homosexuality plunges many into a morass of confusion which leaves them aching for solid identity and true love. We were not made for confusion! Our Creator made things to be harmoniously different, like the harmony and difference of the Creator and his creation or of male and female. To show his love for creation, God sent his Son to grant an infinitely “rewarding life” to his redeemed creatures. That union of unfailing love is available, through the death and resurrection of Christ, right now and for eternity.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
As you can imagine, I have thought long and hard about Easter, since it is a central element of my faith. Indeed the Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection did not occur, we have all believed in vain. In May, Rebecca and I will be making a long-awaited visit to Israel. As I anticipate this trip, the historical force of this event keeps hitting me. It is the major reason I believe the message of Christianity—for two reasons:
- It deals with my sense of guilt. Today is Good Friday so Rebecca and I naturally read Matthew 27, the account of the death of Jesus. The injustice of his execution screams from every verse. And yet, there is a good side to Friday. The sinless Jesus, in spite of all the human evil around him, carried my sins as he died a guiltless sacrifice. There is no other religion that offers anything like this incredible offer of moral relief. The Gospel does not take human evil lightly, but it deals with it satisfactorily by offering an acceptable, sinless substitute in my place. When we are in Israel, I intend to find Golgotha and to reflect on this historical event as I stand in that unique location.
- The second reason is the historicity of the resurrection. I do not know if they have preserved the Garden Tomb as is, or if it has become a church building, but I want to go there as well, because, as I said, the resurrection is the major historical reason why I believe in the Gospel. Here the Christian faith makes an historical claim that could be falsified—but never has been. The problem in trying to falsify it is the empty tomb. According to Matthew 17:64, the Jewish authorities “ordered the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” I guess the first fraud was Jesus claiming to be the Son of God; the last would be his rising from the dead. They realized the two “frauds” went together, and if they were true, the implications were enormous.
The empty tomb and the missing body is a major problem. If indeed, the disciples stole the body, then most of them experienced horrendous deaths for the sake of a fraud. But not one of them said, at the crucial moment of torture or martyrdom, “We were only kidding!” On the other hand, if the Jews or the Romans took the body, all they needed to do was produce it to end this bothersome new sect. So how do you explain the empty tomb?
But for me, the real problem is not the empty tomb but the empty grave clothes. According to the Gospel of John, Simon Peter looked into the tomb and “saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen” (Jn. 20:6-7 NIV). In other words, just like the burial of Lazarus, the grave clothes, made up of linen strips wound around the body and a head scarf around the head, now lay separated, the strips keeping the shape of the body and the scarf keeping the circular shape of head. Though the body of Lazarus had to be “unbound” (John 11:44), the body of Jesus passed through the grave clothes, leaving them undisturbed. Thieves could not have taken the body and left the grave clothes in such a condition. Nor could the disciples. No, the disciples actually observed something incredible. What they saw is comparable to those big Christmas decorative figures that people inflate at night, with lights in them, but in the morning they are all lying flat on the ground, with the air gone out of them. This is the inexplicable mystery of the resurrection. No one took the body. It left on its own, passing through the unmoved grave clothes, in the power of a “resurrection body.”
As I am now in what one might call the “last six holes” of my life, it is this fact of the resurrection of Jesus that gives me the courage to “finish the round.” It is my great source of optimism in the face of death—the death that comes to all of us. Just once, in a cave in Jerusalem, death did not have the last word. “He is risen,” says the Gospel. “He is risen indeed,” responds the believer.
I trust you can all respond that way this Easter.
I was listening to the BBC radio [British Broadcasting Corporation] the other night, and, being English, I have been a faithful BBC listener all my life, considering it a great standard of cultural decency. In my mind, the BBC is associated with the Queen’s Christmas message, always with a Christian emphasis, and with stiff upper lip insistence on fair-play cricket. Recently the BBC has been taken over by cultural radicals whose lips are about as loose as wet newspaper. The other night the BBC proposed a program promoting “chem sex,” showing the chemical options promiscuous homosexuals can take to avoid serious diseases and continue having endless partners and doing “bare-back” sex. I was deeply saddened by the moral degradation this program was promoting, with not one hint of moral judgment. I began to wonder how many men world-wide, especially young men, would be sucked into this life of constant illegitimate sexual arousal as the overwhelming priority of their God-given lives. We are surely headed for bizarre cultural times the more this selfish, ungodly view of life is normalized. It raises the question of the responsibility the church has not only for preaching genuine redemption through the Cross of Christ to the lost but also for protecting the secular society, made in God’s image, from total moral implosion.
The issue of homosexuality is multifaceted. There is the question moral cultural degradation just mentioned. There is the most important issue of pastoral ministry, even to the most promiscuous. There is the question of how to take the message of grace to sinners around us. But a question not always asked is the one inspiring our conference in October 2016, namely, the theological meaning of homosexuality. Hence, the title of our Fall conference, “A Biblical Response to ‘Gay Christianity.’” We intend to show what impact the normalization of homosexuality in the church, even the evangelical church, will have on the message we are called to bring to our imploding culture.
In my studies, I have discovered, along with other researchers, that throughout time and space, from the second millennium BC till now and from the jungles of Borneo to the jungles of Africa, homosexuality accompanies pagan religious practice. Indeed, more than not the shaman in pagan cults was a homosexual and was made the shaman because he was a homosexual in touch with the spirit world. This fact alone reveals the logic implicit in Paul’s teaching in Romans. The much maligned apostle implacably shows that the overturning of the natural/creational order (Romans 1:26) follows inevitably from the pagan ideological worship and service of creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). Paul’s intention was not to make homosexuals feel more guilty than other sinners, but to warn them and the church of the enormous dangers of the ideological and cultural implications of the physical practice. It is not just immoral. It is a denial, in embodied form, of God’s very existence. This is why “Gay Christianity,” with its emphasis on pastoral inclusion and affirmation of homosexuality, is so toxic for the Church and its Gospel. You cannot worship creation, played out in sexual practice, and at the same time, preach the Gospel. These are contradictions in terms. One is the Lie. The other is the Truth. One will eventually destroy the other.
If the church fails to understand these implications, it will have lost its message and its way, and it will be “time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17)