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  • Slouching To Ancient Rome
  • Slouching To Ancient Rome

    Posted in
    August 31, 2018

    I’ve just finished reading a description of how Christians were treated in ancient Rome. It was a reality check. It made me think again[1] about Revoice’s well-meaning empathy to the gay culture. A touch of historical realism is in order. This aspect of the Revoice phenomenon must be thoughtfully examined. I believe it can only accelerate a cultural decline into paganism. It is worrisome to see orthodox Christianity somehow implicated in this sad process, when it should be standing firmly against it. As we watch our culture increasingly reject the God of Scripture, and embrace various forms of paganism (of which open homosexuality has always been a part),[2] ancient Rome can serve as a stunning example and a needful warning.

    The founder of Revoice, Nate Collins, in his introduction to the Revoice conference, used terms that show that “Christian” gays like him feel a strong rapport with the larger gay community. He uses social justice terminology to speak of “minority issues” as in “gender and sexual minorities” and calls for the end to “straight privilege.” Though I’m sure he wants to represent the gospel to lost and wandering gays, he also sees himself as a spokesman and facilitator for the general “gay community” in relation to straight Christians. In doing so, he seems to make common cause with them. (This was visually indicated by the attendees who wore rainbow bracelets and body piercings, rainbow-colored shoelaces, and rainbow Ichthus pendants, etc.) He specifically calls on the church to adopt a “non-discrimination,” pro-gay policy in secular culture.[3] Does this non-discrimination endorse gay dorms in Christian colleges, pro-gay educational programs in grade schools, or drag queens reading to little ones in public libraries? What about California’s AB 2943, which criminalizes as consumer fraud counselors who help homosexuals overcome unwanted same sex attraction? What about the recent New Planned Parenthood guidelines for children, which state: “Your genitals don’t make you a boy or a girl. It doesn’t matter too much what parts someone has.”

    Collins affirms that: “[I]t’s possible to show support for increased civil protections for LGBT people while maintaining a commitment to traditional views on sex and marriage.”[4] Is he naïve in assuming that gay culture will respect and tolerate the biblical view of sexuality and marriage?

    What kind of a culture will appear when the heterosexual “image of God” (Genesis 1:27–28) is virtually obliterated from human consciousness? Will we not find ourselves living in full-orbed paganism, like that of pagan Rome? In spite of Collins’s optimism, the gay community seems determined to silence the Christian voice on sexuality and marriage. For instance, Jack Philips, the baker who won a United States Supreme Court case this year (after refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding) has been sued again for refusing to make a blue and pink cake for a man celebrating his transition into a woman.

    Here is an honest appraisal of the Roman culture. It serves as a solemn warning to us:

    Rome was [both] the political powerhouse, and a socio-religious [reality], embracing a range of domestic and foreign deities. Temples to the divinities were not only places of veneration but also hubs of economic activity; cultural and political elites were inseparably linked to the religious milieu. In one’s own household, ethnicity was garbed in ancestral gods and mystical lineages, adding a familial dynamic to the spiritual world. Mystery schools and oracles, Egyptian and Mithraic influences, public festivals to honor the gods, and imperial cults and Emperor worship—all were part of the mix. Spiritual exports and imports ebbed and flowed across the Empire, re-transmitting cultic traditions and Roman ideals. [5]

    Pagan views of sex were essential to a smooth-flowing culture. Not only would one need to esteem the sexual behavior of the emperor and his leading politicians, but the integration of slavery, so crucial to pagan Rome’s economy, depended on hetero—and homosexual dominance of slaves by their owners. Teichrib fleshes this out:

    To be a follower of Jesus Christ without giving fidelity to the accepted religious and moral order of the day was considered disruptive to the greater community. Viewed by Roman authorities with mistrust and charged as superstitious, early Christians lived under constant suspicion, contempt, and hostility. Conspicuous by their absence at the great Roman civic festivals, early Christians were often viewed with suspicion and mistrust.[6]

    This need for social conformity may explain how the intellectual and respected Roman Senator and historian Tacitus (AD 56–120), in his Annals (44:2-4; c. 116), speaks of Christianity as a “destructive superstition,” and of Christians as “infamous for their abominations” justly punished for their crime of “hatred of the human race.” Christian “hate speech” (i.e. Gospel clarity) was unacceptable.

    What will gay pagans do today? Even if Revoice homosexuals would not necessarily favor it, why will the gay agenda not include committed incestuous relationships between a father and a son, or a wife and daughter, since there would be no natural children and thus no deformed children? A favorite among contemporary gay thinkers is Harry Hay considered a spiritual authority on the value of “third gender people” who spiritually “manage the frontiers between the seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown.”[7] It is well known that Hay consistently advocated the inclusion of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) in gay-pride parades, [8] that is, paedophila—as in ancient Rome.

    In spite of the vast call for the generous application of modern day “values” for the good of all, this gay agenda demands society, by welcoming “stable, sanctified same-sex relationships” as a spiritual good,[9] implicitly to adopt unrestrained immoral paganism. It is exactly such paganism that biblical faith has always sought to counter, from the Roman Empire to the present time, for the well-being of humanity and for the honor of the true and living God.

    It would be dreadfully ironic if the normalization of homosexuality presented via pagan-inspired pornographic sex education curricula now being taught in thousands of public schools across the United States, deeply affecting the thinking of future generations of our children, and reinforced by television programs and movies, proposing that “gay is normal,” was aided and abetted by Reformed and Evangelical believers.

     

    Could solidarity and identification with the gay population, as Nate Collins suggests, have saved the early Christians from persecution? It is most unlikely, granted the interlocking power of the pagan worldview of politics, spirituality and sexuality, once it takes hold. About the time Paul went to gay Rome, Nero was marrying two men, Sporus and Pythagorus, one as his wife and the other as his husband. Paul did not hesitate to explain how such sexual deformation could take place: “for this reason,” he boldly says. What is his reason? That people were sinfully worshiping creation rather than the Creator (Rom 1:25–26). Honoring God as Creator includes honoring the distinctions he places in creation. This is part of the gospel of which Paul was not ashamed (Rom 1:16). He can make no place for homosexuality, even a certain kind of “inoffensive homosexuality of the mind” à la Revoice. Paul always makes obedience a matter of the heart; of desire. He insists on radical, positive obedience on the basis of our identity in Christ, reached by the power of the risen Christ within us. He certainly does not recommend, for the sake of openness to the Gospel, a general non-discriminatory acceptance of cultural homosexuality in the Roman or Israeli cultures of the day.

    Christians are always out of sync with the larger pagan community. Pliny the Younger, a pagan Roman magistrate, explained in a letter to Emperor Trajan (c. AD 111) how he handled Christians: They were to renounce Christ by paying homage to the gods and by offering wine and incense to them. Refusal brought execution. Pliny was disturbed by the fact that local commerce, intimately tied to the pagan temples, as in Ephesus with the temple to Artemis, was being obstructed by the Gospel. Christians did not fit within Rome’s all-embracing world order. California’s AB2943 shockingly denies therapeutic counseling for homosexuals. California Christians are realizing that we may suffer fines or worse for selling a Bible or holding a conference on sexuality. Our fears are nothing compared with what the original Roman Christians faced! And one can find such persecution around the world, in every age. We must be prepared and active.

    If ancient Rome is an indication of our cultural future, Collins may be surprised to find that it will not be a love-in for all. We cannot expect fairness or tolerance, once a pagan worldview takes control. That control is often increased by our theological naïveté.

    Sinner as I am, I do not stand in judgment on anyone, but I am constrained to cry out to God’s people: Stand firm in the clarity of the created differences God has put in the world. Stand firm in declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even if we stand firm, we are not guaranteed peace. The freedom Christians have to maintain our commitment to heterosexual marriage (which, for the moment, Collins defends) may be wiped out in an instant, classed as Christian discrimination. So much for “non-discrimination”! Any culture based on the Lie is not committed to the truth and will eventually lead to surroundings like those of ancient Rome, of Noah, Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the period of the Judges. Materialism, pride, violence, and gross sexual immorality prevailed and the worship of God was abandoned (Matt 24:12; Luke 17:26–30). How many will be saved in the day of God’s wrath?

    The most loving thing we can do is to preach the Gospel in its fullness, in light of the future consequences of human sinfulness. We declare the good news that God, the good and holy Creator, the Just and Mighty Judge, came down to rescue sinners through the righteous life and atoning death of Jesus, to have fellowship with them by His Holy Spirit, who gives power to be born again in the image of Jesus Christ and thus to overcome sin by his grace.

     

     

     

    [1] Peter Jones, “Revoice: Sliding Into Heresy,” TruthXChange (August 3, 2018).

    [2] Jones, “Androgyny: The Pagan Sexual Ideal,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43 (2000).

    [3] Nate Collins, All But Invisible: Exploring Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Sexuality (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017), 76.

    [4] Collins, All But Invisible, 71.

    [5] Carl Teichrib, unpublished manuscript.

    [6] Teichrib, unpublished manuscript.

    [7] Jay Michaelson, God vs. Gay? (2011), 159.

    [8] Michael Bronski, “The Real Harry Hay,” Boston Phoenix, Oct 31–Nov 7, 2002.

    [9] Michaelson,  God vs. Gay?  88.