Exodus International (My Continuing Thoughts, Continued)

Homosexuality seems to be one of the main issues dominating the church and culture today. I have written before about some of my continuing thoughts regarding homosexuality, yet the culture seems to continue to shift, so taking a stance is easy for a day, but then there’s another facet that needs to be dealt with. So many times it feels like we’re shooting at a moving target. In this same moving target, Exodus International, an organization aimed at fixing people with same sex attraction by converting them to straight attractions, has just announced that they will be shutting down their organization. Alan Chambers, the founder of Exodus, just published a blog titled ‘I Am Sorry.‘ Through what I’ve read about the “redemptive therapy” the results were slightly less than what people I think had hoped. I don’t necessarily think it is the best way to deal with same sex attraction.

Shortly after Alan announced that Exodus would be closing their doors, he did an interview that appeared in The Atlantic. In this interview he said a few things that were troubling to me.

Have you changed your theological position on homosexuality?

My belief about sexual expression remains the same. But that really matters little to anyone except for me. It only serves to govern my own life. This isn’t something I’m going to make an issue or a barrier of in my relationship with anyone else.

The bold was the question asked, the regular font was Alan’s response. I’m glad to see that his beliefs about sexual expression remain the same, but it isn’t enough to say that is only governs his own life. The church has a responsibility to protect and preserve what God has commanded in regard to sexuality. And far too many people forget what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:12 in talking about sexual immorality, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”

Tied in to this is Alan’s response to the question, “Are you in favor of gay marriage?”

I don’t really know what to think, honestly, when it comes to gay marriage. But I also don’t think anybody needs me to have a position. People have a right to live their lives as they see fit. If a friend or family member who is gay or lesbian invites me to be a part of their special day, I’m going to go and be a part of that because I love them. It doesn’t matter if I endorse or condone something–that’s not my right. I have plenty of friends who are gay and lesbian, loved ones in my family who are gay and lesbian. Their family will be my family, their friends will be my friends, and that’s all that matters.

Again, tied in to my above hesitation with this-if someone is a true believer, I don’t think that this is an appropriate response. If someone is in Christ, yet experiences same sex attraction, it does not make them worse than me as the sinner I am, but that does not mean they are then able to act on their desires. Just as me, as a single heterosexual male cannot act on the desires I have in the lust I have in my heart toward women I see. And this gets harder as it gets warmer out! I so long for the day that I will no longer have any lust in my heart, but until that day I will fight hard against my fleshly impulses.

So many people in this discussion point to Christ and his lack of mention about anything in regard to homosexuality. While Jesus may not have mentioned anything about this, he did talk about sexuality in general. In Matthew 19, Jesus is questioned about divorce.

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They (the Pharisees) said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

Jesus whole idea of sexuality is rooted in the creation order. Looking back at Genesis, the way God created the world was with a male and a female, who together were the pinnacle of his creation. Yes, because of sin there were and are perversions of sexuality throughout the Bible and today. Many of the patriarchs had multiple wives, and we can read through the Bible to see the problems that occurred because of those multiple wives! God’s intent for mankind has always been for a man and women to become one flesh. Tied in to this, simply because Jesus didn’t address this issue head on, doesn’t mean it’s not an important issue. Far too many people neglect that Jesus was a real person who lived in first century Israel and was raised in a conservative Jewish home. There were many issues that Jesus didn’t address that were assumed. Homosexuality was considered to be a sin in conservative Jewish homes, and as seen above, Jesus had a very high view of sexuality that is rooted in the creation order. Does this mean that Christians need to be hate mongers who continually bash those with same sex attraction? Not at all! We should come alongside our brothers and sisters who do experience these attractions and love them as they live in the same fallen world we do, struggling with their sin and issues, just as we do. Let’s not encourage the pursuit of sin, but the pursuit of holiness in all areas of life-including sexuality.

I hope that Alan Chambers does not throw out Scripture in his attempt to reach those with same sex attraction, but continues to hold to it as he seeks God’s will for his life now as he works to help reconcile the relationships between those who experience same sex attraction and those in the church who are opposed to it. May the church be a place of grace and the Spirit convicting those of the sin in their lives as we continue to conform more into the image of Jesus Christ.

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Rob Bell Comes Out

Rob Bell has moved in some pretty drastic ways away from the Evangelical church. With his book Love Wins last year he questioned the existence of hell, to a “tweet heard ’round the world” from John Piper saying, “Farewell, Rob Bell.” Rob has made quite a name for himself, started by planting a successful church (in terms of numbers) in Grand Rapids, MI. He has since stepped away from the church and moved to LA where he is apparently working on a TV show about his life. In a more recent move, Rob Bell has now come out in support of same sex marriage saying, “Yes, I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think that the church needs to just … this is the world that we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

This shouldn’t come to a surprise to anyone. As soon as one questions the authority of Scripture the rest of their theology will come crashing down around them. This also happened to Brian McLaren, who in September of last year married his son to his son’s boyfriend.

I continue to be grateful for the Evangelical Free Church in dealing with some of these very important and timely issues. I live blogged their most recent theology conference titled ‘Sex Matters’ and you can now listen to every message here. A more appropriate view, in both the biblical and historical sense, is found in Wesley Hill’s book Washed and Waitingwhich I encourage anyone interested in this issue to read. This issue isn’t going to disappear anytime soon and Christians need to continue to be willing to take a stand that many people view to be unpopular and passe. Christians will regularly need to be counter cultural and pray for the strength to stay strong no matter what those around us are saying.

Gay Is an Adjective – Review of Washed and Waiting

Gay is an Adjective – My Review of Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality

Adjective: a word or phrase naming an attribute, added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or describe it.

Noun: a word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any class of people, places or things (common noun).

Many people use nouns to identify themselves, for example, I regularly tell people, “I am Norwegian.” Today, many people define themselves by their sexuality. This leads to many people saying, “I am gay.” I just finished reading Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill who says Christians need to begin switching the use of that word to an adjective, so he describes himself as a “celibate, gay Christian.” Christian is the noun and the other two words are adjectives. He has, through many trials, learned to place his whole identity in Christ, making Him the head of his life, as he battles his homosexual attraction.

This is a much needed book in our culture today. Is there room in the church for people who struggle with same sex attraction, yet are willing to call it a sin and trust Christ in their struggle against this sin? I hope that churches are able to see this book as a wake up call to reach out to those who are broken by sin, as the church is supposed to do. And if you look at Scripture, that’s all of us.

Wesley does a fantastic job of bringing us along with him in his journey through life and relentless pursuit of Christ. There were a couple occasions that the book brought me to tears as I was able to see this struggle through his perspective. I hope and pray Wes is able to continue to find strength in the only one who can give it, Jesus Christ.

 

“Faithfulness is never a gamble. It will be worth it.”

-Wesley Hill

EFCA Theology Conference – My Thoughts

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the EFCA Theology Conference in Denver and was really stretched and encouraged in my thinking on the issue of sexuality. The most powerful session for me was Wesley Hill on his struggle with homosexuality. Never before had I talked to someone who struggles with same sex attraction, yet is willing to submit it at the foot of the cross and call it sin. We live in a broken side world, as evidenced by looking around us. All of us are sinners and have our certain areas where we are more prone to temptation than others, I think it’s safe to admit that for most of us, sexuality is a very hard issue, especially being a single man as I am right now. But what should we, as the church, do to reach out to single people like Wesley and myself?

I’ve talked about this very important issue before (“Where Are All the Young People“) and was reminded of it again this week. The church is called to be a family (see Jesus in Matthew 12), yet so often we don’t treat each other as the family we are supposed to be. As someone who is single, I can so often get overlooked in the ministry of the church, and most churches I’ve been to have a fantastic youth group ministry, a thriving couples-with-small-children ministry and some even have a great college ministry, but what about the single 20-somethings who are trying to figure out how to figure out a schedule, budget, and where best to use their time? We need the encouragement and support of those in the church, and those in the church are primarily those who are older and married. So again, PLEASE just come talk to us, invite us over and invest in our lives! I promise you again that we won’t bite!

Tied in to this is the issue of homosexuality. As it becomes more prevalent, we in the church need to know how to reach out and welcome those who are, as Wesley described himself “gay celibate Christians.” Wesley has written why he uses the term “gay celibate Christian” in a recent blog post that you can read here. The church needs to be a place where even single people can feel loved and as a part of the family. The Gospel should bring us together in the same way that growing up together in a family does. We should be willing to lay down our lives for our friends, just as Christ laid down his life for us. This is an issue in my life as well-I so often focus on myself and my needs instead of the needs of the body. I’ll close with this final thought from 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has past away; behold, the new has come.” May we continue to cling close to the cross as we daily repent, die to ourselves and remember to live in Christ, who will give us the strength we need to not give in to temptation.

You can buy Wesley Hill’s book on Amazon, and read his blog here. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him and am incredibly grateful for his faithfulness to God’s word as he attempts to follow His will in his life. Thank you, Wes, for being open and transparant this week with your struggles, you are in my prayers.

EFCA Theology Conference Session 5

The Witness of Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles – Robert Gagnon

Romans 1:24-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10

Romans 1:24-27: Opposed to some, or all, forms of same-sex intercourse?

Three main arguments made to discount Romans 1:24-27

  1. The exploitation argument: Paul only knew of exploitative forms of homosexual practice in his culture
  2. The orientation argument: Paul had no concept of a homosexual orientation
  3. The misogyny argument: Paul feared homosexual practice would upset male dominance over women

The plot structure of Romans 1:18-32

Stage 1. God’s power and divinity is manifested in creation

Stage 2. Humans suppress the truth and foolishly exchange

Stage 3. God’s wrath is manifested in giving over humans to self-degrading desires

Stage 4. These sinful deeds merit death

Intertextual echoes to Genesis 1:26-27

References to creation and Creator

Rom 1:23 echoes Genesis 1:26

Romans 1:26-27 echoes Genesis 1:27

The point of these echoes – idolatry and same-sex intercourse together constitute a frontal assault on the work of the Creator in nature, those who suppressed the truth about God visible in creation they went on to suppress the truth about themselves visible in nature

The argument from nature

The truth about God is visible and apparent in material creation (1:19-20)

The truth about God’s will for sex is visible in our gendered bodies (26-27)

Pagans do not have to have Genesis or Leviticus to be held accountable for this knowledge, they are “without excuse”

Innate desires are unreliable guides

The mention of lesbian intercourse in Romans 1:26

The mention of mutual gratification in Romans 1:27

The conception and practice of caring homosexual relationships in antiquity

Absolute nature arguments in the Greco-Roman world

Why Paul is not saying, “Don’t judge homosexual practice”

The one whom you obey, that it your Lord. Don’t say with your mouth that you follow God but then continue to serve sin, that is your Lord

What even scholars supportive of homosexual unions admit

1 Corinthians 6:9 (& 1 Tim 1:10) Opposed to some, or all, forms of male-male intercourse?

Meaning of malakoi “soft men”

Meaning of arsenokoitai “Men who lie with a male”

The Bible’s alleged ignorance of sexual orientation

Grego-Roman theories of a congenital basis for some homoerotic attraction

Differences with contemporary theories and beside this point

Did Paul get “nature” confused?

What even scholars supportive of homosexual unions affirm

The Bible’s Alleged Misogynistic Bias against Homoerotic Unions

Ignoring concerns for structural complementarity in ancient texts

Absoluteness of Bible’s prohibition suggest priority of gender over status

Women’s liberation as a stimulus for opposing all male homosexual unions

An absurd corollary

View of women in the Bible fares well relative to its cultural environment

EFCA Theology Conference Session 3 – Robert Gagnon

Jesus and Marriage – Robert Gagnon

Key Jesus Sex Text: Mark 10:2-12 (parallel is Matthew 19:3-9)

Learning from Jesus: A Back-to-Creation Model

  • Jesus declared Gen 1:27 and 2:24 to be the model for marriage
  • For Jesus, marriage isn’t something for humans to tinker with
  • Jesus emphasizes the “twoness” of a sexual bond
  • Prohibits both a revolving door of divorce/remarriage, implicitly polygamy
  • Where does Jesus get this number “two”
  • Gen 1:27, Gen 2:24, what do these 2 verses share in common: the union consists of a man and a women. Two sexes designed by God for a sexual union.
  • Twoness of the sexes is the foundation for the twoness of the sexual bond
  • Confirmation: Qumran’s basis for rejecting polygamy
  • S the twoness of the sexes is the basis for the twoness of the sexual bond

Three Corollaries to Jesus’ Back to Creation Model

  1. OT Law does not always reflect God’s perfect will
  • Many people think Jesus is increasing the permissions of marriage, Jesus is doing the opposite and actually making it more rigid
  • Jesus unilaterally amended the constitution of Israel
  • Moses made a concession to male “hardness of heart”
  • Jesus worked toward a more rigorous sexual ethic, closing off remaining loopholes
  1. Jesus repudiated inequities toward women, but in which direction?
  • In early Judaism, a man could commit adultery only against another woman’s husband
  • What Jesus did not do is give women the same sexual license that men had
  • Instead, he bound men to the same high standard as women
  1. A homosexual relationship is worse than a polygamous one
  • Jesus regarded a male-female prerequisite as foundational for sexual ethics
  • That obviously precludes a homosexual relationship

Further evidence of Jesus’ rejection of Homosexual Practice

  1. Nine other arguments
  • Jesus’ retention of the Law of Moses (Scripture) generally
  • Jesus’ intensification of the Law’s sex ethic (adultery of the heart, divorce)
  • John the Baptist’s strong stance on sex laws
  • Early Judaism united opposition
  • The early church’s united opposition
  • Jesus saying about the defiling effect of desires for porneia (Mark 7:21-23)
  • Jesus on the Decalogue adultery prohibition (Mark 10:17-22)
  • Jesus’ saying about Sodom (Matt 10:14-15; Luke 10:10-12)
  • The “born eunuchs” statement (Matt 19:10-12)
  1. Why then did Jesus not speak directly against homosexual practice?
  • No need to, the Hebrew Scriptures already clearly established man-male intercourse as a grave offense
  • No Jew is known to have engaged in homosexual practice in the period, it wasn’t happening. It would have been a waste of Jesus’ time
  • What then is the meaning of Jesus’ silence on homosexual practice? Same thing as his silence on bestiality

Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage

  1. Prohibiting remarriage after divorce
  • Matt 5:32, Luke 16:18, Mark 10:11-12, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
  • If a man divorces his wife on invalid grounds would mean that the marriage is still intact in God’s eyes, so if the man remarries he is committing adultery by having sex with a woman other than his wife
  1. The hardest case: A woman invalidly divorced
  • She’s the victim of a divorce, yet if she remarries she is committing adultery, again the main part is if the marriage is still intact

Learning from Jesus: Other Principles

  1. Sex ethic distinct from love command
  • If these are the same, if we truly loved everyone we should be having sex with everyone. Jesus said to love everyone, but have sex with only 1 person
  1. A strong interior component to sexual ethics
  • He wants not only external but internal obedience
  1. Sexual ethics as a life-and-death matter (Matt 5:29-30, John 8:3-11)
  2. A heightened ethical demand coupled with a loving outreach to violators
  • Jesus is asking us to do both
  • The parallel of tax collectors and sexual sinners – Jesus reached out to both of these groups – outreach to those in greatest danger
  1. Jesus on the love commandment, rebuke and forgiveness, the Good Samaritan
  • Love your neighbor as yourself, a true understanding of love is not about you, it’s about correcting a friend who is straying
  • Rebuking and forgiveness Luke 17:3-4
  1. The ends of marriage
  • Procreation (Gen 1:27-28)
  • Companionship and sexual enjoyment (Gen 2:18_
  • The highest objective of marriage is not even companionship, but Jesus’ insistence on marital indissolubility, based on the 2 becoming 1, is the key
  • Marriage is God’s instrument for reuniting male and female into an integrated sexual whole
  • God designed marriage for shaping two into one
  • Sexual activity sets in motion a reality beyond the individual’s control