Jan

29

2013

Justin Taylor|5:22 pm CT

Dialoguing with a Gay Activist Who Hates the “Hate the Sin but Love the Sinner” Distinction

Peter Kreeft recalls a conversation he once had:

 My teacher was an articulate homosexual activist who was arguing, at Boston College, that “Catholic” and “gay” are as compatible as ham and eggs. I respected the clarity and intelligence of his mind and the openness and apparent goodwill of his heart, so I hoped that our conversation might open and clarify both our minds and teach us something new. (This almost never happens when these two sides argue about this subject.)

I was not disappointed.

I shall try and reconstruct our dialogue with a minimum of additions and polishings, as I like to believe Plato did to Socrates in his early dialogues. For purposes of anonymity, I shall call my dialogue partner “Art.”

PETER: Art, I’m really curious about one point of your argument, one part I just don’t understand. And I believe in listening before arguing, as you said you do. So I’m not trying to argue now—that’s not the point of my question—but first of all to listen and to understand. OK?

ART: Of course. What’s the point you don’t understand?

PETER: Well, to explain that, I have to ask you to listen too, to where I’m coming from.

ART: And where’s that?

PETER: Just the teachings of the Bible and the Church, all of them. I know you don’t believe all of them, only some. But I do. So from my point of view, what you do, and what you justify doing, is a sin. That’s the label you reject, right?

ART: Right. So what don’t you understand?

PETER: Please don’t take this as a personal insult, or even an argument, but I know of no other way of phrasing it than with biblical language, which you will probably find offensive. My question is this: Why are you guys the only class of sinners who not only deny that your sin is sin but insist on identifying yourself with it? We’re all sinners, in one way or another, and I’m not assuming your sins are worse than mine, but at least I think I’m more than my sins, whatever they are. I love the sinner but hate the sin. But you don’t do you?

ART: No, I don’t. What I hate is that hypocritical distinction.

PETER: Why?

ART: Because when you attack homosexuality, you attack homosexuals. It’s that simple.

PETER: But alcoholics don’t say that the Church attacks alcoholics when she attacks alcoholism. And cowards don’t say that they are their cowardice. And murderers don’t say the church is hypocritical for condemning their sin but no them, the sinners. Adulterers don’t deny the distinction between the adulterer and the adultery. The only group of sinners I’ve ever heard of who do this is you. And it seems to me you all do that, you always say that. All gays say that. Don’t they?

ART: Yes, we do. And I forgive you for being to insensitive that you don’t realize that you’ve done right now what you defend the Church for doing: insulting and rejecting me, and not just what I do.

PETER: Wait a minute here! You’re saying that when I make that distinction between what you are and what you do, when I accept what you are as distinct from what you do, I’m rejecting what you are? How can I be rejecting what you are in accepting what you are?

ART: That’s exactly what you’re doing. In fact, you’re trying to kill me.

PETER: What? That’s crazy. Now you’re being paranoid.

ART: No, listen: In trying to separate what I do from what I am, you’re trying to separate my body from my soul, my sex life from my identity. That’s what you’re doing by insisting on that distinction. Your distinction between what you call the “sinner” and the “sin” is really death to me; it’s the separation of body and soul, deed and identity. I’m holding the two together; you’re trying to pull them apart, and that’s death.

PETER: That’s sophistical. That’s an argument that just doesn’t fit the facts. Look at the facts instead of the argument. This is what the church believes about you—what I believe about you: you can be a saint! You have dignity. The Church thinks more highly of you than you think of yourself. She loves your being more than you do; that’s why she hates your sins against your being. We believe your self is greater than your deeds, whatever they are. But you don’t.

ART: The Church and the Bible will tell me I’m an abomination to God.

PETER: No! Not in your person, only in your sins, just like the rest of us, like all of us. That’s Paul’s point in Romans 1. He’s condemning hypocritical condemnation of pagan homosexuals by straight Jews just as much as he’s condemning pagan homosexuality.

ART: The Church is my enemy.

PETER: The Church is your friend. Because the Church tells us two things about you, not just one, and she will never change either one, she never can change either one, because both are matters of unchangeable natural law, based on eternal law, based on the very nature of God. She can’t ever say that what you do is good for the same reason that she can’t ever say that what you are is bad. She defends your being just as absolutely as she attacks your lifestyle; she hates your cancer because she loves your body. It’s the same authority for both. The authority you hate when it condemns what you do is your only reliable ally in defending what you are. You want the Church to change her teaching on what you do, and you’re trying to put social pressure on her to do that, but if she did that, then she could change her teaching on what you are, too, for the same reason, under social pressures. I’m sure you know that the old social pressures to hate homosexuals are far from dead. You know what happened in Hitler’s Germany. You know how changeable and fickle mankind is—and how dangerous. When the last bastion of absolute moral law is compromised, when even the Church bends to the winds of social pressure, what shelters will you have then?

ART: I’m not worried about the Left; I’m worried about the Right.

PETER: Today, maybe, but what about tomorrow? Today the fashion is the be Leftist, but just a short time ago the fashion was from the Right, and tomorrow it may swing to the Right again, like a pendulum. You can’t rely on fashionable opinions to protect you. That’s building sandcastles. The tides always change and knock them down.

ART: I’ll take my chances, thank you. I don’t know what will happen in the future, I grant you that. But I know what’s happening now, and I can’t take that. We just can’t take your “love the sinner, hate the sin” distinction. That much we know.

PETER: You still haven’t explained to me why. I began by asking that question, and I really want an answer. I want to know what’s going on in your mind.

ART: OK, I think I can explain it to you. You say I shouldn’t feel threatened by that distinction, right?

PETER: Right.

ART: You say the Church tells me she loves me, even though she hates what I do, right?

PETER: Right.

ART: Well, suppose the shoe was on the other foot. Suppose you were in the minority. Suppose what you wanted to do was to have churches and sacraments and Bibles and prayers, and those in power said to you: “We hate that. We hate what you do. We will do all in our power to stop you from doing what you do. But we love you. We love what you are. We love Christians, we just hate Christianity. We love worshippers; we just hate worship. And we’re going to put every possible pressure on you to feel ashamed about worshipping and make you repent of your sin of worshiping. But we love you. We affirm your being. We just reject your doing.” Tell me, how would that make you feel? Would you accept their
distinction?

PETER: You know, I never thought of it that way. Thank you. You really did make me see things in a new way. You’re right. I would not be comfortable with that distinction. I would not be able to accept it. In fact, I would say pretty much what you just said: that you’re trying to kill my identity.

ART: See? Now you understand how we feel.

PETER: Yes, I think I do. Thank you very much for showing me that. But do you realize what you’ve just said? What you’ve just showed me?

ART: What do you mean?

PETER: You’ve said to me that sodomy is your religion.

66 Comments

  1. Wow. I’ve listened to and read a lot of Peter Kreeft and generally found him to be bright and intelligent. But his exchange – especially the ending – is the most thick-headed, psychologically unsophisticated and naive garbage I’ve read from anyone with any claim to academia and intelligentsia in, well, ever. Very sad. And the fact that Kreeft *honestly* doesn’t seem to understand the implications of what he’s saying – or the clear logic of what the person he talked with was saying.

    • And your response is absolutely brimming with psychological sophistication.

    • Jeff, you might be right. Maybe this is ludicrous logic. But saying so doesn’t make it so. Feel free to bring forth analysis and argument.

      FWIW, the dialogue continues in the book and Kreeft’s interlocutor acknowledges that this is true, while continuing to challenge Kreeft in other ways.

      • JT -
        this is an interesting dialogue to be sure, but i agree that the logic of “Art’s” argument is flawed, however ostensibly powerful the rhetoric. I dealt with some of the same issues Kreeft brings up here http://outin2thedeep.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/mistaken-identity-a-rare-political-rant/ and i believe the logic is sound.
        “Art’s” argument begins to show the cracks the minute he says, “suppose you were the minority.” By doing this he removes the idea of absolute truth and claims the minority status of pluralistic relativism. Though perhaps a current minority position, the homosexual’s truth is equally valid with all other truths (including Biblical truth) but just happens to presently be the minority opinion. This is not the case. But in using this quick sleight of hand, Art can now argue from the “shoe on the other foot” place b/c he has now levelled the playing field of truth. ‘Swap out my equally valid truth about homosexuality and insert your equally valid truth about the Bible and God’s creative order …’ See the problem already?
        Beyond this, Art conflates religious practice with identity (see how he still argues from the ‘what you do is who you are’ place?). So, my identity is Christian in Art’s mind, not b/c i have been given a new identity in Christ, but b/c i go to church and read the Bible, etc. The way it’s presented appears seamless but with a closer look the cover is easily pulled back to reveal Art’s true aim: to undermine Biblical truth and create an equal, pluralistic relativism. = FAIL.

      • >“Art’s” argument begins to show the cracks the minute he says, “suppose you were the minority.” By doing this he removes the idea of absolute truth and claims the minority status of pluralistic relativism. Though perhaps a current minority position, the homosexual’s truth is equally valid with all other truths (including Biblical truth) but just happens to presently be the minority opinion. This is not the case. But in using this quick sleight of hand, Art can now argue from the “shoe on the other foot” place b/c he has now levelled the playing field of truth. ‘Swap out my equally valid truth about homosexuality and insert your equally valid truth about the Bible and God’s creative order …’ See the problem already?

        You’ve missed the point of Art’s thought experiment and the conversation in general. It was never about whether the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is true or not. The conversation was about why a homosexual person is uncomfortable with the Church’s teaching. Truth or non-truth never enters the picture. By putting the shoe on the other foot, Art is not asking Kreeft to accept another truth claim as equally valid. It’s a thought experiment to help Kreeft empathize. The thought experiment in no way undermines Kreeft’s truth claim.

        • Thanks for “setting me straight” bro. Respectfully, i disagree with your assessment of my assessment. The truth or non-truth of a claim ALWAYS enters into the debate/argument whether it is stated or not. If someone does not believe there claim to be true from its outset, then what is the point of even beginning?

        • >The truth or non-truth of a claim ALWAYS enters into the debate/argument whether it is stated or not.

          And that’s just it, the ‘claim’ at stake in the present conversation is not whether the Church’s teaching is correct or not. Not just any claim will ‘enter the debate/argument whether it is stated or not’; only those that are relevant to the precise scope of the discussion are relevant. The ‘claim’ at stake is not the truth of the Church’s teaching, but whether a homosexual person’s reaction to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is consistent or inconsistent with the way that other sinners react to the Church’s teaching regarding a particular sin of theirs. As I said, the discussion is about empathy, not truth.

          Imagine the following: Dick and Jane are talking after astronomy class. Dick says to Jane, ‘Our professor today said that Mars has a slightly green hue. You know how I dislike the color green. It makes me nauseous. I don’t want to have to look at it through a telescope tomorrow.’ Jane replies, ‘You really dislike green that much? That seems absurd. I don’t think that’s enough to get you out of the assignment tomorrow.’ Dick sighs and responds, ‘Well, imagine that Mars were blue instead. You dislike blue as much as I dislike green. Wouldn’t you fear tomorrow’s lab then?’

          When Dick presents Jane with his thought experiment about Mars being blue, he is not asserting that Mars actually is blue. Nor is he asserting (or implying) that Mars being blue is a truth ‘equally valid with all other truths’. Thought experiments simply don’t work that way. Heck, what I presented was itself a thought experiment, which was totally fabricated. But by presenting that thought experiment, I am not implying that ‘my truth’ — Mars being green, Dick’s existence, Jane’s existence, the conversation that takes place between them, whether their course requirements include looking at Mars through a telescope — is objectively true or is ‘equally valid with all other truths’. Whether any of the details of that thought experiment are true — much less whether they are equally valid — are simply outside the scope of the discussion.

          • Steven –
            i agree at one level that Art’s point is about helping Christians to understand or empathize with how the homosexual hears this argument against what they view as their core identity. THis he does well and in a cogent manner. I guess i’m looking past the argument for empathy and seeing the further implications of his line of reasoning, viz. i don;t think Art’s only aim is to gain a sympathetic ear. He is preaching as well. That is the part i was reacting to, not that we should not empathize with how our words and actions come across to the homosexual. But at the end of the day the two cannot co-exist. However undesirable our words or true concern for those struggling (or embracing) a homosexual lifestyle may come across, our options are either to change our message (not possible) or have the SPirit change the way their ears hear (absolutely possible).

    • Jeff, a lot of readers on this blog are very well educated – intellectuals, even – and all you’ve really done is say “I don’t like that”. Perhaps if you are going to claim that Kreeft is thick-headed, you could explain why. I think you will find careful explanation of logical arguments to be a more effective means of persuasion in this forum.

  2. I’ve always had trouble with that attempt at a distinction. I think it works when it’s understood as Lewis understood in the case where it refers to believers (as Christians whom God loves, and whose sins have “all” been forgiven and yet remain reason for discipline), but it doesn’t work when relating to unbelievers, who remain under judgment because forgiveness has not yet been declared. Thoughts?

  3. The entire argument is moot and inane. Old Testament people (and Paul) did not understand that the earth was not the center of the universe, but spoke as if it were. They also did not know that homosexuality is not a decision one makes. Jesus spoke of love; God is love. Leviticus also speaks of eating lobster and getting tattoos in the same terms as homosexuality..and no one is having arguments about lobsters or tattoos. In Timothy we hear that church leaders can only have had one wife…nobody shouting from the rooftops about all the divorced pastors, now, are there? After all, Jesus never mentions homosexuality, but says quite a bit about heterosexual sin (yes, I can predict the argument that His not mentioning it is ‘proof’ that He understood it to be a sin, but that is just not logical). Focusing on homosexuality rather than the REAL sin in the Scriptural sitings of homosexuality (sins of the heart and sins of using sex to worship false gods)blatantly misses the point and reveals the homophobia of the one clanging like a gong.

    • Bill,

      Your leaps all over the Bible show several interpretive errors but I’ll just point out one: you say that Jesus doesn’t speak of homosexuality but, as Kreeft demonstrates in the article above, Paul is quite clear. The whole “red letter Bible” concept (Jesus’ words are more authoritative than Paul) shows a very damaged view of Scripture. All of the Bible is authoritative. All demonstrates love; all demonstrates justice; all demonstrates Truth. The same God who told Israel not to eat certain things (which was used to set them apart from other nations; this is quite obviously not in effect any more since the Church is not an ethnic nation but a distinct people from all nations, tribes, tongues, etc.) is the same God who calls on all people to repent of all types of sins and turn to Him in the Gospel.

    • First of all, the accounts that reject homosexuality in the Old Testament are separate from the laws that include the laws that you mentioned with tattooing your body and ‘lobsters’. There are three types of OT Law: moral, ceremonial, and civil. Therefore, some laws were pertaining to sacrifices, some to morality, and some to separate the Jews from the surrounding nations (civil). Those in reference to homosexuality were (and are) considered moral law by Rabbis, and the others you mentioned were (and are) considered civil law. So your argument does not apply.

      Second, you say that because Jesus did not mention homosexuality that means that He approves of it (or at least doesn’t disapprove). This is illogical due to several factors: first His context. If you notice, Jesus (barring very few individuals) really only hung out with Jews. Jews at that time still treated homosexuality as they did in OT. In addition, orthodox Jews still hold to the same teaching against homosexuality today. In His context, Jesus had no need for preaching against homosexuality because it was already vastly rejected among Jews.

      Also, you really can’t just disregard Paul – not only did He write most of the New Testament, but his impact on the progress of the early church was immense.

      Lastly, I agree that the focus should not be on homosexuality. I believe that we as the church have demonized homosexuals and we should be pointing people towards Jesus, not towards being straight.

    • There are negative commands in the sense of “thou shalt not”, but there are also positive commands in the sense of what should be done.

      Jesus affirms marriage as being between a man and a woman from the beginning (Matthew 19:4-6). This is a positive statement about what marriage should be and what is was designed to be.

      Furthermore, to import our current debate over homosexuality into first-century Jewish culture is horribly anachronistic. The first-century Jew would have been well settled in his conviction that homosexuality is a sin. There was no raging debut over this issue at that time.

    • “Leviticus also speaks of eating lobster and getting tattoos in the same terms as homosexuality.”

      That’s false. Leviticus uses 2 different hebrew words for the rejection of both, and those words have moral overtones for sex and religious overtones for lobster. Translations are inconsistent, but it’s true of the hebrew.

  4. Peter Kreeft: I’m interested in Arts response/reaction to your last statement, “You’ve said to me that sodomy is your religion.”

  5. The problem is in the premise that homosexuality is equivalent to alcoholism and adultery. The author begs the question by asserting his belief in that equivalency as fact, while “Art” fails to reject the fundamental premise. There are intelligent ways for sincere people to discuss differences of opinion, but this is not one of them.

  6. except what “Art” says is absolutely true. You are what you do. This has been rejected by modern Christians (by modern I mean Christians since the Reformation), but the assertion that God “hates the sin, but loves the sinner” is entirely unbiblical. This is both logically inconsistent and biblically unfounded. A person who murders is called a murderer. In the Bible. A person who commits adultery is called an adulterer. In the Bible. A person who lies is called a liar. In the Bible. A person who believes is called… a believer. In the Bible.

    The fundamental gospel truth is not that we aren’t defined by what we do; it’s that the identity we formed by our actions is washed away and replaced with a new identity: that of Christ. And from now on, we are defined by Christ, as those who believe in Christ (on account of whom we are counted as sons). Furthermore, when God speaks about judgment, he says he judges people, not actions.

    So “Art” is absolutely correct. The Christian apology “we only hate the sin” is weak and unbiblical. Which is why Christianity and homosexuality are incompatible: the one lies outside of the realm of the other. Hence Paul says, “How can we who died to sin live anymore in it?” We died to the old identity of living and have put on the new identity of living. We live and move in Christ. Which means we live and move as Christ does.

    You cannot separate who you are from what you do. When one changes, the other changes. And of course, what you do is dependent on your identity, and verifies your identity. Because we all conform to some pattern. Which is why Paul states, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25). This is the definition of what it means to belong to Christ, to be defined by him.

    “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God… we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14,16-17). These are terms of identity, inextricably woven into lifestyle and actions.

    • Kenton -
      i don’t know that your logic totally flows to its logical end. Sure, someone who murders is called a murderer; granted. But let’s take a less morally charged title and follow that in the same way. I have two kids therefore i am a father … but is that all i am? Does the title “father” sum up my identity? Not at all. So with the murderer or the adulterer or the homosexual. What you do is not who you are. I would go so far to say that we act out of who we are, but i would only draw two distinctions there: the old man and the new man. the old man will express himself in countless ways, including homosexuality. But, however helpful for categorization, that individual expression of the old man is not that person’s core identity, but merely a result of it.
      Again, as i say above, i think Art’s argument is flawed at least in that it follows that same logic in saying we are Christians b/c of what we do alone, not b/c we have been given a new identity in Christ. when you level the playing field of truth as he seeks to, then all opinions are equally valid and truthful, even if some happen to be held by a smaller minority at present. See the problem?

      • The relevant point isn’t that these aren’t holistic identities (on this I believe everyone will agree). The main point is that who you are can never be separated from what you do (unless it is done by God who forgives sins and gives a new identity in Christ). So the case in point is that a Christian HAS to follow Christ. A Christian who doesn’t follow Christ is not a Christian. We act out of who we are, but in the same way, our actions define who we are. Jesus himself stated that his works gave proof of his identity. The two can’t be separated, so the only place where sin is separated from the sinner is on the cross. Otherwise, in God’s eyes, the sin defines the sinner. Hence why the New Testament can say that those who commit sin (identifying them according to the sins that they commit) will not inherit the kingdom of God.

        You may not identify “father” as your core identity, but I hope you identify “Christian” as your core. And I would hope that you have certain practices and habits in mind when you consider your identity. The logic isn’t that one set of actions defines all of who you are. The logic is that your identity and your actions flow out of each other, such that they can’t be separated. Action is the expression of identity. To destroy one is to destroy the other. Isn’t that what repentance does? It’s the turning away from a lifestyle, an identity, and turning to God, to his identity. And as a result, the fruit that we get is living according to God’s ways.

        This is Paul’s logic in Romans 6. We have been identified with Christ in death and resurrection. Therefore, we are to live as those who have his identity. And if we don’t live as those who have his identity, we give evidence that we never had his identity. “He lives to God. Therefore count yourselves dead to sin and alive to God”.

  7. So what happens when the foundation of Peter’s argument (“hate the sin, but love the sinner”) is found biblically lacking? God doesn’t hate sin as a disembodied force that zooms around and latches on to folks like an angry mosquito… God hates sinners (Ps. 7:11, 11:5). He doesn’t send sin to hell, but sinners will burn forever. It’s only when folks understand that we are (as Edwards put it) disgusting spiders dangling over the fire by the forbearance of a God who genuinely desires to let us go, but incredibly extends grace in the Person of His Son.

  8. Powerful conversation. I have found the same in my experience. We justify our own sin. Thank you for sharing.

  9. I’m admittedly not a biblical scholar, but I’m not sure I understand where “hate the sin, love the sinner” falls in anyway within Biblical Christianity. It seems like from God’s perspective, it’s wrong, because although God desires all men to be saved, his judgement is still upon all those who have not being redeemed by him. It also seems like from man’s perspective, we’re told that our greatest commandment is to “love our neighbor”, where neighbor clearly includes those outside of the church. And told by Paul that our primary policing is for inside the church, which makes sense since the Christian belief is that Christians can only have victory over sin by the empowering of the Holy Spirit. So… why attack people we label as “sinners”, when the Bible openly admits that the first step is belief and repentance, not expecting people to stop sinning? Doesn’t the “love the sinner” part take precedence over the “hate the sin” part when it comes to non-believers? (and i understand that part of being loving is to be truthful about sin and where it leads, but i’m not sure that argument is the point). Sorry if that was off topic, just and honest question.

  10. I was thinking along the same lines as Kenton and busdriver4jesus. If are not “in Christ” and children of God then we are “in Adam” and children of the devil to do his bidding. We are not sinners because we commit individual acts of sin. Rather we sin because our basic unregenerate identity is that of being a sinner however that fleshes out in our lives. The phrase, “God loves the sinner but hates the sin” has always struck me as odd. It seems to communicate that God brushes aside sin and loves all people equally in spite of their sin. That is not a biblical notion. It is true that God extends a salvific love towards sinners, but that is distinctly different then His electing love rooted in salvific grace. D. A. Carson’s excellent book, “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” helped me tremendously in this regard and I commend it to every Christian.

  11. Thanks for sharing this, Justin. I just finished reading Melinda Selmys’s Sexual Authenticity (a great book, by the way) and she mentions this exchange but doesn’t cite the source. As someone previously in a long-term same-sex relationship, Selmys agrees that Kreeft is right about some homosexuals but not all—herself included. She has a bit different take on why “homosexuality” is so identity-forming: “Homosexuality seems to be a component of identity, because the relationships that people form, or hope to form, are relationships in which an identity, a name, could reasonably be rooted” (p. 212-13).

    I haven’t worked all this out to my own satisfaction, but I still think the sinner-sin distinction is a crucial one insofar as human dignity and redemption are concerned. The truth of “love the sinner hate the sin” is that Christians always have a hope that no matter how much a particular sinner (or group of sinners) identifies with their sin, they are still human and still redeemable. That is why we can’t simply accept that they are their desires, actions, longings, etc.

    Just some thoughts. I’d be interested to know what others think.

  12. And what’s up with no “u” in dialogue? When did the “u” get the boot?

  13. Most definately “God loves the sinner, and hates the sin”!!!
    This is wholly Biblical! I can’t believe that there are soooo many of you that think the opposite!
    When God forgives of our sins, it is because He loves us.
    When God has infinite patience with our sins, it is because He loves us.
    When God lets us live out our lives despite our sins, it is because He loves us.
    When God “overlooks times of ignorance” (Acts 17:30), it is because He loves us.
    when God forgives us “seventy times seven” times, it is because He loves us.
    when Jesus died for our sins, it is because He loves us.

    Remember, God is waiting for us to repent and get rid of our old lives because He loves us.

    God is love!!

  14. a lot of words, but no one has responded to james’ wise comment. alcohol is a substance external to a human. adultery is an act. a person’s sexuality is neither of these.

    • And “sexuality” is not a biblical category. “desires”, “lusts”, “passions” are a biblical category. Sexual behaviors fall into biblical categories. But you will look in vain for some kind of abstract “sexuality”, which is inevitably self-defined rather than God-defined.

      In Scripture, both homosexual desires and acts are counted as sin. Assigning to oneself some made up category of “sexuality” does not, in any objective fashion, create an exception to those revealed truths.

      • It is true that the Bible speaks of desires, passions, lusts, of the flesh (which are very much rooted not only in the soul but in the body which gives expression to them. Such passions arise from the sin-corrupted flesh. As Christians, we have been given the Holy Spirit to put such such passions and deeds to death.

        But it makes no sense to tell the unbeliever to do the same. They have no power to do so. There is no amount of willpower that will change those passions from sinful homosexual lusts to sinful heterosexual lusts. They need Christ. Galatians 5:24 – And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Paul doesn’t say that those who crucify the flesh belong to Christ. He says that those who belong to Christ Jesus crucify the flesh.

        How do they do this? v.16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

      • interesting angle. but “male and female created he them” – the genetic makeups of individuals who are male, but who have very effeminate traits, and the genetic makeups of individuals who are female, but have very masculine characteristics … how do we resolve those issues? there is an aspect of gender that involves sexuality – nothing that we’re going to resolve here, of course – but to casually say “not in the bible, so it doesn’t fit” – maybe “not in the bible, so how do we deal with it” is the greater challenge.

        • Let’s consider it. “How do we resolve those issues?” Well, are we assuming that effeminate male genetics and masculine female genetics are NOT products of the Fall? Or that they are? That is very important to how we resolve these issues. For much of the arguments from the Christian-professing LGBT community ignore the Fall. It’s as though there is nothing physically and spiritually wrong with humanity. Hence the oft-heard rebuttal, “But God made me this way.”

          How do we deal with it? I’m neither a pastor nor a counselor. So I can’t really answer that, but I will say that growth and maturity in Christlikeness, with regard to purity, love, faith, etc., is the biblical solution. With full confidence in the hope that God will redeem the body and all creation from its corruption.

          18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience… 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:18-25,29

          • >Well, are we assuming that effeminate male genetics and masculine
            >female genetics are NOT products of the Fall? Or that they are?
            >That is very important to how we resolve these issues.

            agreed.

      • Depends on what you mean by “homosexual desires.” I will say that homosexual desire is sinful, but gay people obviously did not choose to have that desire (the desire is sinful because it leads to the sin of homosexuality–the acts of it, that is, but you cannot be hold morally responsible for a desire you do not choose to have!). Homosexual desires as in sexually desiring or lusting after someone else of the same gender…then yea, it’s sinful.

  15. Alcohol is a substance external to a human, but what about what is internal to the human? It is within the human heart, mind,and will that the distortion or perversion of our interaction with God’s creation originates. Adultery is an act, but not just an internal act, it also begins as a perversion within the human heart, mind and will, a perversion of the relationship God intended for man to share only with his wife in the covenant of marriage. Which brings us to a person’s sexuality, this too, is a perversion of the relationship that God intended between a man and a woman, a perversion which originates within the heart, mind and will of the homosexual, just as it does in the alcoholic and the adulterer. This is where equivalency is upheld, in contrast to the charge that Peter was begging the question.

  16. Kreeft seems to aim at hyperbole. Sodomy is not the guy’s religion, but sex is modern society’s religion, yes, straights and gays. And the gay guy could easily retort, “And religion is your sex.” The larger point seems to me that it is tough to separate sexuality from identity. In this vein gays have it hard, and the church does seems a bit glib. Conversely, society seems glib when it says, who cares if you are straight or gay, it doesn’t define you. Sexuality does define a lot, and its pervasive embrace in a Bohemian ethic taints everyone in the modern sphere. Fighting gay marriage seems quite superficial when there is so little talk about premarital sex, or strong consequences for divorce. Kreeft, whom I always admire, is here belittling this guy as Other instead of honestly engaging him. That’s how it sounds to me. The struggle with homosexuality will not be won by cleverness or by legislation, but with honest confrontation and honest admittal that while we hold the Truth, we don’t hold all the answers.

  17. Hi Joe, I agree with much of what you’re saying, like so little talk about premarital sex and divorce (which would include adultery). I’m having trouble understanding how you can say sex can be modern society’s religion (as individuals make up a society, thus individuals in society have sex as their religion), and yet Sodomy is not the guy’s religion. Sodomy is a form of sex. Art is an individual in society. I don’t think it would be that easy for the gay guy to respond, “And religion is your sex.” Peter never compared Art’s sex,or sex for that matter, to his religion. It was Art who began to equate his sexual practices with worshiping, like when he stated, “We love worshipers but hate the worship” in analogy. It was not Peter who turned sex into worship, it was Art. I don’t think this was belittling in any way.

    • I guess I agree. And I think homosexuality is a perversion distinct from other hetero-sex sins. That said, the phrase “sodomy is your religion” I ink suggests a rhetorical turn of the screw that is a little unfair. It is sex… male-o-male sex, yes, but essential bohemian, anything goes sex.
      I also agree with Jin below. SO much talk on gays, gay marriage… it obfusicates after a while. Gay sex is sin. Period. That perspective clarifies all other conversation related. Without it clarity is lacking.

  18. In a manner of speaking we do require death, for we as repentant sinners have died to our sins. All sin is to worship something other than God and unless we die to that which we hold in higher esteem than God, we will not have his forgiveness. It’s the death of the identity we have in our sin and the rebirth of identifying with the One who gives us life.

  19. Frankly, I don’t understand all this talk and debate. This is so simple. Homosexuality is a perversion and in the Bible it is defined as sin. Simple as that. How can you argue and discuss such nonsense points of whether it defines a person or whether it’s part of an individual?? Such talk is nonsense. Broadly, there are two reasons why there is so much debate. 1) People do not want to give up their sins or give up their lifestyle. Basically, they are in denial. They know that it is a sin, but because it feels so good to them and they enjoy it too much that they will come up with any excuse to NOT give up that sin or lifestyle. And these are the very same excuses that I am hearing in the above comments, i.e. it’s part of the individual; I’m born with it; if you hate my sin you can’t possibly love me so everything is hypocritical…etc. 2) the church does a very poor job of convincing or even teaching that God will deliver them from their sins or lifestyle. I think the second point is very important because everybody in their lives go through 1) with something. However, we should be taught and understood that God is ALL-POWERFUL! There is nothing God can not do for anyone when you have faith. God has promised us this over and over again.(Philippians 4:13) so…no more explaining away your sins. A sin is a sin. Jesus will deliver you from your sins because He loves you.

    • Jin,
      What you say is true, but the reason we discuss these things is to ensure that we are couching the truth in the most helpful way while still being poignantly accurate.

  20. BINGO, Peter! As a Catholic and an EX-”gay” I know exactly how “Art” feels. If you hate my SIN than you hate ME. Everything about my life, my very reason for living, involved finding the next love-of-my life either at a bookstore, in a bar or in a public park. If you hate my sin you hate ME! Thanks to “COURAGE” – the group founded by the late Fr. John Harvey – I left that deathstyle years ago!

  21. So much to reply to but I will try to be succinct… maybe!

    Kenton: I disagree in regards to: “God hates the Sinner but hates the sin” is not biblical. God clearly commands us to love our enemy and Christ is the ultimate example of this. Granted, the sin is associated to the person, however, when God forgives the Sinner and “blots out the sin” (Isa 43:25) does he in turn forget the person? There has to be a separation between Sin and Sinner in some manner for God’s plan to work.

    Mike r: “a lot of words, but no one has responded to james’ wise comment. alcohol is a substance external to a human. adultery is an act. a person’s sexuality is neither of these.”

    Here’s a response. The comment is not wise. Alcohol is a substance, alcoholism is a propensity to consume the alcohol until the consumer becomes a slave to its addictive properties. Thus, an act. A person’s sexuality is not a sin, the act that follows, is. Again, an act.

    Jin: The act as in the previous argument is where the sin lies, not just in being a homosexual. An alcoholic has as much a desperate need to consume the alcohol that sustains his belief that it will help him just as much as a homosexual feels that they need a person of the same sex to fulfill theirs.

    There’s plenty of evidence to support that there is a chromosomal connection to addictive personalities as there is for homosexuality. There has to be a choice to not commit the sin. I would never presume that this would be an easy decision for anyone to make. If it was the road to Heaven would NOT be narrow.

    That’s it for now.

  22. so chris, from your perspective, your decision to have a glass of wine or a glass of water is at the same level as whether or not you’re attracted to your wife or another man?

  23. No sir. Following the analogy given we are comparing an alcoholic not a casual drinker. I think we can all agree there is a distinction. The bible has many references that refer to wine and it’s use. The sin is the abuse. The potential of wine being equivelint is actually valid based on the persons genetic predisposition. So sure, wine is equivillent.

    • so, is homosexuality only a problem once it becomes an addiction? i’m playing devil’s advocate simply because i think the analogy fails on several levels, and we do no justice to the issue or the individual we’re hoping to “help” by pretending otherwise.

      • Mike, your objection fails for a very simple reason. Every homosexual act is sin. Not every act of alcohol consumption is sin. We’re talking apples and oranges. Unless, of course, you want to try to make the case that the Bible teaches total abstinence from alcohol. That’s an entirely different proposition which I would hope that you would not attempt to defend.

  24. The bible is clear on homosexuality. Consuming alcohol is not condemned. Drunkedness and excess are. While not. The end result of the analogy works, but It seems like you are trying to obfuscate it with semantics; intentional or not :-)

    • if the bible is clear on homosexuality, then let the bible be clear on homosexuality. let’s not muddy the waters with an analogy that at best doesn’t work, and at worst trivializes something of much more depth than drinking, and touches the heart of what it means to be human.

  25. In actuality Chris, the Bible condemns all alcohol. The “wine” you see in the NT is grape juice. It is not fermented. All throughout the Bible, any fermentation such as even yeast in bread is a representation of sin. So the analogy is nonsense.

    • It doesn’t affect the analogy, it just makes the previous argument about it, moot.

    • Jim, how ’bout “strong drink”? Is strong drink alcoholic in nature? If so, could you explain Deut. 14:26 where God tells the people of Israel to use their tithe to purchase whatever their hearts desire, including wine and “strong drink”? I’m not looking to get into an argument, I’m just curious. It’s an passage that I rarely find addressed by those who take your position. Thanks.

      • JMH, as per Deut. 14:26. We have to remember that the Bible talks to us and teaches us in context. Yes, that verse does talk about “strong drink” and fermented wine. However, you have to understand that God is first of all long suffering and has ever “winked” at ourignorance. Ever being patient, God lead us along slowly using that current state of civilization to teach and lead us. So back in those days certain things were tolerated by God until the people were mature enough to become more holy and sanctified. For example: slavery was tolerated by God, polygamy was tolerated for awhile, and even Moses allowed for provisions for divorce. These were all allowed because of the people’s ignorance and God’s long suffering. However, we all know that Jesus came and magnified all things. Such is with alcohol. Alcohol of any kind was strictly forbidden to the Levites and anyone in the priestly duties at that time. As we move into the NT, we notice that we are to be “perfect” and as holy as possible which means that all men now are to be fully responsible for their own. Our bodies are to be the “temple” and we ourselves are responsible for keeping the temple (our body) holy and clean. There are no more priestly tribes we can rely on. All things have been magnified by Jesus in this way. So for us, slavery, divorce, polygamy, and even the occasional strong drink is forbidden.

  26. I did have to look up wine of the NT. Came up with the following for starters: http://www.swartzentrover.com/cotor/bible/Doctrines/Holiness/Drugs%20&%20Alcohol/Wine-Drinking%20in%20New%20Testament%20Times.htm

    Good read. Thanks for the clarification.

  27. I think that the identification of homosexuals w/ their homosexuality comes from the way they compare themselves with heterosexuals more than anything else. I agree that some gay people center their lives around their sexuality, but there are those who consider sexuality as only a part of their overall human identity, they just feel it’s OK to do as the orientation desires.

    Let’s think of what the Bible says this way: it says romantic and sexual relationship are only alright for a man & a woman in the covenant of marriage. It’s okay for a man & a woman to be romantically involved before marriage, but the relationship MUST be chaste, premarital sex is no-no, and Jesus even raised the bar saying that we cannot look at others with lust in our hearts. The great thing with heterosexually oriented people is that, although they may be tempted with premarital sex, promiscuity, pornography, adultery, etc, God still gives them a way to express their heterosexuality through chaste courtship/dating relationship and lifelong monogamous covenant of marriage. Homosexuals feel given the death penalty when they realize God does not support an iota of expression of their homosexual proclivity be it in thoughts or sexual conducts, and relationships. The problem is that the proclivity is so real and they cannot get rid of that proclivity, anymore than heterosexuals with their heterosexuality, even if they want to. They look at their hetero counterparts being given privileges by God and the gov’t to be with the opposite-sex people that they love, as facilitated by that natural heterosexual tendency, but they cannot do the same. The Christian church also, LOL, let’s be honest here, does not know how to speak the truth IN LOVE. We’re great at speaking the truth (“It’s a sin,” “it’s an abomination,” “will not inherit the Kingdom of God,” or here’s a good one, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”), but we don’t do it out of love, but out of a sense of Pharisaic superiority and self-righteousness. Research from the Barna group shows that born-again Christians are more likely to see homosexuality as sin, than divorce. Only 39% of these professed Christians survey responders agree with Jesus that divorce is only OK when it’s due to adultery…so embarrassing. They are also less likely to be motivated to support HIV/AIDS causes for obvious reasons thinking the gays deserve the disease (people, read Matthew 25:41&43…Jesus doesn’t care why the person got the sickness, He just tells you…visit them, or hang out with demons for eternity).

    Anyway, I kinda digress, but we are hypocritical when we deal with the lgbt community. That’s a fact and we have to repent from that sin.

    Going back to my earlier point, to the homosexuals, their homosexuality to heterosexuality is what left-handedness is to right-handedness. When they look to heterosexuals as their “control comparison group” rather than the standards of Scripture, that’s where the disagreement comes from and it becomes so incomprehensible why the practice of homosexuality, even of the monogamous, committed variety is still wrong. Still, I can understand their line of thinking or why they’re very distressed by the call to resist their orientation….imagine an alternate universe where God orders that men and women MUST be chaste and celibate FOR LIFE in spite of the two halves’ strong romantic and sexual attraction for each other. Please, pointing out the sinfulness of homosexuality does not give you the license to undermine the pain of having to bear such a cross. Don’t say, “Well all other sinners have to do the same bla bla bla…” TRUE, but just admit that sometimes sinners can’t always relate to each other with their individual struggles, but they must support, love, and carry each other’s burden in this life of ongoing sanctification in Christ OK? GET IT? For a bunch of people who scream that homosexuality is a sin, we might want to walk the talk in the way we minister and reach out to the gays and lesbians in order to lead them to repentance and the abundant life promised by Jesus (John 10:10). Voting and protesting ALONE are too easy and too lazy.

    So, first we might want to try sympathize with the weakness of gay and lesbian people, and at least understand why they think “hate the sin, love the sinner” equals hatred, even if you disagree. Sympathize with them the way Christ our High Priest sympathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15)…even if you don’t understand homosexuality, please have compassion.

    That being said, I think the key here is to convince gays and lesbians that the Bible does not hold them accountable for the temptation that comes in the form of their homosexual orientation. Point out to them that Jesus was tempted, but never sinned….this is the key of the distinction between “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” God died for us while we were still His enemies and God loves sinners. He died for our sins so we’re given a new heart and nature, where Jesus, instead of our sins, becomes our Master. Know that as according to the Scripture, when Adam and Eve screwed up, the human nature became tainted by the original sin, and unfortunately, their orientation/tendency is a consequence of the fall, but they’re not culpable for it. This is SO KEY, because a lot of gays and lesbians still think that they’re 100% hell-bound because of an orientation they did not ask for or can control.

    So “hate the sin, but love the sinner” is dare I say it, a useful rhetoric, but the context behind it must be explained, especially with a group as misunderstood, persecuted, and marginalized as the gay community.

    • Yeah it’s true that no one can dictate what sinful desires they are born with due to the sin-corrupted flesh. But it’s also very important to remember that the culture to which most people subscribe, including the LGBT community, is one that holds that every desire/passion is either God-approved, or there is no God and therefore no logical or moral argument against it. Both leading to the belief that what we do with our bodies and what we do with consent is perfectly acceptable as long as it doesn’t cause physical or emotional harm. So it isn’t enough to simply say, “God doesn’t restrict you from having the desire, but only for acting on it.” In fact that’s not helpful at all. We must first establish the foundation:

      “There is a God who created all things, including human beings, for his glory and for his purposes. Therefore, he holds us accountable to him in every way for how we live our lives with regard to him, ourselves, and others, for everything we do either gives glory to God for who he is, or states that we despise his character and his authority.”

      That’s the initial foundation of our worldview, and from that worldview, how we are to live is defined by God. We can’t engage the culture from its own worldview. And too often that is exactly what we do. It’s from the biblical worldview that we can actually speak the truth in love. Otherwise, we are not speaking the truth, and we are not doing so in love, but in blindness.

      • I tend to use the terms “orientation,” “proclivity,” “predisposition,” and “sinful desires” interchangeably. Homosexuality in the secular world is dealt within the discipline of psychology, where the psychologists often refer to various concepts of mental phenomena and processes as “constructs.” I just think what we Christians call the “sinful desires of homosexuality” is equal to what the secular world calls the construct of “homosexual orientation.” Yes, they use the term “orientation” as if it carries a morally neutral connotation, which is why I think the Christian Church goes gaga because then Christians get paranoid that it can be used by the homosexual activists to justify their ACTING on the proclivity. Who says I have to use that term in a morally neutral manner? I’m a Christian, and I know that homosexual orientation is a sinful desire, but you can’t hold someone culpable for it, God will only see them as guilty of violating the commandment against homosexuality when:
        1. They entertain the homosexual thoughts
        2. Have sex with those of the same-sex
        3. Have emotional/romantic relationship with the same-sex monogamously or polyamorously
        All Scripture explicitly says on homosexuality, after all, can be summed up this way: don’t engage in the behavior.
        IN A SENSE, depending on you mean, God doesn’t restrict us from having the sinful desire because we’re all born sinners from the moment our mothers conceived us (Psalm 51:5). In Christ, though, the power of the desire can be restricted and put to death. I wrote in my previous post that when we choose God’s salvation, Jesus becomes our Master, not our sins and its desires.

        So yeah, I absolutely agree in pointing out God’s law and how we’ve all fallen short of His perfect standards. You are correct that when we spread the Gospel, we need to make ANYONE that we minister to, NOT just gays and lesbians, know that they are not as morally good as they think they are (well, they often think they’re “good people,” right? Which is UNTRUE, of course). That way, we show them their powerlessness to resist sin and be up to God’s standards apart from the cross of Jesus Christ, where the perfect atonement sacrifice was offered to satisfy God’s wrath once and for all. Your quoted statement nowhere mentions Jesus, however. Without Jesus, there is no foundation for reconciliation, justification, sanctification, and regeneration. We show the gospel of Christ to gays and lesbians not simply to tell them that their sinful desires lead them to do things that God sees as abominations leading to an eternity separated from our Lord. He also gives a solution through Jesus to be given a new heart & nature so they can live by the Spirit, instead of satisfying their flesh/sinful homosexual desire in this context. If you wanna tell someone they have a problem, make sure you also tell them the solution, otherwise you’re leaving them lost in despair and confusion.
        Just for the record, read Romans 7:14-25, all of us will still struggle with our sinful desires even after we come into a relationship with Jesus…it’s a life of ongoing repentance and we will never be made truly perfect in this lifetime. Gays and lesbians who are being ministered need to know this so they don’t freak out and give up, should they decide to repent and follow Jesus.
        As far as that “do what feels good & natural as long as it doesn’t hurt others,” well…(and I have to thank Matt Chandler in his Homosexuality sermon posted in this website), that the greatest commandment is to love God with all that we’ve got…loving others/golden rule is also very important, but loving God supersedes that. Jesus says…if you love God, you obey Him, so if He says homosexuality is a sin, we are not to call evil good, and good evil.

      • So, as you can see, I very much agree with you on a lot of things. I still stand by my previous comment that the Christian church does not know how to speak the truth in love. I realize I sounded sarcastic, but I was actually serious too. It is right to let them know that we do not support the practice of homosexuality, because it is a sin, but the thing is the gay community does not suffer from a lack of knowledge in this area. For years, the Christian Church has preached against homosexuality, time and time again we proclaim it’s sinful. When gay activists fight for their legal equality to marry and parent, they know that the largely Christian religious right is their opponent. What have they not already known about our viewpoint on this issue?

        When I look at how Jesus ministered to the drunkards, gluttons, prostitutes, and tax collectors, I began to reflect on why these sinners welcomed Him…and I contrast that with why the gay community hates the church (His bride, hands, feet, and body) so much. Jesus was a rabbi, right? Those sinners then very likely knew that since he was a Man of God, then He could not have approved of their lifestyle. Then it dawned on me that the sinners were drawn to Jesus probably because He had no qualms hanging out, dining, and associating with them. So, I sort of make the conclusion that we must not stop preaching the biblical authority on homosexuality, but love is so much more than just being truthful in pointing out what’s wrong. Like Jesus with those sinners, it involves us personally investing in the lives of gays and lesbians…show the love of Jesus so they can come to Him…not for the sake of approving their lifestyle or be lukewarm, but so we can lead them to the life of repentance, life by the Spirit free from the power of that homosexual desire, the abundant life that Jesus promised in John 10:10.

  28. The reason we’re having too much trouble comparing Biblical definitions with “homosexuality” is because “homosexuality” didn’t exist until the 19th century. The whole idea that someone IS a “homosexual” – indentifying himself as someone who is EXCLUSIVELY attracted to someone of the same sex – is a HOAX! It makes as much sientific sense as “multiple personality disorder”, “Piltdown Man” and “global warming”. Throughout history men have alsways “done stuff” with other guys, but Jesus wouldn’t have condemned men who wanted to get “married” to other guys, collect antiques, and raise a family. NOBODY THOUGHT LIKE THAT! When I was “gay” I bought into the entire concept that I was BORN that way and therefore couldn’t help myself. It’s time for these guys to get over themselves, man up and GROW up so we don’t have to keep talking about it anymore!

    • Well, all of us are born “that way” from the moment our mothers conceived us (Proverbs 51:5). As in, we are all born sinners, but being born with certain sinful predisposition does not justify satisfying the disposition of that desire in thoughts and conducts.

  29. [...] dialogue recorded at this link is a fabulous example of doing many things right in a conversation with somebody you disagree with. [...]

  30. [...] Posted By Justin Taylor On January 29, 2013 @ 5:22 pm In Uncategorized | 65 Comments [...]

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