Albert Mohler has a terrific piece in Christianity Today about the latest tantrum over Tim Tebow. In case you missed it, Tebow backed out of a speaking gig at a prominent Baptist church whose pastor is known for provocative statements and for teaching that homosexual behavior is sinful. We don’t know all the reasons Tebow canceled the engagement, but we do know the pressure to do so was intense. The secular press can be as fundamentalist as any hard core Baptist when it comes to its orthodoxies.

And at present, one of the worst heresies is to be in the same zip code with someone who takes a firm stance on homosexuality. From the Giglio Imbroglio to the Tebow Tantrum, or even the Chick-Fil-A controversy before that, we see the new way our world works. “If you espouse views we deem intolerant,” the logic goes, “or collaborate with someone who does, we will not tolerate you or anything you stand for.” It’s the Ivan Drago approach to cultural persuasion: I must break you.

So someone needs to refuse to be broken. Maybe some famous Christian athlete or actor needs to do it. Maybe a famous academic. Maybe a well known musician or humanitarian. Maybe you will be called upon this week to give account for your faith. Give it time and most of us will need to say something. What we must not do is allow the world to dictate what is and what is not a socially acceptable view on sexuality. The world may do that anyway, but we can at least play a little defense by refusing to play the game on their terms.

The next time—and there will be a next time—some famous Christian is pilloried in the press for maybe, possibly, at some point now or in the past holding to the traditional view of marriage, I hope he (or she) will come up to the microphone and say something like this:

Thanks for coming out today. I’ll try to make this brief and get right to the point.

Some people are really upset because they think I believe God does not approve of homosexual behavior. Well, I’d like to clarify: that is what I believe. Like everyone I believe some actions are good and some are not. We all have some form of morality. Thankfully, on a lot of topics most everyone agrees. Almost everybody agrees that murder is wrong and stealing is wrong and telling a bold-faced lie is wrong. But on other topics, we don’t all agree. That’s part of life. That’s part of being human. We have different views on raising children, on religion, on sex before marriage, on marriage itself, and on a hundred other issues.

I’m a Christian. That doesn’t mean I think I’m better than anyone. In fact, I’m a Christian because I know how bad I am and that I need a Savior. But as a Christian I believe the Bible. I believe God is smarter than I am. I believe God tells us about himself, tells us how to be saved, and tells us how to live in this book. That’s actually what most Americans have believed about the Bible throughout our history. I understand that some people in this country don’t believe in God or the Bible. I understand that some people interpret the Bible differently. But I think the Bible is pretty clear that sex is a gift to be experienced in the context of marriage between a man and a woman. I’m challenged by this teaching too. I am tempted to sin in a thousand different ways, including ways that involve my sexuality. But if God tells me what’s right and wrong in the Bible, I have to trust him. If Jesus is really Lord, then he gets to the call the shots.

I don’t expect everyone in a free country to agree that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord or that the Bible is the inspired word of God. But in a free country I expect that we can hold to different views without automatically resorting to shame and ridicule. I hope that my fans will understand that we can still root for the same team or watch the same movies even if we believe in some different things. I also hope my critics will try to understand why billions of people all around the world believe what I do about God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, faith, and marriage.

So the short answer to your question is: Yes I do still believe God designed sex for marriage between a man and a woman. And yes, I’m still accepting the invitation to speak. I don’t fault you for you doing your job. And I don’t deny your right to disagree with me in the strongest terms. But I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not going to let you dictate the terms of this conversation. I’m not going to be intimidated by bad press. And I’m not going to live my whole life trying to prove that I’m something I’m not. It ain’t gonna happen.

I’m a Bible-believing Christian. There, I said it. I’m out of the closet.  I’m not bitter. I’m not on a crusade. I just think it’s time to stand up and say enough is enough. I don’t like making people angry. But I can’t live my life to make you happy.

I don’t think I have anything else to say about the subject. If you want to know what I believe and what Christians are like, I’d be happy to take you with me to church anytime. I hope you all have a great day, because that’s what I plan on having now that this is over.

I don’t know exactly what Louie Giglio or Tim Tebow should have said or done. I’m not privy to all the information or behind-the-scenes conversation. This post isn’t about the past. It’s about what is coming in our future. At some point (and many points actually), Christians need to simply take it on the chin, not back down, affirm the truth, put in a good word for Jesus, and keep on smiling.

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Comments:


141 thoughts on “What Someone Needs to Say”

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Steveland McSwain: “Marriage equality in America would undoubtedly provide another critical cog in our mission to see democracy in every corner of the world.

    Liberal Culture Warrior.

  2. Hodge says:

    “We fail to recognize that the New Testament (and the first coming of Jesus) gave us new laws, invalidating the laws of the Old Testament.”

    This is pure folk religion. This concept does not come from the New Testament or Jesus Himself. I think this folk ideology is the biggest reason evangelicals/emergings make these arguments about homosexuality and other . They don’t take Jesus at His Word when He said He did not come to annul the law, but to fulfill it and commands His people to obey even the least of these (referring to the moral laws He’s about to expound upon in the sermon as an example of what He wants us to do with the Old Testament). Paul says that the Scripture (largely referencing the Old Testament) is sufficient to equip the man of god for every good work. And you think the New Testament invalidates the Old? Again, that’s obviously a misread of the New Testament.

  3. Hodge: Unlike most, I tend to read about complex topics before expounding irresponsibly on the matter. This is not to suggest you have not done so yourself. I am substantiating my comments by letting you know they were not conjured with in-depth empirical data.

    Old Covenant Theology is a set of legal edicts (documented in the Old Testament) contained with the covenant God made with the people and the nation of Israel on Mount Sinai (The Ten Commandments). Those laws were rendered moot in Luke 22:20, when during the Last Supper, Jesus says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This is called “New Covenant Theology.” Ultimately, the New Covenant Theology is a fulfillment of the covenant established with Abraham, a promise to take God’s people to new heavens and new earths (Revelations 21 & 22). It is worth noting that, unlike laws against haircuts and eating shellfish, Jesus makes it a point to discuss the Ten Commandments, making those laws transcendant while making the laws in Old Testament not mentioned quiescent (which literally means “on pause”). New Covenant Theology (widely accepted, not as fringe or “folksy” as one imagines) is the basis of my conclusion concerning Jesus’ ultimate acceptance (more like not really caring) of same-sex couples.

    With respect to your claims of a misread of the New Testament, if you are interested, might I suggest reading “Introduction to New Covenant Theology” by Dennis M. Swanson, Vice President for Library and Educational Assessment Book Review Editor, The Master’s Seminary Journal. Here’s the link:

    http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj18f.pdf

    You may choose to read this. You also choose, upon reading this, not to pursue any further investigation into New Covenant Theology. But, these ideas have been around for awhile. Certainly, with enough scrutiny, anything is disputable. One should have as much information about both positions before such a rebuke.

    In short, it is probably “best practice” to assume folks have done their homework. It might even encourage you to bolster your claims with additional readings. Then again, you might find yourself with conflicting notions, ultimately leading to a reversal on your position. I guess you have to decide which premise is scarier: nationwide marriage equality or the idea that you might ultimately accept it as Jesus’ will.

  4. Kenton says:

    With the subject of Jesus’ position on the Torah, I think we need to take a step back. Some will argue that Jesus intended to continue everything in the Torah unchanged. Others will argue that he intended to get rid of all morality pertaining to sexual lifestyle. I don’t think either of these are accurate. There are two things we should keep in mind, if this is the rabbit hole we’re going down:

    1) Jesus spoke to Jews, in a Jewish setting, and therefore a Jewish context. Consequently, what Jesus doesn’t directly oppose, he supports. This is apparent because if he said, “Sexual ethics no longer matter to you”, he would have made that clear to a society that was quite conservative on the issue (in light of the relatively liberal practices of Greeks). It is markedly not one of the things Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for, and his only teaching on sexual practice is MORE strict, not less. So it is rather certain that Jesus shared the Jewish beliefs on homosexuality, and therefore intended their continuity in the New Covenant. The fact that the other New Testament writers continue to make a big emphasis on sexual purity, especially in a non-Jewish context, is even more evidence that Jesus held the same (and there is enough continuity in content between the Gospels and epistles that we can confidently say that they agree).

    2) The primary ways in which the New Testament says that its new covenant is different from the old is with regard to the sacrificial system, legal punishment, clear national law (tithes and taxes and whatnot) and ritual custom. Everything else seems quite continuous.

    There are two basic approaches inherent in the position that one takes on the old covenant and Jesus’ words. One is that what ever Jesus doesn’t mention is irrelevant. The other is that whatever Jesus doesn’t mention is still relevant. The reason I go with the latter is that Jesus spoke to Jews, to whom the old covenant was given, while the new covenant is also for Gentiles. Therefore, there will be some things that Jesus doesn’t even address, simply because some things weren’t worth mentioning (if you agree on it, why bring it up?). And usually, those who take the former view also have a view that the epistles are a departure from Jesus’ teachings (especially Paul’s). I’m not saying that’s you, but it’s usually the case. Keep in mind that the same person who is actually clearest with regards to the temporal nature of the old covenant, Paul, is also the same one who stresses its continuity in everything but sacrifices and rituals.

  5. Hodge says:

    Steve,

    You said: “Hodge: Unlike most, I tend to read about complex topics before expounding irresponsibly on the matter. This is not to suggest you have not done so yourself. I am substantiating my comments by letting you know they were not conjured with in-depth empirical data.”

    I tend to get graduate degrees in Old Testament and New Testament before I expound on these matters. I don’t care what you’ve read. Your understanding is bad exegesis brought on by folk religion. Scholars do it too, but it’s not excuse to say that you’ve read others who make the same mistakes you do. The New Covenant isn’t new because it discontinues the Old Testament moral law. It’s new because it fulfills it. Christ is clear on that point. You’ve ignored what I’ve said, as one who has studied the issue for years from the primary sources. So whether you feel that is irresponsible of me to point out the obvious to those of us who have the facts at our disposal is a bit irrelevant to me. The facts are the facts.

  6. Hodge says:

    “Regarding a practical outworking for the Christian life, NCT affirms that the
    Christian is required to obey only the “Law of Christ,” that is, those issues of conduct
    that have been detailed in the New Covenant Scriptures. That causes some ethical
    problems for NCT. Many prohibitions in the OT are not repeated in the NT. The
    most common example is the prohibition against marrying one’s own sister. Since
    all states in the United States have specific laws against sibling marriage, NCT
    affirms that the principle of Romans 13 applies to the Christian, including the
    requirement to be submissive to the governing authorities. However, if no civil law
    were in place, as Lehrer is forced to admit, “[I]t seems that if you and your sister are
    both believers and you live in a country that deems marriage between siblings to be
    a lawful practice, then your marriage would be holy in G od’s sight.”

    Forget your sister, you’d be arguing that marrying a donkey would be holy in God’s sight too. The absurdities of folk religion.

  7. Melody says:

    But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Mark 10:6-9

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

    Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. I Corinthians 6:9-11

  8. For everyone convinced homosexuals will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven : if that’s truly the case, if you’re that convinced that same-sex couples with not make into Heaven, then why care if they’re allowed to get married. With that much conviction about something, I don’t understand why more people of that mindset don’t sleep easier at night and don’t waste their time and money fighting against it. If same-sex couples aren’t getting into Heaven, and you’re convinced you are, why even sweat it?

  9. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Steveland McSwain, do you believe that Scripture (Both OT/NT) teaches that same-sex genital activity is a sin? That same-sex genital activity is a sin back then, now, tomorrow, forever, for all people everywhere according to the clear commands of God’s Holy Word?

  10. Hodge says:

    Steve, if you’re convinced that those who have sex with animals will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, then why care if they’re allowed to get married?

    Here’s why I care what the state does. As a Christian, I’m commanded to do good and argue for the good within the society God places me. I also care about my children and other children, people Jesus considered the least of these who ought not have stumbling blocks set in their way, who are influenced by what society allows in its laws, as there is always a correspondence in a person’s mind, right or wrong as it may be, that what is legal is also moral. This is assumed because government itself has become for us arbiters of the norm. Hence, if it declares homosexuality to be a legitimate sexual union that can constitute a marriage, it will convince generations to come that such is normative and morally acceptable–thus damning not only themselves but others as well.
    But beyond even this, we should care about homosexuals themselves who also will be convinced that legal victories vindicate their understanding that their sin is normative and acceptable to God, who the government and zeitgeist represent in their minds.

    In essence, I care because I should care. Why would you care about the government declaring bestiality the norm and grounds for a legitimate marriage?

  11. Alan says:

    @Steve, you’re totally right about the civic aspect of this.

    Regarding the civic aspect of this, if a single recognized religion in our country performs a gay marriage it is the state’s job to either sanction it (for whatever purposes states sanction marriage) or to not sanction any marriages. For me to have the freedom that I have to worship my God in my way, others must have the same. If majority-rule trumped religious freedom (when it came to defining sacraments), we’d all need to be breaking out the rosaries. Freedom of religion stops at the church/temple/synagogue/mosque steps.

    “Morality-Police Christians” often don’t understand this delicate and precious aspect of religious freedom. They will get hung up with Merriam-Webster as though defining covenants of people in OTHER FAITHS somehow is what they are being called to do. It is kind of sad really, and leads people AWAY from Christ.

    Steve, your question as to why folks seem to care about what homosexuals do if they’re all going to hell anyway is complicated. Though the religious scribes of Jesus’ day didn’t understand his metaphors about salvation, every middle-school-educated Southern-Baptist (cheap shot I know – just illustration purposes here) thinks he/she knows exactly what one needs to do to be saved. The Biblical principles of being “born again” and “profession with mouth and belief in heart” have been boiled down to an Americanized “sinner’s prayer.” 2nd century Christians wouldn’t recognize what’s going on in American steeple-buildings today. There were complex denominations who fellowshipped in houses and had NO BIBLE. GENERATIONS OF CHRISTIANS HAD NO BIBLE!!! And yet if you ask most fundamentalists/evangelicals if someone could be saved who had never read the Bible, they’d rebuke you. Then give you a song and dance to explain away several hundred years of Bible-free Christians, who read fragments and heard stories, and yet came to believe. Pop-Calvinism and double-speak have allowed Christians to become filthy rich, while picking and choosing what morals they want to find in scripture (note how the “pro-life” movement is not concerned with 140,000 civilian deaths in Iraq FUNDED by the government). Then they allow themselves to be consumed with morality issues. These morality issues were not replaced when the old covenant gave way to the new covenant, but they were RE-FRAMED by Jesus in a way that shifts what should be the emphasis away from law to those things that speak to the spirit of the law and reflect more fully the grace of God… faith, love, forgiveness, charity etc. Most on this board know this to be true, whether they can admit it now or not.

    There are seminaries and bible colleges that aren’t accredited, or are accredited by bible college associations that the rest of the main-stream academy sees for what they are. Ironically, some of them will blow a whistle and scream about exegetical acrobatics of secular scholars, while simultaneously doing interpretative dance maneuvers that would make Fred Astaire and Michael Jackson blush. These limited understandings are also reinforced by multi-millionaire false teachers who run the “business” of Christianity in America: http://www.inplainsite.org/html/tele-evangelist_lifestyles.html

    The Pharisees that Jesus criticized made bold moral proclamations, public prayers etc. It is fascinating to me that when it comes to selling all one owns, praying in a closet, giving someone in need a second cloak, fighting against usury, opposing violence that many Christians will delve deeply until they can feel comfortable that those were meant for certain people in certain contexts, yet when it comes to alcohol, homosexuality, abortion etc. they will assume that it is meant for all people at all times. This brings me full circle to my original post, which I stand by.

    Christ’s completion of the law allows each individual person to have a relationship with the living God. What the Bible says about how to behave on a daily basis can be edifying in the context of an individual believer’s walk with God (we heard such testimony earlier on this board), and can also be edifying in small accountability covenants. Public proclamations and exhaustive debates attempting to define sin for all people (of another Christian Denomination or another faith altogether) is wasteful, provides space for hate and is contrary to the mandates Christ gave His followers.

  12. Hodge says:

    “Christ’s completion of the law allows each individual person to have a relationship with the living God. What the Bible says about how to behave on a daily basis can be edifying in the context of an individual believer’s walk with God (we heard such testimony earlier on this board), and can also be edifying in small accountability covenants. Public proclamations and exhaustive debates attempting to define sin for all people (of another Christian Denomination or another faith altogether) is wasteful, provides space for hate and is contrary to the mandates Christ gave His followers.”

    I guess we can count on Alan for letting all of the pedophiles know that when the state no longer condemns the practice, there is no need to define it as sin and nothing from which the pedophile needs to repent.

    My point, of course, is that all of his empty assertions (i.e., there is no argument here) above sound very good when you’re talking about something you don’t really believe to be that bad of a sin. When we get on things you do think are really bad . . . Well, then, I guess you’d start moralizing like the Pharisees? BTW, I’ve already pointed out that the Pharisees were condemned by Jesus’ public proclamations of sin and moralizing. They were judging others based on ritual cleanliness. Again, it helps to actually read the Gospels rather than slide by on a common caricature.

  13. George says:

    Using nice words and diplomacy doesn’t make you any less of a bigot. This attitude in Christianity disgusts me and I think God is shaking his head in disappointment at you. Get over yourself, have some empathy and live life like a human. Let others love like you love. Otherwise, I’m sorry, but you are not a Christian.

  14. Alan says:

    @Hodge,

    I already stated on here that I stand against violence against others. Part of our duty as citizens is to define criminal activity. We have that earthly authority in a democracy. Thus, our representatives legislate on our behalf. When they decide that we need speed-limits (even if I don’t like them and choose to drive faster) they do so based on the guiding ethics of the constitution.

    Defining a criminal act in an earthly representative government is something we absolutely have the authority to do. To define what sin is and is not for all believers and/or unbelievers is NOT something we have the authority to do (that authority is God’s alone). The slippery slope argument that people go into about “what’s next, pedophilia? bestiality? Dogs and Cats Living together? etc. etc.” ignores the American (though perhaps not expressly Biblical) principle that adults in our society should have choice to generally act as they’d like in the privacy of their own home, so long as it doesn’t violate the rights of another (murder, rape, pedophilia, assault etc.). Thus we make certain behaviors illegal. We live in a democracy, not a theocracy. Alcohol is legal, though some denominations forbid it. Other denominations don’t forbid it, yet secular research tells us that when used by people of a certain age, the collateral damage is minimal relative to the right of the individual.

    The limits on Religious freedom are when it bumps up against the rights of a neighbor. Thus, I may handle snakes in my worship, but if I put snakes on my neighbors porch there are probably earthly laws against that for my neighbor’s protection.

    Homosexuality is not violence against another person. It just isn’t. Thus it is not worthy of civic laws in our pluralistic democracy. The Catholic Church is anti birth control – there are some 70 million members, yet there are denominations that don’t prohibit birth control, and the use of such pills does nothing to violate the rights of another. Is homosexuality Sin? This is where individual personal conviction comes in. I trust God to do God’s work in the heart of each believer, and realize that defining sin for those not in the faith is something I don’t have the authority to do.

  15. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Alan: “There are many devout, prayerful and educated Christians among the ranks of the Lutheran Church, Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ etc. who believe that taking “a firm stance on homosexuality” is beyond our pay grade.”

    and

    “Each denomination believes that it is interpreting the Bible correctly.”

    Jared Wilson, Fellow TGC blogger: ““Did God actually say . . . ?”
    - Genesis 3:1

    I think of this relationship when I ponder the ambitions of the emergents, the neo-evangelicals, or whatever they’re calling themselves now (or not calling themselves) in seeking to commandeer the the conversation of the evangelical movement. “Christianity must change or die,” a satanic bishop wrote a few years back. His spiritual progeny are catching up to agree with new books and new publishing houses, new conferences, blogs, and talk shows. But we’ve seen the trajectory for years. They can take us no place worth going. Talking out of both sides of their mouths, we ought not be surprised when the forked tongues become more evident.

    Professing to be wise, they reveal themselves to be fools. “Did God actually say?” they begin. Then they’ll tell you the answer: “No.” Before long, they insist the gospel cannot expand in this brave new world without a brave new faith that coddles disbelief and calls sin virtue. When you get right down to it, the whole enterprise is nonsensical and self-defeating. Cultural rebukes from a relativistic reading of the Scriptures and of historic orthodoxy guts any presumed authority in the rebuke from the outset.

    Church, only let us hold true to what we have attained (Philipians 3:16). In the days coming, a regular re-reading of the book of Jude might be in order. The talking faces of the post-evangelical Jello salad want to help evangelicals navigate the uncharted waters of post-Christendom. But Jesus gave us plenty of words about unfaithful stewards and hired hands.”

    Jared C. Wilson’s post applies to some comments and commenters on this thread.

  16. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Alan: “Is homosexuality Sin? This is where individual personal conviction comes in.”

    What’s your individual personal conviction on whether Scripture teaches that same-sex genital activity is sin?

  17. Alan says:

    TU&D,

    My individual personal conviction, is both individual and personal. I don’t know you personally, and I am not in a congregation or accountability covenant with you, which carries with it a level of intimacy and honesty for this kind of dialogue.

    In the spirit of the debate however, let me say that if you knew me in real life, outside of this semi-artificial environment, you would know a man who is by most people’s standards almost ascetic. Thus you would know a life that is both free of the moral transgressions that many maintain as so important, but that this comes with a view of others that starts with love that I’m still working to perfect.

    Having fellowshipped in both (among other) groups, I can say that I treat myself like a conservative Southern-Baptist, and I treat my neighbor as though I’m a liberal Lutheran.

    If you look at statements by those two denominations on homosexuality, and you understand that I am drawing a strong line between what the Bible asks of me personally (behavior wise) and how it asks me to engage my neighbor (as re-framed and commanded by Christ), then you will understand my stance on homosexuality.

  18. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Alan: “you will understand my stance on homosexuality.”

    My current understanding is that you affirm Scripture’s transcendent and clear teaching that same-sex genital activity is sin. I hope my understanding is correct.

  19. Kenton says:

    Alan,

    I am a bit confused. When you say you behave towards your neighbor as a liberal Lutheran, does that include what you say about God, or simply what you do with regard to your neighbor? If I understand correctly, you are saying that you treat your neighbor as though they have no obligation or accountability to you for their behavior (in other words, with no expectations of conduct), but when God comes up in conversation, how do you choose to engage them?

  20. Alan says:

    TU&D,

    You asked about personal conviction, so I answered accordingly. If you’d like to ask about transcendent and clear teaching, ask that plainly, for it is a different question.

    Perhaps that you seem to not believe that these questions differ is our fundamental disagreement.

    As to your earlier post, I’m guessing you’re referencing John Spong, his stuff is challenging to read most certainly.

    I’ve not heard the terms emergents, or neo-evangelicals; very interesting. As I read your words about this movement, I am forced to reflect and imagine what conversations were held in the halls of power among Catholics when Martin Luther made his stand. How they must have wailed and gnashed their teeth about the watered-down pseudo-Christians who were re-interpreting things for their modern understanding. I wonder what the Gnostics thought of the post-Nicaea church. hmmmm.

    Cheers,
    Alan

  21. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Alan: “you will understand my stance on homosexuality.”

    Alan, my current understanding is that you affirm Scripture’s transcendent and clear teaching that same-sex genital activity is sin. I hope my understanding is correct.

  22. Alan says:

    @Kenton,

    You understand me partially, which is to say that behavior is not part of the conversation. A sinful nature into which we all fall may be part of the conversation, but I don’t dwell on the specificity of sin “A” or sin “B” unless in a covenant accountability arrangement. It is quite easy to discuss separation from God and the justification for the need for reunification within the context of sin nature, while not wasting time on assertions about someone else’s behavior. Does this make sense?

    @TU&D,

    Did you see my response? It was at 12:59pm. If it’s not coming through, let me know and I’ll re-post.

    Cheers,
    Alan

  23. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Alan: “If you’d like to ask about transcendent and clear teaching, ask that plainly”

    Alan, my current understanding is that you affirm Scripture’s transcendent and clear teaching that same-sex genital activity is sin. Is that what you indeed affirm?

  24. Melody says:

    Steveland McSwain if you do not believe what the bible says then why even bother?

    Unrepentant sinners will not escape hell. We are condemned already unless we repent and believe on Jesus Christ. Am I guilty of almost all of those things mentioned in the verses? Yes and it wouldn’t matter if I were guilty of something completely different than that list. If you are guilty of one then you are guilty of them all. There is no grading curve on sin. A homosexual is no different than a liar or someone that speaks disrespectful to a parent. Sin is sin. That is what you don’t seem to accept. Unless we repent and believe in the Son then we cannot be saved. Someone, another common every day sinner, changing the rules on what is sin save NO ONE. You do not have that power. Only God has that power. He created us and He gets to make the rules.

    We are called to care if someone is going to hell. That is the problem I have with people like you and Alan that lie to them in order to keep them going there. You are the truly hateful ones.

  25. Hodge says:

    “I already stated on here that I stand against violence against others.”

    I’ve already told you, and you didn’t address it, that the Bible considers homosexuality violence toward humanity. That’s why it, along with many other deviant sexual practices, are considered worthy of death in Scripture.

    Beyond that, it is always harmful to another person to become a stumbling block to them. If a man sins himself, his sin is against himself, but if a man gets another to sin, then his sin is against another. He destroys the other person’s relationship with God, he destroys his psychological conditioning, and may ruin the other person for life.

    Now, tell me how you would or would not condemn pedophilia in ancient Greece where it was perfectly legal and even children many times saw it as a rite of passage. What harm does it bring to the child according to your arbitrary definition? Is it physical harm? Pedophilia doesn’t always bring physical harm. Is it psychological harm? Then a whole host of other things, including homosexuality, should be outlawed. Does it bring harm to humanity? I would argue it does, but you seem to think that sex is a harmless act, so I’m trying to understand how you would condemn it if the laws and zeitgeist of the land change as they did in ancient Greece and as they are beginning to change in some countries.

  26. Alan says:

    TU&D,

    Oh, I got it… sarcasm.

    My answer: I do not have the authority to define sin, so I won’t/can’t affirm that statement for you.

    @Melody,

    I don’t deny for a minute that our sin-nature separates all of us from God. But again, let me say that conversations about specific behaviors and what is sinful and what isn’t is something that has a time and a place (Bible study groups, accountability covenants, prayer groups, congregations etc.) NOT a public forum.

    By the way, I was deeply offended that you wrote that I lie to people. I wish you knew me. Perhaps if we’d met on the street or in church, or at a conference you’d choose kinder words.

  27. Hodge says:

    “But again, let me say that conversations about specific behaviors and what is sinful and what isn’t is something that has a time and a place (Bible study groups, accountability covenants, prayer groups, congregations etc.) NOT a public forum.”

    So Jesus is being inappropriate for calling out the Pharisees, Herod, and the rulers of the Gentiles in public? From what sins is He calling them to repent? How does one preach the biblical gospel that calls others to repent if it’s not a civic crime? Was Paul wrong for calling out the people in Athens for sinning by trusting in false deities when that wasn’t a civic crime? For someone who doesn’t have the authority to define anything, it sure seems like you have redefined the Christian message and witness en toto. BTW, saying that one is wrong to make public proclamations concerning sin is saying it is wrong to do so, so you are defining right and wrong, whether you label that wrong as sin or not (everyone does). It’s merely a matter of where you’re getting your authority to define it.

  28. Hodge says:

    Alan,

    Is it a sin to molest little children or might it be, since you can’t define sin, simply a cultural taboo that we’ve outlawed? Is murder a sin, or since you don’t have the authority to define sin, might it just be something we decide to outlaw, but God doesn’t really consider it a sin?

    As I said before, you’re arguing this way because you don’t really believe homosexuality is that bad of a sin, not because you really believe anything you’re arguing.

  29. Alan says:

    @Hodge,

    Jesus has God’s authority. Paul’s authority is more similar to that of Christ’s followers, and his instruction to early church leaders categorically fits the kind of covenants I’ve described for the proper context for those discussions.

    You wrote: Is murder a sin, or since you don’t have the authority to define sin, might it just be something we decide to outlaw, but God doesn’t really consider it a sin?

    The answer is in your question – God defines sin.

    Nobody on this post has been able to answer sufficiently (or at all) HOW we human types defined interracial marriage as a sin using biblical principles, and yet have (presumably) changed in this regard. Does anyone here wonder how something so clear in the Bible 70-100 years ago is so NOT clear now. Can anyone really explain that?

    For 1,400 years of Christian tradition (give or take 100) the vast majority of Christians believed that the intercession of a priest was necessary to communicate with God. How did this change? Was it not clearly in the scriptures?

    Feel free to state, and re-state the same verses over and over again. Feel free to say it is “clear” that behavior A or behavior B is wrong…

    OR

    Come to understand that when Christ talked to His followers about praying in your closet, not calling out a speck in your brother’s eye while you had a plank in yours (to say noting of a non-brother), not casting a stone at someone unless you were blameless, turning the other cheek, forgiving someone 7 x 70 times, loving your neighbor as yourself, actions towards the least of these being in truth action towards Christ and that these teachings to His followers spell out a clear invitation to love, serve, forgive and be humble. That the living God will work with those who seek Him towards wholeness/holiness and away from sin with a power and authority that He alone has.

  30. Kenton says:

    @Alan,

    I understand what you’re saying, but the only problem is that the Bible is quite clear on actions that constitute sin. They aren’t circumstantial, like, “Well, in this case it’s sin, in this case it isn’t.” There are numerous lists in the Bible about what actions (and thoughts and emotions and intentions) constitute sin. So I don’t think it is possible to have a discussion with someone about separation from God due to a sinful nature, without having some sort of basis for what constitutes sinful action. And while I agree that it isn’t our place to require godliness of non-Christians, I don’t think that means that we don’t have the prerogative to define sin (to simply reiterate what God has already said about it).

    That said, my own understanding of evangelism, gleaned from Acts, is that it is not primarily about human sin but about Christ’s lordship, and the coming kingdom and judgment/wrath of God. The necessary response is repentance and faith, because the root sin is that we have all acted without regard for God’s authority and goodness. But you can’t tell that message without having some sort of clarity about what God is going to judge.

    The problem with identifying a “sin nature” and the resulting separation from God, without identifying what is sin, is that sin gets defined as “honest mistakes”, and separation from God gets defined as “an unfortunate accident”, and God becomes simply the person who wants a relationship with no commitments. And you can’t expect that the person who does end up believing in Jesus will comprehend or even embrace godly discipline and sanctification. Because their view of God is that he has no expectations. And He does have expectations. That’s why He judges.

    This doesn’t mean that evangelism = pontification. But it does mean that our engagement with non-Christians must include clearly defined definitions of sin. And the Bible is clear. We don’t make this stuff up.

    @Hodge

    I think one of the problems we run into is that we don’t recognize the difference of apostolic interaction with Jews and Gentiles. Notice how Jesus and the apostles interact with the Jews. Heavy focus on their sin and rebellion against God, their failure to submit to the one God sent, their self-righteousness and selective good works, their lack of holy love, etc. But with the Greeks, there’s almost no mention of their specific sins, not even sexual immorality. Just read Acts. Paul’s message to them is entirely and solely about their idolatry, but it’s in terms of their ignorance about the true God. The focus is on the fact that they don’t know God, and therefore they live and act without regard for God (all their living and doing is therefore “sin”); for which God will judge the world.

    So why this difference of interaction? Why don’t the apostles treat Greeks the same as they do Jews? Because the Jews received the Torah of God through the mediation of angels. They received knowledge of God. The Gentiles did not know God, and were ignorant of him. They needed revelation, not rebuke. And I believe this should guide our interaction with our neighbors. In other words, within conservative “Christian society” we should be as prophets; among those who are either liberal “Christians” or non-Christians, we should be as apostles and evangelists.

    Paul should be our model for engaging with non-Christians, not Jonah.

    Now, as for how Jesus interacted with prostitutes and tax collectors and the like, it is very tempting to suppose that Jesus simply overlooked or trivialized their sin (in a sense accepting it). However, every single one of them KNEW that their actions were sinful, and their response to Jesus’ forgiveness was repentance. He didn’t have to point out or emphasize their sin because they already knew it.

  31. Hodge says:

    Alan,

    Do you play for the Dodgers? Because you did quite a bit of dodging my questions there.

    If God defines sin and you cannot, that implies that you cannot say that murder or pedophilia is a sin. It also implies that you are being a hypocrite for coming on here and telling others that they are in sin for making public proclamations that define sin. What was that about taking the speck out?

    I actually didn’t give you prooftexts the first time and the second time I gave you texts that address a completely different issue. Perhaps you’re just ready with that empty assertion regardless of what Scripture someone gives you.

    However, in view of the log in your own eye, I do see you have no problem spitting out a series of prooftexts of your own to support your own position. Unfortunately, in context, none of these texts support your argument.

    Let me demonstrate:

    “Come to understand that when Christ talked to His followers about praying in your closet,”

    What does not looking for the praise of men by confusing ritual with morality (what Jesus tells us to do before men–e.g., let your light so shine before men that they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven) have to do with our subject?

    “not calling out a speck in your brother’s eye while you had a plank in yours (to say noting of a non-brother),”

    His command is to remove the plank from your own SO THAT you might be able to take out the speck in your brother’s eye. This is also talking about within the believing community–hence the term “brother.”

    “not casting a stone at someone unless you were blameless,”

    An apocryphal addition to John, but I would consider it the same as the speck idea. We are told by Jesus and the apostles to call one another on our sin in order to seek repentance from our brother, so if you were right, we should all let our brothers be damned in sin because we don’t want to judge anyone else. Of course, that’s not what Jesus teaches us.

    “turning the other cheek,”

    What does this have to do with a person sinning against God? It has to do with a personal offense committed against us.

    “forgiving someone 7 x 70 times, loving your neighbor as yourself,”

    Again, see above.

    “actions towards the least of these being in truth action towards Christ and that these teachings to His followers spell out a clear invitation to love, serve, forgive and be humble.”

    Which includes rebuking others for sin within the community, but it also includes rebuking others outside the community for sin when we preach the gospel to them.

    “That the living God will work with those who seek Him towards wholeness/holiness and away from sin with a power and authority that He alone has.”

    And He gives that authority to His people, otherwise they cannot fulfill the great commission, their love toward one another in seeking another person’s sanctification, their love toward God in exalting what HE has defined as good and true over the evil and lies of culture within that culture, etc.

    Again, you dealt with nothing I said, but rather conveniently dodged the obvious. You continue to argue nonsense that you don’t really believe yourself (e.g., If only God can define sin then you can’t even define it within the community of a Bible study, congregation, etc.; if society cannot define sin then it cannot really make its laws either, as all civic laws are based upon a morality of right or wrong that can be prevented or sanctioned by law; if you can’t define sin, you can’t define sin as that which harms another as well, etc.).

    So does pedophilia, within a society that accepts it as morally acceptable, get a pass from you?

    Does murdering Jews need no public condemnation from Christians when the Nazi regime has decided that Jews are not humans and therefore it is not murder to kill them? By what authority do you say it’s wrong? You don’t have that authority, remember? And that society had decided that it was OK. What if the Germans had won the war and everyone became convinced that is was OK?

    Finally, to address what I already addressed many comments ago, a misuse of Scripture comes from prooftexting, like you have above, without understanding the creation principle upon which biblical morality is based. If you don’t understand the principle, you won’t understand the expressions of that principle and how to apply them. Hence, people who condemned interracial marriage were just as ignorant about the principle upon which biblical ethics is founded as you are. What’s your point?

  32. Kenton says:

    There’s actually a very enlightening passage in the New Testament (Paul) that gives a framework for how we are to be “in the world, but not of the world.”

    10 …But we urge you, brothers, to [love one another] more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thess. 4:10-12

    This is how Christians are to behave in the world. But, Paul says immediately before this:

    1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

    Notice the focus on what Christians are to be and do. And notice how Paul describes the Gentiles: who do not know God, who are led by the passion of lust, who partake in sexual immorality, who wrong their brothers. So, it is knowledge of God that is the problem (I don’t think he means simple awareness that there is a God, and that He is a moral being). And yet, by doing this, they disregard God, and the Lord is an avenger in all these things (in other words, God judges sin). And in chapter 5, Paul describes the coming judgment of God upon all who don’t know him.

    Does this mean that we shouldn’t preach the gospel? I don’t think so. There’s a difference between preaching the gospel and being concerned with how others live their lives (that is, to attempt to regulate the behavior of others). But whether we attempt to regulate others or simply preach the gospel to them, everything is premised on a clear view of holiness and sin.

    Finally, the basis for denying interracial marriage and a literal priesthood is not entirely biblical. The reason I say this is because 1) there are numerous intermarriages in Scripture (though it’s easy, I suppose, to take the OT prohibition on marrying foreign women as primarily about ethnicity rather than religion). 2) the NT is very clear that we have one mediator.

  33. Hodge says:

    Kenton,

    I have to disagree. Paul rebukes the Gentiles in Athens for their BIG sin first. He calls them to repentance and says that God let them go their own way in times past, but now has called everyone to His Son who will judge the world.

    But we need to understand that if the first sin (idolatry) is taken care of, other sins are rebuked. We know this because Paul mentions to us that the Corinthians were all called to repent of their sins when they were called by the gospel, and those sins include homosexuality, lying, being violent, etc. So a call of repentance is a total call, not a partial one. I agree that it is a call away from idolatry, but that’s true of both Jew and Gentile. The call is away from lawlessness to His Lordship, which includes a call away, then, from all sin. That means we need to convey to others, who may not know better, what those sins are. So you are right in saying that they need revelation, but identifying sin is a part of that. The call to repentance, however, is given to everyone.

  34. Hodge says:

    Kenton,

    “Does this mean that we shouldn’t preach the gospel? I don’t think so. There’s a difference between preaching the gospel and being concerned with how others live their lives (that is, to attempt to regulate the behavior of others). But whether we attempt to regulate others or simply preach the gospel to them, everything is premised on a clear view of holiness and sin.”

    We’re in agreement here, except that the issue isn’t simply knowledge. “Knowledge of God” in Scripture often means “submitting to a relationship with God,” “having an allegiance to God.” Hence, the Gentiles need to repent. If they don’t, we are to live among them as the text says, but our message to them is the same, “Repent and believe.”

  35. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “Alan, my current understanding is that you affirm Scripture’s transcendent and clear teaching that same-sex genital activity is sin. Is that what you indeed affirm?”

    Alan: “My answer: I do not have the authority to define sin, so I won’t/can’t affirm that statement for you.”

    #1: Nobody said that you had the *authority* to define sin.
    #2: Nobody asked you to define sin.

    What was asked was whether you affirm Scripture’s (Which incidentally has the Authority to define sin) teaching that same-sex genital activity is sin. Do you indeed affirm Scripture’s teaching that same-sex genital activity is sin?

    My understanding is that you do affirm that Scripture teaches that same-sex genital activity is sin. I’m politely requesting that you confirm or deny this understanding.

    In the absence of a denial, then it’s reasonable to state the following: “Alan holds that Scripture teaches that same-sex genital activity is sin.”

  36. Kenton says:

    Hodge,

    He calls them to repentance, yes. But repentance from what? See, the thing is that Paul actually doesn’t technically rebuke them. He doesn’t even directly address their idolatry. Rather, all he says is, “You don’t know who God is”, and “God is going to judge the world.” Now, when Paul says, “He intended for everyone to seek Him” and “In him we live and move and exist”, what Paul is saying is, “We’re accountable to God and every action should be done ‘in Him.’” So with those three statements, Paul gives the grounds for repentance. But he doesn’t rebuke them for idolatry or sexual immorality or any of it. His point is, “There is a God who holds all of us accountable. You have been ignorant of His goodness and intention. He’s gonna judge everyone for what they do with Him.” And then Jesus is the instrument and center of God’s intentions.

    My point is that Paul doesn’t go to them saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘You have sinned against Me in these ways and you must repent of these things immediately or I will destroy you.’” Nor does he go to the Athenian council and say, “God says you should ban idolatry and temple prostitution.”

    Paul says in Acts, talking to Agrippa, that he declared first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles, that they should “repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” One could infer that Paul’s gospel was “turn to God by performing deeds in keeping with repentance”. However, I’m more inclined to think that Paul is summing up both evangelism and the initial instruction to fledgling churches (as Acts describes Paul spending weeks and months with the new communities of Christians, instructing them). So the message is, “repent and turn to God”. And by that I take it to mean, “Turn from living without God to living under the authority of God”.

    What do I mean by that? Paul doesn’t preach the gospel by identifying which sins a person has committed, or listing off a bunch of sins that he or she may or may not have committed. He identifies the root only, which is ignorance of God (yes, knowledge of God is more than awareness, as I said; it’s coming into covenant with God, into God’s covenant, which has repercussions for living under God’s authority, within those covenant bounds). And it is ignorance of God leading to God-less lifestyles (no matter how much or little they coincide with Christian morality) that is the basis for God’s judgment.

    I don’t know if I’m being clear about the fine line between acknowledging and defining what constitutes sin, and pointing out the sins of others (or emphasizing specific [often obvious] sins). One is rightly included in the gospel message. The other is something that is scripturally only reserved for God’s people, who have a covenant knowledge of who God is and what He requires. The distinction that I made above between prophet and evangelist (and much earlier between viewing America as “Jerusalem” or “Athens”) gets at the heart of this fundamental distinction.

    And the reason why this is fundamental is because the gospel, like God, is without partiality. How can you be impartial when you point out sexual immorality, but not nationalism (a form of idolatry)? If a person isn’t a murderer, isn’t an adulterer, isn’t homosexual, do we actually point out their sins, apart from a vague, “All humans are sinful. Sin includes lying, pride, selfishness, etc.”? The reason I say this is because I am guilty of this! And how can we point out those “lesser” (more palatable) sins without also condemning ourselves who we must admit are just as prone to consistent pride an selfishness and ambition and partiality, etc.? Then we are making the gospel about works. And even if we give the caveat that “Jesus perfectly obeyed so we don’t have to be perfect”, the only logical conclusion from such a gospel presentation is that Christianity is about works. But Acts 17 is revealing. Because the sin is ignorance of God (this is the chief, and foundational, reality of the Gentile world), the solution is knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. And hence, Christianity is about the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. Note how to the Jews, they have knowledge of God. And they rebelled against it, so Acts records the gospel to them as about rebellion and submission and forgiveness and escape from wrath. To the Gentiles it’s ignorance and knowledge (leading to submission) and inclusion and escape from wrath.

    Just read through Acts again. That’s how it proceeds. Because what distinguishes us from the world, most fundamentally, is that we have come to know God, or as Paul says, we have come “to be known by God.” And THAT is why we live as we do. “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.” And to those who claim to know God, who claim to revere God and keep his commandments, what distinguishes us? Yes, true knowledge of God evident in how we live. As Jesus rebukes the Sadducees — “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” — and the Pharisees — “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” — so is our rebuke to them.

    And just as a side note, just as in Jesus’ day, we have to deal with two types of people: those who claim to see God, and those who don’t a thing about Him. What is striking today is that this postmodern society exalts ignorance (well, ignorance about God at least), while many in Christian society claim to know God (but really don’t). So those who are blind think they see, and those without eyes refuse to get new eyes. Both are in darkness, the only difference is, one thinks the darkness is light, and the other just loves the darkness.

  37. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Kenton: “And just as a side note, just as in Jesus’ day, we have to deal with two types of people: those who claim to see God, and those who don’t a thing about Him. What is striking today is that this postmodern society exalts ignorance (well, ignorance about God at least), while many in Christian society claim to know God (but really don’t). So those who are blind think they see, and those without eyes refuse to get new eyes. Both are in darkness, the only difference is, one thinks the darkness is light, and the other just loves the darkness.”

    Kenton, do you think Alan belongs in one of these two categories?

  38. Hodge says:

    Kenton,

    I understand where you’re coming from. I was once there myself, largely in reaction to the attempt of the moral majority to get people who don’t know God to act like they do. But the problem I found is this: Paul does rebuke them for individual sins, as he implies in Corinthians. Maybe I didn’t make that clear. I’m not just using the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts is not a manual to let us know how to preach the gospel. It’s an apologetic in historical narrative that seeks to convince Roman officials that the gospel is not an attempt to overthrow the physical empire of Caesar. But it does come to overthrow one’s allegiance to self and sin.

    So what you need is a broader understanding of how the gospel needs to be preached from the entire NT. Paul indicates that Gentiles have the law of nature, as Jews have the Law of Moses. So if your understanding is correct, the reason why someone is rebuked and told to repent when Jesus or the apostles preach the gospel to them is because they have a law that they are not obeying and repentance has a reference. But that’s Paul’s point in Romans. He can tell the Gentiles to repent, and that includes from all of those evils in Romans 1, precisely because all men have a law. I agree that idolatry is the root cause, but disagree that Paul doesn’t tell men to repent, even in Athens, as that is what he implies by essentially saying that God let your sin and idolatry go in past times but now no longer, since you must answer to Jesus Christ who has been appointed as the judge over you.

    So I disagree that the distinction is between repentance from not having a relationship with God but not from the self-governed life expressed in evil works. That suggests that one can claim Jesus as Lord without having Him as Lord. Repentance calls all men to actually having Him as Lord, and that means turning away from the evil fruit that only an evil tree produces. One cannot say, You must turn from being an evil tree, but by all means, continue producing evil fruit. Instead, it must be that it all goes together.

    So to bring it into perspective, if someone said to you, Kenton, I am going to receive Christ as Lord and turn from other gods, but I’m going to continue to molest children and murder, what would you say to that person? Are you seriously going to tell me that you wouldn’t call them to repentance and say that his or her claim to repent and receive Christ as Lord is bogus unless he or she repents from, at least, those specific sins?

    I ask this because I think we might have a different understanding of what the gospel is calling us to actually do.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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