Tag Archives: holy spirit

Problems with pro-gay theology

bible.jpg

Introduction

This post is a little long for a blog, but I think it is worthwhile and hope you read it all.  I like to run it every couple of years.

—–

Many churches today are being torn apart by false teachings about human sexuality, so we can’t ignore this topic.  I am continuously disappointed that so many Christians who don’t get educated on this topic and stand up for the truth.  In addition, the rapid and radical changes in public schools are a serious issue and hate speech laws and activist judges are a blatant attempt to shut down debate and curtail religious freedoms.  Barely a week goes by without hearing about a business owner forced to cater to gay couples (e.g., bed-and-breakfasts, wedding photographers), LGBTQ indoctrination in elementary schools, religious organizations forced to hire LGBTQ people, people losing jobs for saying that skin color is morally neutral but sexual behavior is not, laws being proposed that will make it a crime to criticize homosexual behavior, and so on.

Many people who hold the orthodox Christian view would love to move on to other issues, but the problem is that the pro-gay theologians aren’t giving up.  Therefore, we need to stand firm and do a better job of educating those in the middle ground.

While this issue isn’t an essential of the faith, such as Jesus’ divinity and exclusivity for salvation, those who take the pro-gay theology view typically have to deny the essential of the authority of scripture to arrive at their conclusions.  And that is a dangerous thing.

The general Biblical ignorance of many Christians on this topic isn’t helping things.  I know of people who have gone to church their whole lives and have been in multiple Bible studies but still ask questions like, “Does the New Testament say anything about homosexual behavior?”  (Short answer: Yes.)  And it goes downhill from there.

And make no mistake: The LGBTQX lobby inside and outside the church is incredibly persistent.  As Christine noted in the comments, God gave them over to a debased mind because they would not acknowledge him.  Therefore, simply reasoning with them probably won’t persuade them.

Romans 1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Keep in mind how the men of Sodom were blinded by God when trying to sin, yet they still groped for the door!  You’d think that if you were literally blinded while sinning that you just might stop, at least momentarily, to think about what you were doing.  But not them.

Genesis 19:11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.

So keep speaking the truth in love, but don’t be shocked when people love the world more than God and the truth.  The “Christian” Left aggressively lobbies for taxpayer-funded, unrestricted abortions to the child’s 1st breath, so do not be surprised when they support any sexual perversion that Satan dreams up.

Before I dive in, let me state that while I firmly believe that homosexual behavior is a sin, I do not think it is something we should grandstand on.  We all have temptations and stumble and fall at times.  Romans 1 explains in no uncertain terms that homosexual behavior is an affront to God, but it also lists greed, gossip, deceit and other things as serious sins (anyone squirming yet?).

And we should act as suggested by a believer I am friends with who is tempted by same-sex attractions: Pray for them and be their friends.

Do homosexuals have a legitimate complaint when they point out how many Christians are softer on divorce, adultery and pre-marital sex than they are on homosexual behavior?  Sometimes, yes, although it should be noted that those aren’t being forced down our throats as the others are.  No one is trying to make it illegal to criticize those topics.  Grandstanding on sins that aren’t a temptation for us and downplaying or ignoring sins that are a temptation is not a Christian thing to do.  But the lesson is to hold consistent Biblical views on all sins, not to water things down more.  We need to raise the bar back up on all these sins because they have huge consequences and, more importantly, because that is in line with what the Bible says.

But we shouldn’t call evil good and good evil.  I support the Methodist position on homosexuality, which regards the behavior as sinful but the people as having worth.  (Sadly, I left the Methodist in large part due to their lack of adherence to their own positions!)  I think it should be illegal to abort babies just because they might be homosexual (Ironically, that position puts me at odds with many liberals whose support for abortion is such that they think it should be legal under any circumstances).  I mention these things simply to pre-empt any nonsensical allegations that I am homophobic, a childish and false put-down designed to stifle debate.  The real homophobes are those who are so scared of being politically incorrect that they deny God, the Bible and common sense rather than state the obvious.

I also believe that homosexual behavior is a forgivable sin and can be overcome by the power of the Gospel.  When I meet gays I don’t view it as my job to change them.  I treat them like I would anyone else, developing relationships and hoping to be able to share the Gospel with them at some point.  The real work is the job of the Holy Spirit.

I was sharing the Gospel with a young man once who happened to be gay.  He was all over the place with his religious beliefs and questions.  At one point he asked, “Doesn’t the Bible say homosexual behavior is a sin?”  I could have glossed over it and said it was a debatable matter, but that wouldn’t have been true or loving.

I also could have spent an hour explaining all the verses around this topic, but that would have been overkill.  Instead I just confirmed that yes, the Bible does say it is a sin, despite how some try to twist it.  Then I just shifted back to the basic Gospel – namely, that we are all sinners in need of a Savior and Jesus is that Savior.  It was a great back-and-forth conversation on a lot of topics and I pray that it planted a seed and that the young man kept searching.

Pro-gay theology tends to fall into one of three categories.  They are all wrong, but for varying reasons.  Sometimes they overlap categories.

  1. The Bible is either not the Word of God, or most parts of it aren’t. This view claims that we can ignore the prohibitions against homosexual behavior because they were written by homophobic Jews.
  2. The Bible is the Word of God, but it doesn’t really say homosexual behavior is wrong. This view holds that people just aren’t reading the Bible properly, and that God’s Word is actually affirming of gay relationships.
  3. The Bible is the Word of God and does clearly and emphatically describe gay behavior as sinful.  However, the Holy Spirit has given additional revelations such that this behavior is now acceptable. This view holds that God has changed his mind on this moral issue and not only is it now acceptable, but it is sinful if you don’t affirm this behavior and same-sex relationships.

Category 1: The Bible is either not the Word of God, or most parts of it aren’t.

Regarding the first view, many liberal theologians deny that part or all of the Bible is the Word of God.  Unlike those in the second view, these folks seem to understand that the Bible does describe homosexual behavior as being sinful.  They just dismiss those parts.

Some appear to believe in Leopard Theology, the false notion that the Bible is only inspired in spots and that they are inspired to spot the spots.  If God wasn’t capable of inspiring all of the original writings of the Bible to be error-free, then why should we trust him to communicate with such clarity to these people regarding what is inspired and what isn’t?

The problem is that this view is very hard to reconcile with the 2,000 year tradition of the church and, more importantly, of the clear text of the Bible itself.  People are certainly entitled to hold that view, but it doesn’t seem logical for them to refer to themselves as Christians.

The Bible claims to speak directly for God roughly 3,000 times, so if someone believes that all of those are mistakes then why on earth would he take this faith seriously?  Why would he want to be a leader in the Christian church?

Remember that Jesus validated the law and the Prophets, among other parts of the Old Testament, right down to the last little mark.  He unapologetically referred to the most controversial parts, too – Adam and Eve, Noah, Jonah and Sodom and Gomorrah.  Christians should strive to view the Bible in the same way that He did.

Note that many of these church “leaders” are liars: They either lied at their ordination vows about believing the essentials of the faith, or they changed their minds later and didn’t do the honest thing and resign.  Their views are usually not just a little different than historic Christianity, they are the opposite.  I believe in religious freedom, so they are entitled to their beliefs.  I also believe in honesty: HP salesman shouldn’t endorse Dell products, and Christians shouldn’t promote non-Christian beliefs about the Bible.  If either one breaks those rules they should be quickly fired.

It is challenging to argue with those who hold the first view, because you tend to go in circles.  They claim to be Christian, which should mean we can refer to the Bible as a “final court of arbitration” of sorts.  But whenever you find a passage they don’t like they’ll claim it was written just by men, not God, or they’ll pull out the false argument that you are being a Biblical literalist.

They may say things like, “But Jesus never said anything about homosexual behavior.”  That is called arguing from silence and it is poor reasoning.  Jesus inspired all scripture, He supported the Old Testament law to the last letter, the “red letters” weren’t silent on these topics in the sense that they reiterated what marriage and murder were, He emphasized many other important issues that these liberal theologians completely ignore (Hell, his divinity, his exclusivity, etc.), He was equally “silent” on issues that these folks treat as having the utmost importance (capital punishment, war, welfare, universal health care, etc.), abortion and homosexual behavior simply weren’t hot topics for 1st century Jews, and He did mention Sodom and Gomorrah.This view is also part of the 2nd type of theological error noted above.

They may jump through hoops trying to dismiss the plain reading of verses like Leviticus 18:22 (“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable”) yet gladly take other plain passages literally.  They may claim there were “only a few verses” but are quick to make all sorts of firm statements on other topics with less verses.  And just how many times does God have to clearly say something before we believe it?

They may try to dismiss passages like that by misreading other passages, such as saying that “God said that eating shellfish was an abomination, so why aren’t you opposed to that?”

To have a rational discussion on the verses referencing homosexuality you have to convince people in this group that the Bible is reliable and authoritative first.  And that may be impossible.

Here’s a sample quote from a person in this camp:

A 21st century [Martin] Luther would surely recognize that the few biblical proscriptions against “sodomy”-shaky in themselves as condemnations of same-sex love and rooted in a worldview vastly different from our own-should not bar the loving union of two gay or lesbian persons. Equally, a 21st century Luther would affirm the ordination of such persons, as in line with his theology of the ‘priesthood of all believers.’

Mary Zeiss Stange, professor of women’s studies and religion at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, responding to the recent decsion by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to expel a minister who admitted to a physical homosexual relationship-a violation of the denominations “Visions and Expectations” statement.

She really tips her hand with the “worldview vastly different from our own” comment.  The worldview she is referring to is that of Middle East Jews and Christians a couple thousand years ago or more.  But she misses the obvious: The Biblical commands weren’t always the Jews’ worldview – they rebelled against that view over and over!  The worldview is God’s, and Ms. Stange is absolutely right that it is vastly different from hers.  She apparently doesn’t believe the Bible is the Word of God.  And if she ends up in Heaven I think Martin Luther will have a few things to clarify with her.

The verses aren’t “shaky,” and there are plenty showing God’s plan for human sexuality and his disapproval of homosexual behavior.  Some (but not all) people in this category may be predisposed to only consider verses that affirm their views, and they typically don’t have a problem drawing all sorts of conclusions from less clear passages.  Therefore, they won’t like these facts:

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referencing God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.

Category 2: The Bible is the Word of God, but it doesn’t really say homosexual behavior is wrong.

The second view is generally better than the first (“the Bible is not the Word of God”) with respect to being able to guide people towards the truth, because you have a common authority to appeal to.

The problem with this view is that it is just plain incorrect.  As hard as pro-gay theologians try, the truth is that the Bible is overwhelmingly clear.  Pro-gay theologians are good at casting doubt about certain passages but they never seem to pay attention when someone points out how their reasoning is flawed.

Even some pro-gay theologians agree that the Bible has straightforward commands, but they appeal to “experience” over Scripture.  The heretic John Shelby Spong denies the authority of the Bible at every turn, he at least admits that:

The Bible can certainly be read as condemnatory of homosexual practice. Both sides admit that.

Luke Timothy Johnson, a more orthodox theologian said:

I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good.

As noted previously, here is a summary of the Biblical view:

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referencing God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.

I find those figures to be unambiguous and very compelling based on plain readings of the text and even more so when delving further into the context and the original languages.  I think it is important to consider all those points because some people try to dismiss the traditional Biblical view because it “only” has a few passages about homosexuality.  It only takes one clear passage to make a point, but there are many more than that in the Bible.  These folks also don’t seem to mind making broad conclusions on verses that really do just have one verse behind them.

I have written on a couple specific mistakes pro-gay theologians make regarding Leviticus 18 (“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”), another article on the shellfish argument and another on Romans 1.

There are many other resources dealing with particular verses.  Here’s a terrific outline on Romans 1 that explodes the myth that the real sin is acting outside your desires (as if anyone does that!).

My favorite resource is Responding to Pro-Gay Theology by Joe Dallas.  I highly encourage everyone to read it.  It is very thorough but readable.  I don’t have time to cover all the passages here but if people have questions on specific verses we can cover them in the comments section.

There are solid answers for any question you can come up with, provided people want to really discuss the issue.  I saw this commentary on an ex-ex-gay blog (i.e., someone who tried to leave the homosexual lifestyle and returned).  She is commenting on Mel White, a leading pro-gay theologian.

Mel White is a passionate and articulate man who makes it clear from the beginning of the workshop that he has absolutely no desire whatsoever to discuss the biblical passages on homosexuality. Over the years he has suffered a barrage of debates on the issue and he is thoroughly burnt out. He refuses to engage in the discussion any longer. Instead, he passes out a booklet he has written on the subject and tells us to read it. Then, he encourages us to refrain from discussing the Bible with conservative Christians because fundamentalists have no interest in sincere dialogue. Mel also encourages us not to engage in the debate for another reason. By having the conversation, we expose ourselves over and over again to the “lie” that homosexuality is wrong, and when heard repeatedly, “deep down inside you will wonder if they are right.”

That is a clever dodge on Mel’s part.  But I’ll be glad to have a sincere dialogue even if he won’t.

If you examine all the facts, I think you’ll find that the case is overwhelming: God considers homosexual behavior to be sinful and his ideal for marriage is one man and one woman.

So why do people twist the scriptures so blatantly? I generally don’t speculate on the motives of individuals, as only God knows their hearts. But I have seen some themes and evidence in various cases.

Some believe the lies out of ignorance or laziness. They may be sincere Christians who just haven’t fully examined the issue. There are issues I haven’t fully explored and may have the wrong views on, so we should approach things with humility.  We should do the hard work to understand important issues.

Some believe them out of political correctness. It is much easier to go with the views of the culture. Have they noticed the the liberal theologians came to the conclusion that abortion, homosexual behavior, easy divorce and fornication were acceptable just after the culture did?  What a coincidence.  They should remember 1 John 2:15-16: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world.

I won’t name specifics here, but I am aware of those in the pro-gay theology camp that pretend to be otherwise-orthodox Christians.  But if you follow their own blogs, for example, you discover how thoroughly fraudulent they are.  You need to watch out for those who use a veneer of Christianity to justify their preferences.  They desparately want everyone’s approval – even though it will still leave them unfulfilled – and they especially want the church’s approval — or at least its silence.

There is also the passive-aggressive stance where some confidently claim that the Bible does or doesn’t say something about homosexual behavior, then when you go to analyze the verses they “humbly” say they don’t know that much (as if the subject were just too complicated or it is so gray we just can’t reach a conclusion).

False teachers aren’t necessarily gay themselves.  They may have other motives for spreading their lies.  Jesus warned that there would be false teachers in the church and Paul did as well.  What better way to accomplish this than to infiltrate the church and bring it down from the inside?

2 Corinthians 11:13-15  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Of course, there are frauds at the other end of the spectrum as well, such as Ted Haggard, or hateful false teachers like Democrat Fred Phelps.  Those aren’t Biblical models, either.

Some people have a “revelation” about the lack of sinfulness of homosexuality when a loved one is involved. Perhaps this is due to new information and a fresh look at the Bible, but perhaps it is due to major league rationalization. It is similar to pro-life Christians who change their minds when their child is pregnant and encourage the destruction of their grandchildren. Did they really change their views on the morality of abortion based on new information, or did their fear of embarrassment and/or inconvenience trump their moral views?

Some people just want to believe the lies. It is a strong delusion. And Satan’s oldest trick is still used today: “Did God really say . . .?”  Hint: Yes.  Yes, He did.

Category 3 – The Bible is the Word of God and does clearly and emphatically describe gay behavior as sinful.  However, the Holy Spirit has given additional revelations such that this behavior is now acceptable.

This view holds that God has changed his mind on this moral issue and not only is it now acceptable, but it is sinful if you don’t affirm this behavior and same-sex relationships.

The third view attempts to affirm scripture but makes a major theological mistake afterwards.  Think about the premise: God is allegedly overturning a moral law and simultaneously making it immoral to quote the Bible.

One denomination has a slogan that “God is still speaking.”  This would be true provided that it meant that God still speaks through his Word.  However, liberal theologians tend to use this phrase to mean that God is changing his moral laws.

Some people appear to believe in Leopard Theology, the false notion that the Bible is only inspired in spots and that they are inspired to spot the spots.  That is the first error above.  However, those in this third category appear to hold to Advanced Leopard Theology, where God is also changing spots and adding/removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling theological liberals and progressives.

This category overlaps a bit with those who don’t think He communicated his laws in a discernable way in the first place (i.e., in the Bible), but they now think He is communicating with Swiss-watch precision to them.

Here’s an example: A Methodist pastor named Laurie Hays Coffman did a pro-gay theology piece that made the argument that she wants to “unfurl our corporate sails to catch today’s winds as the Spirit blows afresh.”  She said she was challenged by the vision God gave to Peter in Acts 10-11 where God makes it clear that the Gospel is for the Gentiles, too, and that the Israelites’ ceremonial dietary laws are no longer in force.

Her reasoning is that in the same way that God overturned those laws that He is now overturning the prohibitions against homosexual behavior.

The problem is her poor Biblical analysis.  There are at least nine things wrong with this view:

  1. The person with the revelation was Peter, one of Jesus’ inner circle and a key leader in the early church.  It wasn’t made to you, me or someone like Ms. Coffman.  That doesn’t mean God couldn’t reveal something important like this to us, just that it is highly unlikely.
  2. The visions were clear and emphatic.  Peter was given the vision three times.
  3. Peter was inclined to reject the meaning of the vision, whereas these pro-gay theologians have views on human sexuality that are virtually indistinguishable from the prevailing culture and they are glad to accept this “new revelation.”
  4. There was external validation for Peter from the Roman centurion.
  5. This lesson showed up in the Bible, not outside it.  I’m not saying miracles don’t happen outside the Bible.  It is just that things appear in the Bible for a reason.  God communicating that the ceremonial laws had been fulfilled was one of those “big deals.”
  6. This vision overturned a ceremonial law, not a moral law.  There are zero examples in the Bible of God reversing his moral laws.  In fact, the more Jesus talked the stricter the laws seemed to get, because He emphasized the spirit of the law and not just the letter (i.e., lust was akin to committing adultery, anger was akin to murder, etc.).  The dietary laws never applied to Gentiles.
  7. The “God has changed his mind view” is primarily being “revealed” to theologically liberal Christians in the U.S. . . . the very ones who often deny his Word to begin with!  So we can’t trust the accurate transmission of the original writings but we can trust their new revelations?  Go figure.
  8. If God is revealing a change, why is it necessarily more liberal?  Why couldn’t God make his laws more stringent?
  9. The Bible gives strong warnings not to add or take away from its teachings.

And as noted above, even some pro-gay theologians agree that the Bible has straightforward commands, but they appeal to “experience” over Scripture.  Again, Luke Timothy Johnson said:

I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good.

There are simply no good reasons to believe that God is changing his moral laws (dropping those against homosexual behavior and adding those saying not to preach against it) and only informing selected people — as opposed to the Apostles and their direct followers — through revelation or “experience.”

Summary – Pro-gay theological principles in action

I have addressed the three commons ways pro-gay theologians make errors, namely by believing that:

  1. The Bible is either not the Word of God, or most parts of it aren’t.
  2. The Bible is the Word of God, but it doesn’t really say homosexual behavior is wrong.
  3. The Bible is the Word of God and does clearly and emphatically describe gay behavior as sinful.  However, the Holy Spirit has given additional revelations such that this behavior is now acceptable and the “new” sin is saying that homosexual behavior is sinful.

Now I am taking the pro-gay theological reasoning out for a test drive, so to speak, to see how it applies to other passages.  After all, if their principles are sound they should work in other situations as well.

We’ve addressed Leviticus 18:22 (Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.) and some of the improper interpretations of it here. But I wondered how their reasoning would apply to a verse in the same passage, such as Leviticus 18:8 – Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father. After all, the context of Leviticus 18 is abundantly clear because it starts and ends with the same admonitions: Don’t be like the pagan Canaanites and do the detestable things listed in the middle of the text, or you will be vomited out of the land like they were.  These were obviously not ceremonial laws just for the Israelites.

You can use any verse from Leviticus 18 to make the same points (bestiality, child sacrifice, etc.).  I chose this one because it happened to be addressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5.  Especially note how Paul chides them for being proud and boastful about this man’s behavior.  Read it once, then read it again and replace the descriptions of incest with homosexual behavior.  That is how I view the pro-gay theology community (especially the heterosexuals): Proud and boastful for ignoring God’s Word.

1 Corinthians 5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

Now let’s apply the various lines of pro-gay theological reasoning to Leviticus 18:8 and 1 Corinthians 5 and see how well they work. I realize that not all pro-gay theologians hold all these views.  I tried to convey their reasoning as accurately as possible.  Using their logic, we could conclude that:

  • Jesus didn’t specifically say not to have sexual relations with your father’s wife, so it couldn’t have been very important and probably wasn’t even a sin (the argument from silence).  We should err on the side of saying it isn’t a sin.  We ignore the fact that Jesus, as God, authored the Old Testament and that He fully supported it.
  • The man was born that way (i.e., with the desire to have sex with females).  It was his natural desire and function.
  • He and his father’s wife love each other!  Who are you to say that is wrong?  Gene Robinson, a Bishop in the Episcopal church, left his wife and kids so he could be with his gay lover.  Pro-gay theologians usually affirm and applaud this behavior.  Living up to marriage commitments made before God isn’t nearly as important as indulging your sexual preferences.
  • How do you know he and his father’s wife didn’t pray about it?  Maybe God gave them a personal revelation permitting them to have sex and/or get married.  That would make it acceptable.
  • Maybe the couple says that Jesus told them it was OK.  Who are you to argue with Jesus?
  • Leviticus 18:8 was a ceremonial law.  It was only for the Jews.  It obviously doesn’t apply to Gentiles.  If you eat shellfish then you obviously are a hypocrite if you don’t condone incest.
  • The Bible never actually uses the word incest.
  • There are only a few verses saying not to have sexual relations with your father’s wife [probably less than there are describing homosexual behavior as sinful].Therefore, how can we be sure about it?  And they are kinda obscure as well.
  • The man or the father’s wife was a temple prostitute or this was part of some pagan temple worship, and that is what made it wrong [even though the text doesn’t even hint at that].
  • Paul was an ignorant prude.  He didn’t understand sexual behavior or have the advantage of all the knowledge we do.  [This assumes that the Holy Spirit wasn’t inspiring his writings, of course].
  • You are just using the “yuck” factor and saying “Eeewww” because a man having sex with his father’s wife seems gross to you.  There is really nothing wrong with it, though – you were just made differently.
  • Judge not, lest ye be judged.  Paul must be sinning here because he is clearly making moral judgments.  [Please ignore the fact that I’m judging Paul for judging and that I’ve taken Matthew 7:1-5 out of context].
  • You are just an incest-o-phobe.  You need therapy for your irrational hatred.  In fact, speech like that should be prohibited because it will incite violence against those who practice incest.
  • You just don’t love the man and his father’s wife!  If you did, you’d want them to be happy.  Hater!  Hate speech!
  • Other parts of the Bible portray God acting in ways that don’t appear to be in line with his moral laws, so they obviously aren’t really from him.  Therefore, Leviticus 18:8 may not be his Word either.  When in doubt, we should ignore Scripture, because God’s revelation to my heart trumps anything in the Bible.
  • Some parts of the Bible aren’t clear to us [even though this part is] so we can ignore it.

If that sounds like an unsound line of reasoning that’s because it is an unsound line of reasoning. These principles don’t work on the passages they are designed to dismiss, and they completely self-destruct when applied to other passages.  Pro-gay theology is flawed, sinful and destructive and should be abandoned by any Christians who hold those views.

—–

Once again, note that:

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referencing God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.

Remember, if homosexual behavior is a sin – and the Bible clearly identifies it as such – then affirming and encouraging that behavior is also a sin and providing the orthodox Biblical view is the loving thing to do.  God is perfectly holy, but He is also perfectly gracious and merciful and will forgive those who repent and believe in Jesus.  Hear the Good News:

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Comments are welcome, but please stick to the topic.  We aren’t debating secular views, we aren’t demonizing anyone (pro-gay or orthodox) and we don’t need straw-man arguments (“You just don’t love them,” etc.).

Love LGBTQ people, be friends with them and pray for them.  If they need to develop a friendship with you so they can see what normal relationships should look like, then do so.  But don’t encourage them to participate in sinful behavior.  If you do, then you are loving yourself, not them, and you are committing a serious sin (Romans 1:32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them).

And remember, God catches his fish and then He cleans them.  You don’t have to convert their sexuality before sharing the Good News that by his grace God adopts, completely forgives and eternally blesses everyone who repents and trusts in Jesus.

Acts 5 = worst church marketing program ever?

Short version: If God can grow his church while striking two generous but deceptive donors dead, then maybe — just maybe! — He doesn’t need slick, manipulative, man-made “church growth” programs.  Just preach the Good News inside and outside the church.

The title is sarcastic, of course.  The church grew dramatically even with this not-so-seeker-sensitive approach where God kills Ananias and Sapphira on the spot for lying to the Holy Spirit (and if that wasn’t enough, the next passage is about how the Apostles were arrested and beaten for proclaiming Jesus). It is unfortunate that mainline, “seeker-sensitive” and “emergent” churches didn’t study it more carefully before watering down their doctrine so badly.  When leaders feel that they must twist or ignore the word of God to advance the kingdom it is evidence of weak or non-existent faith.

Acts 4:32–5:11 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

In the midst of the explosive church growth we read this cautionary tale.  Some people read it as the early Christians being communistic, but that isn’t the point at all.  As always, we must read carefully and in context.

The passage describes the general behavior of believers but it doesn’t say God commanded this (“no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own.”). 

Peter didn’t say that Ananias and Sapphira were obligated to donate anything at all: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?

The sin wasn’t in not giving enough, it was lying to God.   This was a serious thing, especially when the church was forming.  They needed purity and honesty, just like we do today.  Just because we are in the age of grace doesn’t mean that God doesn’t take sin seriously. 

Satan was defeated at the cross in an ultimate sense, but he was and is still active in tempting Christians and non-Christians. 

Despite this event, the church continued to grow.  Consider how lax church discipline is in the U.S. today.  I’m not wishing for judgments like those again Ananias and Sapphira, but the lack of discipline has let all kinds of false teachers in the church and corrupted our witness. 

Again, this passage was not a Biblical command to never own property.  Saying your possessions aren’t your own doesn’t mean anyone can come take them, it is recognizing that ultimately they all come from God.  We aren’t giving him anything He didn’t give us in the first place.

Other passages round out the New Testament guidance on giving, notably 2 Corinthians 9:6-7:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We don’t need deception to spread the Gospel.  We need the truth.  We should share it as ambassadors, but we should share it without apology.  If you distort the message to appeal to spiritually dead people, then don’t be surprised when your church gets off track.

The Telephone Game and the Bible

phone.jpgMany people are familiar with the telephone game often used with kids to show the challenges and importance of clear communication.  It usually works with a message being given to one person, who has one chance to pass it along to another person, who does the same for the next person, and so on.  By the time it gets to the end the message is usually hilariously (?) garbled.

Sometimes skeptics will use the telephone game analogy to criticize the writings of the Bible, and of the Gospels in particular.  Their premise is that the message was transmitted orally for at least a couple decades (and, by their often convoluted reasoning, many decades), so of course it got changed many times before it was put to paper.

But that game is different from how the oral transmissions that make up the Bible in many key ways:

  1. The Bible wasn’t translated just one-on-one.  There were many witnesses and many people who heard and recounted the events.  People would catch errors instantly.
  2. They didn’t get just one try.  In the telephone game you only get one chance, but in real life – and especially with the New Testament – Jesus probably gave the same message many times, and people repeated it many times with overlapping audiences.  Again, errors would be caught quickly.
  3. Transmitters were well trained in memorizing stories.  People in that culture – especially Jewish men – were trained to memorize things well.  Many Muslims memorize the whole Koran even in our times.
  4. The message being transmitted wasn’t insignificant.  These people thought they had the words of life, and they worked hard to communicate it carefully.  And they often risked their lives to communicate this message. A good analogy I heard was that if a group of cancer patients went to hear someone describe how they could be cured, they would be inclined to pay close attention and to collectively document the information accurately.
  5. The New Testament writers had the benefit of the Holy Spirit to guide them.  I don’t think the Holy Spirit is actively involved in too many instances of the regular telephone game.
  6. Paul’s letters and others were firsthand accounts of events, so no oral tradition was involved.  And we can be highly confident that the original writings were accurately transmitted to us.

A more detailed perspective is available here.

I was surprised to see an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies note that he actually uses this game to teach college students about the Gospels (a link came to my site from his blog via the “related posts” section).  I didn’t realize his background before my first comment, then read more after he responded.  Here’s one of my replies (his words are in italics):

—–

I’ve used the telephone game to teach the gospels a number of times, but it troubles me.

A college prof thinks that is a good way to teach anything? Sad.

On the one hand, of course teaching the gospels by playing the telephone game makes perfect sense: what we have in the New Testament today does not reflect what actually happened in 0 to 35 C.E.

Hmmm . . . if you know what “really” happened perhaps you could enlighten us as to what that was and how you “know” it.

Second, even after they were written down, the stories were copied by scribes who altered the text—textual transmission is just as subject to changes as oral transmission.

False. Even pagan skeptics like Bart Ehrman concede that we know with > 99% confidence what the originals said. The system works, that’s why most Bibles footnote that the ending of Mark and the story of the woman at the well were not in the earliest manuscripts.

Ehrman just makes up a new rule that says that if every copy wasn’t perfect then the originals couldn’t have been inspired (we call that “making God in your own image”).

If you take the two most divergent manuscript streams you still get the same thing: Orthodox Christianity.

However, it is worth nothing that textual transmission may leave alternate editions that permit comparison—to my knowledge historians won’t be able to compare existing texts to oral tellings until they have time machines.

Of course. That’s why you should always assume the opposite of anything ever recorded by anyone.

One can illustrate this point by playing the telephone game: read just a single verse from one of the gospels and have the students pass the message up and down the rows by whispering it to one other.

As noted in my first comment, that is not how the Gospels were transmitted. In theory, you could go to a professor of religious studies and they’d enlighten you as to how it really worked.

So, for instance, we shouldn’t read the gospel of Matthew with an eye to the extent to which it preserves the original message of Jesus, but with an eye to the problems his community was facing some 40 to 60 years after Jesus died, and how he hoped to resolve those problems by writing up some new propaganda.

First, that dating is all wrong. It is easy to demonstrate that the most logical case for the NT datings has the Gospels being written before 70 A.D.

Second, it is hard to imagine someone actually reading the Gospels and coming to that conclusion. Over 25% of the Gospels focus on the Passion Week. How does that represent some solution to an unrelated problem?

The problem is that we are sinners in need of a Savior and Jesus is that Savior. His death on the cross paid the price for us.

You might want to trade in the religious studies gig for fiction writing.

The Episcopals’ interesting strategy: Hire non-Christians as leaders

Diversity, not Jesus, saves says Presiding Bishop.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has denounced the Apostle Paul as mean-spirited and bigoted for having released a slave girl from demonic bondage as reported in Acts 16:16-34 .

In her sermon delivered at All Saints Church in Curaçao in the diocese of Venezuela, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori condemned those who did not share her views as enemies of the Holy Spirit.

. . . She continued stating: “Human beings have a long history of discounting and devaluing difference, finding it offensive or even evil.  That kind of blindness is what leads to oppression, slavery, and often, war.  Yet there remains a holier impulse in human life toward freedom, dignity, and the full flourishing of those who have been kept apart or on the margins of human communities.”

That’s an odd thing for a pro-abort like Schori to say.  She denies the humanity of the unborn to rationalize their legal and taxpayer-funded destruction.

Just as the forces of historical inevitability led to the ending of industrial slavery, so too would the march of progress lead to a change in attitude towards homosexuality, she argued.

“We live with the continuing tension between holier impulses that encourage us to see the image of God in all human beings and the reality that some of us choose not to see that glimpse of the divine, and instead use other people as means to an end.  We’re seeing something similar right now in the changing attitudes and laws about same-sex relationships, as many people come to recognize that different is not the same thing as wrong.  For many people, it can be difficult to see God at work in the world around us, particularly if God is doing something unexpected.”

Anything Schori says that agrees with God is purely coincidental.  The Bible teaches the value of each human being made in God’s image.  It also teaches that homosexual behavior is a sin.

And, uh, isn’t she offended by those who disagree with her?  Seems kinda hypocritical.

To illustrate her point presiding bishop turned to the book of Acts, noting “There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it.  Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God.  She is quite right.  She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said, referencing the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.

“But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.

The poor girl was demon possessed.

Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.  It gets him thrown in prison.  That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!,” the presiding bishop said.

She was demon possessed, and Schori puts her on par — or above — the Apostle Paul?!

The New Testament passage goes on to say that Paul and Silas were imprisoned for freeing the girl of her demonic possession. Presiding Bishop noted “an earthquake opens the doors and sets them free, and now Paul and his friends most definitely discern the presence of God.  The jailer doesn’t – he thinks his end is at hand.”

However, Paul now repents of his mistake in casting out the spirit of divination, she argues.  “

This time, Paul remembers who he is and that all his neighbors are reflections of God, and he reaches out to his frightened captor.  This time Paul acts with compassion rather than annoyance, and as a result the company of Jesus’ friends expands to include a whole new household.  It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her.”

It is fascinating how she makes it up as she goes along.  It was an evil spirit in the slave girl, not the spirit of God.

And note that the text specifically says she was a slave.  Schori wished she would have stayed that way!  It is fascinating how wolves in sheep’s clothing can’t even get the simplest passages right.

In support her argument for radical inclusion and diversity over doctrine Bishop Jefferts Schori adds that the day’s reading “from Revelation pushes us in the same direction, outward and away from our own self-righteousness, inviting us to look harder for God’s gift and presence all around us.  Jesus says he’s looking for everybody, anyone who’s looking for good news, anybody who is thirsty.  There are no obstacles or barriers – just come.  God is at work everywhere, even if we can’t or won’t see it immediately.”

Yes, just come, but on his terms: Repent and believe.

. . .

Responses posted on the Episcopal Church’s website to the Presiding Bishop’s sermon have been uniformly harsh, noting her interpretation was at odds with traditional Christian teaching, grammar, and logic. “This is quite possibly some if the most delusional exegesis I’ve ever read in my life,” one critic charged. “I’m sorry, but this sermon is not a Christian sermon.”

The reception by bloggers has been equally unkind. The Rev Timothy Fountain observed the presiding bishop had up ended the plain meaning of the text. “Instead of liberation” in freeing the slave girl from exploitation, presiding bishop finds “confinement.  Instead of Christ’s glory, there’s just squalor.”

The Rev. Bryan Owen argued “What’s happening here is the exploitation of a biblical text in service to a theopolitical agenda.  Given what she says in the first paragraph I’ve quoted from her sermon, the Presiding Bishop suggests that anyone who doesn’t buy into that agenda – anyone who holds to the traditional, orthodox understanding of such matters – is likewise afflicted with the same narrow-minded bigotry as Paul, and thus in need of enlightenment.”

That’s good news!  There is some hope for people there.

Hey Harris County area Christians: If you’ve ever considered trying prison ministry . . .

. . . now is a great time.  I’ll be leading a Kairos Prison Ministry weekend this October 11-13.  If you have any interest please contact me for more information.  It is a highly effective and rewarding ministry.  There are roles for men inside and outside the prison and roles for women outside (and everyone gets to go inside the prison chapel for the closing ceremony to hear how the weekend went).

And as a bonus, the first 10 people to sign up get a free prison tattoo!  Just kidding!  Probably!

When was the last time you read the entire Bible?

bible.jpgIf you are a Christian and you haven’t read the entire Bible at least once in your life, then it will be really awkward in Heaven when you meet some of the authors. Oh, uh, hi Obadiah . . . yeah, well, sorry I never got around to reading your book . . . OK, I can’t lie anymore, I didn’t even know you had a book in the Bible . . . oh look – a squirrel! [runs away].

More importantly, if you really love God and trust in Jesus for your eternal salvation, wouldn’t you want to know what He took the time to reveal to us?  Remember, the original writings turned out exactly as He wanted them to and they have been reliably transmitted to us.  His word, properly understood, trumps any other messages you hear or feelings you have.

In-depth, verse-by-verse Bible study is vital, but I also encourage people to go through the entire Bible fairly quickly now and then.  Don’t worry about catching every little nuance, just immerse yourself in it.  It will accomplish what God promised it would.

There are all sorts of reading plans available, including my current favorite, the chronological approach.  It is especially useful when going through the Old Testament, as it lines up the history and associated Psalms and Prophets better than reading it straight through.

One of the best things about reading it all is that when you come across popular verses you can automatically consider the context.  I memorized a lot of individual verses years ago and was surprised how different they sounded when I came across them in context.  That was humbling!  Now I ensure that if I memorize a verse that I know what was being addressed in the broader passage.

For example, if you’re used to hearing Jeremiah 29:11 (For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope) used as a one-size-fits-all bit of encouragement for believers (and even non-believers) then you’ll be very surprised at what it really means.  You’ll realize that it could have just as easily said, “For I know the plans for you, declares the Lord, plans to punish you for your disobedience by keeping you in captivity for 70 years, not just 2 as the false prophet said.”  (I’ve listened to Jeremiah the last couple days so that one really sticks out.)

If you are too busy to read the Bible, then you are too busy.  You need to change your priorities immediately.  And whether you are busy or not, consider using an audio Bible.  Faith Comes By Hearing is a ministry that produces audio recordings of the Bible in hundreds of languages and all are available for free downloads. (Some countries are 80-90% illiterate, so getting the spoken Word to them via solar-powered audio devices is a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship.)

But it is a great tool for us as well.  Having the Bible on your phone or MP3 player means you can listen to it throughout the day — commuting, errands, doing chores, exercising, etc. I usually listen to 8-10 chapters on my way into work.  It is a great way to start the day.

So just dive in and read or listen to all you can!  Don’t get hung up on exactly how much you cover each day.  Some days will be better than others.  Satan loves it when people set expectations too high and then quit when they miss a day or two.  Just read some . . . then some more . . . then some more . . . and never stop.

An exhaustive list of the verses telling us to listen for messages from God (when praying or otherwise)

[Beginning of list]

  •  

[End of list]

Yep, there aren’t any.  Be cautious of leaders who claim otherwise.  Ask for verses, in context.  That doesn’t mean that God couldn’t speak to you that way, just that it isn’t normative or biblical and that the burden of proof is on the one claiming they did hear from God.  If they quote what He allegedly said to them then they are putting their words on par with the inspired Bible.  It is possible, but that’s quite a claim.

And it means you shouldn’t teach others that they must be doing something wrong if they aren’t “hearing” from God in personalized ways.  Don’t harm the faith of others with non-biblical teachings.  It isn’t loving.

If you want to hear from God, read the Bible.  If you want to hear from him audibly, then read the Bible out loud.  I suggest a deep study of the 31,173 verses He definitely gave us before insisting on a personal bonus revelation.

P.S. Please note that I am not discounting the Holy Spirit in any way.  I love him as I love the Father and the Son and He has unique roles outlined in scripture.  But again, please offer specific verses, in context, if your claim is that the Bible says it is normative to get specific communications from him when praying.