Rethink without Compromising

Is it possible to rethink a stance on something without compromising what you believe?

I honestly don’t know.

I do know when you rethink and question a long-held belief you run the danger of others thinking your have compromised.

I guess that’s why a lot of people never rethink and question the way they look at things.

Someone said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I think it was Socrates.

The reason I bring this up is because one of the major issues facing the evangelical church in the United States is the issue of homosexuality. This issue has the potential to split and fracture the church like no other issue in recent memory.  This morning’s announcement that the Boy Scotts are changing their stance has put the issue back on the front burner. At least for today.

Somehow we have to rethink our approach to the LBGT community and learn to love and respect and accept our friends without condoning or condemning them and pushing them further from Christ and the church.

Can that be done without compromise?

The church has changed her views on controversial issues in the past…Galileo comes to mind…as does Slavery…Alcohol and a host of other topics. Many will say those changes show compromise. Others will say it is just the evolving and maturing nature of religion to change and adapt.

Is sexual orientation a salvation issue?

Can you be a Christian and be gay?

Where does grace enter the equation?

And repentance?

And holiness?

Have you ever read an evangelical defense of homosexuality? (Here is a link to one such defense.)

I have thought about these questions for years now. I have blogged about it in the past. (Here is a link to one of those blogs. Once you read it and you can search my blog and find others.)

It is possible to rethink an issue without compromising?

I really would like to hear from you and your thoughts about all this.

Can we start a conversation?

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27 thoughts on “Rethink without Compromising

    • James,
      We allow overweight people to pastor our churches and lead ministries in our churches. Does that mean we should do the same thing for homosexuals? If not, then why not? The Bible does have some very harsh things to say about gluttony. I know God has convicted me big time in this area of my life and I have been trying to walk in obedience in that area. But I am a long way from “cured” of my gluttonous appetite. Does tht disqualify me from ministry?

  1. I don’t think that compromising is the issue really. Issues of morality aren’t really up for debate. It’s not as though the Bible says one thing, culture says another, and the two can meet in the middle and compromise. Scripture stands as the authority, end of discussion.

    However, what we do have to re-evaluate how our lives and practices line up with Scripture. Homosexuality is a sin, period. But so is lying, stealing, gossiping, adultery, etc. Do we march on Washington to protest gossips? Do we ostracize all liars from the church? We like to preach “hate the sin; love the sinner,” but collectively we only practice it as far as it makes us comfortable. The bottom line is that we all have a sin problem: welcome to humanity. We claim that Christ is the antidote for anyone and everyone, regardless of their particular poison. But it seems like we all to often fail to live like we really believe it.

    If someone is under the impression that the solution to the sin of homosexuality is any different than the solution to their own shortcomings, either their God is too small or they don’t believe in biblical depravity.

    • Well put Carson. If you get a chance, read the link I have that demonstrates at least one attempt to look at what the bible says about homosexuality from a different perspective.

      • I did read it. And I’m very familiar with that line of reasoning. I would love to go piece by piece to draw out the flaws therein (especially in his exegesis of Scripture!), but I just don’t have time. There are two very salient points I would like to make in response, however:

        1) As a culture, we have put “gays” in a box. I find it ironic that they accuse someone like me who disagrees with their agenda of being “closed minded,” but then proceed to transmit a message that forces people into their own understanding of being gay. “Are you a boy that likes to play with dolls; a man who is well versed in fashion? Do you find yourself sometimes or often physically attracted to men? You must be gay! Welcome to the club!” No, I think the “gay rights” movement has actually marginalized people more than they were beforehand by attaching the practice of sodomy (and other homosexual activities) to an individual’s personality. That is more damaging in the long run than any disagreements about sexual practices. And we go along with it! What a shame…

        2) Historically, a rise in the openness and acceptance of homosexual practices in a culture is paralleled by the decay and collapse of that same culture. For all our talk of progress, our culture is undeniably in a state of decay. Violence is increasing; our financial practices are unsustainable; innovation into new fields is slowing down (we simply keep improving what we already have); cultural output is slowly being reduced to drivel simply released to preserve the bottom line for various production companies. The rise of homosexuality is not to blame for these things, but is, like them, a symptom pointing to the greater problem.

        What causes a culture to rise, and what causes it to decay? That is a separate discussion, but it is the actual crux of the issue. And it is on the issue of the rise and fall of cultures that I think Scripture speaks most plainly. 🙂

        And for the record, I do not speak as one who bears any sort of hatred or disdain for anyone who would identify themselves as “gay.” I have a very close family member whom I love dearly who claims to be gay. We disagree on many things, that being one of them, but that doesn’t mean I hate him or any other self-professed gay individual.

  2. As a pastor, how much time do you spend one to one talking to each church member about that individual’s sin? Could you worship with me and not discuss my female partner?

    I know that gay lovemaking is not necessarily sinful. I am quite sure that the Bible condemns us only in certain circumstances. For example Romans 1 clearly refers to idolatry, and what happens during idolatrous worship. That has no more relevance to the lives of faithful gay couples than the attempted gang rape in Sodom.

    So, why not worship together?

    • Thank you Clare.
      Periodically I do have to discuss individual sins with church members and help them receive grace and forgiveness in their lives. Periodically I have to discuss my individual sins with people I trust and receive grace and forgiveness myself. We are all sinful and all of us are in need of grace and forgiveness. I trust you and I could worship together.

  3. On one hand it is hard for me to read biblical interpretation that avoids calling gay acts a sin without shaking my head. I have read maybe 7 or 8 authors who support this, among them a guy named Dale Martin who doesn’t seem to be a slouch in the area of hermeneutics. But even after much study, I can’t get around the obvious (in my understanding) on the teachings of this being a sin issue.

    However, there are a lot of ways I have moved a lot in my thinking on this issue. I think Christians need to be careful of the terminology and cliches they use. Many of them turn of a lot of gay people unnecessarily. I think we need to stop trying to make it as simple as “this is a choice”. If we teach that we have a “sin nature”, then trying to make this a choice without “natural” tendencies associated with it, I think we are inconsistent. I think we need more nuanced answers to questions and stop making everything “yes” and “no” – the Bible is so often not about “yes” and “no”. And, in that vein, I definitely think we need to put down our sword at times to listen to real people talk about real issues and not feel the need to make use people know what we feel about this “sin” before we listen to them. Listening does not mean agreeing. And I think there is something indeed Christlike about being willing to invest 20,000 conversations with 20,000 steps towards real solutions to real problems.

    Even after saying those things, I confess I feel like I barely know anything about this issue and that the canyon that exists between the GLBT community and the American Christian Church (much of which is created by us) is so large I don’t know if it can be reduced – and definitely without those 20,000 conversations. But my faith is small sometimes.

  4. First, homosexuality is not a sin anymore than being straight is a sin. Just because someone identifies themselves as gay does not mean they are out having sex with every Tom, Dick and Harry. I hope we can agree that the sin the Bible speaks of is a sexual sin not a sin of identification.

    Second, this is not a black and white issue. It is as clear as mud. A thorough analysis and study of the handful of verses that remotely touch on the issue raise more questions and muddy the water even more. Any study of these verses must be made within the proper socio-historic context.

    Finally, in light of the disagreement regarding the interpretation of the Biblical verses on the subject, I would suggest looking to the many godly men and women that identify themselves as gay. When you see the Holy Spirit working in and through gays and lesbians who are living Christ centered lives it makes it very hard to stand by the old and outdated view of the gay community and their place in the Church.

    I go to Crosspoint Community Church here in Nashville where many God loving and fearing gays and lesbians worship weekly … some are single, some are celibate and some are in committed monogamous relationships. Some are no different than their straight counterparts … not living out their faith … but others are truly on fire for God and He is using them in a powerful way to reach others.

  5. I’ve battled this issue more than once here. Denver has several “welcoming” churches (as they are marketed as such) that are “gay” friendly. I have no issues with gays attending worship at my church no more than I do those who are caught in adultery, living together, etc… I see sexual sin as just that…All the same in God’s eyes. Is being gay a sin? As Gowdy has stated, I’m not sure I’d go that far but acting out on those tendencies can be sinful yes. The Bible is quite clear in this. The church is capitulating on many issues (drugs, living together, redefining cursing, etc..) so I see the beliefs I have as steadily going into the minority as I get older. I’m a realist. I will not perform a gay wedding. I have my convictions on the issue as a pastor. That said, I love and pray for many gay friends that I have including a couple that works at my local Chick Fil-A if that indeed is irony!

  6. Not really impressed with Yale prof Dale Martin in terms of his commitment to reading the biblical text according to authorial intention. What ever re-thinking we need to do must not stem from a desire to conform to the spirit of the age.

    You just can’t get around certain biblical texts without doing violence to the author’s intended meaning, Romans 1 being one such text.

  7. A more honorable approach to Bible reading than claiming that it says whatever you want it to say, would be to simply reject the Bible as a source of authority over your life.

    One honorable Harvard Divinity professor once told his class, “You might reject what Paul teaches on a given controversial subject, but at least let him say what he intends to say.”

  8. Jeff, you’re right about how we ordain gluttonous preachers. We don’t affirm their gluttony, but we don’t let it stand in the way of ordination.

    Generally speaking, we differentiate between some lesser sins and some greater sins. We ordain people or allow them in leadership knowing that they are sinners, prone to sin, and sometimes even knowing that a particular sin is a source of constant defeat for them. Yet, we recognize that some sins are more serious in terms of being an impediment to their ministry. Because persistence in sexual sin has so much more consequence than gluttony, churches are more likely to overlook gluttony than sexual sin.

    Moreover, one can hardly escape Paul’s depiction in Rom 1 of homosexuality as being the most extreme expression of our depravity. Homosexuality is not just one sin among many. It was one of those sins which was so appalling to the Jewish mind and under such universal condemnation by ethical monotheists that its condemnation was something that typically went without saying.

  9. I was disappointed with some of what Martin wrote in Sex and the Single Savior, especially his explanation of the 2 uses of arsenokoites (likewise, I read most of Gagnon’s big book and didn’t like all of his arguments). Martin is just as close as I could find to someone who takes the other position that has any repute with conservative scholars. There are dozens of books on Amazon that are “pro-gay” and I tried to find the most legit ones.

  10. Sometimes people joke that every presidential election, 50% of the country is unhappy. Well, this may be an issue where no matter what your position, you make 80% unhappy. That seems to be how divided a spectrum we have. As a person who wants people to like me, and as one who believes in reconciliation, this is hard to accept.

    I don’t know if any of you know of or have read Andrew Marin and the work he does here in Chicago but he gets extreme hate from everybody. I have read him and listened to him carefully and can’t stand with him on everything. But man I love it he is trying.

  11. Michael Bird, an influential young evangelical, will be giving a perspective on this topic. He just told me his paper is entitled, “Would St. Paul Get an Invite to Pray at President Obama’s Inauguration? Situating Paul Between Inclusive and Traditional Sexual Ethics”

    Greer Heard is a great week of good stuff at NOBTS. If anyone wants to come to the conference, let me know asap, and I’ll try to get good arrangements for you.

  12. God is not a compromising God. He is a merciful and just God though. His mercy can comfort us. His justice can crush us. And His grace only can save us.

    The Bible from Genesis through Revelation always affirms marriage as heterosexual. Yet, homosexuality is not new at all. The proof is that it is mentioned in the Scriptures which are thousands of years old. What is fashionable in these days is to reinterpret what is sin and what is not according to oneself and his/her idea of what is right or wrong (as way back in the garden of Eden). The concept that as an individual, one must submit to God and His Word is anathema in today’s culture (which has always existed in sinful men and women throughout the ages). Jesus said that divorce was allowed because of the hardness of hearts but that in the beginning it was not so.

    The trend is as follows. In the past, the church in America condemned homosexuality as a sin. Today, many churches in America still condemn homosexuality as a sin. However, there are many churches that are saying and teaching that homosexuality is not a sin. Some churches today are celebrating with the homosexual in their sin by wedding them. It is no longer an issue of whether it is right or wrong, sin or not. These churches have accepted the lie that homosexuality is not a sin. Scripturally speaking, it is a sin. The church historically has recognized it as a sin. There is forgiveness of sin in Christ. However, homosexuality is and continues to be a sin. The Christian who is sinning needs to deal with his/her sin according what the Bible teaches us. We don’t celebrate sin, condone sin, affirm sin, rationalize sin, justify sin.

  13. I was thinking about this through the day at work yesterday. I remember an article written by Robert J. Morgan that appeared in an old CONTACT magazine several years ago. I searched in vain last night for it but I think all my old CONTACT mags hit the trash when we moved from Missouri to Denver many years ago. If someone has it and could post a PDF, that would be great. I felt it was the best discussion about this topic from an evangelical perspective I had read.

  14. For the sake of helping Kevin keep the discussion going, I want to give an example of a nuanced answer to a yes/no question similar to those Kevin proposed (with anticipation of nuanced answers). My disclaimer is that I don’t like beginning with this when dealing with GLBT people because it seems they usually already know what I believe and I want to tear down walls and bust stereotypes if I can. My not feeling the need to make sure people know where I stand up front I hope to accomplish that.

  15. As I take the position that the Bible calls gay acts unnatural and lists them in sin lists, I wonder if a person can commit them and still be Christian. My obvious first thought is that it would be hypocritical to say No because I struggle and cede to lust all the time. So I think a key is sorrow. I have never lusted and not felt sorrow. It produces a desire to change, to see accountability, to confess and stand on grace. If a person is committing gay acts but feels no sorrow, I cannot at this point reconcile that with true conversion. Pride parades blow my mind in this regard.

  16. Pingback: Here We Go | revkev43

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