Is there no longer a consensus in evangelicalism?

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Last week, City Church, a large evangelical church in San Francisco released this letter from its pastor and elders reflecting a shift in their position on same-sex sexual relationships. While they are not the first, nor will they be the last church to do so, their shift is particularly noteworthy because of the church’s original roots in the Presbyterian Church in America, a very conservative evangelical denomination, where it was planted in the model of Tim Keller’s Redeemer Church in New York City. All of this hits a bit close to home for me as an elder in a city church in the PCA.

What I found especially noteworthy were two points made in the letter justifying the shift—one biblical and one pastoral. The elders at City Church write,

For so long this has been a “case closed” kind of issue for evangelicals. But in recent years, multiple respected evangelical scholars and theologians have begun to wrestle with this and a healthy debate is underway. Asking questions about what the Scriptures say on this issue must always be coupled with asking why the Scriptures say what they do and what kind of same-sex activity is being addressed. Scholars and leaders who have previously been united in their interpretations are coming to different conclusions. This does not mean that your view must change, but it does counsel humility with how we each hold our views. Given the status and variety of these opinions, what has become clear to us is that there is no longer clear consensus on this issue within the evangelical community.

With respect to the traditional biblical ethic, they argue that while in the past there was an evangelical consensus on these matters, the advent of evangelicals like Ken Wilson advocating for a “third way” position means that this particular issue is now in the evangelical adiaphora, those things on which we can disagree but remain united since they do not strike at the vitals of the gospel. (Ron Belgau addressed this last year, arguing that the New Testament treats sexual ethics quite differently than the dietary questions which it does treat as adiaphora.)

All this strikes me as a particularly evangelical problem: the less we are rooted in the history of the church and its teachings, the more likely we are to see the shifts of a few scholars as cause to dismiss the previous consensus. This is true especially when there are both cultural and pastoral pressures to get with the times. I’m sympathetic with Professor Anthony Bradley’s comments on Twitter regarding the state of evangelicalism:

Church history ought to teach us to approach such revisions cautiously—2,000 years of church teaching should probably not be tossed away after a short period of intensive study. However, shifts in the evangelical consensus should lead us to humility in how we hold our views, not because we must be wrong, but because such shifts call for winsome and well-thought out responses.

Second, City Church’s letter appeals to the goal of “human flourishing” as pastoral grounds for their ethical change. This strikes close to home because this is much of the same language my own church uses to describe its pastoral goals in downtown St. Louis. The City Church elders go on to comment on celibacy:

Our pastoral practice of demanding life-long “celibacy”, by which we meant that for the rest of your life you would not engage your sexual orientation in any way, was causing obvious harm and has not led to human flourishing… In fact, over the years, the stories of harm caused by this pastoral practice began to accumulate. Our pastoral conversations and social science research indicate skyrocketing rates of depression, suicide, and addiction among those who identify as LGBT. The generally unintended consequence has been to leave many people feeling deeply damaged, distorted, unlovable, unacceptable, and perverted… This is simply not working and people are being hurt. We must listen and respond.

City Church should be commended for their desire to offer helpful and practical pastoral care for their LGBT people. As has been said here before, far too many evangelical churches view the totality of their obligation to same-sex attracted people in their congregations as reminding them that same-sex behavior is sin. So much of this paragraph rings true for LGBT people trying to live out celibate lives in the context of evangelical churches. Such vocations are so frequently unrecognized by fellow laypeople or unsupported by the structures of the church.

However, much of the project of the community here at SF has been an attempt to rectify the “problem” of celibacy not by abandoning the vocation, but by helping churches support it. We do so because what makes a vocation valid—and what defines human flourishing—are not social science statistics or even anecdotal evidence, but rather the Scriptures themselves. I want to be clear here that neither statistical data nor anecdotal evidence of the hardships of LGBT people ought to be dismissed. In many cases they are an indictment on the church for its failure to care for such people. However, while there is certainly a pragmatic element to evaluating human flourishing, the language of flourishing assumes a telos, and that goal is ultimately defined by God, not ourselves.

The celibate life of Jesus and those celibate saints who have come after him push us to reject the notion that the call to celibacy is a call “with no hope that you too might one day enjoy the fullness of intellectual, spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical companionship.” The fullness of these things are found in Christ, and the human approximations of them are found not only in marriage but in other human relationships, including friendship. Many of the writers here at SF have articulated quite honestly both the hope and the travail of celibacy. It is certainly not easy—but neither is it without hope of flourishing.

While the evangelical consensus wavers and the pastoral viability of celibacy is questioned, there is much cause for the evangelical church to take stock: On what basis do we believe what we believe about sexuality? What have we done to make celibacy a viable vocation in our churches?  How will we respond to a culture that is increasingly hostile to the traditional ethic? How evangelicals respond to these questions will go far in determining the future of the traditional ethic in such churches across the country.

Kyle KeatingKyle Keating received his M.Div. at Covenant Theological Seminary and teaches theology and history at a small Christian school in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives with his wonderful wife Christy. He can be followed on Twitter: @KyleAKeating.

83 thoughts on “Is there no longer a consensus in evangelicalism?

  1. Has the church ever been united completely on anything? There’s a reason that 41,000 denominations have existed since the time of Jesus, and I find that rather curious. It’s also worth noting that scholars and preachers have been wrong about the Bible before regarding the shape of the earth, the ethics of slavery, and the treatment of women, to name a few things. I’m not saying what we have interpreted about homosexuality is wrong, but at the very least, maybe Christians should be open to the *possibility* that we’ve erred in interpreting those passages too.

    • I agree Beth, that we should always be open to consider whether our interpretations of Scripture have been wrong. But the other side of that balance is to recognize that there is real weight in 2,000 years of church teaching. Guys like Ken Wilson, Matthew Vines, and James Brownson should be read and their arguments weighed and evaluated. Given the current cultural climate, I think evangelicals are probably more in danger of downplaying the weight of tradition than the weight of current arguments that align with the broader cultural shift.

      • The problem with tradition is there is no way to tell if it’s weight and power comes from being right or if it comes from the fact that the biggest and most violent peoples enforced said tradition at the point of a sword on all cultures around them. There is a danger in lending credence to philosophies just because they are old and have been around awhile.

  2. You don’t acknowledge the real harm that forced celibacy does to many people. Your answer seems to be see we aren’t harmed so no one is harmed by it. Most people straight or gay are not called to celibacy yet you want to force gay people into it consequences be damned.

      • Which – if it is violated – leads to what, Joe? The answer to that question will shine light on the measure of coercion that undergirds this particular ethic.

      • DJ,

        When it comes to God we are all in the same bin: the bin of the needy. We are all in this bin, no one escapes. Some strive to be obedient and some decide to disobey but we all remain in the same bin, no one escapes.

      • DJ, encouragement to return to obedience – carefully gracefully explained – followed by encouragement to find a more suitable church if the individual refuses to accept the teachings of his original more conservative/traditional one.

      • Ohhhh. So being in a gay marriage doesn’t send you to hell? It just means you have to go to another church? OK then, you’re right…no guns there. I guess there isn’t any coercion involved at all. Thanks for explaining.

        But wait. If there are no consequences to disobedience, then???

      • Disobedience doesn’t help to build the Kingdom of God. And if you don’t help build the Kingdom you are in danger of not making it to the Kingdom and bringing down others with you.

        However, the question about ultimate salvation, it is not for us to provide a definite answer. We ought to warn about the danger of disobedience but only God owns the judgement.

      • Hmmm. That there celibacy is starting to sound a little forced again…

        “I’m not forcing you. I’m just saying that if you don’t do it, there’s risk of eternal damnation, not to mention sending everyone else you love to hell too.”

        Kinda like “It’s not that I’m forcing you to do my will, it’s just that if you don’t, I’ll be forced to pull this here trigger, and the bullet will probably blow your brains out…but I’m not forcing you. You’ve got a choice.”

        I wonder how young people respond to that kind of logic? And gosh, now that I think about it, I wonder how young people who grow up to be adults internalize that sort of thing. Do they, say, become the kinds of adults who feel strongly compelled to be celibate, but then think that there’s no coercion involved in it?

        I do wonder…

      • DJ,

        Whether God exists and punishes people for disobedience is not up to Christians. That’s God’s deal. You can’t hold the Church responsible for it.

        Perhaps your frustration is with God, not with man. Just sayin.

        Peace,
        Daniel

      • Or perhaps it’s with haughty ignoramuses who think they know all about God and presume that others don’t. Just sayin.

        Of course, it’s a moot point though, isn’t it? Because that doesn’t make your celibacy any less forced. It really doesn’t matter who’s holding the gun. You’re still stuck with forced celibacy.

      • Yes, but it’s not with haughty ignoramuses like me. I’m sure I can be annoying, but I don’t require anything of you. I’m fine with you doing whatever you like, so long as you don’t hurt anyone.

        So far as I can tell, God asks more. I can’t say that that fact always seems fair to me, either, DJ — and I do incur costs because of it. But sorry, I’m not oppressing anyone. Annoying people? Sure, guilty as charged. But no one experiences one iota more pain simply because I uphold traditional Christian values.

      • Yes DJ, we proclaim the Gospel. Jesus saved us and we must take up our cross to be resurrected to life. If someone refuses the cross it is disobeying and thus in danger and we must warn about this. If you see this as coercion then you must take it up with Jesus who is the one that told us we must take our crosses up. It is not something we made up. Jesus is clear, what can I say? Whether or not a given person is ultimately dammed it is not for me or for the church to say. But Jesus is clear, if we try to save our life we will lose it, if we lose it we will save it. Jesus is clear, take the narrow path not the wide one. Jesus is clear, take up your cross daily and follow him and He died in the cross.

        So yes we must warn against “gay marriage” as putting people in danger but we must not condemn because the judgment is not ours. Warning is no coercion. It shows actual love and concern. You do what you must but be aware because not everything is godly, not everything is pleasing to God.

      • Also you don’t have to be celibate. You may marry to the opposite sex if you find someone that you consider special and that he/she considers you special. This is also an option.

      • Expressing your beliefs is all fine and good, Rosamin. I have my beliefs too. I think you’re wrong about this, and I think that you’re wrong in such a way as to cause legitimate harm to countless people, which is not only fundamentally abominable, but extraordinarily un-Christlike.

        Obviously, we do not have similar theologies. And we simply aren’t going to any time soon, I imagine. I just take umbrage with this disingenuous soft-peddling – pretending as if gay celibacy were not forced. It is. Say it and be proud of it. Don’t pretend as if it’s otherwise. Why hide the coercion that goes into this theology? It only makes you seem all the more dubious.

        It’s forced celibacy. Plain and simple. God holds the gun, and you applaud him for it (or else cower in fear that he’ll turn it on you if you don’t toe the line.) I get it. I even used to believe and practice it. It doesn’t make you a bad person to have this kind of faith. But I think there are consequences to it.

        That being said, I have a feeling Joe thinks I’m placing him in an unfair (or at least inaccurate) box. Which very well could be true. I would love to know how though, because this is how it looks from my vantage point. It wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong about something 🙂

      • Daniel, I annoy people too! Like CRAZY! So at least we have that in common 🙂

        I didn’t say you were oppressing anyone though. Nor did I assume that you (in particular) were. I don’t know you from Adam…or Steve.

      • DJ, like I said, you have the same options as everyone else: marry the opposite sex or be celibate. And you have the same burden than anyone else: carry your own cross.

      • Sorry but no, I don’t agree.

        Gay marriage is not an option if that’s what you mean but this doesn’t force celibacy on anyone, precisely because opposite sex marriage is an option for anyone.

        Now I beg you to be honest and acknowledge the options you have which are the options anyone has.

        At the end, what I’m seeing here is that you are the one forcing celibacy upon yourself because you are the one rejecting opposite sex marriage as an option. I, on the other hand, am pointing to it as one of your legitimate options.

        It is because society sees “marriage” as the equivalent of “romantic relationship” that you don’t see opposite sex marriage as an option. But marriage is NOT a “romantic relationship”. It also doesn’t necessarily involve sex at all.

        You are the one closing the door not the church. So don’t blame the church for your own bias.

      • DJ, there’s a difference between defining sin and saying it will “send you hell”.

        My personal observation is that gay marriage affirming Christians tend to deny/ignore a wide range of orthodox Christian teachings and quickly drift away the faith entirely.

      • Rosamin, I’m sorry for jumping to conclusions and assuming you had a basic grasp of logic.

        Telling someone that they have two unfeasible options is not devoid of those choices being FORCED. Especially considering that one of those options has been empirically shown (by even conservative, Evangelical scholars like Mark Yarhouse) to be extraordinarily fraught with problems (please see his research on Mixed Orientation Marriages; if you have a short attention span, let me just give you the Reader’s Digest version: it’s not a good option for most gay people.)

        I’m beginning to wonder what a forced option would even look like to you.

        Listen, if I hold a gun to your head and say “you can either jam this nail into your eye or you can shove this cactus up your butt – but if you do anything else, I’m going to shoot you in the head” – just because I’ve given you options doesn’t mean I’m not forcing you. Likewise, if you tell a person whose sexual, emotional, and romantic nature which is inclined toward someone of the same sex that they have the option to either be alone for the rest of their life or get married to someone whom they’re not inclined to love in a way that is suitable to them or else they’re going to suffer in eternal damnation, that there is FORCING them to do something. Those who choose MOM are forced into it, and those who choose celibacy are forced into, because it is not something they would do were there no threat of eternal torture (and social stigmatization) hanging over their heads. I don’t know how else to explain this to you. Perhaps a dictionary might help. I just looked up the word “force” on dictonary.com. There were a number of definitions that very aptly described what you wrote about above. Go check ’em out. It might aid in our further discourse. Alternatively, you could give me your personal, made-up definition of force and some examples of how what you’ve presented above is outside of that definition, then we can move on from there.

      • Again DJ, no. We are no forcing celibacy and we are no forcing marriage. We are presenting to people the options that are allowed to them. And no, they are not the same as your nail and your cactus.

        Let’s see… A woman gets married to a man and at the moment of marriage they are both “in love”. However, after the initial “honeymoon”, things start going sour. Problems arise, it can be financial problems, or health problems or any other sort. After many years of living an unsatisfactory relationship she wants out. So what should the church tell her? That she is allowed to leave her husband and go find another? That she is allowed to divorce and remarry? If the church tells her that she must remain married to her husband even though she is deeply unhappy is the church forcing unhappiness on her? What are her options? Her options are to make her marriage work or to remain in an unhappy marriage.

        And there are tons of studies showing that divorce and remarriage should be an option in order to avoid unhappiness. And there are tons of people that think that the options presented by the church lead to unhappiness, even despair. But divorce and remarriage is not an option. In other words the church shouldn’t change her moral teaching because people don’t like it.

        This is what you want for yourself: for the church to change her stand base on studies and statistics. In fact this is what everyone wants: to accommodate church teaching to our own desires. But that’s not what the church is for.

        However, I’m talking to DJ, not to a statistic or to an abstract individual in a study. I’m talking to you. I’m telling you what your options are and I’m telling you that there is also evidence that this options can lead to happiness (tons of it in fact). You are denying yourself the possibility of marriage to the opposite sex…. Because it will make you unhappy… You are not even giving it a chance. You are closed and then want to blame the church.

      • Your density and protracted, yet meaningless, speech is awe-inspiring. Truly. I’m not sure you would know evidence if it smacked you in the face. But out of sheer curiosity (read: calling you on your BS), I would LOVE to read this “TONS” of evidence you have that mixed orientation marriages produce happiness, considering that I can actually produce you evidence that it does not.

        Listen, Rosamin. It really IS a good idea for the Church to change it’s stance based on science. Here’s why: because if it didn’t, we would all still believe the earth was flat and that the universe revolved around us. But I am getting the very, very strong notion that trying to educate someone like yourself about the dangers of rejecting science would be casting proverbial pearls to swine. So I’ll save my time and energy and bid you adieu. My recommendations for you in the future: read. Start with a dictionary.

      • After re-thinking my last comment I want to rectify. The options of the married woman are not the ones I stated but these: to remain married or to separate/divorce without getting remarried.

        Happiness is an individual’s responsibility. The church can not attach happiness or unhappiness to any given option. The church must insist in the moral options and channel the grace to allow people to bare their crosses.

        People are indeed not statistics. It is people that make their own decisions. They can decide to learn to be happy within obedience or choose to be disobedient.

        And it is clear that whether the earth is flat or round is not the realm of moral teachings. But whether a married person can divorce and remarry is.

      • Rosamin: DJ points out that Yarhouse’s research shows MOM “is not a good option for most gay people” because it’s gay people are who are under discussion. Let me chime in as a straight person; it fails for them too. By definition if a MOM fails both the gay and the straight person suffer. Not to speak of the children.

        DJ: You can drag out dictionaries, make creative analogies, try to convince Rosamin, Joe et.al. with elegantly logical arguments. I think you will get nowhere NOT because they are stupid, but because they don’t WANT to say that gay people married to each other will go to hell. They are indefatigable in evading the obvious conclusion to their premises, because at some level they do see the cruelty of it. So they say..”all we sinners could all go to hell so I’m not just picking on gays” or “God decides; I don’t”–any thing to avoid saying that God would send decent loving couples to hell. Actually it speaks well of them that they don’t want to say this.

      • Hi Daniel –

        You say

        But no one experiences one iota more pain simply because I uphold traditional Christian values.

        On a personal level, I guess that could be true if you don’t actually know any gay couples or gay people open to romantic intimacy. But if you do know such people people, then your contempt for their relationships and your rejection of their full humanity surely is hurtful.

        On a corporate level, your claim is patently untrue. By choosing to subscribe to the traditionalist doctrine, you are perpetuating an inherently harmful belief that has had clearly devistating consequences for flesh and blood human beings. You may believe such injury is somehow part of God’s plan, but to deny the harm is either dishonest or willfully ignorant.

        And to be clear, you don’t uphold traditional Christian values, you uphold the traditional ethic on human sexuality. With all we now know both through science and experience, it seems that the latter doesn’t comport with the former.

      • Ford,

        Well, yes, I have friends and family members that are gay and in (or open to) same-sex romantic relationships. How exactly do you think I treat them? In point of fact, I don’t bring up the topic of homosexuality, unless I am opening up about my own life and telling them (and this is rare) that I myself have found it most helpful to refrain from homosexual relationships. I certainly don’t sit in judgment over them. I honor their relationships as the deep and meaningful friendships that they are; I don’t show contempt for the relationships! And I certainly don’t reject their full humanity. Quite the contrary, I respect their full humanity by respecting their own moral autonomy to make decisions about the moral framework by which they live their lives.

        (Are you respecting my moral autonomy by suggesting that — merely because I oppose same-sex sexuality — I must be oppressing or denigrating people? Or is that not what you’re saying?)

        “By choosing to subscribe to the traditionalist doctrine, you are perpetuating an inherently harmful belief that has had clearly devistating consequences for flesh and blood human beings.”

        What are these devastating consequences? Do you think that I support bizarre laws like the one passed in Indiana recently? Gosh, no! So what are the devastating consequences that follow from the mere belief that gay sex is wrong?

      • Hi Daniel –

        Do you view the intimate covenantal partnerships of your friends as a sanctified relationship? Or do you view them as inferior and immoral? The fact that you transform marriages into “deep and meaningful friendships” rather than recognizing them as profound intimate relationships points me in the direction of your answer. Presuming you categorize these relationships as sexually sinful, then you indeed hold these relationships in contempt In the same way one might view adulterous relationships as contemptuous.

        This is not a matter of opinion, this is the nature of your espoused belief. Water is wet.

        And yes, so long as you believe that gay people are unintended to live fully into the human experience – which includes romantic intimacy – then you are diminishing the humanity of gay people. And for the record, yes, I’m saying that opposing expressions of homosexuality is indeed denigrating people.

        As for harm, the traditionalist doctrine requires the stigmatization and marginalization of people who are gay – at a minimum within the Church and too often in the greater society. The harm that flows from it is self-evident: exclusion, discrimination, “fighting the normalization of homosexuality”.

        Further, traditionalists to some degree necessarily reject gay people who aren’t committed to life-long celibacy. The atrocity of reparative therapy is one prime example of the harm that flows from such rejection. The fact that 40% of homeless youth are gay is another heartbreaking consequence of anti-gay rejection. Elevated instances of suicide ideation and substance abuse for gay people growing up in conservative communities is another example. The school bullying epidemic is another example. The traditionalist doctrine induces distress in the gay kid’s interior life and in his community which is why it’s inherently harmful.

        It’s disingenuous to clutch your pearls and feign incredulity. I respect your moral autonomy to deal with your sexuality in any way you see fit. I don’t accept the churches teaching of contempt for gay people with the devistating impact on vulnerable kids any more than I accept Christian Scientists teaching that it’s godly to withhold essential medical care from children. Unless and until your beliefs require the unconditional acceptance and full inclusion of people who are gay within the Church – regardless of their personal convictions regarding the sanctity of gay relationships – then you are complicit in the harm. So, yes, unless you hold a legitimization, accommodation, or affirming view of same sex relationships; you are causing harm.

      • Ford,

        You say that you respect my moral autonomy to deal with my sexuality any way I see fit. But then you seem to also be saying that I am not to declare my moral convictions publicly, because any such declaration constitutes a “devastating impact on vulnerable kids”. As a matter of fact, Ford, your position is STRIKINGLY similar to the position of traditionalists in the mid-20th century, who said that people should not be allowed to publicly discuss their own moral convictions that homosexuality deserved public acceptance. Such traditionalists loudly trumpeted the fact that they were “defending the children” from harmful influences. Protecting the children, for them, involved silencing the moral convictions of people who disagreed with them about fundamental moral positions.

        It seems like you would like to silence people like me (through the use of rhetorical techniques, if not legal action), in order to protect the children. But you don’t seem willing to come to grips with the fact that I have a genuinely different opinion about what is best for the children.

        Your rhetoric is consistently aggressive and intimidating. You use phrases like “hold in contempt”, “denigrating people”, “stigmatization and marginalization”. You want me to feel like I’m hurting gay people. Your evidence for that claim is wanting, however. You act like I support bullying (of course I don’t; I was bullied once!), like I support reparative therapy (I don’t), like I support kicking gay kids out of homes (I don’t). You seem to have no awareness that I might have experience helping gay teenagers recover from the harm of overzealous and harm-inducing pastors (I do). You probably think that my first priority when someone comes out to me is to make sure they don’t have sex (It isn’t).

        You act like you know me. You don’t.

        You know ONE moral position I hold.

        I’m fine, by the way, with calling gay relationships/marriages “profound intimate relationships”. I think deep friendships between the same sex are just as profound and intimate as marriages – in some ways, they are more so. I categorize these relationships as “sexually sinful” in the same way as I categorize straight marriages that include oral/anal sex as “sexually sinful” – the people are doing something morally wrong within their relationship. That doesn’t make the relationship rotten to the core, or lacking in dignity and human depth – far from it.

        Now, lest you accuse me of “clutching my pearls” (not sure what that means, but I hope it’s family-friendly), I honestly understand the motivation behind the position you hold, as I also understand the motivation behind those who wanted moral dissent about homosexuality silenced in the 1950s. I just disagree with your position. EVEN IF I AM WRONG, it is beneficial for gay kids to have my voice out there so that they can understand WHY I am wrong. So use your reply to demonstrate why I am wrong. Let the truth prevail, and let’s stop arguing about why I should be quiet and keep my moral viewpoint to myself.

      • Hypatia

        We don’t say to anyone (even the worst criminal) tha God will send him to hell not because we don’t want to but because we can’t.

      • Hypatia, I’ll speak for myself and say that I only go as far as accepting the traditional Christian teaching – which also warns against assuming people get to heaven by being “decent and loving”.

        I’m the only Christian in my family. None of my family have set foot in a church (other than for weddings).The eternal consequences of their decision to reject Christ entirely is a lot more obvious than it is for a gay ‘married’ couple who are also self-professed Christians. What I think and say about my faith has very little to do with evading obvious conclusions.

      • Daniel –

        I’m not pretending to know you. All I know is the moral belief that you’ve espoused. That is solely what I’m engaging with. You can’t say that you hold traditionalist views – i.e., that gay relationships are immoral and inferior – and then claim you don’t hold gay couples in contempt.

        Nor am I trying to silence you – as if that were even within my ability.

        What I am saying plainly is that your traditionalist beliefs are harmful. You may not be bullying anyone, but your beliefs engender a climate where bullying is licensed. You may not believe in reparative therapy, but your beliefs are the genisis of the ex-gay movement.

        A harmful belief, no matter how sincerely held, no matter how nice the person holding it, is still harmful. The morality of “traditional morality” is suspect.

        You seem to want to distance yourself from the fact of this harm and your potential complicity in it (which is where this exchange began). But it’s an essential part of this conversation. You can deny or avoid the facts, that doesn’t make them any less true.

        I don’t know how it is you hold your traditionalist beliefs. As I said earlier, there are non-affirming positions that are ethically tenable – namely a legitimization view and/or an accommodation view. But if you are of the mind that gay relationships are never morally licit and that’s what the Church should teach, then you are complicit in the harm.

      • My beliefs don’t engender a climate of hatred, no more than the belief that people shouldn’t shoplift engenders a climate where shoplifters are hanged. If traditionalists don’t keep perspective and do cruel things, I am in no way responsible for that. Are you responsible for the awful things gay-affirming extremists have done?

      • Ford – do not try to make Daniel or anyone in Spiritual Friendship that doesn’t agree with your morals guilty of something we are not.

        Daniel – it has been a pleasure reading your comments. Thank you.

      • Daniel –
        I’m not speaking of extremists. I’m speaking of the harm that flows from the teaching of contempt for gay people. Do you care to articulate the harm that flows from gay affirming beliefs?

      • I never accused you of harming anyone, Ford. That was what you accused me of doing.

        By the way, I also believe that it’s wrong for teenagers to cut their wrists. (That is, it’s bad for them). Does it follow from that belief that I have contempt for teenagers who cut?

      • Daniel –

        You’re being evasive.

        I’ve said that your beliefs are harmful because traditionalist doctrine teaches contempt for gay people (i.e., that gay relationships are immoral and inferior and must be rejected) and demands that gay people live contrary to God’s creative intention for humanity (i.e., that gay people must be closed to the possibility of romantic intimacy). I gave explicit examples of how this contempt manifests itself deleterious ways in the lives of flesh and blood people. Further, I say that upholding these beliefs corporately makes you complicit in the harm that flows from the doctrine.

        You, in turn, claim being open to covanental relationship is not the best thing for kids (evidently as morally problematic as theft and as injurious as cutting therefore to be discouraged in society); yet when pressed to articulate the harm that befalls gay kids in communities that affirm the sanctity of gay relationships, you simply express umbrage at my initial claims of harm.

        You refuse to engage with the idea that your beliefs are inherently harmful other than to say “I’m nice, not harmful, to gay people; that harm’s caused by those other anti-gay Christians”. And you have yet to support your assertion that sexual repression is really what’s best for gay kids or why affirming the sanctity of gay relationships is actually harmful.

      • Ford,

        You realize, I imagine, that the world would be a VERY different place for gay teenagers if every traditionalist Christian were like me. I’m sure you have no doubts about that fact. So I’m puzzled as to why you’re so obstinate about me harming people. This much is clear: you want people to change their positions on gay relationships, period, even if there are moderate positions (like mine) that would significantly improve the life of gay teenagers without involving a compromise with traditionalist views on gay sexuality.

        The good is not the enemy of the best. You could find a set of things to agree with me upon, and help move churches toward compassion toward gay people. Your goal would be a full acceptance of gay sexual relationships, and mine wouldn’t. But we could agree on a lot.

        Instead you tell me that I’m hurting gay people. But the only evidence you give for that claim (aside from questionable claims that my beliefs inevitably lead to abuse) is that my belief that gay sex is wrong makes people feel lacking in dignity. Of course, ANY realization of sin in anyone’s life makes a person feel lacking in dignity. (Sin makes a person ugly, not dignified). If there’s nothing wrong with gay sex, though, that FEELING of being lacking in dignity is false. The child needs to be taught not to feel guilty for things that are not (ex hypothesi) wrong. And if someone has a false moral view (like you say I do, and I say you do) that person needs to be educated. They shouldn’t be accused of doing harm.

        As such, I do not accuse you of doing harm. So far as I can tell, you are doing the best you can to help people. I’m happy to acknowledge that.

        Now let me comment on some specific points you made.

        “I’ve said that your beliefs are harmful because traditionalist doctrine teaches contempt for gay people (i.e., that gay relationships are immoral and inferior and must be rejected).”
        I deny that characterization. Do traditionalists teach contempt for thieves, simply because they say theft is wrong? Of course not! We stand in contempt of the sin, not the sinner. (And of course, let me step up first in line here: my sins are grave, and they deserve contempt. I am likely a worse sinner than anyone else I’ve met who also deals with attraction to the same sex. But that doesn’t make me lacking in dignity; it just means that I must repent in order to EXPERIENCE that dignity.)

        “…and demands that gay people live contrary to God’s creative intention for humanity (i.e., that gay people must be closed to the possibility of romantic intimacy).”

        What is God’s creative intention for humanity, Ford? If God intended to bless gay marriages, why didn’t He make them fruitful? (I ask this seriously. I have often *wished* that He had made gay relationships fruitful, because I want my desire for men to make sense, to be properly *sexual*, in the reproductive sense).

        “…when pressed to articulate the harm that befalls gay kids in communities that affirm the sanctity of gay relationships…”

        I don’t remember you pressing me for such a thing. The harms that befall such children are, in my view, identical to the harms that befall straight kids who live in communities that indulge things like divorce, contraceptive lifestyles, designer families, pornography, and the like. There’s nothing specially wrong about homosexual activity – it’s not some particularly awful category of sin, just a run-of-the-mill sin. All sins of the sort I’ve mentioned make people more self-centered, more pleasure-focused, more liable to psychological harms, more depressed, and so on.
        NONE of these harms are connected with close intimate relationships between the same sex. I have no problem with such relationships, not even if they involve attraction, not even if they involve cohabitation (though these circumstances deserve pastoral guidance). The harms come from acting as if gay relationships were marital IN THE SENSE THAT straight marriages are marital – and this is a matter of romantic and sexual activity.

        “…your assertion that sexual repression is really what’s best for gay kids…”

        I haven’t asserted that. I spent 15 years repressing my desire for men, and I can’t say how terrible it was for me. I hate repression. So I don’t repress. I fully accept that I am attracted to men, and I’m OK with being attracted to men. It’s not something that worries me very much at all. But my sexual energy isn’t a force that must be satiated. That’s Freud’s claim, and it’s a damn lie. As the long and fruitful history of (Christian, Buddhist, etc.) celibacy attests, sexual energy does not need an outlet. There is a wonderful and profoundly enriching world beyond sexual satisfaction. Sex is one good thing in the world; it is neither central nor indispensable.

      • Daniel and Ford, it’s so interesting to read this exchange. Per usual, I’m largely in agreement with you, Ford, and I have found your articulation poignant and refreshing. Daniel, for you, I have lots of thoughts and feelings. The first is that you sound like a really cool guy…the kind of guy that were I to meet over coffee, we’d have a fantastic conversation and become good friends! You do indeed sound like a really nice guy, and someone who personally isn’t necessarily doing a lot of harm to LGBT people (certainly nowhere NEAR the level of say a Jerry Fallwell, or a James Dobson, or someone like that.)

        To be sure, I would see it as a positive thing if more people in the Church adopted your attitudes and demeanor. I’d see that as great progress for the Body of Christ.

        At the same time, I also feel like I’m talking to Alan Chambers or Randy Thomas circa 2012. As an ex-ex-gay, I remember having talks with TONS of folks like them (many of whom I still call friends to this day), trying to get them to see the very things I think Ford is trying to articulate to you now: that even though you personally are a pretty nice guy, and you personally, aren’t torturing any gay people, what you believe has systemic effects. I think Ford is trying to get you to engage not with some sort of personal sin, but with corporate sin. There are consequences to your theology, and even if you don’t spew “hate,” that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not complicit in how many churches and religious bodies live out that theology.

        From my vantage point, it looks like this: if what you say is true (i.e., that all gay love and intimacy is inherently wrong/sinful), then the Church has a responsibility to proclaim that and prevent it. I think Ford very adroitly has shown how this has affected LGBT people (and not in a very positive way). So I guess I’m wondering how you think that a nice guy like you shouldn’t be wrapped up into the equation? I don’t think it’s enough to say that you’re personally nice (just as this was not enough for Alan Chambers…he had to face up to the effects his ex-gay theology had on a systemic level and has since apologized for that.) How exactly do you think your beliefs play out systemically?

      • Hi Daniel –

        I appreciate the conciliatory tone. I still profoundly disagree and urge to consider the real-life consequences of your beliefs.

        I would agree to some extent that there are more and less harmful ways to hold a traditionalists belief. I don’t imagine you’d counsel a parent to “leave their child to the devil” by disowning them as one prominent evangelical leader has done. And, as I stated earlier, I recognize that there are non-affirming positions that are moral ways to hold anti-gay beliefs – namely a legitimization view or an accommodation view.

        But at the end of the day, you would still look a gay kid in the eyes and tell him that he is profoundly flawed in a way that makes him unsuitable for romantic intimacy and that any intimate relationship he’d form is immoral and inferior. I’m sure there were slave owners who were relatively kind to their slaves; that doesn’t make slavery morally acceptable.

        It seems, at some point, you have internalized that damaging church teaching too. As the old saying goes: hurt people hurt people.

        You say that the harm from “indulging sin”, including affirming the sanctity of gay marriage, is that people (presumably including those people in such relationships) become “more self-centered, more pleasure focused, more liable to [experience] psychological harms, more depressed, and so on.” That is an awe-inspiring broad brush that’s not grounded in reality; and, not for nothing, that perspective betrays the contempt that you say you don’t hold for gay couples. You can say you love the sinner but hate the sin all you want. The fact is, you’re saying that society would be better off if couples in sexual gay relationships didn’t exist.

        First, marriage is cruciform: it’s a vow of life-long mutual self-sacrifice, care-taking, and fidelity in the service of community. It is (or at least should be) the opposite of self-centered. Second, it is the people who experience the distress of sexuality that is at odds with their religious beliefs, the ones who experience rejection such as that experienced in conservative faith communities, who experience the highest levels of depression, isolation, and suicide ideation. That’s one of the tangible harms of your belief (that I’ve already articulated that you, once again, refuse to acknowledge). The LDS church has even built suicide ideation into their model for sexual identity in gay Mormon populations.

        You ask:

        What is God’s creative intention for humanity, Ford? If God intended to bless gay marriages, why didn’t He make them fruitful?

        God created us to be in relationship. He hard-wired in humanity a desire to bond to others. He gave us sexuality as an important way for us to live into that creative intention. God didn’t say “it’s not good for man to be alone unless you’re gay.” Paul didn’t write “it is better to marry than burn with passion unless you’re gay.”

        While there’s no question that gay sex lacks the procreative property, that’s not the only teleological purpose of sex. Sex can certainly be fruitful in non-procreative unions (straight or gay). Making yourself completely vulnerable before your partner, the mutual pleasure-giving, the tenderness, the trust – this is love expressed physically in a profound way that serves to deepen the emotional bonds of the union. Child-bearing is not the only “fruit” of sexual union.

        Daniel – I say this with humility, you don’t seem to have any concrete objections to physically intimate gay relationships other than they are contrary to church teaching. And you are, of course, at liberty to refrain from expressing your own sexuality. But at some point, when you ignore logic, experience, and reason that shows the harm that flows from church doctrine, you’re blind adherence to and support of that teaching is morally questionable.

        The perfect may sometimes be the enemy of the good. But that’s not the case here. From where I sit, there’s nothing but poisonous fruit that has been born from the traditionalist belief to which you choose to subscribe. I will not concede that lesser harm to which you contribute is “good”. The toxic teaching needs to be abandoned.

        With that I’ll give you my sincere thanks for engaging in the dialog and give you the last word.

        Peace and blessings, Daniel.
        -David

      • I see. There’s also “tons of evidence” that both/either of those choices also produces a lot of loneliness, pain, shame, isolation, suicidality, etc. I can accept that some people are perfectly happy in these positions. But I also recognize that most aren’t, or else why would they be so rare? Usually, things that produce “tons of happiness” aren’t so highly rejected by the masses. This is why most straight people choose to marry a suitable partner, because it produces tons of happiness, while remaining single for life does not. There’s also a reason why most gay people want the same (a suitable partner, not a partner with whom they have no affection/attraction for), and why they reject a life of singleness and loneliness.

      • I finally agree with you in something: the masses do not seek to carry their crosses. In fact we all try to avoid it. However those who do not carry their crosses can’t call themselves followers of Christ. And in the end carrying the cross does produce tons of happiness – this doesn’t come from me but it is the promise of Christ Himself.

      • I think you very well know I’m not talking about carrying crosses. Though, now that I think about it, you have shown a strong penchant for being incapable of using your brain in discussions, so perhaps you don’t know. But if you see marriage as a cross to bear, you are more warped than I originally imagined.

      • Again, that’s extremely warped thinking. It’s almost laughable! Let’s sum up: there’s no happiness to be found in Jesus or marriage. This is your view of the world? LOL. You sound like an incredibly miserable person! I actually feel very sorry for you. You make Eeyore seem like he was high on cocaine!

        Personally, I’m pretty happy with both my relationship with God and my marriage. Both have certainly not been easy, nor have they been without significant sacrifice (it is in fact through such difficulties that I’ve gained the most growth, and ultimately more happiness).

        But please, feel free to keep waving the flag of misery. That sure does sound like “good news” to me! After all, Jesus did say “I came so that you would have life, and have it more unhappily.” LOL.

        Rosamin, please just stop writing. The more you write, the more ridiculous you sound. It’s kind of pitiful :-/ But since I know you’re obsessive-compulsive, I know I’m asking the impossible of you. The best thing I can do for you is make this my last word, so that you can have the final word in the conversation. If I give you nothing else to feed off of, you’re compulsion will eventually die down, and this will save you further embarrassment in the long run. So have at it! I’m exiting the conversation (if we can even call this exchange a “conversation”…it’s really devolved into “Rosamin’s sad little echo chamber.”) Peace out, homie!

      • DJ,

        Thanks for the thoughtful comment and the kind words. Perusing your blog a bit, I can see that you’re a really fascinating individual, too.

        Your comments on the systematic effect on my beliefs is an interesting one. I can see, for instance, how the belief that same-sex desire is purely evil could have the sort of systematic effect you’re talking about. If same-sex desire is purely evil, and yet deeply and firmly rooted in an individual, then it is impossible to theologically proceed without somehow regarding the individual as permanently flawed. That belief is common enough among conservative Christians, and it has terrible results.

        But I don’t believe same-sex desire is purely evil. I think the nonsexual aspect of same-sex desire is purely GOOD, and the sexual aspect of same-sex desire is a perversion of something which is also quite good. (I use the word “perversion” cautiously, in the sense of something being “diverted away from” its good aim. I don’t want to summon up connotations of “dirty” or “evil” or “perverted”.) If same-sex desire is firmly rooted in an individual, I think there is a way to throw out the bathwater, but keep the baby. I think there is a way to affirm the goodness of various ways of being a man, various ways of being masculine, without believing that one of these ways necessarily involves the need for genital or romantic same-sex contact. I think that we live in a sexualized culture where all sorts of good desires (for friendship, for the respect of peers, for the father/son or mother/daughter relationship, for reputation, for servanthood) have become perverted and sexualized.

        I think there is room for reasonable disagreement on the points I just made. But notice that there is nothing dehumanizing or oppressive about saying that someone else (or myself, in this case) experiences a desire that has been diverted from its natural object. It surely happens all the time: our desire to relax gets thrown off course, and becomes the desire to procrastinate. Our desire to be valued by others gets thrown off course, and becomes the desire to be famous.

        You asked how I think my beliefs play out systemically. The answer is simple: sexual desire for the same sex is not sinful, but it is not a good guide to action. Those who experience it should come to the Man who was tempted in every way like us, but did not sin. We should repent from any way that we’ve embraced gay sexuality as a guide to action (including things like lustful glances, flirting, and porn use). We should not demand for our desires to change, since we cannot control that. We should accept our desires, both in their good and their bad aspects. Our desires should be dignified by the Church as fully human, though they should not be falsely proclaimed to be fully good. We should seek to lead holy lives.

        You know as well as I do that Exodus did not recommend half of the things I wrote in the above paragraph. Their solution was a theological mess.

        Do you think that my outline would play out better, systematically, than the traditionalist alternatives we’ve seen? How does following my outline hurt young people who are gay?

      • As an ending I will summarize the points I have made, and I urge DJ to do the same if he wishes.

        1) Christ took His Cross and died in it. As such anyone that calls himself a follower of Christ must do the same.
        2) None of us wants to take the cross. Even Christ begged His Father to deliver Him from the cross “however not my will, but yours Father”
        3) Christ promises happiness to those who follow His lead, in fact resurrection follows the cross and I know He will deliver in His promise

    • There seems to be an implicit assumption here that there is ample “support and community” that can replace the fulfillment of lifelong, partnered relationships. I’m not sure there is adequate support and community that does – and even if there is, would it be reasonable to expect that all church bodies could fulfill such a huge demand? If so, how do they go about doing that?

      Let’s also go down the other path. What if there is no adequate support that could be provided to replace partnered living, no matter how sincere or hard the Church tries to offer it…what then?

  3. While we are part of a body, each one of us will stand before the judgement seat of Christ. No one will ever be able to think or believe in their heart that their cross was too heavy to bear. Regardless of the circumstance of their life.

    2 Peter 1:3 AMP

    3 For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).

    We are given the privilege of carrying each other’s burdens, but true spiritual intimacy must be personally cultivated. I have much to learn about both aspects of this sentence. True freedom for each one if us regardless of our circumstances, us obedience to Christ.

  4. Reblogged this on Another Anomaly Among Many and commented:
    Though I honestly don’t necessarily agree with the tone of this article or have a strong opinion either way on whether churches should or should not be affirming in this way, because I don’t think that this is a dogmatic issue, I do fully agree with the fact that perhaps churches should start looking for ways to support a celibate vocation rather than simply finding a way around it.
    Personally, I believe that there are many ways that Christians could go about addressing their homosexuality or same-sex attractions in a way that is right with God. I’m not advocating moral relativism, but I do think that God calls people to different things, whether that is celibacy, a celibate same-sex relationship, or whatever else He may call you to.
    Main point: I am still fully supportive of lifelong celibacy as a legitimate calling from God, and I do wish that the church in general had more ministries and more support systems for people who have been called to that life. It’s tragic for me to see the church advocating celibacy while doing nothing to practically help people who are struggling with trying to figure out how to live that life.

    • I do agree with you in lots of ways and love your Blog :-)! There is however one thing I’d like to address: As we can read in the Bible, celibacy is a vocation that God might give people and might not. That part is very clear. Even though it might be the right answer for many LGBT+ christians, we have to stop treating being of a non-straight sexual orientation and being called to celibacy synonymously.

      I agree that the church has to start giving actual practical support to people trying to live in celibacy. In the same way however, the church has to stop assuming that being LGBT+ automatically means that by some kind of divine coincidence that same person is also called to celibacy. I believe that God’s callings on someone’s life are a very personal and sacred thing and therefore nothing one should declare carelessly over someone else.

  5. It strikes me that, in reserving telos for God alone to define, that we are rendering it opaque to human discernment and allowing for ends so radically different for each individual that one might consider the possibility that the isolation, depression and suicidal ideation may very well constitute a foretaste of what God has in store for gays and lesbians in the afterlife. Between that sadistic portrait painted of God and the idea of that such things point away from the type of flourishing God expects from us, I’d much rather take my chances with the latter.

    • Carrying your own cross is the necessary step to show you are a follower of Christ. Everyone must carry their own cross not only gay people but everyone. This is not a taste of the afterlife but a necessary commitment to enjoy the afterlife and life after the resurection. No one can call himself a follower of Christ if he refuses to carry his cross.

      That said the church has an obligation to help everyone carry their crosses.

      • I don’t recall having denied the necessity of having to bear one’s own cross. My point is that if telos is ultimately beyond our ability to discern, then we wouldn’t be able to distinguish between one’s cross and the heavy burdens that have been artificially imposed on top of it.

      • The imposition of the cross is reserved to God alone. The telos is the same for anyone: Union with God. The path to this telos is the bearing of the cross that God imposes on the individual. What the church must do is help people to bare their crosses. In the case of gay Christians the church must create an open and warm environment so that they may find solace for their cross and not extra burden.

      • Because God can’t or won’t talk. All we have are words written, taught, and interpreted by men who claim to be guided by God. Since I can claim to be guided by God even if not, this doesn’t seem to be trustworthy. Because I can directly burn, alter the words of, and otherwise warp a Bible, the view that Scripture has divine protection from tampering is also invalid.

        Thus, opaque.

      • “Because God can’t or won’t talk. All we have are words written, taught, and interpreted by men who claim to be guided by God.”

        But Christian tradition does not simply blindly obey those words. Have you never heard of natural law theory, which claims that ALL genuinely moral rules can be proven without reference to revelation?

        Biblical fundamentalism is nonsense, sure. But if the study of nature leads us to views taught in the Bible, that DOES support the notion that the Bible is inspired. (The Bible can’t be justified circularly, but it can be justified).

      • The problem isn’t if the Bible is true or false, the problem is that this does little to help with interpretation or determining who is right. At best, the Bible is a code book without a cipher. Even if the Bible is divinely inspired, there are 40,000 different interpretations. Some vary a little. Some quite a lot. Even the Bible scholars are not on the same page.

        If it is inspired then the truth is likely hidden within it. Either that or God is a terribly inept teacher. Take your pick, really. I have heard both pro-gay interpretations and the anti-gay interpretations. Both sound just as good as the other. Both have intelligent men who back up their claims with archaeology, historical context, sound hermeunetic, and so on.

        As far as natural law theory, I would agree with it but it has little bearing on homosexuality. At least, as I understand it. The only natural law I respect or recognize is that which can be substantiated with peer review. As for the rest? Philosophy. Interesting but up for debate.

        And, thus, opaque as I would define it.

      • Putres,

        I’m not sure you understand what I mean by natural law theory. It’s the theory that nature reveals to us norms — for human beings, these norms are ordinarily determined by human happiness or “flourishing”. It’s a theory started by Aristotle, continued by the Stoics, Augustine, Aquinas, and most modern day virtue ethicists.

        Your comments about the Bible needing interpretation are at least somewhat problematic. The Bible does need interpretation in many cases, of course. For instance, we need to interpret what Jesus meant by “this is my blood”. But I don’t think there is any difficulty at all understanding what Paul meant by “arsenokoitai”, for instance. It’s plain Greek: it means “males who lie with males”. Anyone who says that term means “pederasts” is plainly speaking a falsehood — not only because of the meaning of the term, but also because no ancient source (at least none I know of; correct me if I’m wrong) made a moral distinction between pederasty and consensual adult homosexual activity.

        I certainly agree that the academics who try to reconcile the Bible with homosexual activity are very smart. You have to be very smart to defend indefensible claims. Thus, you’ll notice that those who defend free-will compatibilism or double predestination are some of the smartest people in town. But “smart” and “wise” are not the same thing. I would encourage you to study the matter for yourself, by learning to read Greek (if you don’t know already — I don’t mean to be presumptuous). When you read the passages with an open mind, in the original language, it will be hard indeed to explain them away.

      • I know what you mean by Natural Law theory. I did address that. All of those men you mention are philosophers, not scientists, and what they put forth is subjective, not objective. I can point out or rationalize human flourishing from a gay relationship, citing as an example, the couple who have been together for 50 years in Australia that NPR interviewed. One is caring for the other who has dementia and they have supported each other (and intend to do so to the end). I would define this as flourishing and you cannot disprove this because you, your Church, and Aristotle do not get to decide what that means.

        Subjectivity is the Achilles heel of philosophy. It doesn’t serve to clear up the darkened glass at all. Hence why I favor science.

        As far as the argument on wording, you offer a perfect example of what I would consider a great argument for the anti-gay side but it isn’t really the coup de grace you seem to think it is. You can call it falsehood but you can’t prove it to someone who doesn’t know how to read Greek (and even some who do) so why should we trust you and not those on the other side of this debate? Why did Paul invent a whole new word for it when other Greek words would have worked to get the point across? Am I expected to believe that Greece had no vernacular for two men or two women together until Paul came along and invented this word? Why would a culture that involved homosexuality and crossdressing in some of it’s religious rituals have no other words for this before Paul made up this one?

        It doesn’t stop there, either. One of the pro-gay side apologist I read agreed on the definition of the word but questioned the historical context, believing it to reference goddess worship rituals which involved men and women dressing in drag, getting drunk, and sodomizing each other with objects. He backed up the statement by citing references to historical and archaeological evidence that this cult was the power house religion in the region where Paul operated. So, even if you are right about the definition of the vernacular you may not be right about the meaning or reference.

        There is a whole website (Gay Christian 101, I think) with a massive library of apologetic resources that say the opposite of you. Many other apologists out there as well. Some gay, many straight and with nothing to gain by lying. Are you wiser than every one of these other people? Are they all liars and are you telling the truth? Why should I believe you and not Pete Enns, Matthew Vines, and so on, and so on?

        No offense, of course – I don’t trust any of you. Many human beings will say anything to amass power, wealth, and/or prestige for themselves, even if it means hurting the innocent to do it.

        I trust evidence and I trust my conscience. Science treats homosexuality, transgender issues, and the like as a benign variation, no different from being left handed or having heterochromatism. That is how I shall continue to treat it until I am convinced it truly is a disorder or problematic. Thus far, that answer is hidden.

      • Putres,

        I’m a Catholic. I have everything to gain by saying that, when the Bible says Jesus had “brothers”, the word “brothers” could mean “cousins”. But I don’t believe that, and I think Catholic scholars who say that are probably smoking something. Seriously. It’s plain meaning is “brothers”. (Similarly, I don’t explain away the New Testament’s toleration of slavery with some implausible maneuvering).

        I feel the same way about “arsenokoitai”. The Hebrew language had a phrase “men who lie with men”, and Paul (or a Jewish rabbi before Paul) realized the Greek language had no current way of expressing that. He straightforwardly transferred the word into “arsenokoitai”. You ask, “Am I expected to believe that Greece had no vernacular for two men or two women together until Paul came along and invented this word?” My answer: yes, you are. Greek had no such word. (Not that I know of). Why not? Because the practice of same-sex love was just one other, ordinary way that people romantically related with each other. It wasn’t special, and didn’t need a special name. (Just so, English didn’t have any way to refer to “heterosexuality” until the mid-20th century.) Paul needed a word, so he made one.

        And — and this is important! — NO CHRISTIAN UNTIL THE 1970s found this word at all confusing. The Christian tradition always understood Paul to be condemning all forms of same-sex sexual activity. If you’re in the interest of giving everyone an equal hearing, don’t hundreds of thousands of scholars through the years get a place at the table?

        Your comments about philosophy are fascinating. You seem to think that philosophy cannot investigate objective facts. This is a common misunderstanding. Perhaps you mean that philosophy cannot investigate scientifically verifiable facts. I agree. But I wonder: Do you think killing innocent babies is wrong? I do. And yet it’s clearly not scientifically verifiable that killing innocent babies is wrong. So obviously there are objective truths that are not scientifically verifiable.

        Happy Easter, by the way!
        Daniel

      • Daniel, I’m sorry to intrude… I have a question and then I’m not going to intrude any longer. Do you think Jesus had brothers that were sons of Mary?

        Thanks

      • You maybe right about the wording. I still have a hard time believing Greece had no word. Heterosexuality is understandably non-existent because that was all there was. Before the late seventies, homosexuality was recognized as a deviancy, a mental illness, and so on. Still, I will grant that I don’t know for sure.

        Doesn’t change the second argument. The argument that it refers to temple ritual and prostitution seems stronger than yours. No offense but the Gay Christian argument has a more plausible explanation. It maybe due to the conscience though.

        As far as murder, they aren’t comparable to homosexuality because one actually has corporeal negatives. Murder causes harm. Even to the one comitting it. I see no such negatives with being gay. Since reality does not corroborate the sin angle, I further find myself leaning against your side.

        God is free to set the record straight. I could be wrong though, if I am it is only because God has not been clear.

      • Thank you, DJ. It isn’t my intent to be a jerk about it, truly it isn’t, but this sort of “I’m right and the other guys are liars because reasons” rhetoric is a bit of an annoyance on both sides. The Gay Christian site often says things that I find similarly exasperating so I don’t want to come across as being nasty to the people involved.

        I started my journey Catholic and years of debating, reading the Bible, reading Natural Law, the writings of cardinals, bishops, and saints of old as well as being chastised, lied about, and attacked by Christians, Jews, and Muslims in this day and age have created in me a seething hatred of the God and Christ taught about by Christianity and Judaism as wicked beings. I have argued with Christians who support and rationalize corrective rape of lesbians, the death penalty for gays, the tyranny against public displays of romantic affection between homosexuals in places like Russia, and so on.

        I don’t hate Daniel or any celibate Christian here but I do hate and reject their God, entirely. I will use my writing and speaking talents as a sword to strike against this being because I detest Him as I detest all things that are cruel and evil.

  6. I don’t necessarily see City Church’s action as cutting against celibacy or mixed-orientation marriages.

    The unfortunate reality is that most evangelical churches fall far short of providing the kinds of communities that can sustain celibacy–or even marriage–as a Christian vocation. For the most part, we have simply accepted the culture’s Freudian-romantic view of marriage, and modified it with a few moralistic qualifications. Thus, as Carl Trueman noted some time ago, evangelicals have largely accepted a view of marriage that’s consistent with the underlying logic of same-sex marriage.

    So, if we’re going ask gay Christians to forego same-sex relationships, we’re going to have to reexamine our own faulty views of opposite-sex marriage and own up to the fact that we’ve been teaching something that departs pretty radically from what Scripture promotes. And a few churches are indeed making a valiant effort to do that. But most aren’t. In fact, in my 15 or so years in the PCA, my experience was that most churches weren’t too interested in questioning the status quo.

    That’s not to say that we shouldn’t keep reforming the church to make it a place that upholds the traditional vocations of celibacy and marriage rightly. But we’re not there yet. In fact, we’re a long ways off. So, I have reservations about asking gay Christians to undertake vocations that the church isn’t yet in a position to support. When I left my PCA church, I did so because I recognized that the session just wasn’t ready to tackle these issues. They were more interested in being safe and clear than in being right. For churches in places like San Francisco, the ostrich approach isn’t an option.

    I think this is a situation that calls for sessions to exercise wisdom, and that we ought to err on the side of extending grace. After all, Scripture provides no clear prohibition against committed same-sex relationships, although it tends to counsel against the wisdom of such arrangements. In the same way, it also tends to counsel against the wisdom of sex-focused opposite-sex relationships. But we evangelicals have been fairly content to accommodate the latter, despite their departure from the marital ideal. So, I’m unpersuaded that we can’t accommodate the former arrangements in some reasonable way. Even so, men and women complement each other in a host of ways, most of which have nothing to do with sex. It’s only in the last 50-100 years that we’ve come to believe (mistakenly, in my opinion) that complementarity in sexual desire is essential for a good marriage. So, as we recover a more traditional view of marriage and free ourselves from our Freudian obsession with sexual orientation, I suspect that same-sex marriage will become less and less common. But it’s going to take a generation or two for us to get there. In the interim, I’m willing to extend a certain degree of grace.

    Despite identifying as queer, I prefer to marry someone of the opposite sex (for the reasons I stated above). Still, the notion of same-sex marriage doesn’t bother me that much. And I’m not sure that I’d want to attend a church that thinks it’s already filled up its bucket of truth on these issues.

  7. There’s so much that’s good in the church’s letter, but they don’t seem to have any real sense of what a radical step they’re taking. I really don’t think Evangelicalism’s brand of Scripture-first thinking can survive the contortions necessary to make Scripture square with same-sex relationships. I’d hate to see them go the way of the mainlines, but that tweet seems prescient.

    It is particularly tragic that they equate “celibacy” with “refusing to engage with your sexual orientation in any way”. Such a misconception is bound to lead them into error.

  8. Pingback: City Church SF Changes Stance on Same Sex Couples | Leadingchurch.com

  9. Pingback: Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Martyrdom | Spiritual Friendship

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