Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Tag: Homosexuality

THE CHURCH AND THE LGBT ISSUE

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Historic Methodist Church Bldg., Mentz, NY

 

Last week the United Methodist Church voted to uphold the church’s traditional ban on same-sex marriages and LGBT ordinations.  The denomination is said to be deeply divided over the issue, and many of its more liberal members are likely to leave over it.  “I will not participate in your bigotry, sin & violence,” tweeted one liberal pastor, while a conservative delegate from Liberia in Africa said “We can’t do anything but to support the Traditional Plan – it is the biblical plan.”

The delegate from Liberia is correct – the “Traditional Plan,” (the resolution upholding the bans on same sex marriage and LGBT ordination) is in fact, the biblical plan.  The Bible clearly condemns homosexual behavior.  The problem, we fear, is that the mainline Protestant denominations have long since abandoned the authority of Scripture, and in the process have lost sight of the biblical concepts of sin and redemption.  Yes, God did so love the world.  But that does not mean that He simply accepts us as we are, sin and all.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8; NKJV).  God’s plan and purpose is not to accept us in our sin, but to save us from our sin.  “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:9-11).

But what exactly is it that makes homosexuality sinful?  It should be noted that homosexuality is, in fact, a moral and not a biological issue.  Unlike race, which is purely physical and biological, a person’s sexual activity is a matter of behavior and choice.  While we may feel a strong physical urge in one direction or another, as thinking, rational human beings we can discern between right and wrong and make morally responsible choices.  This is why our sexual behavior falls under the purview of the 7th Commandment: “Thou shalt con commit adultery.”  We may feel an urge or a desire, but whether or not we act on it is a decision we consciously make.  Thus homosexual activity becomes a matter of morality and ethics.

Human sexuality is something that was created by God, and it has a specific, God-ordained purpose.  The primary purpose of sex is heterosexual reproduction, and the primary purpose of marriage is to create a stable home environment in which to raise children.  Anything other than a permanent heterosexual relationship within the bond of marriage, or complete celibacy, is a deviation from the norm and is therefore consistently condemned in Scripture.  This includes fornication (sex before marriage), adultery, pornography, prostitution, and divorce, as well as the grosser forms of sexual activity.

The Bible portrays homosexuality as a sign of advanced decadence.  In Rom. 1:18-32 the apostle Paul traces the course of social disintegration.  Significantly homosexuality is said to be a consequence of religious apostasy, and it represents a judicial act on God’s part: “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness . . .” (v. 24).  “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions . . .” (v. 26).  It is also significant that homosexuality is described as an expression of extreme lust.  It is marked by “the lusts of their hearts” (v. 24) and “vile passions,” and male homosexuals are said to “burn in their lust for one another” (v. 27).  It is a picture of men enslaved to their uncontrolled lusts – hardly a noble and uplifting scene.

The transgender issue raises other questions.  Can a person change his gender?  Can he be “gender non-conforming”?  Gender is something that is biological – it is written into our chromosomes, and ultimately determined by God himself.  “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27).  How, then, did we get the idea that we can change our gender?  Is it not because of an underlying philosophical assumption that we exist as autonomous beings, not accountable to any Creator?  But what if God actually does exist?  Are we not then engaged in a colossal act of self-delusion?  The plain fact of the matter is that human society functions on a male – female dynamic, and indeed has to in order to survive.  If we try to deny the existence of gender roles, and try to deny our own biological gender, all we have done is to create dysfunctional relationships with our fellow human beings.  And if we try to raise our children in a gender non-conforming way, we have probably made it difficult for them to achieve happy, well-adjusted lives as adults.  How will they ever make marriage work, and raise children of their own?  Where is the compassion in that?

The United Methodist Church is likely to split over the issue.  But what the liberals need to understand is that we live in a rationally ordered universe created by an intelligent Supreme Being, and that everything in the created world has a divinely ordained purpose.  The human race, on the other hand, is in a state of sin and rebellion against God, and has twisted and perverted the things that God had originally created for a good and noble purpose.  Human sexual love is one of the things that God has created, but we have perverted it to serve our own selfish lusts.  And the end result is pain and misery for all – wrecked relationships and children growing up in unstable, poverty-stricken single-parent households.  In the end no one wins in a climate of sexual license.

What the liberal, mainstream denominations have done, in effect, is to ignore what God has revealed in Scripture and invented their own standards of morality.  What usually happens in actual practice is that they end up conforming to standards of the surrounding culture which is increasingly secular (i.e., implicitly atheistic) and licentious.  The end result is to lose anything like a distinctively Christian testimony to the world.

The just and humane thing to do, the compassionate thing to do, is to uphold the institution of marriage as God originally intended it to be – a permanent, binding and loving relationship between one man and one woman.  We hope and pray, for the sake of American society as a whole, that the United Methodist Church will return to biblical standards of morality and once again preach the Christian gospel once so forcibly proclaimed by John and Charles Wesley.

THE BELIEVER’S RULE OF CONDUCT – III

 

 

As we have seen then what God requires of us is that we love Him with whole heart, soul and mind, and our neighbors as ourselves.  How, then, does a Christian determine whether a given action is right or wrong?  First of all through the imitation of Christ.  We should imitate Him and His example of self-sacrificing love.  “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus . . .” (Phil. 2:5; NKJV, cf. Eph. 4:32-5:1; Col. 3:13).  What would Jesus do in a given situation?  How would He react to the other person?

Secondly, we should follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25).  There will not be a written instruction to cover every possible situation.  But a genuine concern for the other person, arising from a proper attitude of heart produced by the Holy Spirit, will lead us to do the right thing.  Our lives should manifest the fruit of the Spirit.

Everything, of course, should be consistent with the teachings of the New Testament.  “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6,7).  “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and please God: for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus” (I Thess. 4:1,2)/  Jesus and the apostles have given us general instructions on how to live a life that is pleasing to God.  These instructions are contained in the New Testament and ought always to be observed.

What all of this requires is that we “test” or “prove” what the will of God is.  The apostle Paul tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2), or as it might more literally be translated, “that you might test and prove what the will of God is, the good and the well-pleasing, and the complete or perfect.”  The implication is that in each situation that we encounter we should ask, “Is it good? – does it have a beneficial effect?”  “Is it well-pleasing to God – in accordance with His moral attributes?”  “Is it complete or perfect? – Does it fully meet the need?”  We should apply the general principles of God’s Word to a given situation to see what course of action would be acceptable to Him (cf. Eph. 5:10; Phil. 1:9-11; I Thess. 5:21,22).

An example will illustrate the difference between being under the law and being under grace.  Consider the biblical teaching on marriage.  The 7th Commandment states “You shall not commit adultery,” and the Old Testament then goes on to condemn various sexual practices: incest, homosexual behavior (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), bestiality and prostitution.  It gives various regulations on how to handle cases of sex outside of marriage, female captives taken in war, polygamy and spouses who die without offspring.  And there is a provision on how to handle divorce (Dt. 24:1-4).  Marriage is looked at as a civil institution enforceable by law.  But the Torah (Pentateuch) is largely silent on how spouses are to treat each other.  (There are passages in Psalms, Proverbs and the Song of Solomon that talk about the pleasures and pains of marriage.)

But when we turn to the New Testament a somewhat different picture emerges.  Jesus begins by quoting the 7th Commandment, but then goes on to say, “But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).  Here the focus shifts from the outward act to the inward thought, and it is the thought that makes one guilty in the sight of God.

But just as revealing is Jesus’ teaching concerning divorce.  He began by going to the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 (“and the two shall become one flesh” – Matt. 19:5) and then said, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (v. 6).  He then went on to say that “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (v. 8).  The implication is that Moses had made certain concessions to human weakness, and the Mosaic legislation did not perfectly reflect what God actually requires of us as human beings.

And when we turn to the epistles we get an even fuller picture of what God actually requires of us.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25).  And “just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (v. 24).  It is not enough merely to avoid an act of open adultery.  Husbands are to love their wives.  And how?  “. . . just as Christ love the church.”  What is required is more than just bare compliance with the letter of the law.  What is required is genuine and active concern for others, a self-sacrificing love; and Christ is our supreme example of that. (Interestingly the Westminster Larger Catechism, in its treatment of the 7th Commandment, does not mention husbands loving their wives, other than “conjugal love” and “cohabitation” ).

The New Testament, then, gives us a fuller revelation of the will of God than does the Old, and the Old Testament should be interpreted in the light of the New.  And sanctification is not so much a matter of following a detailed list of rules and regulations as it is manifesting the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

The goal, then, is not just an external conformity to the letter of the law.  What God requires of us as human beings is love; but love cannot be reduced to a set of written rules and regulations.  Love avoids harming others, and thus fulfills the law.  But it goes beyond the law to seek the positive good of others.  And true Christian love springs from an active principle produced within the heart by the Holy Spirit.  Let us make it our aim. Then, in life, to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29; II Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10).  May Jesus Christ be praised!

THE SACREDNESS OF SEX

 

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Anthony Van Dyke: Family Portrait

 

In Ephesians 5:3 the apostle Paul addresses what is perhaps the most controversial issue facing the Christian church today: sex.  The United States Supreme Court has declared a constitutional right of same sex couples to marry each other (it is hard to imagine that the framers of the Constitution could have ever have conceived of such a thing); and now anyone who opposes same-sex marriage is accused of being a hate-monger.

What are Christians supposed to make of all of this?  What Paul tells us is this: “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints . . .” (Eph. 5:3; NKJV).  Here Paul is using the words “fornication” (porneia) and “uncleanness” very broadly to cover a whole range of illicit sexual activity.  In the Old Testament the Canaanites were condemned for a variety of sexual sins including incest, homosexuality and bestiality (Lev. 18:6-23).  The sins are called “abominations” (Lev. 18:23,27,29,30), the Canaanites were “defiled” because of them (v. 24), and therefore the land “vomited” them out (vv. 25,28).

But are not conservative Christians clinging to an outdated morality?  What is so wrong about having sex outside of marriage?  Or being homosexual?  None other than Jesus himself  explained the rationale behind sex and marriage.

According to Matthew 19:3 ff Jesus was approached by some rabbis who asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”  The question was a controversial one.  It involved a perplexing phrase in the only passage in the Torah dealing with the subject of divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  There it states that “when a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce . . .” (v. 1).  The question that agitated the rabbis of Jesus’ day was, what was meant by the phrase “some uncleanness”?  One school of thought put the emphasis on the word “uncleanness,” and argued that a man may divorce his wife only because of unchastity.  Another school of thought put the emphasis on the word “some” and argued that a man could divorce his wife for practically any reason – “even if she spoiled a dish for him” (Mishnah, Gittin 9:10).  And so the rabbis asked Jesus to weigh in on the question.

Jesus answered by going back to the account of creation in the Book of Genesis.  “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’ . . .” (Matt. 19:4, quoting Gen. 1:27; 5:2).  Here two key points are made.  First of all, were “made” or “created” by God.  We did not come into existence by accident or through some blind, impersonal natural process, as atheists would have us to believe.  We were created by an intelligent Supreme Being for a specific reason and purpose.  His creative will defines our existence, and because of that life has meaning and purpose.  It also means that there are behavioral norms to which we must conform.

Secondly, gender differences are a part of the created order.  God “made them male and female.”  Granted, sometimes societies have engaged in needless stereotyping.  Women can be very strong, intelligent and capable.  But physical and psychological differences remain, and it is futile to ignore them.

But Jesus goes on and quotes another passage from Genesis.  “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5, quoting Gen. 2:24).  What is clearly in view here is a heterosexual marriage.

Jesus then goes on to draw His conclusion: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6).  Marriage was meant to be a permanent, binding commitment between a man and a woman.  Divorce, save for the cause of sexual misconduct, is out of the question.  Jesus, in effect, sided with the stricter school of interpretation.

If that, then, is what God intended for marriage to work, if follows that any kind of sexual activity outside of a heterosexual marriage defeats the whole purpose of marriage itself.  We are complex physical and emotional creatures.  Sex is more than just the physical act of copulation; it is an intimate relationship between two human beings.  Our emotions follow our hormones.  If we have sex without being married, we are having an intimate relationship without having made a commitment.  It is basically sex without love.  We are simply using that other person  for our own selfish pleasure.

And if we are married and have a sexual relationship with someone who is not our spouse, we have violated a commitment that we have already made.  The spouse has been betrayed and the marriage undermined as a result.  And the end result of all this sexual license is social chaos – children growing up in unstable, dysfunctional families.

When sins like these become commonplace and accepted in society, it is easy not to take them seriously. But Paul warns of the dire consequences of such behavior.  “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Eph. 5:5-7).  Society may change its standards, but God does not change His.  “We ought to obey God rather than me” (Acts 5:29).

What God intended in marriage is love and affection in a committed relationship, not casual or commercial sex, not self-gratification masquerading as “love.”  Ironically the modern “anything goes” approach to sex only serves to cheapen and degrade it.  Christians do not think that sex is somehow “dirty.”  Far from it; it is precisely because sex is sacred that it must be protected from anything that cheapens, trivializes, or demeans it.  “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).

HOMOPHOBIA?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton recently delivered a speech in which she declared, “To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I would call the basket of deplorables.  The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it” (Wall St. Journal, Sept. 12, 2016).  It is a comment that is probably all too typical of the elitist mentality of America’s privileged class.

But what exactly did she mean by “homophobic”?  The dictionary defines “homophobia” as the “unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality” (Random House Webster’s, 1991).  Christians, of course, if they are at all trying to be faithful to Scripture, regard homosexuality as a sin.  But does this constitute “homophobia”?   Is this an “unreasoning antipathy toward homosexuals”?

We most certainly do think that homosexuality is sinful; but that does not mean that we hate LGBT people.  The fact of the matter is that all of us as human beings are fallen sinners.  And we are called upon to love our neighbors as ourselves – even our enemies.  But granted that we are to love LGBT people, how should we treat them?  What is the most compassionate and humane way to deal with them?

The answer is not to encourage them in their sin.  That would only lead them to their eternal destruction.  Rather what we should seek is their redemption.  Human society functions on the basis of a male / female dynamic.  Happy, well-adjusted people learn how to function successfully in that environment.  Seen from that perspective LGBT people are profoundly maladjusted.

But why do some people turn out to be “gay” in the first place?  The answer is not, as some would have us to believe, that they are born that way.  There is no hard scientific evidence for the existence of a “gay gene”; and there are, in fact, cases of identical twins in which one twin turned out to be “gay” and the other “straight.”

What, then, causes the difference?  Interestingly a compelling explanation comes from no less a secular liberal than the celebrated feminist author Simone de Beauvoir.  She devotes an entire chapter of her famous book The Second Sex (Vintage, 1974) to the subject of lesbianism.  In it she makes the interesting observation that “Sexologists and psychiatrists confirm the common observation that the majority of female ‘homos’ are in constitution quite like other women.  Their sexuality is in no way determined by anatomical ‘fate’” (p. 451).  “The psychoanalysts have strongly emphasized the importance of early relations established between the homosexual woman and her mother” (p. 463).  (Either the mother was overprotective or abusive).  De Beauvoir then concludes that “there is never a single determining factor; it is always a matter of choice, arrived at in a complex total situation and based upon a free decision; no sexual fate governs the life of the individual woman: her type of eroticism, on the contrary, expresses her general outlook on life.”  “Environmental circumstances, however, have a considerable influence on the choice” (p. 466).  Her final conclusion is that homosexuality “is an attitude chosen in a certain situation – that is, at once motivated and freely adopted” (p. 473).

[It has to be borne in mind, however, that as an Existentialist and feminist De Beauvoir is concerned to show that a female gender role is not determined by anything intrinsic to a woman’s being, but is imposed upon her by the surrounding society.  This may partially explain why she goes to such pains to argue that sexual orientation is a matter of external circumstances and voluntary choice.  And yet we are undeniably responsible for the way we react to our circumstances.]

That being the case, what is the most humane and compassionate way to treat LGBT people?  What is in their own genuine best interest?  In her campaign book Stronger Together Mrs. Clinton says she want to “Demand equality for the LGBT community” (p. 220).  She says, among other things, that she wants to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes.  She wants to “continue President Obama’s LGBT equality executive actions.”   And she says “we will end so-called conversion therapy, the harmful practice of trying to ‘cure’ LGBT and gender-questioning young people” (p. 221).  In other words, she wants society to treat homosexuality as a normal, healthy, and legally protected lifestyle.

But that would create the perception that, as far a sexual conduct goes. Anything and everything between consenting adults is permitted.  And that, in turn, would create even more social problems.  The “Sexual Revolution” has already left countless children in single parent homes, usually with no positive male role models..

Simply allowing people to indulge in their sexual fantasies does little to help them to become well-adjusted members of human society.  Nor does it deal with the underlying emotional traumas that led to the homosexual behavior in the first place.  And for parents not to give guidance to their “LGBT and gender-questioning young people” is nothing less than criminal neglect.  Thus accepting homosexuality as somehow normal places both society and the gay person at risk.  The most compassionate thing we can do to help a gay person is to help him confront the emotional scars of his past and accept his or her biological identity as either male or female.  Only then can he become a happy, well-adjusted member of human society.

But the real solution is salvation in Christ.  In salvation a person repents of his sins, commits his life to Christ, receives forgiveness, and is inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit.  “. . . knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6; NKJV).  The past becomes irrelevant.  The only real question is, what kind of person does God want me to be today?  And we learn to deal with the traumas of the past in a godly, Christ-like way.

What is needed is individual healing, not more social dysfunction.  Salvation is not “homophobia.”

AMERICA’S PROBLEM IS SPIRITUAL – II

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Paul at Athens

Perhaps nothing is more controversial in America today than LGBT “rights.”  The Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) legalized same-sex marriage, and since then there has been constant controversy over the bounds of religious freedom and the rights of gay and transgender people.  The government is on a collision course with Christianity, and many churches are struggling with how to respond.

The controversy is not new.  Sexual activity is as old as the human race itself, and both Judaism and Christianity have always been “anti-gay.”  In ancient times the Canaanites were noted for their licentious practices, and homosexuality was widely accepted among the Greeks.  And yet the Torah refers to homosexual practice as an “abomination” (Lev. 18:22) worthy of death (Lev. 20:13), and the New Testament says that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9,10).  Their attitude toward sexual behavior was one of the sharpest things that differentiated Judaism and Christianity from the surrounding pagan culture.

But why the difference?  The apostle Paul explains in Rom. 1:24-27.  Here Paul speaks of both men and women engaging in homosexual activity.  He says, “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature” (v. 26; NKJV).  Several things are noteworthy.  First of all, homosexuality is “against nature.”  Paul says that there is a “natural use” of the opposite sex and that same-sex relationships are “against nature.”  But what does he mean by that?  This brings us to the very core of the controversy.

The modern LGBT community would have us to believe that homosexuality is perfectly natural and normal, and therefore should be accepted.  Some people are just born that way, can’t help being that way, and therefore should be accepted that way.

But some people are born with birth defects, and we don’t “accept them the way they are.”  If at all possible we try to correct the defect with surgery.  And some people have behavioral problems, alcoholism for example, and we don’t “just accept them the way they are” either.  Their behavior is a problem, no matter how naturally it comes to them.

At this point it becomes evident that secular psychology has its limitations.  Psychology purports to be science, and science is supposed to be neutral and objective.  But how, then, can psychology determine what is “normal.”  Psychologists look at the mores of a given society, or ask people how they feel about themselves.  And since most homosexuals have no desire to change their behavior, the conclusion is drawn that they are not suffering from a mental illness.  The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1974.  But what is appropriate sexual behavior is a moral and ethical question and involves a value judgment that science is not prepared to make.

Why, then, does the apostle Paul condemn homosexuality as “against nature”?  The answer is that we should evaluate things in terms of their function.  The obvious function of our reproductive organs is reproduction, and this calls for heterosexual intercourse.  But to say that something in nature has a specific function presupposes the idea of Intelligent Design – that there is an intelligent Supreme Being who is behind it, and that therefore everything in nature has a reason and purpose.  What God intended in sexual relationships is a life-long commitment between a man and a woman in which they genuinely love each other and raise their biological children together.  We are not to use each other simply to satisfy our own sexual lusts.  Homosexuality, then, is a radical departure from what our Creator intended.

In other words, what is at issue in the current debate is the nature of reality itself.  Do we live in a rationally ordered universe created by an intelligent Supreme Being?  Or do we exist as autonomous individuals in a universe that is essentially impersonal, irrational and amoral?  If we hold to the latter view we are essentially denying God as our Creator.  It is a form of intellectual rebellion against the created order.

But Paul goes one step further.  He says that “God gave them up to vile passions” (v. 26), and of gay men he says that they “burned in their lust for one another” (v. 27).  This suggests that what is motivating them is not so much a tender love and affection for another human being as much as it is an unrestrained desire for self-gratification.  In saying this I realize that many homosexuals feel a genuine attraction for members of the same sex.  But at least among gay men it is a notoriously hedonistic lifestyle involving numerous sexual partners in casual encounters.  They have become slaves to their own lusts.

Paul says that they are “committing what is shameful” (v. 27).  In popular parlance we might call this “the yuck factor.”  To see a man dressed up in women’s clothes and makeup, to contemplate men having oral and anal sex with other men, we intuitively find it to be revolting.  It is a grotesque caricature, a parody of what a sexual relationship is supposed to be like.

All of this is a sign that “God gave them up.”  The growing acceptance of homosexuality is an indication of our society’s increasing moral degeneracy.  We are becoming progressively less able to distinguish right from wrong, normal from abnormal.  We have lost faith in universal truths and moral absolutes.  Nowadays we call it “Post-Modernism”: the Bible calls it “a debased mind” (v. 28).  It is the sign of a civilization on the verge of collapse.

SIN IS A UNIVERSAL PROBLEM

Are Christians “anti-gay”? Well, in one sense we are – the Bible condemns homosexuality in the strongest possible terms. But there is another sense in which it is incorrect to say that we “discriminate against” gays. We do not single out one particular group of people and treat them as pariahs. For homosexuality is just a small part of a much larger problem. The real problem is sin – all kinds of sin. For the Bible condemns not just homosexuality, but also the proud heart, the lustful glance, the gossiping tongue, and selfish greed. And the plain fact of the matter is that as human beings we are all sinners. “. . .for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23; NKJV). Sin is a human problem. Sin is a universal problem.

Sometimes it is said that gays are just born that way and can’t help being the way they are. Therefore, it is said, we should just accept them as they are. But we were all born sinners, and in a sense cannot help but sinning. But that hardly excuses us. The fact remains that we are all guilty in the sight of God. The fact that we have an innate tendency to sin only exacerbates our guilt – it does not relieve it.

God’s standard of righteousness is not based on our natural inclinations but by the nature of God’s own character and by the strict demands of justice. If God is a God of love then by necessity He hates anything that is opposed to love, including our selfish, aggressive behavior. And if God is a just God then He must punish sin by some means or other. If I cannot control my temper and I kill someone as a result, then I have caused real harm and the demands of justice must be met, in spite of my “human inability.”  “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men . . .” (Rom. 1:18).

And then some will argue that God loves everyone and accepts them as they are. And there is a sense in which God does love everyone. But does that mean that he “accepts them as they are”? Not at all. The Bible explains how God shows love toward us: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Several remarkable truths are brought out in this verse. The first, of course, is that we are “sinners.” God does not pretend that we are nice, basically good people. He knows better; He can look into our hearts and see what is there, and it is not a pretty sight. But the text says that God loved us anyway, “while we were still sinners.” In other words this is not the kind of love that finds its object appealing, attractive or desirable. Rather, it is a benevolent love that is directed towards those who are manifestly unworthy of it. It is a desire to do good to those who did nothing to deserve it.

But then, what is even more remarkable, is what God’s love led Him to do: “. . . while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Here was the ultimate sacrifice. Christ was God’s own Son, His only-begotten Son. He was perfectly pure and holy, completely innocent of any wrong-doing at all. And yet God sent His Son into this sin cursed world where He was falsely accused and then sentenced to die a horrible death on a cross. And He did this for us – guilty, hell-deserving sinners. What more could God have done to demonstrate His love for us?

In other words, God does not demonstrate His love for us by excusing or overlooking our sins. Rather, He does it by atoning for our sin. And He did this at enormous cost to Himself. The price had to be paid, and He paid it Himself.

But in order to receive forgiveness we must repent of our sins and ask for forgiveness. Repentance is a change of attitude on our part regarding our sin. Moreover, God gives those whom He saves the new birth. This is a change produced within our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul could write to the Corinthian believers and list a whole catalogue of sins (including homosexuality) and then say “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor.6:9-11). In other words, God doesn’t just leave us in our sins – He saves us from them.

We need salvation precisely because we are lost sinners. And God’s aim in salvation is not to confirm us in our sins but to save us from them. The whole object of salvation is to deliver us from both the guilt and power of sin.

And so all of us as human beings, whether “gay,” “straight,” or what-have-you, find ourselves in fundamentally the same predicament. We are all lost sinners and we all need salvation. And Christ offers that to us all freely.

As Christians we need to beseech our gay friends and neighbors, in a spirit of gentleness and humility, to come to Christ is repentance and faith and receive salvation. That is the loving thing that we can do for them.

Amazing grace – how sweet the sound –

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found –

Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

GAYS ARE NOT BORN THAT WAY

          One of the most common arguments in defense of same-sex marriage is that gays are born that way and therefore cannot help being the way they are. Therefore it would be wrong to discriminate against them on the basis of their sexual orientation. Federal Appeals Court judge Richard A. Posner, for example, in striking down anti-gay marriage laws in Indiana and Wisconsin, opined that “there is little doubt that sexual orientation, the ground of discrimination, is an immutable (and probably an innate, in the sense of in-born) characteristic rather than a choice.”

Interestingly, even though Judge Posner said that there was “little doubt” about the matter, he had difficulty assigning the cause of homosexuality. He mentioned several theories, and even went so far as to say that “it seems paradoxical to suggest that homosexuality could have a genetic origin, given that homosexual sex is non-procreative.” He then went on to suggest that one possible explanation was that homosexuals are able to provide child-care assistance to their procreative relatives (?!). We sense that the learned judge is grasping at straws here.

The fact of the matter is that no one has been able to prove a biological cause for homosexuality. Homosexuals have been known to have gotten married and produced children the normal way, which suggests that there is nothing abnormal about them physically. What we are dealing with here is a psychological condition.

It is certainly true that many homosexuals genuinely feel that they have no control over their sexual orientation, and believe that they have always been gay. But the evidence points in another direction. In 1962 Dr. Irving Bieber published his report Homosexuality: A Study of Male Homosexuals. Dr. Bieber found that among male homosexuals there was usually an overly possessive mother and almost always a distant or hostile father. In other words, the problem originates in early childhood socialization. Attempts have been made to discredit the report, but other professionals who have worked the homosexuals have noted the same pattern. Homosexuality is an acquired characteristic.

But can it be changed? Most homosexuals would undoubtedly say no – being gay is just the way they are, and they genuinely feel that they had no choice in the matter. And in fact most people would undoubtedly find it very difficult, if not next to impossible, to change a personality trait that they acquired in early childhood. To most of us these traits seem like a matter of instinct, and we have no memory of it ever having been different. But some practitioners have seen positive results in homosexuals who really want to change. The problem is that the majority probably do not, and the matter is further complicated by the fact that their behavior is self-reinforcing. Once in the lifestyle it is hard to get out.

But the same thing is true about almost any lifestyle that the Bible condemns as sinful. We are all born sinners by nature, and what you give yourself to becomes your master. “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves to whom you obey . . .?” (Rom. 6:16; NKJV). Does the drunkard have any control over his drinking? Or does the person addicted to porn have any self-control? What about the person who cannot control his temper, or the covetous person who can never get enough? We all have a natural proclivity towards sin, and sin, when indulged in, becomes compulsive and self-destructive.

But the whole point of salvation is to release us from the bondage of sin. What God has to give us is a new heart, a heart that wants to please Him, to be the men and women He intended us to be. When the apostle Paul took the gospel out into the pagan Graeco-Roman world he encountered people trapped in all kinds of vice and immorality. In I Cor. 6:9-11he could list a whole string of sins, including homosexuality, but added, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11).

Yes, there is hope for homosexuals. But what they need is not psychotherapy, but the saving grace of God.

JOE BIDEN AND THE MYTH OF “GAY RIGHTS”

Vice President Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden

    This past Tuesday U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told a group of people assembled at the Vice Presidential Mansion that gay rights “are the civil rights issue of our day.” He said that protecting LGBT citizens from persecution is a core duty of a civilized country, and added, “I don’t care what your culture is. Inhumanity is inhumanity is inhumanity. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice”

    In his customary state of mental confusion Mr. Biden appears to be confounding “civil rights” with universal “human rights.” They are not, however, the same thing. Civil rights are defined by a particular society. They are the rights you enjoy by virtue of being the citizen of a given county. But as such they are culturally conditioned. Mr. Biden, on the other hand, seems to be reaching beyond that to something broader – something that transcends local culture; in short, a universal human right.

    But what are these human rights, and where do they come from? The U.S. Declaration of Independence states that human beings are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” What makes these rights “unalienable” (i.e., that cannot be taken away from you) is that they derive from a Power higher than any human authority. Thus no human government can deprive you of them. As Martin Luther King put it, “every man has rights that are neither conferred by nor derived from the state, they are God-given” (Where Do We Go from Here, p. 84). Thus no human government can deprive you of them.

    But on this ground it is virtually impossible to rationalize a homosexual relationship. If it is true that there is a moral order to the universe, and that everything exists by design, then the clear implication is that everything has a specific purpose and function. And in the cosmic scheme of things the obvious primary purpose of sex is heterosexual procreation. To that end it is only natural for a man and a woman to form an emotional bond with each other and have children together. The proper and fitting thing for them to do, therefore, is to commit themselves to each other in the bond of matrimony, start a family and raise their biological children together. Any sexual activity outside of this bond should be strictly prohibited. Seen in this light homosexuality is something profoundly dysfunctional, a perversion of something that was intended for an entirely different purpose.

    It goes without saying that the modern secularist will have none of this. They openly scoff at the “Divine Command” theory of morality, and try instead to argue that we came into existence through a blind, purposeless, natural process. Hence we simply exist, with no particular definition or purpose at all. “Morality,” then, is seen as something entirely man-made: it is the common set of rules that we choose collectively to abide by as a society.

    But on this basis it is virtually impossible to support the idea of any kind of universal human rights. All of our rights are culturally conditioned. There is no higher law by which to judge an entire society. The law is whatever the local authorities say it is. In Saudi Arabia women do not have the right to drive an automobile. Period. End of story. Mr. Biden might fuss and fume, pound his fist and stomp his foot, and shout from the rooftops that “I don’t care what your culture is.” But on a purely secular basis human culture is all there is. He has no grounds on which to say that things should be any different from what they actually are.

    As one modern ethicist, Alasdair MacIntyre, put it, “there are no such [universal, human] rights, and belief in them is one with belief in witches and unicorns.” He went on to say that “In the United Nations declaration on human rights of 1949 what has since become the normal UN practice of not giving good reasons for any assertions whatsoever is followed with great rigor” (After Virtue, 3rd. Ed., p. 69). According to him “universal rights” simply do not exist. They are, as he puts it, “fictions” (p. 70).

    Thus either way one chooses to look at it, there is no such human right as a right to practice sodomy. Either homosexuality is terribly out of sync with God’s creative purposes, or there are simply no such universal human rights at all.

    What it comes down to is this: our rights are either God-given or else they are man-made. And if they are man-made they are malleable, relative, and can be taken away. If there is such a thing as a universal human right, it is universal precisely because it derives from our Creator. Human rights are a part of the moral law that binds all of humanity together. That moral law includes both rights and responsibilities, and that includes the duty to behave responsibly in all of our family relationships. It is a principle that God has ordained for the well-being of human society, and we ignore it at our own risk. Mr. Biden would do well to take note and heed.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND INTELLIGENT DESIGN

Last week (Tuesday, May 20, to be exact), Judge John E. Jones III of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania handed down his decision in the case of Whitewood v. Wolf, in which the plaintiffs challenged Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. Judge Jones concluded that the ban does, in fact, violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution, which presumably gives every U.S. Citizen the right to marry whomever he / she wants. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is deemed unconstitutional. Gov. Tom Corbett has announced that his administration will not appeal the decision.

    In the part of the decision that most concerns us who oppose legalizing same-sex marriage, Judge Jones held that “the classification imposed by Marriage Laws based on sexual orientation is not substantially related to an important government interest” (Opinion, p. 38). The state had argued that it had just such an important interest in “the promotion of procreation, child-rearing and the well-being of children,” as well as in maintaining tradition. Judge Jones ruled that this argument cannot withstand the heightened scrutiny required to justify discrimination, and so he decided in favor of the plaintiffs.

    The state’s interest in preserving marriage a s a union between a man and a woman should have been obvious. The state has an interest in seeing that children are born into stable, two-parent families, that wherever possible they are raised by their biological parents, and that the parents be healthy role models for them. This means that ideally every boy should have a father and every girl should have a mother. A pair of caretakers who cannot accept their own biological identities is hardly ideal. Significantly a number of the plaintiffs are seeking to raise children together. Where are the missing biological parents? Has the state no interest in protecting their rights?

    Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in his Godkin Lectures delivered at Harvard in 1985, quoted anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski as saying that “one of the very few seemingly universal rules of social behavior” is “the principle of legitimacy, which holds that every child shall have a recognized father.” Human beings could behave like other species: the role of the male is “to impregnate and disappear.” “And yet in all human societies the father is regarded by tradition as indispensable.” And he adds, “this is by no means only a European or Christian prejudice; it is the attitude found amongst most barbarous and savage peoples as well” (Moynihan, Family and Nation, p. 169). It appears that we have embarked upon a social experiment unprecedented in human history.

    All of this raises a pertinent question. If the state does not have an important interest in procreation and child-rearing, what interest does it have in regulating sexual conduct at all? What is the purpose of marriage in the first place? If one does not need to be married in order to engage in sex, and if one may marry any sexual partner he may desire, and if one does not need to stay married once it no longer suits him to do so, what is the point of marriage? Has it not largely become irrelevant – little more than a legal technicality? What Judge Jones has done, in effect, is to trivialize the institution of marriage.

    Ironically Judge Jones is the same federal judge who in 2005 decided the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the infamous decision that declared that it was unconstitutional to mention Intelligent Design in a public school classroom. In the Whitewood case Judge Jones did not reference the earlier Kitzmiller decision, but we cannot help but wonder if there is an indirect connection anyway. If there is no such thing as Intelligent Design, then sex exists for no particular reason or purpose. It is simply there, an accident of nature, and presumably we are free to use it for whatever purpose we please. But in so doing we loosen the bands that hold together society. The results of our sexual liberation so far have not been favorable.

    In the words of The Book of Common Prayer, marriage is “an honourable estate, instituted by God, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church,” and is “not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.” It works best when it works the way God intended it to – as a permanent, binding, exclusive commitment between a man and a woman. Anything else is to invite social chaos.