Some More Thoughts On Homosexuality

A recent post of mine entitled The Question of Homosexuality is the Wrong Question has received quite a bit of feedback, both positive and negative. One church in the city has even read from my post in a sermon this past Sunday on the lies that the church should not believe. There are a number of outraged people and a number of people who are glad I wrote a post like this.

I will admit, where the post went in the comments was far from where I was intending to go with the original post. Nevertheless, I thought I would take the opportunity to explain myself, this site a bit and further clarify my views on homosexuality and the church.

  • This site has always been my way of wrestling through issues that are important to me and the larger church. Anything I say doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of my past self or my future self. I have taken the liberty of being able to change my mind whenever I want about whatever I want on this site. Sometimes I say things I don’t mean at all to pull out reactions or to help bring perspective from the other side. There are many people who don’t understand the blogging world and what it is good for, but I find it useful to rant and wrestle with issues in a public sphere. If it was my statement of faith, well then no one would really have a clue what I believe.
  • For some reason people care way too much about what people believe and not nearly enough about the lives people live. I can write a post about approving or disproving homosexuality and I’ll have 50+comments of people excited or pissed off at me for whatever words I am stating. If I write a post about a story where someone was taking care of the orphans and the windows, I’d get a few comments saying nice things and then it would never be read again. What is our obsession with what we believe? If we go back to James then we all know that whatever we believe is dead if there isn’t action tied to it. It doesn’t bother me nearly as much if someone is a heretic with their mouths but is living a life that is striving to be like Christ.
  • I am extremely glad that I wrote the post the way I did. The reactions I got both in the comment section, but more specifically in person, only served to prove the very point I was making in the post. Homosexuality for some reason has become the epitome of sin in the church. Homosexuals are used constantly has examples to make poor theological statements about the sinfulness of our country. They are also used as examples about how the church is lowering its standards. The very fact that so many people are so repulsed by the idea that someone would approve of such a “sin” proves my post entirely. The question of whether or not homosexuality is wrong or not is not the only question the church should be asking. The question is a fine one to ask (like Tom and I discussed in the comments section of the last post) but only with a mutual understanding that wherever people end up on the issue, it is not grounds for divorce. We should also be asking different questions, like John pointed out in the comments. Maybe the question should be how do we treat all sinners? What types of roles can any sinner, repentant or not, have in the church? Why are we more inclined to hate some sins and not others? Should sexual identity really come before faith identity?
  • This is an extremely difficult question for me. I find myself defending both sides at times. I can’t really accept the militant way of either side. When people attack the church and say the church should open their arms up completely to homosexual couples, bless and affirm them and hate those churches that do not, I find myself defending the church. The church has a long way to go to truly embody the Kingdom of God, but give them a break. Their founding story is based on the idea of one women and one man. Churches and large institutions need time to formulate and wrestle with issues like this and there is nothing wrong with that. The Church eventually or at least certain sects of the church, like in Acts 15 will come to find what is good for this time. As long as someone’s humanity is recognized and people are truly loved then it’s probably not worth getting that upset over. On the other side, when people make homosexuality to be the worst deviance known to man and refuse to give homosexual people a rightful voice and treat them like humans, well then I will fight pretty hard on their side and hopefully give them a voice. There is no easy answer right now to this question and we need to be aware that we are dealing with questions that are at the core of who people are, and black and white regimented laws don’t work well with real people.
  • Sin will always be an issue no matter what. Which is why I think we need to figure out what we are going to do with sinners, more than what is a specific sin or not. We all have sins that we don’t think is sin that we willingly take part in every day. Whether it be our bad eating habits, are over-consumption, gossip, our bad attitude, our supporting of sweat shops by what we purchase and the list goes on. The fact is that we are all sinners and we all fall short of the glory of God. Whether you think homosexuality is wrong or not has little to do with the final equation. The church is compromised of people who want to be the hands and feet of Jesus. People who sin, people who intentionally sin and people who refuse to repent at all for things that you think are sin can still be attempting to follow Jesus. We are all on our journey somewhere and trying to figure this out, and that’s the beauty of grace. Grace makes room for our intentional sins too. So whether or not someone is a homosexual, really does not have much to do with if grace is coming their way or not. Whether or not someone agrees with homosexuality or not, also doesn’t have much to do with the grace that is coming their way. So if it’s going to turn into that big of a deal, then it’s worth downplaying the importance of the question all together and focusing on better ones.
  • So really, anyone can take what you want about my opinions of homosexuality that became a little clearer in the comments section. I do believe the church has the freedom to decide where to take this issue. Some respected denominations have decided to marry and ordain homosexuals and others have decided not too. Any side that you land on should not equally land you in expulsion from your faith community. Any side that you land on should not make it out to seem like you are for or against Christ. There are beautifully passionate Christ followers on both sides of the fence.
  • At this point in my life, with the biblical evidence before me, I don’t think the Bible says a whole lot about two same gendered people coming into a life-long commitment with each other. There are verses throughout the Old Testament that reference homosexuality as an abomination, but there are also some that say misbehaving children and those that work on the Sabbath should be killed. There are verses in the New Testament that say that it’s unnatural to be homosexual, but there are also verses that say women should not teach in a church. I wrestle with the interpretations of these verses and struggle with where to land with them. Somehow we were able to understand the context of the time that these were written for these other laws, and I think it’s only a matter of time before we make room to understand the context of which Paul speaks about homosexuality. I agree that if we are speaking of a purely sexual and physical act, then homosexuality doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. However, I’m also aware that homosexuality runs a lot deeper than physical attraction and I don’t want to come against the good in a relationship in fear of the unknown or what I believe to be unnatural. So if my true beliefs were to be really known, I’m truly stuck in the middle. No side fully convinces me right now. So I’ll sit in the middle and play both sides when the time is right and keep praying and seeking.
  • My challenge isn’t to those who hold different views than me on the topic of homosexuality. My challenge is to those on either side of the equation that refuse to be in community with those on the other side. If the church can’t uphold and make room for both perspectives then we are failing to be the church. Both sides need to understand both sides. If we want to kick someone out of the church because of their views on homosexuality (right or wrong), then I feel like we have completely missed the heart of Jesus. Jesus on one of his beautiful rants leaves his listeners with this in John 5

    You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

    The Pharisees didn’t get it. They thought salvation came through following laws and that unless Israel was holy enough then their Messiah wouldn’t come and save them. They spent all their time seeing if Jesus matched up to their laws that they missed Jesus. I don’t want to miss Jesus. Frankly, I’m willing to say the same thing to the church today. We try so hard to study the scriptures and make sure we have everything right because we think that we find salvation in them. When Jesus is just standing there and the only way to truly find salvation is through him.

47 Comments

  • Hey… i have a few stories about taking care of windows for you…

    a nice piece of controversy here. I enjoy the wrestle, you should come hang out in the SK for a bit, we love the mentalwrestle..

  • That’s a bunch for this, Nathan.

    I was raised in a very open home. My parents always taught me to be accepting of everybody no matter what. My personal religious beliefs were non-existant, as in I was an Athiest. I fell into the church rather unexpectantly. But the one thing I always struggled with was the church’s position on Homosexuality.

    Despite the love I found for Jesus, I’ve found I can’t agree on everything that is written in the Good Book. I’ve never believed that Homosexuality is a trespass against God, simply based on the fact that it’s love. Love is the greatest gift that God has given us, no matter who we share this beautiful thing with, it was given to us by God.

    I understand why it will take the church a long time to accept this. The church has been staunch about one man and one woman for the last approx. 2 Millenia, and the Jewish faith even longer before that.

    It will take time, but eventually, it will happen.

  • AJ you still make me laugh!

  • AMEN!!

  • “My challenge isnt to those who hold different views than me on the topic of homosexuality. My challenge is to those on either side of the equation that refuse to be in community with those on the other side. If the church cant uphold and make room for both perspectives then we are failing to be the church.”

    That’s just it brother. We must learn that it is possible to disagree well. We all know the shitty witness we can be when we argue and bicker and exclude people over silly arguments. I think if we can learn to disagree well with each other at times then that can be a witness to a world that is watching.

    Sorry to hear you have enemies within the Church bro, that’s a sad reflection of where we’re at.

  • Nathan,

    I hope you don’t mind if I offer my two cents on one issue you raise:

    “People who sin, people who intentionally sin and people who refuse to repent at all for things that you think are sin can still be attempting to follow Jesus.”

    I wanted to focus on this comment specifically, especially the third part of it. I’m not sure how such a practice could be consistent with Jesus’ own teaching about church discipline, where refusal of repentance is precisely the grounds given for the church to treat the offender like “a Gentile and a tax collector”, or as Paul puts it, to “let him who has done this be removed from among you” and delivered “to Satan for the destruction of the flesh”.

    I have a feeling, too, that there are some issues you would obviously not apply your general rule of acceptance to. I’m sure I could come up with examples, but I don’t think that’s necessary.

    I think the fact is, if we are attempting to live as a Christian community, it cannot be absolutely “anything goes”, or else there is no sense calling it a “Christian” community. Indeed, I wonder if there even could be a “community” where absolutely any behaviour was permissible.

  • Andrew, Good to hear from you man, thanks for the comment.

    Someone else also commented on this section to me in person.

    I am not trying to come off as encouraging non repentance, or sinning as if it’s a good thing.
    However, I do think a Christian community has to make room for people who “sin” intentionally and unintentionally. More specifically and especially when there is a debate around the very sin that they are committing as to whether it’s even a sin or not. For instance, many Pentecostals I know believe that it is a sin to drink alcohol. I am ok with them having this viewpoint but only if they allow others to be in their community with them that drink. A level of tolerance I am maybe suggesting?

    The verse you mentioned about the Gentile and the Tax Collector, I always wondered if Jesus was being facetious, since well aren’t we commanded to love and accept the tax collector and Gentile, and isn’t that who Jesus spent his time loving? I think I would side with Robert Capon on this story and suggest that Jesus was actually hinting to give people chance after chance 77×7 chances, not tossing them out after approaching them a few times.

    I realize there has to be a standard or a line somewhere, but I wonder if the line is drawn at someone’s heart and not their feeble attempts at trying to have a good theology or stay righteous. However, I do think you raise some valid points, that I admit, I have not made much room for in my longing to be all accepting. I’ve had this argument many times with trying to keep people on leadership teams because their heart is there, even though their actions don’t always line up. I’m not sure what to do a lot of the times, but it sucks to “cast someone out.” How do we cast someone out lovingly and gracefully, and sometimes I wonder if Jesus would actually do it.

  • Nathan,

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I’d like to add two more comments if I could…

    Firstly, about Jesus, I have heard the “facetious” interpretation before, but I tend to think Jesus was saying “treat them as the common Jew treats tax-collectors and Gentiles”. A parallel example of this would be what Jesus tells his disciples to do with towns that refuse to heed his call to repentance:
    “And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (Matt 10:11-15). Jesus does seem to be willing, at some point, to “write off” those who continually refuse to repent.

    There is one qualification, though, and you implicitly bring it up in the 7×70 story. In a parallel in Luke he says “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent’, you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4). The condition for forgiveness is repentance, always, but Jesus expects that as Christians we will always be ready to forgive those who do repent. I think this might be a good model to continue today…

    Secondly, I wonder a bit what you mean when you suggest we should draw the line at someone’s heart and not their attempts to act. On the face of it, it seems impossible to practice, since the person’s heart is exactly what we can never judge (we don’t have access to it). But I don’t think that’s what you meant, since you seem to be talking about judging their heart to the degree it is revealed by their actions. So I think what you’re saying is considering what the person’s overall intent is, rather than excluding them simply because they screw up in particular circumstances. I think that’s a pretty healthy perspective (Paul seems to distinguish believers from unbelievers in Romans based on whether sin or righteousness “has dominion” in their lives), but it also seems functionally equivalent to judging people based on whether they are intending to get better or intentionally not repenting of their behaviour (basically, refusing to admit they are wrong at all).

    I bring all this up to say: I don’t think it is fair to criticize the “conservatives” on the homosexuality issue for setting up standards of community behaviour, and picking unrepentant homosexual activity within the committed community (not those who are visitors or are completely outside the community, since as Paul says we’re not in the business of judging those in the outside world) as something beyond toleration. I don’t think it is fair because they are attempting to do what every community must do to remain a community (set standards of behaviour), and they are acting according to their conscience when they claim that God has ruled certain sexual behaviour out of bounds. It is one thing to criticize them for considering homosexuality a sin, but it’s another to criticize them for acting in accordance with that belief. For those communities, it would be a violation of their integrity to act otherwise.

    But, as all fair debate partners should, I admit I could be wrong :-)

  • I think I should clarify one statement I made above: sometimes I don’t think repentance is necessary for forgiveness; sometimes scripture suggests we should simply overlook sin. So I should not have stated things so categorically there. But I think it’s fairly clear that it’s the more minor sins that are to be overlooked, so that doesn’t affect the substance of the rest of what I said…

  • Nathan,

    It’s been good to read your thoughts on all of this, as well as the other blogs that have been written on this topic.

    I just wanted to pick up on the statement that Andrew commented on as well – “People who sin, people who intentionally sin and people who refuse to repent at all for things that you think are sin can still be attempting to follow Jesus.”

    I’ve been reading and writing a lot about discipleship this year, and one thing that comes up over and over again is the need to move from the old to the new as necessary in terms of being on the Way of following Jesus. It means to be called out of old modes of living to embody the Way of Christ and his Kingdom. So, I’m not sure that I would say that people who refuse to repent can still be attempting to follow Jesus.

    Having said that, I don’t think of repentance in terms of seeking the forgiveness of sins and living the perfect, moral life, but more in terms of believing and embodying Jesus’ message of good news. I like what Lee Camp has to say about it.

    The good news is not first and foremost a message that gives hope for the afterlife; the good news is not first and foremost a message that one may have inner peace and tranquility; the good news is not first and foremost that one may experience an ‘authentic’ life; the good news is, first and foremost, a proclamation that the long anticipated rule and reign of God has now come in the midst of human history. The good news proclaims that we may participate in God’s new creation if we will repent and accept the new reality.”

    Jesus, then, was calling those that wished to follow him to a life of transforming faith, a complete reorientation of how they were to go about their daily lives. The beginning point of discipleship has to involve repentance in the sense of turning away from the old and believing that through Christ, a new way of living has been made possible.

    Again, from Camp:

    “The Christian faith demands thoroughgoing transformation, thoroughgoing conversion of every realm of human endeavor, in personal relations, economics, and politics, in homes, culture and social order.”

    Central to all of that is the command to love, which is where common ground can hopefully be found in the midst of this conversation. I firmly believe that, regardless of one’s position on this topic, the most important thing is that we can become more loving persons in the process.

    That certainly would be something new.

  • Andrew, thanks for these comments, I’ll be honest in saying that this subject is one of the most difficult for me to understand.
    I have an extremely hard time balancing grace with expulsion, so by default I land on the grace side.
    You have probably focused in on what I think to be the core problem of my ideas around homosexuality, and also probably my ecclesiology.

    Repentance is at the core of who the Church is. Since this is true, the comments against my line of thinking are right on and I should probably recant.
    It would not be the Church if it was a group full of people who refuse to turn from their ways and choose a different way to live together.

    So let me explain a little bit better what I probably should have written.

    1. The Church should accept people who sin…and repent.
    2. The Church should accept people who intentionally sin….and repent.
    3. The Church should accept people who refuse to repent, from what they do not agree to be sin.

    Here is why I focused on the heart as opposed to action. With this homosexuality argument, there is plenty of well intentioned, Christ loving and following people who do not view homosexuality as sin. So in this case, I find it upsetting to not accept someone based on something only one of two parties finds to be an abomination. The argument on their side is that they can still follow Jesus while participating in homosexuality. The church needs to make room for these grey areas. The biblical debate has been ripped wide open and people fall on either side.

    So my criticism (at this point, until of course, you could and may prove me wrong) still stands for the conservative church. I think they will have a hard time drawing the line on these grey area sins, especially if they refuse to look past the sin and look at the people who are making these arguments. The fact that someone in my home city wants me to be disassociated with my community because of my liberal view on homosexuality, tells me that not only are they trying to get people out of their communities that do the sin that they agree with, but also can’t even make room for those that disagree with them on theology behind the sin.

    Andrew, when are you going to come to Sarnia and be our in house theologian?

  • Ian, thanks for the comment. I couldn’t agree more with you and thanks for the quotes.

    My main argument is in terms of homosexuality, a “sin” that not everyone agrees is such a sin.
    This is the “sin” that I’m saying could go unrepentant and we still need to accept these people into our communities.
    I don’t think it’s a lifestyle or action that flies in the face of following Jesus. In fact you could still live out all Jesus’ words along side of a homosexual partner just as easily as a heterosexual one.

    But you are right, the way of a Christian is a life of turning away from the old and turning to something new; repentance. So without that, then it’s not much of a Christian life, if one at all. I should have been more specific in what I was saying, but like I do (and most times to my fault) I pushed hard to one side to try and make a point without thinking of the consequences of how it could come across.

  • Nathan,

    Yeah, I fully agree with the fact that homosexuality is not necessarily a sinful lifestyle that needs to be repented of in order to be a part of Christian community or on the road of following Jesus.

    My point is that repentance isn’t just about asking for forgiveness for our sine, but is rather a visible reorientation of our whole lives in accordance with the loving and redemptive purposes of God in, to and for the world.

    Anyone who reads the Bible with any level of care can see that Jesus’ life revolved around being a friend to the so-called sinners and calling out those who believed they had it all figured out. They were the ones being called to repent and believe that Jesus had come for all people – and that is who the church should open its arms to.

    I think it’s also important to note that to be a Christian does not necessarily translate into Jesus following. There can be a huge gap there, and this conversation demonstrates that all too painfully.

    Thanks again for offering a fresh and open voice.

  • Nathan,

    I think I understand where you are coming from on this. In life, when there are things that are not absolutely clear, we tend to not want to get really dogmatic about it.

    On the other hand, sometimes it is the the most important things that are the most disagreed about; yet, most people think that it is right to hold a controversial opinion strongly even if it is disagreed about strongly. For example, some Christians today tend to support left-wing politics very strongly, to the point of accusing those who support right-wing politics of colluding in oppression. While I don’t agree with those arguments entirely, I would not criticize someone who does make those criticisms for having strong words, given their opinions about those matters: the fact is, they don’t believe what is right is unclear, and the think the other side is wrong for thinking that it is.

    I think the same applies to conservatives. You may, along with many others, think the issue is a grey area, and if that were true it would make some sense to treat it is such in our communities. But that’s precisely part of the debate: conservatives (myself included) do not think it is a grey area. They think it is fairly clear. And the fact that other people don’t agree is not a sign to them that the issue is grey, but that other things besides the obscurity of morality is influencing how people are acting and thinking on this issue.

    So really, I am just coming back to my previous point: I think it is entirely right of you to raise biblical (or traditional or experiential) arguments against the conservative position about the rightness/wrongness of homosexual acts, if you feel they are wrong. It makes less sense to me to criticize them for acting in a way consistent with their beliefs about that issue, which is that homosexual activity is wrong, and clearly wrong, despite the fact that many people do not think so. (Just like left-wing environmentalists might say about people who don’t believe in global warming, etc.).

    Personally, I would also make a distinction between those who practice homosexual behaviour and those who support it theologically but don’t practice it. And among the latter I would make a distinction between those who vociferously support it and those who just kind of drift with the culture. The issue is complicated when it comes to church discipline.

    And for what it’s worth, I agree with you about erring on the side of grace.

    Blessings

  • Andrew, I think this is why I basically wrote these posts. Maybe it came off wrong, but I’m not trying to say that there is no place for black and white. Rather, I’m trying to argue that this topic, homosexuality, should be allowed to have some room. In the same way that someone might think it is wrong to baptize babies, or wrong to drink any alcohol, or wrong for women to speak in church. My point isn’t that they be forced to think it’s unclear and grey, the point is that they are able to look past their black and white stance and see them as people earnestly seeking God.

    So my argument is not and don’t think could be to convince someone else that the issue is grey. My argument would have to be to encourage people who think it’s black and white (on either side) to make room for grey on the issue. I realize neither side wants to take this stance, because well they are both utterly convinced they are right. I am convinced though that the only way to have meaningful conversation about this, is to look past the actual issue for a while, or at least both sides allow the other side to stay in the community long enough to realize that niether side is a sum of their beliefs on homosexuality.

    Believing that homosexuality is ok will not send someone to hell any faster than believing is pre, post or mid trib. So I say argue, and argue passionately, but not at the expense of relationship with the people we are arguing with or arguing about.

  • Nathan,

    I’m just curious, what theological beliefs do you hold that aren’t grey? If you have any, why aren’t they grey?

    Keith.

  • Nathan,

    I mulled over your response for a little bit before deciding to respond, and I think the basic problem for me is this:

    On the one hand, your stated desire is for the unity of the church on this issue, and all things being equal I think that desire is commendable.

    But on the other hand, it seems to me (and I don’t intend this to be sarcastic or facetious in any way) that your post is basically saying this: I’m not arguing that people who think the issue is black/white should consider it grey, I’m just stipulating that they should.

    From my limited perspective, I think that if there is any hope of achieving unity on this issue we need to try to continue the debate. If we’re just going to resort to stipulating that our view is correct and the other side ought to just admit it, we’re less likely, not more likely, of dividing the church, because we’re admitting our position is basically just arbitrary.

    What do you think?

  • Keith,

    A few come to mind.

    Love God and Love Others would be a theological belief I’m not willing to go against.
    Some of the creeds would be pretty black and white for me, Nicene, apostles etc.

  • Andrew, that makes sense. I guess that’s where I’m arguing from on this issue, in trying to force this to be more arbitrary than maybe it should be? Now maybe this is my own biases speaking to a stance than I’m taking on this issue and that I think if I can get someone to grey, then that is one step closer to being on my side. That could be part of my agenda, though I’m not intentionally doing this (only offering it as a possibility if I’m understanding your comment properly).

    There are many layers to this question of homosexuality, and I feel like they’ve been reduced to one. You’re either for or you are against. Maybe the better approach is to help people see the multi-layers of such a question and tackle different questions. Because to be honest, the question that is more serious to me is how we treat and accept sinners, especially sinners that don’t agree with what we label as sin. Like I feel like Paul had a theology to deal with their issues in his context (ie. food sacrificed to idols) and he was able to make room for both sides of the equation even though he obviously fell on one side.

    So obviously I’m not as good as Paul is on this, but I really want to help play the role in the middle by helping both sides give grace to both sides (and maybe at times playing my cards to what side i play on) but with the intention of trying to bring unity in the body of Christ. So maybe you can help me what is a better way to approach this subject? When Paul talked about sacrificing food to idols and when and when not to eat meet, I feel like he was addressing an issue that obviously some people thought was at the core of their faith, and he basically said make room for both ideals of what is the right way and stop judging each other.

    Does that make sense?

  • Nathan,

    I think we’re making some progress here! :-)

    I do understand the argument you’re making, but I think it raises some of the more ultimate questions surrounding this issue.

    I think we can both agree to two propositions:

    1) There are some things which are morally insignificant, and should be tolerated as legitimate diversity
    2) There are some things which are morally reprehensible, and they should not be tolerated in a Christian community

    It is clear Paul believed both of these propositions, I think, from his writings: you pointed out an example of him believing (1), and his anathema/cursing of the Judaizers in Galatians 1 would be an example of him expressing (2).

    The ultimate question around the “gay” issue is which category does homosexual activity fit into, and this leads to an even deeper question: how can we know in general where issues fit in terms of these categories?

    (NT Wright offers a good proposal, I think, about how it worked for Paul:

    “If you want to know why Paul insisted on tolerating some differences of opinion and practice within the people of God, and on not tolerating others, the answer is that the ones that were to be tolerated were the ones that carried the connotations of ethnic boundary lines, and the ones that were not to be tolerated were the ones that marked the difference between genuine, living, renewed humanity and false, corruptible, destructive humanity. This is my shorthand for a range of issues which he deals with in several passages. “

    [I suggest you read the whole paper, if you have time: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Communion_Koinonia.htm%5D)

    Debate aimed at consensus cannot occur if the parties have no common standard of appeal/authority. Thus, in order to make progress on whether the “gay” issue fits in (1) or (2), I think that those involved in the debate have to come to some consensus first on what standard(s) they have in common, if any.

    Does this make sense to you, or am I going off-track?

  • Awesome Andrew!

    I think what you said here is great. I can’t add much more to it even.

    So now, then according Wright’s approach whatever is false and corruptible and destructive humanity.
    I can see how homosexual relationships could easily fall into this category. Most that are broadcasted and the general population assumes this is what being homosexual means.

    I agree fully with what you said and it certainly makes more sense at the very least at what Paul was trying to do.

    So now I guess the question is though, as it was before, is homosexuality a false, destructive and corrupted humanity? Or could it just as easily be interpreted as an ethnic boundary line or something that should be tolerated? Obviously, this is where the split is. I struggle though, because there are plenty of examples on both 1 and 2 of why it could be on both sides, tolerated and not tolerated.

    So where do you think this leaves us if we’ve gotten this far? because it still sort of feels like this is where the disagreement will happen, if it belongs in category 1 or 2.

    However, with that said, I think this is a major step forward in at least agreeing that there certainly are two different types out there, each demanding different treatment. Now we are left wondering, how we set the standard for what belongs in each category.

  • Nathan,

    Well, what do you think would be the best way to go about that question?

    I figure the obvious starting place is God. I’m sure both sides (or you and I in the conversation) take God to be the absolute authority. So the question is: where can God be found? Where/how does he communicate to us, if at all? What say you? :-)

  • Hey Andrew, I think this is where I’m stuck, and I also think it’s why I linked to Walter Wink’s Article (http://www.nathancolquhoun.com/blog/index.php/2009/07/12/homosexuality-and-the-bible-by-walter-wi)

    I feel like he’s explaining it better than I can.

    My starting point is God yes. And one of the main connection points to him his through scripture, but I feel like that’s where I struggle the most with it, because scripture itself seems to give us a lot of freedom the further the story goes on. To a point where if we are loving God and loving others, then we truly can, as the Church, judge for ourselves.

    So I’d say scripture, but possibly a lot more liberal idea of scripture than you might attest to?

    I’d be curious to know what you thought of Wink’s article if you want to comment on that post at all? I feel like you might have some good balance to bring to his piece.

  • Nathan,

    I will post on Wink’s article soon (either in your combox or at civitatedei), though I probably should break off this conversation after that for the time being, because I’m really behind on my work on my thesis. I would like to continue this discussion afterwords, though, so I’ll try to remember to bring it up later.

  • Absolutely man, I’m appreciative of your thoughts thus far, and it’s good to see you procrastinating doing your thesis by talking about more theology issues, i love it!

  • Hi Nathan,

    Would you perform a wedding ceremony for a homosexual couple?

    And if so would you allow this ceremony to take place in thestory?

    gd

  • What kind of person (gay or straight) would want to get married there! Have you seen those couches!!!!

  • Hi Greg. Maybe you could be more clear with why you are asking the question and why it matters?
    But to give you a straight answer.

    No and no.

    Nathan.

  • Hey Nathan,

    I was just curious as to where you stood on that. I get a little confused reading all the comments as to exactly where you stand…sometimes it appears you play both sides of it’s ok and it’s not ok. That’s why I asked a point blank question.

    Allowing homosexuals into the church community is cool with me…they need a saviour as much as me (no more no less). However as they get connected to a church community there will come a time where things will be said from the Bible that clearly tells them that this is behaviour God does not approve of…like any other sin.

    I am struggling with the Gay Marriage thing because my cousin recently told me (a day before my wedding) that he is engaged to a man and they are getting married next year and he wants me to go. In one way – this life choice has not changed how much I love my cousin however part of me thinks I should not go to the wedding because going shows that I agree/support this union and I cannot do so…but then I think…would Jesus go to this wedding?

    thoughts?? I know, I’m all over the place.

    gd

  • Hey Greg.

    I do play both sides, because I don’t think there is a decent enough answer on either side that i’m happy with. If i was to play my cards I land somewhere in the middle. Even the question you asked me doesn’t really get to the core of the issue. Just because I won’t marry two homosexuals doesn’t mean I don’t think they should be married.

    It’s the qualifier statements that I tend to either stray away from or come up against. Like when you said “However as they get connected to a church community there will come a time where things will be said from the Bible that clearly tells them that this is behaviour God does not approve of…like any other sin.” We are all sinners, like you said, and we are all in need of grace for the sins that we intentionally and unintentionally commit every day. If someone is honestly following Jesus and trying to be his disciple, I can overlook disagreements of morality and ethics. I don’t think Christ came to uphold a new law of morality, I think he came to relieve the burden of thinking that we actually can be moral on our own strength and then save us anyway.

    Even more so, if two of my friends outside of the church (so they have not agreed nor care about following Jesus), who were homosexuals I would most certainly attend their wedding. I cannot expect them to follow my convictions on how to live life. I can however support them in something that I think is beautiful, that being love.

    Not that you were looking for my encouragment, but I would encourage you to go to the wedding. You don’t have to tell them you don’t support it, you don’t have to tell them anything. Just go, attend, enjoy your time like you would at any wedding, always pray for them, and recognize that their love and commitment for each other is something to be blessed even if you don’t agree with what they will do that night.

    I’d be up for getting a coffee sometime to chat about it in person if you ever are, just let me know.

  • hey nathan,

    i would be good with meeting you for a beverage some time. I’ll be in touch.

    thx,

    gd

  • Hey Colin, thanks for your comment. My assumption though, by your questions is that you just come to different conclusions than we do. We are all comfortable in using the Scriptures to inform our direction, and that is a big part of the debate; what does the scriptures actually say about these subjects?

    i believe there was eternal consequences for our choices, but i also believe jesus took care of that.

    if you are looking for verses on tolerance of sexual sin, read any verse where Jesus ate with prostitutes.

    if you want to read some of my posts on the Bible and how it should be read (which would probably be helpful since you are asking these questions) check out these posts here, they are all about the bible.

    http://www.nathancolquhoun.com/blog/index.php/bible/

  • I agree that Jesus socialized with prostitutes and I have no problem with that. I love people regardless of their sexual preferences or practice. I don’t think you can come to the conclustion that Jesus tolerated sin though. Remember when he stopped the pharisees from stoning the prostitute because they were all guilty of sin?
    His parting words for the prostitute were ” go and sin no more.” His forgiveness is always unconditional yes, but it’s how we respond to that forgiveness that matters to Jesus. I think that the overall message of the gospel can be offending to people, I understand that.
    I also want to make it clear that I’m saying that Jesus taught us to uphold certain morals and conduct within the church of professing believers. I’m not saying it’s the christian’s job to enforce their beliefs on the secular world. But if you profess to be a christian, then you are assuming a lot of responsibility and are accountable to God and your fellow brothers and sisters.
    I guess I’m more concerned that christians around the world are finding it hard to say homosexuality is a sin. I agree that Jesus wants us to love people around us regardless of their preferences or life styles, but I think it’s important to expose sin within the church, which again, I think that is a completely different subject altogether.
    Just for the record, I don’t believe that I’m a better person for my beliefs. I am not even close to where I should be in my spiritual walk. I am just addressing the specific issue of homosexuality.

    God bless
    Colin

  • Hey Colin. A few questions.

    1. What do you mean by tolerate?

    2. What morals and conduct did Jesus teach us, in your opinion to uphold in the church?

    3. Why do you think Christians are finding it hard to say homosexuality is a sin?

    If you can respond to those that might help this conversation a bit.

  • I’ll try to answer those questions

    1. Without looking up the word tolerate in the dictionary, I think that it probably means to put up with, to accept something that is contradictory to a person’s beliefs etc..

    2. I guess I was wrong about this one. You suprised me by this question. I was skimming through the gospels trying to find where Jesus instructed the church on morals and conduct within the church, and I came up empty. I guess I should have said it was Paul that laid out the ground rules for proper church conduct. I think I forgot to realize that the new church age hadn’t been established yet during the time of Jesus’ ministry.
    3. As to why I think it’s hard for christians to say homosexuality is a sin:
    I think that christians are afraid of looking judgemental or being politically incorrect.

  • Hey Colin, thanks for responding. Ok, I’ll try to explain a bit.

    I asked what you meant by tolerance because I think the idea of tolerance is a very Christian idea and it is exactly what we are called to do. While I don’t think it means approve or encourage, I do think it means to “accept” and out up with it. Jesus seemed to have tolerated his disciples on numerous occasions and showed Peter quite a bit of tolerance when he denied him three times. Christians I find tend to make morality a Christian thing, when in fact it is a human thing. Jesus didn’t come to give us new and better morals, he came to take care of the problem of the fact that we could never meet the morals.

    Paul sums it up beautifully in Romans. The law brought death, which is why we needed Jesus because he freed us from the law, because we can never actually meet the requirements of the law. We all fall short of the law, of our moral code, all the time, which is why, thank God it doesn’t have anything to do with our morals if we are saved or not.

    Paul gives much instruction to the churches around him and it’s all wise and important instruction for us to study, understand and possibly even follow. The church has now for years decided what to follow and not follow of Paul’s letters to other churches. For instance some churches now ordain woman and allow woman to speak in churches. These are decisions made by the body of Christ that I think better articulates the grace that Jesus was speaking of. We cannot simply take Paul’s letters and read them in today’s contexts and today’s churches and assume that everything that we read is absolute truth for us today.

    Homosexuality, is our issue today. People are honestly wrestling with this as an issue for churches. This isn’t because they are trying to be more like the world or because they are afraid that their worldly friends may not like them. It’s because they have seen the injustice surrounding this issue, and they are lead to believe that a God of grace, mercy and love; the God revealed in the Bible, would lead them to act and believe this way. I think they are honestly wrestling, and honestly doing the biblical story justice and we need to make room for them to do that and the conclusions that they come to.

  • Nathan,

    I’ve read yours and Colin’s posts. Especially from your comments above and mostly all that we had, this verse below really summarizes the camp you really seem to be in, at least on this issue.

    2 Timothy 4 (ESV)
    3(F) For the time is coming when people will not endure(G) sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and(H) will turn away from listening to the truth and(I) wander off into myths.

    Question remains, are you a sheep or a wolf? Having met you and genuinely liked you, I hope the former. Jesus had lots of patience for the sheep and none for the wolves. Be honest!

    mark.

  • Hey Nathan.

    I guess we are just not going to agree on anything here. Jesus never approved of sin, ever. I can’t believe you would even say that. Healing on the Sabath was not that. He was saying, I am God, and they murdered Him for it. Total misinterpretation on your part, in my opinion.

    Yes, this really did happen last Wednesday. Obviously, I can’t say for sure if it was God’s warning, I would say it is very much possible, even likely.
    2 Peter 3:9
    ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’

    My point is this, He is very angry with people’s sin. Mine, your’s, many church leaders. He is in control of everything, fully soverign. The message of any global calamity is, put your faith in Christ, turn from your sin, and repent. If you only see the homosexual sin in this article, you are really missing it.

    I’m done on this. Thanks Nathan, talk to you later on something else some other time. mark.

  • Hey Mark, fair enough.

    If you ever want to get an idea where I’m coming from, read a book by Robert Capon called between Noon and Three, you can borrow my copy if you want. I’ve been reading it lately and he probably informs a lot of my thoughts on this matter. The book is written with random analogies and is an easy read because he’s kind of funny. He covers some deep stuff though (he’s an old episcopalian priest). Anyway, let me know if you are interested in borrowing it.

    Nathan.

  • Hey Mark, here is some more reading on that article you posted.
    Scott McKnight is a theologian I enjoy and he posted the article and some questions, quite a few responses.

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2009/08/the-minneapolis-tornado-and-jo_comments.html

    Nathan.

  • Hey guys, just been reading your back and forth discussions on homosexuality. I don’t understand why this topic is so hard to figure out. I don’t think it matters what your or my opinion is on what can be labelled as sin. Shouldn’t we rather go to the sriptures to see what God says about sin? Or maybe you just don’t beleive in the inerrancy of the word or the fact that the bible is influenced by the Holy Spirit?
    If you don’t believe that there are eternal consequences for the choices we make, especially in regards to sexual sin, then how do you interpret the warnings all throughout the bible?
    If you argued using only the bible to defend either side, I don’t think you would find one verse in the bible that condones or even teaches the church to tolerate homosexuality within its’ own.
    I guess my question to people who don’t think homosexuality is a sin: Do you consider the bible to be absolute thruth? and that the word of God is and always will be relevant to any time or culture?
    Do we need a new gospel to suit our evolving society?
    If it wasn’t ok in the book of genesis,ex. sodom and gomorrah, then why would we think that it’s ok today? and if you were unsure of which side to take, shouldn’t you err on the side of caution rather than uncertainty?

  • Hi Nathan.
    Check out this article I came across this morning. This sums up everything I was trying to get across.
    IN MY OPINION, if you are not a Christian and do not believe this event was God; you are a fool as the Bible says you are in relation to spiritual things. But if you call yourself a Christian, and don’t believe this was God angry at the sin of homosexuality, in particular on this occasion, and all sin in general, then you are extremely deceived. Just what I believe, take it or leave it. Click the web link to see the picture of the church steeple. It’s eerie.
    Take care, Mark.

    The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality
    August 20, 2009 | By: John Piper | Category: Commentary

    I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, That looks serious.

    It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,

    On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather expertsmost saying theyve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.

    The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around its building for this purpose.

    According to the ELCAs printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality. The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.

    The eyewitness of the damage continues:

    This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.

    The time: 2PM.

    The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits whats left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.

    Central Lutheran’s broken steeple

    Let me venture an interpretation of this Providence with some biblical warrant.

    1. The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God.

    The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

    2. The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith.

    Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

    3. Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture, and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered.

    4. Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados.

    Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:41)

    5. When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general termsan answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan, or Baghdad. Gods message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape Gods judgment.

    Jesus: Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:4-5)

    6. Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.

  • Here are my issues with Piper’s paper.

    1. His reference to the Kingdom of God makes it seem as if it is some place somewhere else at some other time. If you look at the kingdom of God as it is spoken of in the gospels, then it’s more likely something that is happening here and now. So even though those that have turned to Christ are washed and sanctified (therefore entering the kingdom of God) there are still some of those that do unrighteous things all the time. So their church by pronouncing ANYONE to pastoral ministry is condoning any future sin they may commit. The issue should not be whether or not practicing any sin disqualifies you from pastoral ministry. The question should be have you put your faith in Christ.

    2. The reason many people, including myself, get frustrated at articles like this is because of the obvious pointing out of the homosexual sin as opposed to any other sexual sin. For instance, look at the wording and the “grace” given to an elder who may or may not have to get a divorce.

    http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=3930

    Or look at this response from a Lutheran to someone asking to get remarried.

    “While we affirm that divorce was not God’s original plan, we also recognize that as broken people in a broken world, there are times when despite our best efforts, relationships some times also become broken beyond repair.”

    http://www.allexperts.com/ep/956-79530/Lutherans/Martin-W-Eldred.htm

    http://en.allexperts.com/q/Lutherans-956/2008/9/Marrying-Lutheran-Church-Divorce.htm

    Like c’mon, even with divorce we have clear direction from Christ (Matt 5:32), yet listen to all this skipping around the reality that what they are doing isn’t inside the kingdom of God (because it is adultry). If we can have grace and allow for divorced people to be elders or pastors, then we need to extend this grace for homosexuals too.

    3. Jesus tells story after story after story of two sets of people, one set was convinced they were right and that salvation was only offered to the “right” group of people and the other set beat their chests asking forgiveness and then went home. The question is not any longer “is God angry at homosexuality?” A question like that presupposes that God is “angry” at any sin and also pretends that he hasn’t already fixed the problem of sin. The question now is “have you experienced the grace that is offered through Jesus Christ?” and whether you “take it or leave it” the reality is that homosexuals have the capacity like any other sinner to receive grace from God too.

  • Hi Nathan.

    I sadly figured you would reply dodging and completely missing the point, especially Piper’s 6th conclusion. It’s your blog, you can hide this article wherever you prefer, and its all good. Have a great weekend.

    Take care, mark.

  • Mark, trust me, I won’t be hiding this, the post I’m moving it too has received 5 times the amount of traffic that this one has and probably will continue to, I’m moving into a better environment for this conversation that actually has to do with the topic of the post.

    The 6th conclusion.

    1. Should we approve sin? That doesn’t make any sense. Our approval or disapproval means very little in the greater scheme of things. Jesus came across as approving sin constantly (see my post on healing on the Sabbath) but continues to redefine what actually matters rather than approving or not that of individual sins. I’d rather stay away from this language of approval in this case, I think it skips the issue and focuses to much on us. Whether or not we approve of sin has very little to do with anything in terms of grace, forgiveness or salvation.

    2. What I think Piper is missing in his conclusion is that he is arguing for a point that who he is arguing to doesn’t care about because he refuses (at least in this article) to argue what the relevant argument is. The argument for many is that homosexuality is not a sin. He assumes that it is in this article and then builds from there. How are you supposed to have a dialogue with anyone on this subject if you can’t start at the same place? With that said though, I still think he is off even with the assumption he made beforehand. If he doesn’t approve of one kind of sinner being a pastor, than he must not approve of any.

    3. I have no clue about his tornado reference. Is he talking about an actual tornado or a metaphorical one. If it is an actual tornado is he actually saying that the tornado was a real warning about this subject?

    Is that better for me hitting the point? I can respond to anything, just let me know what you think his point is?

  • I guess I have a lot of questions for the emergent church mentality out there. I just don’t understand where this new mindset came from, where people change their former traditional christian beliefs for a more watered down version of bible interpretation.
    I think that comment from Mark was pretty harsh. I think it’s great that we’re debating our differences and putting ourselves out there, but I don’t think it’s our job to label each other.

  • This page of comments was tough to follow since it looks like the timeline isn’t quite right, but I’d like to take a stab at your last question Colin.

    I’ve avoided any labels personally, and I’d never claim to be Emergent, but this “new mindset” really boils down to people deciding that simply accepting what their culture has told them to believe isn’t good enough.

    The so-called “former traditional christian beliefs” were already a watered down version of bible interpretation. They were watered down with decades and centuries of cultural interpretations and assumptions that became accepted without question.

    Many people involved in Emergent or “post-modern” movements in Christian communities have been engaged in setting aside ALL expectations and assumptions before coming to scripture, before coming before God and have engaged in trying to understand the Message again even if it doesn’t exactly match what our christian culture has declared it to be.

    2nd Timothy 4:3 speaks of a time or times when people will gather teachers that what they want to hear and will wander off into myths.
    I don’t believe that is happening because I believe it already happened some time ago. “Traditional Christian Beliefs” have tickled the ears of those in pews for a very long time and allowed them to feel better about themselves while they watched or even committed injustices all around them. Christians have become known for being intolerant, bigotted and self-righteous which is precisely the opposite of how Christ described Christians would be known. By their love.
    If you dare to challenge them regarding this issue, many Christian communities will actually revel in their condition and claim that “the world” hates them because of their righteousness when the reality is the world hates them because they are behaving without love, they are behaving like arrogant jerks.

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