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Monday, July 16, 2012

Gay Christians?

Recently Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, an evangelical organization that is dedicated to assisting homosexuals to get out of that lifestyle, said in an interview with The Atlantic, "When it comes to someone who is a believer, we all still struggle. We're all still human. Some of us choose very different lives than others. But whatever we choose, it doesn't remove our relationship with God." He has come under a great deal of Christian criticism for such a remark. Christianity Today reports he is accused of antinomian theology. (Antinomian theology suggests there are no rules for Christians. You do whatever you think is best. How you act is irrelevant.) That's a bad thing.

So, what about it? Can you be a Christian and go on freely practicing homosexual behavior? And do you see the problem with the question? You see, if you say, "No!", then you're saying that salvation depends on what you do. If you say, "Yes!", then you're saying there are no rules for Christians. It's a classic Catch 22. Or, you could say that it's a classic "false dilemma".

Remember, first, that I will always derive my worldview from Scripture before experience. If Scripture is clear on X and my experience says Y, I'm going to have to go with X. If X isn't clear in Scripture, then there is lots of room for discussion, but when it's clear, X is true regardless of experience. So ... what does Scripture say on the subject?

Well, there is almost no one on the planet who has examined the question and concluded that the Old Testament is unclear on the subject. "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (Lev 18:22). Of course, the complaint is that we're not opposed to football (pigskin, you see), so we're being inconsistent. The response is that it's also contained in the New Testament. (I'm not favoring either the complaint or the response; I'm just telling you what they are.) The New Testament is really unavoidably clear as well. Jesus made the point in Matthew 19. Paul wasn't vague when he wrote, "God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error" (Rom 1:26-27). And, of course, both Old and New Testaments have more. Say what you want; it is biblically sinful.

Does it address the question of salvation, however? Paul seems to think so. He wrote, "Or 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 effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-10). Notice first that "homosexual" is only one of the sins listed, so don't get it in your head that this is the primary topic. On the other hand, he is not unclear. These people ("the unrighteous") "will not inherit the kingdom of God." Is that unclear? No, I don't think so.

But let's go to another place that makes the point abundantly clear. John writes this stunning statement:
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9).
Now, look, do with that what you will, but it seems absolutely certain that "no one born of God makes a practice of sinning." Not only does he not, he cannot, as in "lacks the ability". Having established, then, that homosexual behavior is sin and that those who practice it will not inherit the kingdom of God (along with those who practice all sorts of other unrighteousness), John affirms here that the fundamental problem is not that they aren't performing up to standards in order to be let in, but that they are not born of God. To put it another way, if they are able to practice sin like this, they are doing things that geniune Christians cannot do.

So, am I saying, then, that a Christian cannot sin? No, that's not what it says. It says "make a practice of sinning". Am I saying that a Christian must meet certain behavioral standards? No, that's not what it says. (And that's what made my "Catch 22" actually a false dilemma.) Based on Scripture, one who is born of God cannot blithely continue in a particular sin. They interrupt it. They struggle with it. They need to stop it. It is not comfortable, happy, pleasant, a good place to be. They cannot continue in that behavior. Not simply "will not", but cannot. So when someone says "I'm a Christian" and continues comfortably and happily in sin -- any sin -- the Bible indicates that they are not born of God and will not inherit the kingdom of God. That's not legalism. It simply says that those born of God are changed people with changed capabilities. Repentance and changed lifestyle is an indication of an inner reality, not a cause. But it is a sure indication. It will happen. Don't be fooled.

When someone who is sexually attracted to the same gender is born of God, will they stop struggling with sin? No. Not at all. Not that sin. Not any sin. The struggle goes on. When the struggle stops and the result is the practice of sin, any sin, the Bible suggests that the "born of God" event never happened. Our task, then, is to "bear one anothers' burdens", to assist fellow believers in their struggles. We don't reject someone because they struggle with alcohol or covetousness or greed. Why would we reject someone because they struggle with homosexual feelings? We mustn't. All believers need shared support because all believers struggle with sin. That's just one of them. True fellowship of believers must go beyond the barrier of confessing sins to one another into mutual support. Until it does, we are not fellowshipping. And we are not being obedient followers of Christ. Loving fellow believers, Christ indicated, is the hallmark of a follower of Christ. Let's do that.

8 comments:

David said...

I have often said that even if someone were "born this way" doesn't mean that it isn't a sin. In fact, we are all born sinners, some are born alcoholics, some are born with high libido, some are born with proclivities to any number of sins, but "born this way" doesn't stop it from being sin, and thus being Christian would mean striving to not live in that sin. We must all struggle to overcome our sinful nature, even those sins we are biologically pulled toward.

Stan said...

Are we "biologically pulled toward" sin? Interesting question. (More later -- another day.)

Marshall Art said...

Excellent post, and I agree with David's sentiments. We are to transcend our base natures, be holy because God is holy. In order to be, we must put aside what had been and be something else. In this case, it is our sinfulness. True, we are only human and will continue to struggle, at least at times. But it is the case.

David said...

I wasn't saying that all sin is a biological predilection, but there are certainly some that are. But we are all born dead, unable to not sin, and only through the power of Christ are we able to not sin. And while I don't agree that homosexuality is biological, the argument that it is and thus good, is false because it doesn't make it any less of a sin just because we can do no other thing under our own power.

Stan said...

No, I didn't understand you to be saying that all sin was biological predilection. I got that. But I've been pondering the concept of "visiting the sins of the father on the children to the third and fourth generation" and what that means.

The argument (from their end, not yours) is "we're born this way so it's okay." Absolute nonsense. "Born that way" is no measure of "good". But the idea underlying it "If I want it, you can't say it's bad." And the "born that way" scheme is just a smokescreen.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

No one is born with a "biological predilection" for any particular sin; that is pure psychobabble.

As for "generational sin," it also doesn't exist except in the minds of those who twist the Scriptures. Essentially, it became the "Christian" version of similar psychological ideas that we are not responsible for our behavior - it's always someone else's fault.

I did an article on "generational sin/curses":
http://watchmansbagpipes.blogspot.com/2010/12/generational-singenerational-curses.html

Harry said...

I am homosexual in that I am attracted to men as apposed to women. But I feel I am a christian, in that I believe in the bible, try not to sin, try to have a relationship with Christ. I believe he made me this way for a reason and that I need to prove my love and faith for him. I mean for me I will try to not have a relationship with a man, the same way other Christians may have to tackle drinking problems, drug addictions, whatever. It's interesting how you are called to tell others about your sins and problems, but we live in a world where a lot of people with faith are strangely homophobic, so I don't think i'll be burdening people anytime soon...

Stan said...

While society would probably define you as "homosexual" because you have an attraction to your own gender, the fact that you 1) believe (with the Scriptures) that the behavior is wrong and 2) work at avoiding that sin would necessarily disqualify you as "homosexual" as a biblical description. Biblical "thieves" are people that steal and biblical "adulterers" are people that commit adultery, so biblical "homosexuals" would be people that engage in the act, the sin.

All of us have besetting sins. They don't define us. They are the areas in which we spend the most time and effort overcoming. We do that by God's command and by His power. They don't define us. Your prediliction to a particular sin doesn't define you. In 1 Cor 6 Paul writes, "Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall 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 Christ, and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:9-11). Non-Christians fall in categories like those, but Paul says, "Such were some of you." The difference is that theey were washed, sanctified, and justified -- a fundamental change. True believers have a fundamental change. No longer "fornicators" or "thieves" or "drunkards" not because they didn't or even don't do it, but because their besetting sins no longer define them.

And I understand not wishing to broadcast your besetting sin. I would recommend that you find someone you can trust to share that with for prayer, support, and accountability. But your description of yourself would agree with the Scripture that those who are born of God cannot make a practice of sin, and you would be a Christian, not a homosexual.