Marriage, Morality, Sexuality, The Law

Homosexuality and the Bible: Reflecting on the Discussion by Rob Bell & Andrew Wilson

Link to YouTube video in the post

Test Every Word From Every Teacher

Christian teachers like Rob Bell have a big influence on the body of Christ, and so their public views and teachings ought to be placed under greater scrutiny. Also, teachers in the body of Christ should welcome the examination of what they teach, for all see through a glass dimly (1 Cor. 13:12). Furthermore, it is praiseworthy and commanded to test what one gets taught. Paul commended the Berean Jews when he said that they “were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11 NIV). And John says, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NIV).

Faulty Equivalences

So, despite Rob Bell’s frustration during the discussion at focus being put on homosexuality and not on other issues, it’s appropriate what he advocates gets scrutinized. Furthermore, his claim that undue focus gets given to this topic is unreasonable, as is the red herring of making a topic like “worry” of equivalent relevance. For, though “worry,” like many other issues, is a problem, no one in the body of Christ embraces it as a way of life, and all agree on its remedy. No one argues that “worry” is natural and that we should allow people to happily live in “worry” if that is what they are comfortable doing. However, when it comes to homosexuality, that is what people like Rob Bell are arguing, and a schism in opinion has come about that needs attention. And, yes, all sin is evil, but it is evident from the entire scope of Scripture that certain sins are more heinous than others.

Faulty Leverage

Not only does Rob Bell try to bolster his right to being frustrated by using false equivalences, but he also undermines the issue of homosexuality and the word of God by suggesting that they talk on topics that Jesus spoke about, like “worry.” He implies issues addressed by Jesus are weightier than those like homosexuality which, according to him, Jesus never addressed. Yet, are we to assume, because Jesus didn’t specifically address the issues of incest and bestiality, that he diminished the need to discuss these evil practices? And what if these get embraced by some in the body of Christ? So why not homosexuality which is growing in prevalence and acceptance despite being, up until recently, unanimously understood by the entire Church as sinful?

Using Jesus’ silence on any topic is faulty leverage, for Jesus said, “Man shall . . . live . . . on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4 NIV). He did not place His words above the moral law in the Old Testament. And, it would have been illogical and absurd had He said anything to nullify what His apostles would be inspired to write.

Yet, this is a common defense used by those who advocate for homosexuality, like Tony Campolo in “Christianity and Homosexuality – Tony Campolo” (14:20), who distinguishes between the authority of Jesus’ words or, in this case, His apparent silence on the topic, from God’s word through Paul in Romans. Ironically, Tony Campolo began his talk by saying that “the Spirit of God infused the authors so that what they wrote became an infallible guide to faith and practice” (00:52). Consequently, he should know that Paul’s teaching on homosexuality in Romans Chapter 1 is equally God’s word and New Testament revelation. While I found his stories heart-wrenching and wholeheartedly agree that love is the only approach, we must be careful for, just as he did with Peter, Satan will target our feelings to have us “seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (Matt. 16:23 NLT).

Faulty Foundation

Rob Bell’s frustration appears to be a deflection by someone who has already decided to make light of what he does not consider a grave topic. In addition, it helps him hide from his lack of a helpful and robust hermeneutic that can thoroughly justify his position, which is a reasonable expectation of a teacher in the body of Christ who holds to such an opinion. Instead, he had not yet worked out what in Leviticus is timeless and what is not, limiting his ability to understand Jesus’ reference to “sexual immorality.”

In the end, Rob Bell did not offer a clear breakdown of his hermeneutics or of the scholars he mentioned. What he said seemed flakey and unable to withstand what Andrew Wilson was asking. His view on homosexuality, built upon little more than smatterings of scholarship and put together piece-meal, crumbles under the first bit of rigorous testing. And, rather than the word of God, his view is undergirded by experience, which is never a sure foundation.

Are Christians supposed to be appeased by this sort of defense? Are we supposed to acquiesce to his retorts that patronize and don’t offer substance, and simply change the topic? No, for we are to get to the bottom of teachings. Also, as a reminder, “you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1 NIV). Therefore, everyone should welcome a loving discussion like this so that our teaching can be pruned and changed if necessary.

Was Jesus Silent on Homosexuality?

In Matthew 15:19, Jesus lists “adultery” apart from “sexual immorality” by saying, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (ESV). However, in Matt. 5:32, He most assuredly included it when He said, “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (ESV).

Should only “adultery” be considered “sexual immorality” because that’s the only one Jesus specifically addressed? No! Jesus and His Jewish audience understood “sexual immorality” as defined in Leviticus, namely, homosexuality (Lev. 18:22), pedophilia (Lev. 18:23), bestiality (Lev. 18:23), incest (Lev. 20:17), or other forbidden familial relations (Lev. 20:11,12). Jesus, however, listed “adultery” separately from “sexual immorality” in Matthew 15:19. That leaves incest, other forbidden familial relations, bestiality, and homosexuality that fall under his reference to “sexual immorality.” Therefore, one cannot say that He didn’t deal with sins like homosexuality simply because he didn’t specifically name them. On that basis, one could argue for any sexual sins other than “adultery” to be excluded.

Jesus lived by “every word” and would have understood that homosexuality (Lev. 18:21) was one of the sins of “sexual immorality.” He also understood the ramifications of failing to live by every word, hence His warning.

Rob Morley

Sources:

Premier On Demand. (n.d.). Rob Bell and Andrew Wilson // Homosexuality & The Bible // Unbelievable? [YouTube Channel]. YouTube.

Suncrest United Methodist Church. (n.d.). Christianity and Homosexuality – Tony Campolo. [YouTube Channel]. YouTube.

Faith, Healing and Miracles, Health, The Law

A Faith-Based Approach to the Coronavirus

Light in a Dark Time

We have an opportunity to be the light in a dark time. Some Christians believe their faith will protect them from the coronavirus (COVID-19) and are complaining at our governments for passing laws to hinder our movements. Even if you have lots of faith and are feeling fine, you could still be carrying the virus without your knowledge. Faith, which comes from God’s word, teaches us how to behave when there is a contagious disease. Leviticus and Deuteronomy have many verses dedicated to clean and unclean things.

Faith in God’s Word

God’s people were given instructions that they had to obey concerning contaminants on their bodies, clothes, vessels, and walls of their homes. There were many instructions for washing, but those things that couldn’t be saved were broken or burned. People who were deemed unclean for different reasons were to distance themselves for a time. If the person had a contagious disease, they were sent outside of the camp and the priest had to visit that person outside of the camp to determine if they were still contagious or not.

Undeniably, washing and distancing are biblical practices, so let us spread love and not germs.

Tina Morley

In Christ, Life in the Spirit, The Law

The Christian and God’s Moral Law

The Law
photo by Alex Bruda

Under the Law

In the Bible, ‘the law’ often refers to the covenant that God made with Israel, which Christians know as the Old Covenant. It required of them, amongst other things, to keep God’s moral law. It is especially in this regard that Paul called it a ministry of condemnation (see Gal. 3:10). For, though it was good, in that it highlighted God’s perfect moral law (see Rom. 7:12), it pointed out the error of those who were ‘under’ it, thereby condemning them.

The law was unable to save those who were ‘under’ it from the penalty of their past, present and future sins. Nor could it save them from their sinful nature or enable them to keep its requirements (see Rom. 8:3). It essentially pointed out human sin and sinfulness, and to their desperate need for another way. The Bible puts it like this: ‘Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith’ (Gal. 3:24).

The same principle is also true for those not ‘under the law’ (i.e. those not part of the Old Covenant). This is because, ‘They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them’ (Rom. 2:15 NIV).

In Christ

In contrast, Christians (Jews and Gentiles who believe in Christ) are in a new covenant with God. And, though we also seek to fulfil God’s moral law (see 1 John 5:3), we don’t do this by being ‘under the law’ (i.e. under the Old Covenant), but by being in Christ. We no longer try in our own strength to satisfy the law’s requirements in order to please God or avoid His punishment. Instead, the good news is that Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice satisfies all that the moral law of God requires of us, justifying us (see 2 Cor. 5:21). Furthermore, His life in us enables us to keep His commandments (see Php. 2:13 & Rom. 6:4). This is especially true when we as a matter of lifestyle ask God to empower us by His Spirit and when we walk in step with His Spirit (see Eph. 5:18 & Gal. 5:25).

‘Therefore, my brothers, you also died to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God’ (Rom. 7:4).

Rob Morley