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.

Justice & Government, Morality

God’s Laws, Government’s Laws and Christianity – Part 3 of 3

Part 3 (go here for part 1 and part 2)

Christians should be lovingly frank about the harm people put themselves in when living outside of any of God’s laws. They are all important! And by harm, I don’t mean the punishment that will come their way, but the dangers that a loving God is protecting them from. When necessary, we might need to call sin what it is, but this need never amount to abusive name calling. As I see it, the problem is often in how we address people, rather than in the fact that at times we do.

While Jesus (God in the flesh) honored the laws made for the nation of Israel, and these are a good template for individuals and governments, we see that His approach to sinners is friendship. In fact, God’s laws can be a way of introducing people to His loving character found most completely in Jesus.

Those of us who have come to know the loving God should preach the good news of God’s love for law-breakers. This way, people trapped by their sinful nature can find the love and acceptance from the One who, though they have offended by breaking His laws, loves them. On receiving Jesus, we are acquitted and made righteous through the fact that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin by dying on the cross. Then, His Spirit in us and the law written on our hearts testifies that His word is true and, by looking to Him, we are enabled to keep it.

Without Jesus in our lives, government, law, moral society and God Himself can often seem like an uphill battle. This is the perception of sinful man. However, with Jesus we see God’s love in it all. Although we should sympathize and empathize with man’s weakness, we should not remove the things he battles against that are designed to bring him to the end of himself and see his need for Christ.

So, in summary, Governments should reflect all of God’s laws so people can happily co-exist. And, for both its purposes to protect people and to lead them to Christ we should not remove any part of God’s law that can be reflected in government law. Also, we should lovingly warn people about the harm that they put themselves in when living outside of any of God’s laws. Above all we should share the good news with people so that they can know forgiveness and discover grace to succeed.

Rob Morley

Justice & Government, Morality

God’s Laws, Government’s Laws and Christianity – Part 2 of 3

Part 2 of 3 (go here for part 1)

Government has laws so that the people it serves can happily co-exist. Now, imagine God became one of our citizens. What would He want government to legislate? Do we think that He thinks differently now to when He gave laws to His people Israel? Sure, the covenant He made with them is over, but the wisdom, truth and principles of love and justice found in God’s word still reflect His nature, as do the related blessings and curses and the sacrificial system. God has not gone soft on the law! Jesus on the cross is God’s attitude about the law and sin, and His dying didn’t change God’s attitude to these either.  What we see demonstrated is both His love for us when Jesus took our punishment, and His justice satisfied.

Some may feel that we are expecting too much from people who are spiritually blind to walk in the light of God’s laws. However, rather than spiritual blindness, it’s the flesh, our selfishness, and seared consciences that keep us from doing what is right. Spiritual blindness is the inability to see that it’s our disconnection to a loving God that prevents us from doing what is right, and to find meaning in life. That doesn’t excuse us from the laws of God. We shouldn’t have less or a “softer” set of laws for unbelievers because they are spiritually blind. In fact God’s word says that the law exists for the unrighteous not the righteous. You see, besides, that they show God’s wisdom, love and guidance, God’s laws exist for unbelievers to see their shortcoming and lead them to Christ.

Also, we shouldn’t have less law to tolerate mans weakness, because without changed hearts, this would create anarchy to God’s laws. Rather, we should have all the laws that God would, so that men, women and children can learn of God’s ways and they can at least be outwardly protected from man’s sinful nature that needs to be kept in check. Governments should simply reflect God’s laws. On the one hand these are quite detailed, while on the other they can be summed up in showing love. Those without God’s love in them need to be governed by the detail, while those with God’s love rejoice in the love shown in the detail.

Rob Morley

Justice & Government, Morality

God’s Laws, Government’s Laws and Christianity – Part 1 of 3

Part 1 of 3

In these next posts I put to you three, of probably many, questions to consider around the contentious issue of governments making laws, and I discuss my thoughts around these questions. The first is, “Which of God’s laws should a government include in their list?” The framework for my consideration is Christian, where I consider God’s thoughts as supreme and best to follow. Secondly, in order to answer the first question, I ask, “What is a government’s mandate and jurisdiction?” Then finally, “Which of God’s laws should Christians be vocal about?”

Which of God’s laws a government should or shouldn’t legislate has to do with the mandate and jurisdiction of government. Some say that the government shouldn’t legislate on issues of morality. Obviously, such a blanket statement is absurd, what with possibilities of pedophilia, theft, murder, etc. Others say that adult consent is enough to decide whether something can be tolerated or not as long as it is not affecting anyone else. This, I’m afraid is a naïve idea of mankind, not realizing that everyone, especially the youth, is easily influenced both for good and for bad through witnessing peoples’ choices and behavior.

Pornography, homosexuality and adultery are examples of what has become rife because people influence people. And, when legalized, immorality grows even more rapidly. For example, the permitting of abortion has shaped society so much, that what was once outlawed, seen to be morally wrong and supported only by a minority, now has the U.S. divided down the middle. What is wrong is being called right, and worse, because it has been legalized, it has been established as right for our future generations.  In a democratic country, legislation is swayed by the morality of its people. This does not mean that democracy is wrong, but rather that over time our laws reflect who we are.

(Interesting Article: Abortion Statistics and Trends… Out of the Long Dark Night by Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. NRL-ETF Director of Education & Research)

Rob Morley