Results tagged “Homosexuality” from Reformation21 Blog

We looked at the most popular posts from across Alliance websites in 2017. Did you miss one of these last year? Do you want to read one your favorites again? Just click the article title! 

10Calvin's Life: The Servetus Affair by Jeffrey Stivason

Opponents of John Calvin are quick to blame him for the trial and execution of Michael Servetus. But is that fair? Jeffrey Stivason offers a brief history of the event and Calvin's involvement. 

9. Marital Love Must Be Sexual by Joel Beeke

This is the last in a series of posts about the Puritan view of marriage. The Puritans emphasized the romantic side of marriage, and considered monogamous sexual union in marriage as holy, necessary, and good. 

8. No Little Women: Know What We've Got Before She's Gone by Grant Van Leuven

Grant wrote this beautiful piece in February, reflecting on femininity and the value of womanhood after the passing of his wife only five months earlier.

7. Game of Dethroning Sexual Sin by Nick Batzig

Should Christians watch a show like Game of Thrones, which is widely-acclaimed yet filled with explicit and debauched sexuality? Nick Batzig offers some insight into this divisive issue. 

6. Words Matter: Recovering Godly Speech in a Culture of Profanity by Jon Payne

"So what does the Bible teach about our words?" Jon Payne asks this question in an age of obscenity. His answer: "God created our mouths to be fountains of blessing, not gutters of cursing."

5. Mike Pence, "Truth's Table" and Fencing the Law by Richard Phillips

2017 was a year of conversations (and battles) over sexuality and gender. In this article, Richard Phillips navigates some difficult issues, pointing out both problems in the culture and pitfalls we face in the Church. 

4. A Few Questions About the New CBMW Statement by Aimee Byrd

The Nashville Statement, published in late August, offers what many consider to be an orthodox and biblical understanding of human sexuality. Yet Aimee Byrd has a few reservations, particularly related to the CBMW's stance on gender roles and the Trinity. 

3. The Slippery Slope and the Jesus Box by Richard Phillips

Some think it possible to flirt with liberal doctrines and still maintain orthodox faith in Christ. As the example of Fred Harrell shows, the slope towards heresy may be more slippery than they think. 

2. Sundays are for Babies by Megan Hill

Small children may disrupt your Sunday morning, but this day of rest is for them too! As Megan Hill remarks, "Sundays may mean disrupted naps and delayed meals, but our children are trading earthly provision for something far better for their undying souls." 

1. Pray for Your Church Leaders by Christina Fox

Church Leaders and their families carry heavy loads, beset on all sides with stress and temptation. Christiana Fox calls us to remember them in our prayers, knowing that "the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:16). 

That's all for now. We look forward to 2018, and to another year of proclaiming biblical truth!


Karl Marx didn't write all that much about religion, but what little he did was radical, programmatic, and rather clever. Here is almost his entire commentary on the meaning of religion as a cultural phenomenon: "religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." He wrote this in 1843. 


The year is interesting. Opium had been available in Europe in limited amounts at least since the turn of the sixteenth century, but its reputation spread during the first half of the nineteenth century and by 1843 it was attracting literary attention: the addict Coleridge wrote his supposedly opium-inspired "Kubla Khan" in 1797 (published in 1816), de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater appeared in 1822, Tennyson's "The Lotus-Eaters" in 1832, and in America Poe's "Ligeia" appeared in 1838. (Opium also had a cameo in Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo in 1844.) 

But 1843 was a significant year in European opium consciousness for a more sinister reason. For several decades Britain's East India Company had been smuggling a superior form of the drug into China. The company contrived this lucrative operation to equalize the massive trade imbalance created by the English demand for tea, silk, and ceramics and Chinese indifference toward anything the English had to offer except silver. The amount of opium entering China surged in the 1830s. When the Chinese government adopted aggressive anti-drug measures, the United Kingdom declared war. After their decisive victory the British demanded China open up and cede Hong Kong (effectively ending China's ability to prevent the opium trade). They also demanded China pay Britain's war bill and, in dumbfounding arrogance, insisted they compensate opium smugglers for their losses. The year was 1842. 


This is the backdrop to Marx's opium metaphor at the center of his materialistic critique of religion: 

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo. 

Religion must be intensely criticized for at least two reasons: as an act of intervention for an already addicted population and to warn everyone not already addicted away from its subtle power. 

The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true sun. 

To extend Marx's metaphor along lines laid down by Lenin, capitalists are as eager to push religion on the proletariat as East India Company traders were to push opium on the Chinese people; and the oppressed and exploited proletariat is just as greedy for more religious product as the millions of addicted Chinese were for opium. 

Critique of religion as a form of intervention was clearly in order, from the marxist perspective, and that critique combines two claims: a moral argument (MA) that religion or at least certain religious beliefs entail a particular social injustice of one sort or another and a pragmatic argument (PA) that continued religious devotion, at least to the criticized beliefs, is a hindrance or obstacle to social progress in some significant way. Hence the MA & PA case for the de-Christianization of culture. (This combination is also applied to Islamic societies--more on that some other time perhaps.) 

The MA & PA case rests on several notable assumptions. Among them, that there is an eschatological mandate to pursue social justice, that there is a known transcendent moral order that defines justice, that each social injustice represents a systemic practical problem of culture, and that the religious beliefs being criticized are obviously false. Not everyone who employs the MA & PA case seems to recognize these assumptions and some may find it difficult to account for some of them without resorting to myth. 

Awkward assumptions aside, the MA & PA case is enthusiastically employed by those eager to de-Christianize their culture in one way or another or even altogether. 


I first began to see this combo in my undergraduate studies in Geography. We were assigned Lynn White's much-discussed essay, "The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis," in which he argues roughly this: 

MA: What Christianity traditionally teaches about nature (creation, human dominion, etc.) has led to the great injustice of the current ecological crisis. 

PA: To make any progress in addressing the ecological crisis we must overthrow those particular influential Christian beliefs that prevent effective action. 

White, an active presbyterian and son of a presbyterian minister, advocated revising traditional Christian doctrine along lines he detected in the writings of Francis of Assisi. Although his argument is surprisingly shoddy, it was radical, programmatic, and rather clever--as rhetorically potent qualities in 1967 as 1843. 

So, Marx used the MA & PA combo to criticize religion for economic oppression and White used it to criticize Christianity for the ecological crisis. Others have used the MA & PA case to criticize supposed Christian teaching on a host of other cultural issues, including equality for women, ethnic and religious minorities, and non-heterosexually identifying people. In each instance, the critique runs more or less like this: 

MA: What Christianity traditionally teaches about X has led to the current social injustice. 

PA: To make any progress in addressing this systemic cultural problem we must overthrow those particular beliefs that prevent effective action. 

Same sex marriage is a recent example of the rhetorical potency of this critique; transgender restroom use is apparently (and bizarrely) going to be the next. 

So What? 

We must admit that these criticisms are not always or altogether unfounded. Whenever the church is criticized by the world our first response should be self-examination before God to see if there are any sinful ways in us--any harmful beliefs we hold, for example, that really do generate or perpetuate actual injustice in the world. 

But we should also recognize the MA & PA case for what it is or is often intended to be: an ideologically mandated form of cultural intervention to "protect" people from the offense of the gospel as it is preached and lived out by the church in the world. This one-two combo for the de-Christianization of culture, in other words, goes far beyond questioning the role of religious conviction in the public square; it underwrites a campaign to check and even overthrow religious conviction wherever it is found, demanding we either revise our beliefs to fit the cultural climate or abandon our intolerable faith.

In response to the cultural tidal wave of gay-rights advances in America, Christians and churches are seeking categories to make sense of our situation.  As the Supreme Court has legally normalized homosexuality, more and more people feel comfortable admitting to homosexual desires (i.e. "same-sex attraction").  A good number of them make this claim as church-going people who profess faith in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, one of the most heated topics for Christians today is how to relate same-sex attraction to the Christian life. 

This topic came to my mind today as I read an article titled Godliness Is Not Heterosexuality.  The author expresses concern that Christian parents are worried that their children might become same-sex attracted and thus be barred from a godly life.  His answer is that same-sex attraction is not contrary to godliness.  Having formerly thought that the "pursuit of holiness. . . equaled the pursuit of heterosexuality," he now understands that "godliness, not heterosexuality" should be our aim.  In reading the article, one sympathizes with the struggle that it reveals.  Nonetheless, its argument involves a confusion of biblical categories.  Can Christians, in light of the teaching of Moses and Paul, consider homosexual desire as compatible with godliness?  In dealing with this question, let me offer these four propositions on homosexuality and holiness and then work them out in more detail:

1.       All believers in Jesus are positionally holy (1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Cor. 6:11; Heb. 10:10).

2.       Personally, all believers in Jesus are imperfectly holy in this present life (Phil. 3:12; 1 Jn. 1:8; Eph. 4:22-24; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Tim. 6:12-13).

3.       Homosexual behaviors and desires are contrary to holiness (Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

4.       Believers with homosexual desires must therefore strive for Christ-like sexual holiness, which is categorically heterosexual (Gen. 2:24; Rom. 1:27; Rom. 13:14; Phil. 4:13).

Let me explain these propositions and defend them from God's Word:

1.        All believers in Jesus are positionally holy.  We have been categorically set apart to God by God through the saving achievement of Jesus Christ.  Theologians refer to this idea as definitive sanctification: we have been made once-for-all holy as we are in Christ through saving faith (1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Cor. 6:11; Heb. 10:10).

2.       Personally, all believers are imperfectly holy in this present life.  This means that we are always striving to conform ourselves morally and spiritually to the holy position we have been granted in Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:22-24; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Tim. 6:12-13).  This calling is defined as progressive sanctification.  Every believer, whether heterosexual or same-sex attracted, is struggling with sins of all kinds (Phil. 3:12; 1 Jn. 1:8).  We all are thus to be actively engaged in spiritual growth and moral change so as to walk in a manner that is more worthy of our calling in Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:1; Phil. 1:27) . 

3.       Homosexual behavior and desires are contrary to holiness.  It certainly is true that heterosexuality does not equal holiness.  But it is also true that the Bible uniformly describes homosexuality as a sinful deviation from godly wholeness.  And Scripture does so in the strongest negative language, so that any idea of same-sex attraction being compatible with holiness is widely at odds with God's Word (see Lev. 18:22 and Rom. 1:26-27).  The sinfulness of homosexuality extends not only to the behavior but also to the desires, i.e., to "same-sex attraction," just as is the case with other sins (Mt. 5:21-28).  Moreover, Paul explicitly  describes homosexual desires as "dishonorable passions" and "debased" (Rom. 1:26-28).  With this in mind, there is no biblical category for "Homosexual Christian" (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 5:5).  Christians may indeed struggle with same-sex attraction, just as we may struggle with anger, pride, or laziness.  But we are to struggle against all these sinful desires.  While there are many angry Christians, there is no normalized Angry Christian category.  Nothing that is inherently sinful can be a kind of Christian, but rather is the brokenness and sin from which we are being redeemed in Christ.

4.       Believers with same-sex attraction must therefore strive for Christ-like sexual wholeness, which is categorically heterosexual.  Heterosexuality does not equal holiness.  But with respect to our sexual natures, heterosexuality is manifestly the design and calling of God for the human race (Gen. 2:24; Rom. 1:27).  Christians must strive against sinful desires of every kind.  Often it will be a bitter, long, and discouraging struggle.  But strive we must!  This includes avoiding temptation and "starving the sin" (Rom. 13:14).  It includes practical actions to use our bodies as "instruments of righteousness" (Rom. 6:13).  It always means responding to the grace of Christ and relying on the power of Christ in order to be conformed more perfectly to the sinless character of Christ (Rom. 8:29).  All Christians are to "put to death" sinful desires (Col. 3:5; Rom. 8:13).  Does this mean that people struggling with same-sex attraction must undergo reparative therapy?  This depends, of course, on what one means. Many struggling believers speak of being harmed by "quick-fix" Christian "cures" for homosexuality, and some have wrongly concluded from their failure that they should give up on Christianity.  Yet the Bible does plainly teach that our sinful desires can be changed in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit (see Paul's attitude towards greed, for instance, in Eph. 4:28).  Therefore, Christians should struggle with hope against same-sex attraction, and they will need the encouragement and loving help of Christians and the church.  To be sure, sexual desires and identity run deeper than other desires and struggles, so that we should sympathetically realize how challenging this struggle can be.  But Paul's statement about the pursuit of contentment (another great challenge) remains true for every category of Christian struggle: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).  It is in this respect that we should endorse the statement in the article I cited that "some of the most godly people that I've ever known have also experienced same-sex attraction."  There is nothing controversial about that statement.  But if it is true, these godly people are striving against homosexual desires in pursuit of biblical sexual wholeness, just as godly people will strive against every form of sin.  

Tender-hearted Christians can only sympathize with our brothers and sisters who have and do struggle with homosexual desires.  Yet we do no actual good in offering false comfort to weary strugglers.  Yes, we must not make heterosexuality the be-all and end-all of godliness, as if heterosexuality = holiness.  Yet we cannot be true to Scripture and yet deny that godliness must include holy heterosexuality, so that the pursuit of holiness will include for many a bitter struggle against homosexual desires.  We may give our whole-hearted Amen to the statement that "being like Jesus is the true biblical definition of godliness."  This will lead us, among other things, to sexual wholeness.  It will exhort us, in the words of the apostle Paul: "Let us walk properly in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires" (Rom. 13:13-14).

Witnessing to Homosexuals

How do you witness to homosexuals? The answer is, "Like anyone else," but perhaps for some that is an over simplification. Regardless, we can at least agree on two things. 1) The use of the law in witnessing does not change, and 2) The gospel does not change. As an aside, regardless of the person to whom I am witnessing, there is a particular format I utilize. It is simply, God as creator, God as judge, and God as redeemer. You can learn a bit more about that here. You can see an example of that here.

Years ago, my wife and I used to visit an area in San Diego, CA that was heavily populated by homosexuals. We made a routine visit to this area at least once per month to share the gospel. Personally, it was a rich time. I had some amazing conversations with those who embrace the homosexual lifestyle.

During that time, and since then, I have realized you have to be prepared to do two things while witnessing to some homosexuals. In part this was discussed in Rosaria Butterfield's book. Each of these things can tend to make you a bit uncomfortable, one more than the other.

In my experience, it almost never fails that homosexuals ask some version of the question, "Is my lifestyle sinful?" If you are reading this blog I hope we have the same answer; however, I am reminded of what my mother used to say, "It is not what you say but how you say it." You can respond with, "Of course it is! The Bible says..." or you can be more sensitive to the situation and brace, or prepare, that person for the answer so that you have a greater chance the conversation continues.

I have responded with the former enough only to know the conversation hardly remains after that point. Now, I say the same thing (yes, homosexuality is sin), but I attempt to prepare that individual for the answer by making a statement and asking a question prior to providing the answer. Borrowing from D.J. Kool, "It goes a little something like this."

"Is my homosexual lifestyle sinful?"

My response: "That is a good question to ask, and I intend to answer it, but you have to promise me that whatever my response we will still continue our conversation and even development a friendship afterward. Will you make that promise?" Depending on that person's response will dictate how I proceed in the conversation. 

Some homosexuals have a hard time being your friend if they know you believe what they are doing is sinful. They cannot maintain that level of discontinuity in their relationships with others. Notice I said, "some." It is not all. Either way, I want to establish that we should not think less of each other, especially as image-bearers, though we do not have identical convictions.

The second area, which for some tops the charts with an astounding, "I will not do that," is one that I find extremely beneficial.

Invite them into your home.

Have you invited homosexuals into your home?

This probably raises all types of questions. "What if he brings his boyfriend?" "What if she uses inappropriate language?" "What if he wears inappropriate clothing?" They are sinners; what do you expect? Asking "What if" questions is the responsible thing to do, but often times it can lead you into doing nothing.

In my experience, homosexuals are not as terrifying as some sections of the media portray them. They bleed red like everyone else and they have a conscience. In fact, some homosexuals have told me that they know their lifestyle is wrong. They prefer to live this way because they enjoy it.

For some, inviting a homosexual into your home is much different than a heterosexual idolater or adulterer. For my family, it is not. By that, I do not mean to remotely infer that all sin is the same; however, my family has decided that we want to dine with sinners (i.e., unbelievers) of all stripes. In our home, drug dealers, prostitutes, homosexuals, bankers, professors, and homeless persons are all welcome. Or as one rapper put it, I want to hang out with the wild things.

Our children will grow up around all brand of sinners (i.e., unbelievers) in our home, but that is okay. Can it be dangerous? Should we be cautious? Yes! But in most cases, that caution has not stopped my family from befriending sinners and inviting them into our home in order to get to know them and share Christ with them.

Ministry is messy. All you have to do is read the Gospels. Based on my experience, if you are hospitable to homosexuals, like anyone else, that enables the potential for a friendship to develop and for conversations about the gospel to continue. This is what has worked for my family.
Our friend and Bible teacher from Every Last Word broadcast, Dr. Philip Ryken, offers a clear view of struggles and reasoning to Wheaton College's view of recent protesting over a recent visit by Rosaria Butterfield.

The statement can be found whole here (but pasted below as well). Every Last Word broadcast can be found at

FEBRUARY 10, 2014

Statement from Wheaton College President Philip Ryken on Chapel Demonstration

Below is a statement from Dr. Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College.

Over the last few days, Wheaton College has been the subject of significant discussion following coverage of events related to a January 31 chapel talk by Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.

In the chapel talk, which is available here, Dr. Butterfield testifies about her encounter with Jesus Christ and how this transformed her life, including her worldview and her experience of her sexuality. In her talk, as in other venues, Dr. Butterfield described herself as a formerly leftist lesbian professor who had despised Christians. Dr. Butterfield's testimony was well-received by the student body, resulting in an extended ovation following her remarks.

In advance of Dr. Butterfield's talk, several dozen students held a silent demonstration on the steps of Edman Chapel to express an array of concerns about the possible implications of what they expected to hear in Dr. Butterfield's message. As is her practice, Dr. Butterfield met with the demonstrating students later that afternoon. The demonstration and the conversation with Dr. Butterfield that followed have been covered in news outlets including the Wheaton Record, the student newspaper.

A key theme of the discussion around these events concerns the value of personal narrative as a way of pursuing truth and understanding. As a Christian community rooted in the universal and unchanging truth of the gospel story, we believe that all stories, including personal stories, must always be weighed using the balance of God's Word. Our conversations as an institution are always rooted in biblical truth.

Wheaton College's conviction on homosexual practice remains as articulated in our Community Covenant, which is affirmed each year by all students, faculty, and staff:

"Scripture condemns . . . sexual immorality, such as the use of pornography (Matt. 5:27-28), pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between a man and woman (Rom. 1:21-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31)."

Chapel guests and programs speak to various topics, including contentious issues of the day, always in alignment with the biblical standards outlined in the Community Covenant.

As our Covenant states, Wheaton College is a community of living, learning, and serving. We are a confessional Christian academic community with a focus on the spiritual and intellectual formation of our students. While we are not insulated from cultural conflicts over ideas, including our own students' search to understand how the truth of Scripture shapes each Christian's life, our educational model does not require us either to silence critical exploration of complex issues or to accede uncritically to cultural pressures.

Instead, the Christ-followers who lead this Christian liberal arts institution, and who value the minds and hearts of the students entrusted to our care, judiciously employ a variety of responses to student concerns and conduct. These responses may include personal conversation, civil public discussion, godly counsel, admonition, and discipline.

Within Wheaton's historic commitment to biblical truth, as well as in our model of liberal arts education, our goal is to grow a community where questions can be raised, disagreements can be expressed, discernment can be modeled, and disciples can be nurtured.

Bracket Analysis (No, not the Final Four)


In a recent article, Albert Mohler has accurately and astutely observed the widespread bracketing of public moral arguments by those seeking to defend the traditional and conjugal view of marriage in America. It's true, from attorneys defending Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) before the Supreme Court to the most articulate proponents for heterosexual marriage from a natural law perspective, those who publicly stand against same-sex marriage treat moral arguments like sandcastles before a tidal wave. 

As one of the most capable diagnosticians of today's moral insanity, Mohler points out morality's indispensable role for society ("The idea that our laws can stand independent of moral foundation is senseless"); but aside from mentioning misplaced boundaries dictated by "the current intellectual environment," he does not venture an explanation for why moral arguments that are so obviously pertinent to the same-sex marriage debate have been ignored in that context like an embarrassing uncle. Surely the mind-numbing secularization of the intellectual and media elites plays a part. But my guess is that secularization plays a greater role in the embrace of homosexuality in parts of Europe, where secularization is more thoroughgoing, even in countries where that embrace has been relatively slow in coming. So why does morality get the squeeze here in the U.S. when it comes to same-sex marriage? 

To answer this question it may be helpful to note that while moral arguments have been largely absent on both sides of the debate, the use of moral language is quick in coming from those favoring same-sex marriage ("What's wrong with allowing people who love each other to get married?"), though such language is, to be sure, often only thinly disguised preference and sentiment ("Don't you want people to be happy?"). The use of moral language becomes most hard-edged in the rampant denunciations of those who refuse to sanction homosexuality as not only unkind, but bigoted, oppressive, and now (as Mohler himself has pointed out) beneath the standards of basic human decency.     

I think one reason for the fact that the cultural right has bracketed moral arguments in the marriage debate (even as they are bludgeoned by moral language from the left) stems from the dominant excesses of classical liberalism and distorted moral ideology such excesses cultivate. To be sure, individual rights, property ownership, and a common "live and let live" mentality have been American staples since its founding. But the way in which various liberties are calibrated and promoted in a society is often shaped by an agenda, an agenda that, absent a coherent and stable moral vision, pushes self-identified and majority-backed "rights" (read: instincts and preferences) into the mainstream, blowing right past the boundaries of genuine tolerance, impartiality, mutual respect, and fair play while still touting the moral high ground. Some are coming clean regarding this new moral "my tribe's way or the highway" ideology, announcing that such partisan agendas--whether in the courtroom, the boardroom, or the playroom--are inherently virtuous. The bad news of the trend, especially for Christians in the marriage debate, is that the minimum price of admission into the public cultural conversation on marriage is not only the total sacrifice of the relevance of the revealed Word of God; it now also includes the willful surrender of any derivative moral argument that does not comport with the reigning majority's notion of rights. 

The acceptance of this reality, perhaps even sympathy for it, by traditional marriage backers is the real reason why, I believe, moral arguments are absent on one side of the debate even as warped moral language flourishes on the other. The proliferation of the "rights" of a self-identified oppressed minority, like nuclear arms, can imperil a society that has long left its moral and religiously-minded roots behind. Maybe this is why John Adams said, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net." 

My interest here is far from recapturing an idealized era of the past, much less advocating for a transformed culture as an entailment of the gospel. But the question still remains: what should we, as followers of Christ, do now? Might I suggest three things: 

(1) Keep a pilgrim's perspective. Recognize that the public debate over marriage merely confirms the divinely constituted fact that Christians, even those who admirably promote what I believe to be healthy public policies, are pilgrims in a foreign land. I am thankful for the role Christians play in public institutions, and I sympathize with them in the battles they must often wage. But even they must remember that God counts faithfulness to Him, not ballot boxes or cultural swings, as the highest prize of Christian living (Phil 3:12-14). Christians who keep that in mind will, I think, serve their societies well.  

(2) Keep a historical perspective. We will all face the new tolerance buzz saw if we haven't already, but saints of old (and saints around the world) faced the real deal (Heb 11:37). Even still, whatever hardship the church in America may endure, God may yet use it to promote his kingdom in the earth. That seems to be a way he works.

(3) Keep a global perspective. As a professor mentioned to me yesterday, even as the light of Christ may appear to grow dim in some regions of the world, it often begins to blaze in others. Missiologists tell us we have good reason to think this is the case today, for example in places like China, Brazil, and elsewhere. This fact should remind us of the unfailing promise that Christ will build his church (Matt 16:18); a promise that will never be cast into the dustbin of history, precisely because its realization is the central purpose of history, itself. 

Fish-y Business at the Presidential Inauguration


Over the Christmas holiday with my extended family, amid a full-blown but lovable circus of three to seven-year-olds that was rivaled only by the even louder football bowl game commentary emanating from the TV, the name of Stanley Fish came up in an unexpected burst of worldview conversation. Fish is a professor of humanities and occasionally writes opinion pieces for the New York Times. I like him not because I agree with all of his conclusions, but because he has exposed some of the dubious aspects of contemporary notions of fairness, neutrality, and procedure--over against truth claims, convictions, and honesty--espoused by certain streams of the Enlightenment political philosophy known as classical liberalism. (As it is used in the Fish school, "liberalism" generally operates according to a principle of "live and let live" and is not to be taken as a point on the political spectrum opposite "conservatism" or the like). 

Fish has long argued that contemporary forms of classical liberalism have transformed the current marketplace of ideas in the West into an arena of competing agendas and presuppositions rather than one of inclusivism and fair play. This has resulted, he claims, in a public square that touts virtues like openness, freedom, and tolerance while masking basic determinations to exclude all views that may threaten the accepted liberal ideology. [George Will has found a similar idea at work in the Vanderbilt "all-comers" policy here]. Unfortunately, because Fish's own worldview is not shaped by Scriptural revelation as the absolute norm, he chooses instead to swim the open waters of moral relativism, resting content to watch the world fight out its competing agendas (see his controversial essay, "Two Cheers for Double Standards" here [Caution: some strong language]). 

If you're still reading, and to spell this out a bit more, one primary tenet of classical liberalism is the idea that religious convictions about absolute truth have no place in public discourse. Play by the secular rules of debate or go home.  Bow to the limits we impose upon your religiosity or walk the tolerance plank. To put it bluntly, classical liberalism says, "For the purposes of public life, it is absolutely true that there is no absolute truth, and you must speak and act accordingly or be dismissed out of hand or worse." The obvious hypocrisy is that while purporting to be tolerant of all views, this line of thinking is terribly intolerant of all views that are grounded in absolute and universal norms it abhors. 

Then just yesterday, a family member sent me the news of evangelical mega-machine Louie Giglio's dis-invitation by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Apparently, Giglio is suddenly a no-go to give the benediction at President Obama's second inauguration because in the 1990's he preached a sermon in which (by many counts, graciously and faithfully) he extended a gospel call in the face of sin in general, and the sin of homosexuality in particular (Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-11; cf. Matt 19:5). It is plain that classical liberalism has just told Louie Giglio that he can be accepted as "affirming and fair-minded" only at the price of his theological convictions. It's a strange way to promote inclusion--excluding all who hold to orthodox Christian sexual norms--until you realize that what counts as "inclusive" has already been absolutely defined as excluding views grounded in those norms. 

An important point for readers of this blog is that in the coming years (and, of course, even now in the present), Bible-believing Christians will be more and more pressed to hide or revise their biblical convictions on a host of matters or else face being labeled "intolerant," "backward," "bigots" or even "evil."  My point today is that the very philosophy that stands behind such a threat is both hypocritical (because it makes universal claims as to what is acceptable while excluding yours, politely denying any inconsistency in doing so) and empty (because it has no ground upon which to assert the existence of the human rights it claims to identify and uphold).  

Of course, pointing this out doesn't mean that you will avoid being labeled an "unrepentant bigot"  if you remain true to the Christian faith, but it does mean that you will be standing in the only place that provides the kind of human dignity and purpose that, deep down (cf. Rom 1:18), all people know exists (but, sadly, many of whom refuse to acknowledge in their Creator and his saving purpose in Christ).  To put it another way, we should remember that to be truly loving, we sometimes have to say what is right, not merely what is nice (think of loving the alcoholic, for example), though we should pray we do so with humility and kindness. 

The apostle Paul knew how to remain faithful and gracious to the end despite all opposition and disenfranchisement, dismissal and mockery. He did so because his aims were decidedly other-worldly. "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Tim 2:8-10).

Of course, the suffering Paul endured was merely a sharing in the humiliation of the Man we claim is Savior (Col 1:24). And the apostle feared disloyalty to Him far beyond any revilement he might receive on earth. Should we in the coming days endure unprecedented dismissals, name calling, and worse--and we inevitably will--we will be in good company. Our vindication and reward, like Christ's, is not found on a national stage with a microphone but on the far side of the grave. Such a vision of the Christian life takes faith, to be sure.  Not a blind, backwards faith, not even a leap into the dark--rather, a faith founded upon the only reality in which life has meaning. So, friends, rejoice (Matt 5:11; Acts 5:41), endure (2 Tim 2:3), pray (Luke 6:28), remember (1 Pet 5:9), persevere (Acts 14:22), and welcome the painful privilege of fellowship with Christ (Phil 1:29). 

A thought on the homosexual marriage debate

As Christians in the UK and elsewhere engage in discussion among themselves and with civil authorities about the nature of marriage, it seems that many are concerned that such battles are indicative or even productive of a coming judgement.

It would be worth our while to consider, on the basis of Romans 1.18-32, that such behaviour seems to be a manifestation of present judgement at least as much as, if not necessarily more than, a cause of future judgement. That does not mean that we should not address the issues, but it might fine-tune our perspective on them, and nuance our response to them. It reveals a problem far deeper and wider than the immediate one, and ought to make the church consider her attitudes and actions, and perhaps her shortcomings and failures, over many years. This is not the root of the problem, but a fruit of it.