Gay Christian - Oxymoron
There is a serious error that is growing in the ranks of Evangelicalism. It has already permeated mainline Protestantism. It is a Trojan Horse in the Body of Christ––one that must be addressed. It carries the potential to change the Gospel we believe, teach and preach into a different gospel (Galatians 1:8), which is NOT the Gospel, but heresy.
The implications are extremely sobering. For the most part, the move to embrace the unbiblical term ‘Gay Christian’ has been a well-intended effort to express love, to accept and be supportive of persons who experience same-gender attraction who have self-identified as being gay. For those of us who are old enough to remember the reactionary, unloving, rejecting, even cruel responses to gays that ‘Bible-believing’ Christians often gave, this change of heart seems to right a wrong.
For 30-somethings and younger who have been so effectively propagandized by the gay agenda in our culture, welcoming, accepting and affirming ‘Gay Christians’— even those living together, those in civil unions or so-called marriages—just makes sense. And they are pushing hard for changes in this regard. It is perhaps the most confusing, charged issue the contemporary Church is grappling with. After all these persons are our friends, our neighbors, our sons and daughters, our brothers or sisters, even parents. It is an emotional, complex, convoluted dilemma Church leadership and Christians at large are facing. It is difficult to remain objective, to be thoughtful, and to do the serious, honest study of God’s Word when the overwhelming voice of our culture and a growing number of voices within the Church are adamantly calling for a shift in belief. But we simply MUST do so for the future of the Church is at stake.
Our words truly matter! We must be wise and discerning in their use. It is supremely important when it comes to homosexuality that our reference point for the terminology we use is that revealed by God through revelation (the Bible), that which has always and only been understood and taught by orthodox Jews and Christians for thousands of years when it comes to sexual morality/immorality.
We need to remember that the novel gay theology that has sought to reframe and displace traditional exegesis and interpretation of any and all passages having to do with homosexuality is less than fifty years old. The move to welcome, accept and affirm practicing homosexuals into the Church is a recent development that represents a radical departure from biblical revelation. This reality in itself should cause Christian leaders serious pause. And yet, a new grace theology is infiltrating portions of the Church and many are succumbing to deception and being led astray.
I have no doubt whatsoever that the apostles would excommunicate every leader teaching this heresy from the Church. The apostles did not faint from declaring God’s Truth in the midst of cultures where sexual immorality was normative and belief in pagan gods bounded. They did not dumb down the Gospel so they wouldn’t offend anyone or be viewed as haters. Needless to say, the Gospel of Jesus was NOT politically or religiously correct! Nor were the apostles concerned that proclaiming the Truth and teaching the full counsel of God might adversely affect Church growth, building programs and the level of weekly giving. They jealously guarded the content of the Gospel and pronounced a divine curse (anathema) upon those who preached a strange gospel. They viewed sexual immorality as something very serious because they understood the Scriptures––God’s self-revelation, they had been taught by the Lord Himself, and by the Holy Spirit after His ascension. They understood beyond any doubt that God the Father, Creator of Mankind condemns sexual immorality in the strongest possible terms because it runs absolutely counter to His nature and will. Our gender and the expression of our sexuality are intrinsic to being created in the Image of God, male and female. We simply were not created for sexual immorality. Overstepping these boundaries and engaging in sexual sin has profound repercussions (spiritual, psychological and physical).
There are a growing number of books being written for the Christian community espousing novel and unbiblical teaching regarding homosexuality. Some utterly dismiss that same-gender sex is sinful and see no conflict in being a Christian and engaging in sexual relations with others, period. Some affirm gay relationships but encourage committed, monogamous relationships. And there are a few voices like that of Wesley Hill, who believe that celibacy is the only option for ‘gay Christians’.
I read Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010) several years ago and I’m frequently asked what I think about it. He is a graduate of Wheaton College here in Illinois. I had already read a similar book entitled Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2009), which I adamantly disagree with. Both miss the mark in numerous ways. Hill’s book is an open, honest sharing of his life experience struggling with same-gender attractions growing up as a devout Christian. He references the lives of others he has related to, as well as noted Christian authors like Henri Nouwen––who also struggled with same-gender attraction. I appreciated much of the content of the book, especially parts discussing the relationship between a body of believers in a local church and how those in our midst who struggle with same-gender issues need acceptance and loving support as we all do (sinners saved by grace). I totally agree. He is clear about the sinfulness of homosexual practices and about the call we all have to follow Christ in obedience. If we are single, then we are to live chaste, celibate lives, abstaining from sexual immorality.
However, I take issue with him and many other Christians who have opted to wed the name Christian with gay, lesbian or homosexual (much less, fornicator, adulterer, idolater, drunkard, thief, murderer, et cetera) as one’s identity. In this respect, I believe Wesley has adopted a serious error that is fraught with problems. While he also uses the phraseology that I have for decades, “a Christian struggling with homosexual attractions,” he liberally speaks of himself and other Christians who struggle with same-gender attractions as gay Christians, homosexual Christians or lesbian Christians. You know me. I have deep compassion for the struggle; I understand it. I appreciate the vexing toll it takes on many dear brothers and sisters who love God and want to follow Christ in obedience. I have counseled with well over 2,000 people over the decades struggling with same-gender issues. Many of them have prayed and hoped for “change” year after year. With an earnest heart and childlike faith they’ve read books, attended conferences, gone to the altar, been prayed for, anointed with oil, gone through deliverance sessions, or various sorts of counseling but may not have experienced the change (or depth of change) they so hoped for. Somehow they must reconcile that. I would never deny that reality. But the conclusions they come to are critically important.
It has mattered greatly to me since my conversion to Christ at age 19 and my earliest years interacting with folks in EXODUS (1976 to 2009) about the words we use to describe ourselves––and our experience. Let’s look for a moment at one of my favorite passages. “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 homosexuals, nor those submitting to male homosexuals (sodomites), nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And these things are what some of you were, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 9-11)
This passage is profoundly important theologically. The conversion spoken of here by the apostle Paul, effected by God through the work of Christ and the Spirit, is what removed them from being among the wicked, who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. It is not difficult to mine the inherent imperative implied here: “Therefore, live out this new life in Christ and stop being like the wicked.” The word “But” is incredibly pivotal here because it gives additional force to the statement “Once you were, but now you’re not”. The three verbs are metaphors of salvation, each expressing a special facet of their conversion: They had been washed from the filth of their former lifestyles; they had been sanctified, set apart by God for the holy, godly living that stands in dark contrast to their former wickedness. Though formerly unjust, they had been justified, so that now––right with God––they may inherit the Kingdom that before they could not. The word, “were” is a Greek imperfect that means in essence that these particular sins were habitual in nature––they were life-dominating sins.
Paul throws in the word “But” implying that at a point in time, God did something that ushered in tremendous change. It changed their frame of reference––their sense of identity. Paul speaks of the regenerate as identity. Paul speaks of the regenerate as new creatures in Christ. “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:16, 17)
Dr. Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse writes: “We need a reference point for our lives. If we have no yardstick to determine who we are, no basis, no foundation, then we will find confusion...we will only be able to define ourselves by our feelings, or by the voices and norms of our culture. We need an anchor--something that secures us, something steadfast that can be counted on. We need a reference point outside of ourselves, our feelings, our fallen, limited thinking and consciousness.”
The Scriptures are the reference point for our lives. We must be very careful not to move beyond the revelation and teaching of the Holy Scriptures. We are a people who are predestined to become conformed to the image and likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29, 30). Our true identity is in Him; we are who HE says we are, quite apart from any feelings, attractions, sexual desires and struggles we may presently experience. Our lives are deeply influenced by the mental picture we carry around. If homosexual, lesbian or gay is a person’s tag, or if we tag them as such, we’ve overlooked the central biblical theme of JESUS being our point of reference.
It’s worth noting that there are few instances in the Scriptures of labeling. One example is the passage from 1 Corinthians we read, but the overall emphasis is that of the Prodigal Son. The Father’s view was that his son, who was lost, was now found. You don’t hear the Father saying: “Rejoice with me! My son, the fornicator and drunkard has been saved!” Rather, we hear, “We had to be merry and rejoice for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, was lost and has been found.”
Dr. Lawrence Hatterer has written, “The homosexual does not exist––only persons who fantasize, feel, and act homosexually exist.” That’s a powerful statement! Not only is sexualized identity clinically unsound, it is personally thwarting. One aspect of a person’s life simply cannot characterize the whole. Dr. Melvin Hugen states: “Quite apart from the moral implications of homosexual behavior, there is something very wrong and very unhealthy about identifying oneself in terms of one’s sexuality.” I applaud Wesley Hill’s commitment to celibacy and his agreement with God’s Word that same-gender sexual acts are sinful; however, I think he is terribly mistaken and ill advised to wed the words gay, homosexual or lesbian with Christian. It falls seriously short of the identity we are to embrace in Christ and sends the wrong message. I believe a biblical view of human identity in Christ calls us to a higher reality. The coupling of the two terms (gay and Christian) is antithetical to Scripture. Imagine coupling some of the other words Paul uses as a joint description of one’s identity: Christian homosexual, Christian adulterer, Christian idolater, Christian liar, Christian coveter, Christian alcoholic, Christian blasphemer… you get the point.
A person may struggle with a great many things in their thought life and affections. We are sinners saved by grace through faith in Christ and the finished work of the cross in which we glory. We are people destined to be like Him. Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus and find our true identity in Him. Let us be careful not to fall prey to terminology that reflects our fallenness and old nature that is passing away and let us put on the new man in Christ. This does not deny any struggle we may have or the need to continue to work on them. We do well to heed the words of Proverbs 23:7 “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
Used with permission, Copyright ©2015 Kent Paris
Kent Paris is the Founder and Executive Director of Nehemiah Ministries
PO Box 773, Urbana, IL 61803