Responding to Pro-Gay Theology, Part 2: General Religious Arguments
General Religious Arguments
A recent poll showed 66% (two thirds) of Americans no longer believe there is such a thing as "absolute truth." More disturbing, though, was the fact that 53% of those not believing in absolute truth identified themselves as born-again Christians; 75% of whom were mainline Protestants.
If "absolute truth" no longer exists, even in the minds of half the "born-again" population, it logically follows that doctrine, and the Bible itself, is given less credence. Pollster George Gallup Jr. noticed this in The People's Religion: American Faith in the 90's. "While religion is highly popular in America," he states, "it is to a large extent superficial. There is a knowledge gap between American's stated faith and the lack of the most basic knowledge about that faith."
In short, self-identified Christians in the 90s are Biblically ignorant. Doctrine has become less important than good feelings; indeed, a USA Today survey found that, of the 56% of Americans who attend church, 45% did so because "it's good for you," 26% went for peace of mind. Specific doctrines, the pollster noted, seemed unimportant. If the notions of "truth" and "doctrine" are becoming unimportant to Christians, can the idea of "sin" hope to survive? Probably not; 25% of Christians polled in 1993 believed sin to be "an outdated concept." "The awareness of sin used to be our shadow," Cornelius Plantinga writes in Christianity Today. "Christians hated sin, feared it, flew from it. But now the shadow has faded. Nowadays, the accusation you have sinned is often said with a grin."
But the gospel truth is never so accommodating. John the Baptist was ferocious with the Pharisees (Mt 3:7-8), Jesus trounced Peter when he tried to interfere with the His mission, (Mt 16:22-23) and Paul was willing to publicly rebuke hypocrisy, even when committed by a respected disciple (Gal 2:11-14). To be sure, there is a place for gentleness. But never at the expense of truth.
Yet today the gap between truth and modern practice has been large enough to allow any number of false (albeit "nice") ideas to enter the church, creating a mentality that says, "Let's all get along without conflict, shall we?" Author J. Stephen Lang attempts to explain this phenomenon:
Love is understandable-warm and fuzzy. Doctrine, on the other hand, sounds cold, difficult and demanding.
A desire for "warm and fuzzy" without a commitment to truth makes the general religious arguments of the pro-gay theology all the more palatable. Unlike the social justice arguments, these arguments are more "religious"; that is, they appeal to general religious themes of harmony and goodwill, while bypassing issues of the fallen nature, sin and obedience. To the Biblically ignorant they can pass for truth; in the light of scripture, though, they have no leg on which to stand.
Since they are more religious in tone than social arguments, these arguments can be answered almost exclusively in Biblical terms. Remembering that members of the gay Christian movement say they believe in Biblical authority, these arguments are best answered with a call to return to the objective truth of the Bible, in lieu of the subjective winds of human experience and understanding.
Religious Argument #1: "Jesus Said Nothing About Homosexuality."
This argument is a favorite at gay parades. Invariably, when the "gay Christian" movement is represented, someone in their group will hold up a sign saying, "WHAT JESUS SAID ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY: ________________." The idea, of course, is that if Jesus did not specifically forbid a behavior, then the behavior must not have been important to Him. Stretching the point further, this argument assumes if Jesus was not manifestly concerned about something, we should not be, either.
Troy Perry (as most gay Christian leaders do) makes much of this argument based on silence:
As for the question, 'What did Jesus say about homosexuality?", the answer is simple. Jesus said nothing. Not one thing. Nothing! Jesus was more interested in love.
So, according to the argument of silence, if Jesus did not talk about it, neither should we.
Response: The argument is misleading and illogical for four reasons:
First, the argument assumes the gospels are more authoritative than the rest of the books in the Bible. The idea of a subject being unimportant just because it was not mentioned by Jesus is foreign to the gospel writers themselves. At no point did Matthew, Mark, Luke or John say their books should be elevated above the Torah or, for that matter, any writings yet to come. In other words, the gospels and the teachings they contain-are not more important than the rest of the Bible. All scripture is given by inspiration of God. The same spirit inspiring the authors of the Gospels also inspired the men who wrote the rest of the Bible.
Second, the argument assumes the gospels are more comprehensive than they really are. Not only are the gospels no more authoritative than the rest of scripture, they are not comprehensive either. That is, they do not provide all we need to know by way of doctrine and practical instruction.
Some of the Bible's most important teaching, in fact, does not appear in the gospels. The doctrine of man's old and new nature (outlined by Paul in Romans 6); the future of Israel and the mystery of the Gentiles (hinted at by Christ but explained more fully in Romans 9-11); the explanation and management of the spiritual gifts (detailed in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14); the Priesthood of Christ (illustrated in Hebrews)-all of these appear after the accounts of Christ's life, death and resurrection. (And we have not even mentioned the entire Old Testament.) Would anyone say none of these doctrines are important because they were not mentioned by Jesus?
Or, put another way, are we really to believe that Jesus did not care about wife beating or incest, just because He said nothing about them? Are not the prohibitions against incest in Leviticus and 1 Corinthians, as well as Paul's admonition to husbands to love their wives, enough to instruct us in these matters without being mentioned in the gospels? There are any number of evil behaviors that Christ did not mention by name; surely we don't condone them for that reason alone! Likewise, Jesus' silence on homosexuality in no way negates the very specific prohibitions against it which appear elsewhere, in both Old and New Testaments.
Third, this argument is inaccurate, in that it presumes to know all of what Jesus said. The gospels do not profess to be a complete account of Jesus' life or teachings. Whole sections of His early years are omitted; much of what He did and said remains unknown.
Luke wrote his gospel so Theophilus would "know the certainty of those things wherein he had been instructed" (Lk 1:4). John's motives are broader: "These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing, ye might have life through His name" (Jn 20:31). But none of these authors suggested they were recording all of Christ's words. John, in fact, said that would have been an impossibility:
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (Jn 21:25)
If that is the case, how can we be certain He said nothing about homosexuality? No one can say. But we know there are other equally important subjects left undiscussed in the gospels, but mentioned in detail in other books of the Bible. Homosexuality, while absent from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, is conspicuously present in both testaments and, just as conspicuously, it is forbidden.
Fourth, this argument assumes, because Jesus said nothing specific about homosexuality, that He said nothing about heterosexuality as a standard. Jesus referred in the most specific of terms to God's created intent for human sexuality:
But at the beginning of creation God "made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Mk 10:6-9)
In this passage, Jesus had been presented with a hypothetical question: Is divorce lawful? Instead of giving a simple yes or no, He referred to Genesis and, more specifically, to created intent as the standard by which to judge sexual matters. By repeating the Genesis account, He emphasizes four elements of the created intent for marriage and sexual relating: independence was one-a man was to leave his own home to establish his own family with his wife; a "one flesh" sexual union was another; and, of course, monogamy. But the first element of created intent Jesus stressed was the complimentary factor: it was to be a union of male and female, man and wife.
Homosexuality may not have been mentioned by Jesus-many other sexual variations were not, either. But He could not have spelled out the standard for sexual expression more clearly: male to female, joined as God intended them to be. He cannot be assumed to have approved of anything less.
Religious Argument #2: "I'm a Born-Again Believer and I'm Gay. How Can That Be, If Homosexuality Is Wrong?"
This argument is most often promoted by a declaration: I'm gay and Christian, which is living proof you can be both! Mel White, upon his installation as pastor of America's largest gay congregation, made a similar affirmation:
Now, thank God, after thirty years of struggle, I can say at last who I really am. I am gay. I am proud. And God loves me without reservation.
The message, then, is that if a person is truly born again and homosexual, the two must be compatible.
Response: The argument is illogical in that it assumes if one is a Christian, and if one is loved by God, then what one does must be all right in God's sight.
We can assume Dr. White's assertions are true: he is gay, he says he is proud (and no one is in a position to say otherwise) and God loves him. But does God's love for him, or Dr. White's pride in being gay, justify homosexuality itself?
Hardly. And while it is beyond the scope of this article to enter into the debate over eternal security ("once saved, always saved"), let us remember that Christians do not automatically become non-Christian just because they are sinning. The fact they are sinning- even if they do not realize it-does not automatically nullify their salvation.
But neither does their salvation legitimize their sin. A Christian may, indeed, be openly homosexual; that is no proof homosexuality and Christianity are compatible. In fact, a Christian may be openly sinning; that is no proof sin and Christianity are compatible, either.
Ananias and Sapphira, a husband and wife mentioned in Acts Chapter 5, were evidently believers. Yet their sin of hypocrisy (pretending to give more money to the church than they actually did) cost them their lives. They were Christians, and they were in serious error. Their error did not mean they were not Christian; their Christianity did not legitimize their error.
The Apostle Peter was, on one occasion at least, afraid to be seen associating with Gentiles, for fear of reprisals from Jews who felt Jews and Gentiles should never mix. So when Jewish people were not around, he was willing to eat with Gentile friends; when Jews were present, he avoided Gentiles (Gal 2:11-13). His hypocrisy in the face of prejudice was wrong, yet no one doubts he was a Christian. Yet that in no way justified his hypocrisy.
In other words, being a Christian is no indication, in and of itself, that your life is pleasing to God. And any honest believer knows that. It is a waste of time to argue intangibles, such as whether or not a 'gay Christian' is truly born again, or "saved." We may argue that if he continues in sin, he risks hardening his heart toward God, or reaping corruption, since God is not mocked. But we cannot see inside his soul to determine how hardened or deceived he may be.
No matter how proud, confident or loved by God a person is, he can be walking in darkness without knowing it. That is exactly why we have an objective standard by which to judge our actions. "Take heed unto thyself," Paul told Timothy, "and unto the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (1 Tim 4:16).
Saying "I'm Christian and gay" proves nothing. The question shouldn't be Can a person be homosexual and still belong to God? But rather, Is homosexuality right or wrong according to the Bible?
Religious Argument #3: "I Attend a Gay Church Where the Gifts of the Spirit and the Presence of God Are Manifest. How Can That Be, If Homosexuality Is Wrong?"
When the late Rev. Sylvia Pennington, a defender of the pro-gay theology, attended her first gay church, she still believed homosexuality was wrong. But something happened to change her mind:
I became aware of the Holy Spirit's presence hovering around, about and within me. They [gay Christians] were sensing the same Spirit that I sensed and loving God back as I was. They were actually worshiping God. And God was there-undeniably there!
The argument, then, is that if God's presence and gifts are manifest in a gay church, it is evidence that God accepts and blesses homosexuality.
Response: The argument is misleading in that it assumes God's gifts or presence are an indication of His approval.
By Rev. Pennington's description of a gay church, we can assume one of three things: either God's presence was not there at all, and what she felt was just emotion; or what she (and the others present) felt was a demonic counterfeit; or, in fact, God's presence was there.
I find it useless to argue over whether or not the presence of God can actually be found in gay churches. Instead, it is best to ask, "So what?" Even if God is present in gay churches and if His gifts are manifest there, does that prove He condones homosexuality?
Not at all. God's presence, wonderful as it is, and His gifts, valuable as they are, are given freely. They are neither a reward for, nor evidence of, righteousness. (I am not arguing that God IS present in gay churches; I'm only saying that, like the "I'm gay and Christian" argument, it is best to stick to the bottom line issue: Is homosexuality right or wrong?)
To illustrate this, look at the Corinthian church. No one could doubt they were genuine believers; Paul opens his letter to them addressing them as "sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor 1:2). Further, the gifts of the Spirit-teaching, preaching, prophetic words and so forth-were manifest there; Paul spent all of Chapters 12 and 14 teaching them how to manage these gifts. So God's presence, and His gifts, were clearly a part of the Corinthian church's life.
And the Corinthian church was a mess. They were, by Paul's own account, carnal and full of divisions (1 Cor 3:3-4), incest was openly committed among them (5:1-5), they were hauling each other to court over lawsuits (6:1-3), and getting drunk at the communion table (11:21). Yet God's presence was at Corinth. Because He approved of their behavior? Of course not. But His gifts and calling, as Paul said in Romans 11:29, are without repentance. He would not remove them, even when the church they operated in was in serious error.
Modern examples abound. By now we have all heard of evangelists or preachers whose ministries thrived even when, unfortunately, they were involved in sexual immorality. For years, in some cases, God's presence and blessing was on their work, even as they continued their secret sin. Yet none of us would assume God approved of their behavior.
What, then, can we assume? Two things: first, if God has given someone a gift of the Spirit, that gift may continue to operate even if the person is willfully sinning. Second, the gift, or God's presence, is a sign of grace, not approval. It cannot be said that, because the gifts are operating in a church, the church's activities are legitimate. Legitimacy is determined by scripture, not spiritual dynamics.
Religious Argument #4: "My Lover and I Are in a Monogamous Relationship, and We Truly Love Each Other. That Can't Be Wrong!"
As the gay rights and gay Christian movements have evolved, more emphasis has been put on the quality of homosexual relationships. Initially, gay apologists argued for sexual freedom; today, they argue for legitimacy. As this is being written, in fact, the nation is holding its breath to see how the Hawaii Supreme Court will rule on the legality of gay marriages.
"God is ecstatic that I'm so happy in a relationship with a woman," a lesbian member of the Metropolitan Community Church gushed on a recent news program.[70 ] A stable relationship, then, is seen as evidence of God's blessing. And if true love is involved, so the argument goes, it must be right.
Response: The argument is misleading in that it assumes love sanctifies a relationship.
It is hard these days to say love is not the final standard for right and wrong. Love is nice, after all; in our culture, it has been nearly deified as something so intense and beautiful, it justifies almost anything done in its name. And with all the hatred and violence in the world, why knock a loving relationship between any two people? Because love, in and of itself, does not make a relationship right. In fact, contrary to the touchy-feeling wisdom of the times, love is not always such a good thing.
An essay on homosexuality and ethics puts it well:
One of the most popular errors in the realm of Christian ethics has been the effort to make love an omnipotent spiritual quality which has the power to sanctify anything that is done its name.
Love can, according to Jesus, interfere with God's plan for an individual. He warns His followers that love for anyone, no matter how legitimate the relationship, becomes sin when it surpasses our love for Him (Mt 10:37). King Solomon, in a similar vein, loved his foreign wives. Problem was, they turned his heart away from God (1 Ki 11:3-4). In his case, love became a snare.
Love is not enough to justify a relationship. An unmarried Christian couple may be very much in love; if they become sexually involved before marriage, it will still be sin, no matter how much love went into it. And it will still be wrong. A married man can fall deeply in love with a woman other than his wife; that will never sanctify adultery.
Likewise, two men, or women, may be in love. Their love may run very deep, they may pledge fidelity to each other and live as happily as any married heterosexual couple. Again, that will not, of itself, justify a homosexual relationship. Scripture places boundaries on human relationships, offering no compromise, even if love is present and desires to cross those boundaries. If a form of sexual relating is wrong, it remains wrong no matter what degree of love goes along with it.
We would rather be nice. That is a strange tendency creeping into the church: "niceness" is taking precedence over truth. Immorality-even among Christian leaders-is going unconfronted, and many churches seem more concerned with making people comfortable than arousing in them a sense of their need for God. In such an environment, it is no wonder erroneous teachings like the pro-gay theology are flourishing. Evangelist and Pastor Greg Laurie summed up the problem nicely:
What is being depicted to individuals is a 'user-friendly' God who will smile benignly down upon their lifestyles of choice, as they continue to live as they like.
But, however the social justice arguments of the pro-gay theology compel us towards "niceness," the God we represent places a higher premium on truth than accommodation. May we, by His grace, never shun the two-fold mandate to speak the truth, in love.
Barna, George. What Americans Believe (Ventura: Regal Books, 1991), p. 36, cited in Rhodes.
Lang, Stephen. "Is Ignorance Bliss?", Moody Magazine, January/February 1996, Vol. 96, No. 5, p. 13.
Colson, Charles. Excerpt from The Body, reprinted in Christianity Today, November 23, 1992 p. 29.
Miller, Elliot. A Crash Course on the New Age Movement (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993), p. 16, cited in Rhodes.
Plantinga, Cornelius. "Natural Born Sinners," Christianity Today, November 14, 1994, Vol. 38, No. 13, p. 25.
Lang, p. 13.
Perry, p. 40.
White, p. 268.
Biery, Roger. Understanding Homosexuality: The Pride and the Prejudice (Austin: Edward Williams Publishing, 1990), p. 138.
"Gays and the Church," ABC World News Tonight, February 28, 1996.
Biery, p. 176.
Laurie, Greg. The Great Compromise (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994), p. 8
Permission to reprint granted by Genesis Counseling.
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Joe Dallas, founder of Genesis Counseling, is the author of three books on homosexuality: Desires in Conflict, Unforgiven Sins, and A Strong Delusion: Confronting the “Gay Christian” Movement. A former gay rights activist and staff member of a Metropolitan Community Church, he has worked with hundreds of men and women struggling with homosexuality and related problems. Mr. Dallas is available for conferences and seminars.