There is no shortage of articles, books, discussions and debates regarding homosexuality in contemporary America. From potential free speech infringements like the baker who will have to bake wedding cakes for homosexual marriages, (article here) to Matthew Vines’ book God and the Gay Christian which argues that sexual orientation (as practiced by many homosexuals today) is a valid expression of love and marital union commiserate with biblical teaching, homosexuality and homosexual marriage is a trending and important topic. Albert Mohler and other professors at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary penned a response to Vines in God and the Gay Christian: A Response. A sampling of other articles related to this topic include thoughts by Albert Mohler, Owen Strachan, Charles Quarles and Kirsten Powers.
Mohler is correct. There is no “third way” or middle ground on this controversial topic. Evangelical Christians will be forced to take a position. Some, like Vines will attempt to reinterpret the Bible in order to make their case palatable for other believers. The difficulty with Vine’s strategy (as Mohler and others show) is that he refuses to accept the clear meaning of the texts and suggests that 21st century homosexual orientation is something new and therefore unknown to the biblical authors. Representative of culture’s shifting view, Vines leaves readers with the option of rejecting the biblical statements on homosexual acts (which he is forced to concede are negative) in favor of an approach that subordinates the biblical position to that of culture’s new moralists—those claiming that acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual marriage as a lifestyle is required to be open minded.
The attempt to have Scripture as your authority while adopting the culture’s shifting acceptance of the validity of homosexuality as a lifestyle and marriage is inconsistent. An examination of the biblical evidence on the subject (Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10) combined with an overarching theology of marriage and its purposes (partnership, procreation, and pleasure) requires a view that homosexuality is a sin.
I believe this topic is both controversial and complex. Evangelicals should respond both publicly and personally while consistently holding these two perspectives in tension. The public sphere is our outspoken and/or political viewpoint.
For those who might think we ought to be silent on the topic, I must remind you that the biblical viewpoint has been consistent for more than 3,500 years (from Genesis or 2,000 years if you prefer dating from the completion of the NT). The shifting views have come from those within the homosexual community. The Bible has not changed, culture has. To speak out is to simply respond openly in accordance with the biblical tradition.
The personal sphere addresses our relationships and interactions with homosexuals or those struggling with issues related to homosexuality. Both personally and publicly we must be willing to speak the truth (what the Bible says) in love (how the Bible says to communicate). I’m afraid many well-meaning Christians are good at speaking the truth and poor at doing so in love. Cue the phrase, “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner” (which is a poor way to communicate to those who find their identity in their homosexuality which we call a sin). I’m also afraid many well-meaning Christians show love without speaking the truth. In this scenario love appears to be outright acceptance not of the person, but of the sin as well.
This is a tension we as Christians should be familiar with and must embrace. The greatest embrace of this tension came at the cross.
- Want to see the truth about sin? Look at the cross. The cross displays God’s holiness and “hate” for sin (for all sin, not just the sin of homosexuality) on the cross. He punished severely His only Son for the sins of mankind. That is the truth about sin. God hates it so much that He would sacrifice His Son for us.
- Want to see love in action? Look at the cross. The cross also displays God’s matchless love for mankind. That He would punish His Son for our sin is love—a sacrificial, accepting, forgiving love that has no equal. In the cross, we cannot have love without truth or truth without love.
As such, in our personal and public views on homosexuality, we must not have truth without love or love without truth. After all, we’ve been certainly, actually, and eternally changed by the event of the cross. The cross is where the truth about God’s holiness and the beautiful sacrifice of God’s love met. Let our communication (public and personal) be enriched with the fragrance of the cross—truth and love.
If the Bible is to be our authority, we will articulate its view of homosexuality as a sin. If the Bible is to be our authority, we will compassionately and patiently learn from, listen to, and counsel those in our midst dealing with same-sex attraction. After all, hasn’t God in our past and God in our present dealt with each of us in a supremely patient and sanctifying manner concerning our sins. To practically apply God’s view of us to those around us, we must show the same manner of patience, grace, and love.
In reality we are not full of truth if we fail to show love and we do not show love if we fail to tell the truth. Love reached out to us while we were still sinners. Truth revealed to us the desperate sinful condition that required God’s love to overcome. Jesus is Love; Jesus is Truth. Following Jesus today requires us to submit to the authority of His Word—in our understanding of what is true about sin, and just as importantly, in our application of love to those around us.
One thought on ““Culture or Scripture: How should we understand homosexuality in the 21st century?””
I really believe that to begin with, I would have to begin praying that The Holy Spirit would lead me into a place where I could communicate truth to this individual. Any words or communication that I would speak to them of my own accord without guidance from God would be null and void. After seeking Gods help, I believe staying calm, having a loving spirit and not being too pushy would be a necessity. I would tell the student to look at the lives of Christians throughout history and look at how they carried themselves. Look at the way that believers in Christ have walked in a peaceful, loving walk and how it would be virtually impossible to do this without the help of a Power greater than themselves. When things happen to us during this journey that we call life on earth, without the leadership and guidance of a divine creator, we are really lost and without a true and constant helper. Those who do not trust in The Lord Jesus as their personal savior cannot ever feel that they are not alone. I would ask the student this question: Wouldn’t it be a great thing to know that no matter what a person experiences, they have a friend who they can always count on. That friend is a Being that created the clouds, He created the massive oak trees, the fish in the sea. I would also ask the student how they would like to have real, true peace and joy? Because I know, that without knowing Jesus, it is impossible to know this real peace and joy. The peace and joy that the things of the world offer are generic and vanish quickly. I would have to also inform the student of how this world was created with such perfection in every area unless supervised and touched majestically by a supreme being.