Oliver Thomas wrote an article over at USAToday arguing why “American churches must reject literalism and admit we got it wrong on gay people”. Now, I will argue why we must reject Mr. Thomas’ perspective as he gets quite a few things wrong. I will not quote the entire article; you can read it via the link above. However, I will quote numerous key lines and then respond to them.
A great revelation has occurred that is bringing joy and happiness to millions, but it is being met with resistance and retrenchment from many of my colleagues inside the church.
“Joy and Happiness” are hardly things that we judge the value of good and evil on. Doing the right thing often brings sorrow. The men who defended our country on D-Day experienced many emotions including fear and terror. However, no one doubts that they did the right thing. Jesus felt pain and sorrow as He went to the cross and died for all of us. 11 of the 12 disciples died doing the right thing. If we teach our children to do whatever makes them happy because that somehow validates it as righteous, we will reap a generation of wickedness.
The revelation is that LGBTQ people are just like the rest of us — only LGBTQ. They are not perverts nor are they abnormal, as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental health experts once declared them to be. People don’t choose their sexual orientation any more than they choose their race or gender.
I agree with the first line here. However, Mr. Thomas follows with a common argument. If we can prove that homosexuality is natural, that must mean it is ethical. I disagree. For example, most straight men are attracted to more than one woman. Yet, most choose to remain monogamous when they marry. Doing the right thing means denying what the flesh wants, and what they might feel makes them happy in the short term. I know that I get very upset when someone cuts me off in traffic. No one taught me this behavior, as my mother always drove with a calm demeanor. My own nature makes me want to shoot them! Yet, society asks me to exercise patience, and deny myself, because it believes that I should refrain from violence for the overall good of society.
We live in a ‘fallen state.’ After Adam and Eve broke God’s law, they allowed sin into the world. Since then, each and every person has struggled with sin. In a way, it seems natural as it does not need to be taught, and everyone sins. Yet, sin is horribly unnatural as we rebel against the very creator who gave us life, and sustains us today.
Therefore, even if I accept the proposed premise, that does not prove whether it is ethical or not. Now, I will reiterate – I agree with the first line here. LGBTQ are just like the rest of us. I sin, and I struggle with sin, as do they. However, each of us must ask the question of what we do with those sins and the struggle? Do we give up, embrace it and treat it as normal, or do we come to Jesus, and the cross, and see His forgiveness and direction in our lives? Do we say “We know better” or do we bow our knee to God and say, “Let not my will but your will be done”?
Here’s the corner we have painted ourselves into. The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it. Yet, the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures did not float down from heaven perfect and without error.
At this point, the author quotes several alleged contradictions in the Bible. Readers can easily find answers to those concerns on-line. With that said, when it comes to this subject, the Bible makes God’s stand on this quite clear. Similar to adultery, God calls homosexuality a sin. We have access to many, many manuscripts which we can cross reference. They leave little doubt to the translation on these passages. Interesting side point… most cults and false religions get their start claiming the Bible has errors and/or has been mistranslated.
The most difficult challenges arise when the teachings of Scripture are contradicted by reason and experience. Slavery is the best — or perhaps worst — example. In hindsight, we can see the obvious. “Love your neighbor as yourself” does not leave room for the enslavement of others. But Southerners had Scripture on their side. Slaves were admonished to submit to their masters in the writings of both Peter and Paul. The Hebrew Scriptures likewise considered slavery as part of the divine order.
Ah… the old slavery argument. First, the differences between slavery in America, where whites treated blacks like sub-humans, completely differs from the ‘slave/servant’ system we see in Biblical times. There, people willingly went into slavery in order to pay debts, or just to have a job. We see a similar system today where people give up their freedoms in order to join the armed forces of America. They become, in effect, property of the US government for a time in exchange for compensation and benefits. The Bible, nor Jesus, worked to change the economic set up of countries. For a more complete discussion on the subject, watch this video where a black Christian disputes this very argument posed by an atheist.
With that said, let us return back to the Civil War and the fact Americans used the Bible to support the heinous type of slavery based on race. The fact that some misapplied the Bible for their evil purposes does not mean we cannot trust God’s Word. I would point out that Satan himself quoted the Bible to tempt Jesus. Yet, Jesus quoted scripture right back at him. God teaches us we must learn His Word, live of His Word, and learn how to interpret His Word, since others can misuse it to lead us astray.
With all of those said, God’s teaching on the subject of homosexuality are quite clear and leave no room for misunderstanding or interpretation.
On a side note, my on-line nickname, JCServant, steams from the Biblical idea that we are all slaves/servants in a way. Mat 6.24 mentions this. God calls us all to give up our lives, and follow Him completely. Otherwise, we remain slaves of our own lusts and the devil. Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!
Churches will continue hemorrhaging members and money at an alarming rate until we muster the courage to face the truth: We got it wrong on gays and lesbians.
I stated above that we should not use happiness as a way to gauge ethics. And I certainly hope a retired minister does not suggest that we ‘follow the money’ in deciding important, spiritual matters. We also should not use church attendance numbers. The crowd is often wrong. Jesus warned us that if we follow Him, we would become enemies of the world. It should not surprise us when we stand alone as we stand for Him and His truths. Using the author’s own ideas, if a historic church saw a decline in membership for preaching the equality of all men (which the Bible teaches), it should not change to silence on the issue as a result. Again, the truth often hurts, and people who cannot accept it will leave.
It’s difficult to watch good people (and the churches are full of them) buy into the sincere but misguided notion that being a faithful Christian means accepting everything the Bible teaches. We don’t impose the death penalty on adulterers, Sabbath breakers and rebellious children. Nor do we chase women from God’s house because they are menstruating or exclude men because of their physical handicaps.
Mat 4.4, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Yes, being a faithful Christian means trusting in Him and His Word, even if does jive with popular opinion of the time because God is God and we are not. We err when we follow men who use that word to lead people astray (like Satan tried to do with Christ). We believe that the Bible is the one true Word of God, and we live off of that. Again, one can find answers to the examples he lists here with a simple web search (CARM.org, for example). Regardless, these do not change the fact that God makes his stand on all sin clear, and how He views homosexual behavior.
If you take Mr. Thomas’ arguments to their logical conclusion, then one should have no faith in the Bible at all. In which case, one must question the death and resurrection of Christ. Without the resurrection, Christianity does not stand. Again, if one wishes to undermine the faith as a whole, one could not find a better way to start than by attacking the validity of God’s Word. Unfortunately for this retired Baptist minister, God’s Word has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so. God does not change with time, only man does. (Mat 24.35 ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away’.)
Does a traditional, conservative view on this subject imply hatred? Absolutely not. Certainly, many have committed atrocities on our homosexual friends in the name of Christianity. I certainly lament such violence and wickedness. I would also point out that just because someone calls themselves a Christian does not mean they are a Christian. When they act out of this type of hatred and violence, I would suggest their actions betray who they truly serve.
So where does that leave us? As I mentioned above, I have much in common with my homosexual friends. Specifically, we all live with the reality of sin and a fallen world. Not only that, but all who follow Christ, struggle with sin daily. We even fight just to properly recognize it in our own lives. In that, we in the faith have common ground regardless of orientation. The Bible commands me to love others (especially those who follow Christ), preach the truth, and live as a light in a world full of darkness. I do not discriminate or hate because my brothers’ sins differ from my own. I suggest all do the same.