Saturday, August 31, 2013

First Century Gay Marriage

Supporters of pro-gay theology sometimes assert that the apostle Paul, in his condemnation of homosexuality, wrote in a time when loving, committed same-sex relationships received little or no acknowledgement. Reasoning that homosexuality in the First Century limited itself to pagan temple prostitution, pedophilia or masters sexually exploiting slaves, they insist that Paul's prohibitions don't apply to modern gay relationships which can now culminate in legal marriage or civil unions. Actually, they claim that Paul had no awareness that loving same-sex relationships could exist, and consequently his blanket repudiations of homosexuality merely reflect his culture's ignorance.

History, however, shows that same-sex marriage was both legal and accepted in First Century Rome. Lifesite News re-published this article from Catholic World Report to demonstrate ancient Rome's acceptance of homosexuality. The author concludes:

We can see, then, that Christians face nothing new in regard to the push for gay marriage. In fact, it is something quite old, and represents a return to the pagan views of sexuality that dominated the Roman Empire into which Christianity was born.

Other sources confirm that Paul's culture (remember, he had Roman citizenship) accepted both homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Consider the following excerpts from Random History's article, Same-Sex Unions Throughout Time:

Classical antiquity in the Western world is frequently cited for examples of same-sex love and relationships, though separate concepts of homosexuality and heterosexuality did not exist in the same way as today. Plato’s Symposium, for example, describes instances of homosexual attraction and same-sex relationships in ancient Greece without condemnation. Some point to examples of same-sex interaction in Greek artwork as further evidence of its equal status within the society. Individual, higher status, however, was of critical importance to free expression of love.


Roman social customs are relatively well known, and same-sex unions existed as high in society as among Roman emperors. Roman statesman Cicero also documented legal rights of an individual within a same-sex marriage. Female same-sex unions seemed to have been less common, but only because women enjoyed less freedom in their economic and social endeavors (Eskridge).

Because Paul was highly educated and cosmopolitan, surely he understood the place of homosexuality in Greek and Roman society! Certainly, homosexual prostitution had connections to idolatry and pagan worship, but loving relationships existed just as much then as they do now. To claim that Paul knew nothing of loving, committed gay relationships suggests an ignorance of history, as well as an eagerness to circumvent the Bible's authority. Therefore, it is not a convincing argument.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Not Bashing Gays

So many Christian websites show the fallacies of pro-gay theology that I hesitate to reinvent the wheel. Yet my readers may not bother to look at those other websites unless they honestly want to invest time researching this matter. So, although my physical limitations make it difficult to offer the thorough refutations of pro-gay theology that I'd like to present, I will address some of the arguments as time progresses.

Sister Nicholas, my favorite English professor in college, always advised us to "write a lot about a little." In keeping with her instruction, I intend to post several posts challenging various teachings that liberal and Gay Christians use in their attempts to reconcile homosexuality with Biblical Christianity. From the outset, please understand that I don't consider my little blog as being equal to the fine Christian apologists who go before me. But I believe my contributions can stimulate Biblical thinking that can apply to issues beyond the topic of homosexuality.

And that broader application is the ultimate point. I'm not interested in brow-beating people with same sex attractions. While I believe such people choose whether or not to embrace such attractions as their essential identities, as well as how they will allow those attractions to play out in their lives, I agree that no one chooses to experience homosexual feelings. The choice lies in surrendering such feelings to the Lord, even if He never removes those feelings. All of us, actually, have inclinations toward attitudes or behaviors that Scripture prohibits, and I can empathize with Gay Christians because I struggle on a regular basis with my own sinful proclivities.

15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans7:15-25 (ESV)

My "end game" is to honor God's authority, and to encourage people of all orientations to understand Scripture properly so that we might glorify Him. Pro-gay theology depends on manipulating Scripture and using personal experience as the basis for Biblical interpretation. Other groups of professing Christians make similar adaptations of God's Word, weakening the Church's witness to a culture that desperately needs Jesus. As I address pro-gay theology, therefore, my true aim is to exalt the Lord.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Entitled Or Grateful

The Lord has given me innumerable blessings throughout my life. When I compare myself to people in other countries (or even to many people here in the United States), I marvel at the privileges I've enjoyed, including a college education from a private university, travel opportunities and a wonderfully happy marriage. So my constant inclination toward self-pity and complaining shames me!

As I confess these sinful attitudes to God, I realize that I've perverted His blessings by cultivating a sense of entitlement. I expect Him to satisfy my every demand. Sadly, when He doesn't cater to me on my terms, I sometimes turn to sinful ways of gratifying myself.

Having taken the log out of my own eye, I clearly see specks in the eyes of friends who, although they once enjoyed near-celebrity status as representatives of ex-gay ministries, have recently made very public apologies for their Biblical stands on homosexuality and have accepted themselves as gay men. Despite God blessing them with godly wives and beautiful children, these men expected their homosexual temptations to completely vanish instead of learning to stand against temptation. As they once felt entitled to an absence of homosexual desire, now they feel entitled to enjoy the accolades of the LGBT community, even if they choose to be celibate.

All Christians feel frustrated by persistent inclinations to sin. I have wondered why, after 42 years of being a Christian, I continue to struggle with so many sins like selfishness, materialism and anger. But when we understand how undeserving we are of God's grace, our sense of entitlement gives way to a gratitude that expresses itself in obedience.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Do I Know About Homosexuality?

Blogging about homosexuality (or about any controversial topic) inevitably requires backtracking, as people will read isolated posts and present challenges that have been answered in previous posts.  Yet I cannot expect readers to go back to other posts in order to acquaint themselves with the full context of my message.  Consequently, I again find myself in a position of reiterating points that I have already made many times over, hoping that my most recent critic will better understand my background in homosexuality and the reasons I believe it is a sin.

After I graduated from college in 1977, I met the first man that I seriously wanted to marry.  In all my writings, I have referred to him as "Trevor," not wanting to reveal his real name, and I will continue that tradition for the purposes of this blog post.

Trevor and I developed a friendship around the first play that I wrote for our church -- the play was a part of the Christmas pageant that he produced that year.  I found him to be attractive because of his non-conformity, as well as by his love for Jesus and his involvement in various ministries.  When he confided in me that he struggled with homosexuality, I reasoned that he would feel differently once he knew that a woman felt attracted to him.  Obviously, I was very uneducated about homosexual orientation!

In the ensuing years I became involved with an ex-gay ministry called Love In Action.  For the first five years that involvement confined itself to social interaction with the men and women who were a part of the residential program.  I listened to their stories, often weeping as they described their feelings of alienation, frustration and isolation from other Christians.  Many of them told me that they appreciated my compassion, and one ex-lesbian claimed that I understood homosexuality better than they did!

In 1985, I joined the staff of Love in Action as a correspondence counselor. At first I wrote almost exclusively to parents and loved ones of people who either struggled with homosexual tendencies or people who embraced their homosexuality without intention of surrendering it to the Lord.  Over time my supervisors trusted me to answer letters from a wider variety of clients, including transsexuals.  As my career with Love In Action ended in 1997 I was primarily writing counseling letters to men in prison for molesting little boys, usually praying hard to have compassion on those who would do such things to innocent children.

During the twelve years that I was on staff, one dear friend abandoned the ministry in favor of a church that told him he could reconcile his homosexuality with his Christian faith.  For a year I read pro-gray theology: Silvia Pennington, Troy Perry, and Mel White.  I read their newspapers and their books, considering the possibility that their understanding of Scripture was more accurate than my own.  But I always saw flaws in their arguments, as they depended on personal experience, dreams and direct words from God.

Those who wish to judge me as being "ignorant" and "lacking in compassion" certainly have every right to make such judgements, as they self-righteously remind me that Jesus said "Judge not."  But as they judge me, I would encourage them to consider that I have had many friends who dealt with homosexuality. Some of these friends openly embrace their homosexual identities, while others have experienced varying degrees of freedom from homosexual desires -- some even embarking on satisfying heterosexual marriages.  Although I do not believe that we should set heterosexuality as the goal in dealing with homosexual orientation, I do believe homosexuality must be viewed as any other sin.  It is not worse than my struggles with anger, pride, selfishness and gossip.  But neither is it less sinful.

Could I say that I was born angry?  Could I claim that anger is intrinsic to my nature, and therefore part of who I am?  Of course I could!  Scripture says that sin is inherent in all people!  Therefore, the claim that people are born homosexuals (which, as yet, has not been scientifically verified) does not give me permission to vent my rage whenever or in whatever manner I choose The Lord calls me to confess my anger as sin and to bring it under the control of His Holy Spirit.  I fail often in this endeavor, and need constant forgiveness.  So yes, I do understand what it is to have a sin constantly at my back, demanding that I give it full reign in my life.  And I believe those who struggle with homosexual attractions bear the same responsibility in controlling their sin that I bear in controlling mine.

Hopefully, I can now continue my series on the Gay Christian Movement without any more back-tracking to appease those who wish to cast me as ignorant and judgmental.  Disagreeing with my position is one thing; making assumptions about my character because of their of their disagreement is quite another.  So...let us continue next time to examine the doctrinal beliefs of the Gay Christian Movement by examining them in the light of Scripture.  Remember, stating correct doctrine is not judging.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Grace of Gay Christians

The Gay Christian Movement emphasizes God's grace, insisting that (if homosexual behavior really is a sin) the Lord will not hold them accountable because Jesus' blood covers them.  Today I want to focus on people from this camp, temporarily ignoring those who justify homosexuality and twist Scripture to make their justification plausible.

In one respect, the Lord's grace indeed covers the sins we commit after becoming Christians.  I depend on this grace myself, since I commit unintentional and intentional sins more often than I want to admit.  The difference between me and members of the Gay Christian Movement, however, lies in my willingness to repent of my sin, and to recognize how deeply I grieve and dishonor the Lord who died to cleanse me from those sins. Grace, if it is understood correctly, motivates the Christian to repent -- to walk in holiness and obedience to the Lord.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.  -- Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

The apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear that grace must lead the Christian towards godly living rather than towards the gratification of fleshly appetites.  Gay Christians err by thinking that they can indulge in homosexuality without offending and discrediting the Lord.  They forget that true grace calls them to lay aside their homosexual inclinations, along with every other inclination that contradicts God's law, in favor of obeying the Lord and devoting their energies to honoring Him.

Of course, Gay Christians are not the only professing Christians who abuse the doctrine of grace by turning it into a license to sin.  Increasingly, an alarming number of evangelicals twist this doctrine to rationalize a variety of vices that range from explosive tempers to excessive use of alcohol to adultery. And sadly, their churches don't even bat an eye, lest they appear "unloving" or "judgmental."  The Gay Christian Movement is merely the logical extension of grace misunderstood.

But the extension poses great danger by perverting the sexual model God created to illustrate His relationship with the Church.  Jesus Christ is the masculine Bridegroom to the feminine Bride, and Christian marriage should reflect this relationship.  As professing Christians become more accepting of homosexuality, getting to the point of validating committed relationships and same-sex marriages, we distort the reflection, turning it into a mockery.  Rather than exhibiting God's grace, we disgrace God!

The  grace of God should be cherished and honored, not distorted as an excuse for self indulgence.  The Gay Christian Movement, much like other forms of liberal Christianity, weakens the Biblical doctrine of grace, and therefore keeps us from seeing the Lord as He truly is.  Grace properly understood, on the other hand, ushers us into His holiness, enabling us to see how glorious and wonderful His grace really is.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Love, Theater And Witches

Several months ago, a friend generously gave us a lavish monetary gift, which purchased tickets to the August 25th matinee showing of Wicked---The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz at the Boston Opera House. I'd seen high school, college and community theater productions, and I'd written and directed plays for church...but I'd never seen a Broadway show. What a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary!

Wicked couldn't be more well-written, with plot-twists and witty humor that still remained true to the Wizard Of Oz story. It chronicled the complex relationship between Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. Ah, but if I say much more, I'll give away the story!

Since John and I went to Wicked to celebrate our anniversary, I thought a video of the song, "As Long As You're Mine," from Act II would be fitting.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013

Only Six?

Since typing is still difficult for me, please allow me to share this video from Stand To Reason's blog:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

God Has Spoken -- Time to Move Forward

In sharing an unpopular message, it's always heartening to find other people saying the same thing.  So yesterday E. Benz's post in Do Not Be Surprised offered a great validation to my insistence that God has  given us His final Word in the Bible.

Benz made the point that if God speaks to Christians independently of Scripture, His words should have equal authority to the Bible.  She makes the rather amusing point that if one needs to use Scripture to verify a personal word from God, then that word is rather redundant in the first place.  We are left with the same conclusion that Scripture is all we need to know what God is saying.

At this point, I believe I can lay the argument to rest: God speaks through Scripture, and not outside of it!  E. Benz and others bloggers of her caliber have numerous posts on this important subject, and I dare not attempt to replicate what they have already written.  It is time for me to return to my main purpose in denouncing personal revelation.

So called Gay Christians depend on personal words, dreams, and experiences to twist Scripture into a validation of homosexuality.  As I return to the topic of Gay Christians, I therefore want to have it understood that God has not spoken to them, telling them that 2,000 years of Christian tradition has been wrong.  The Bible has never condoned homosexuality, and it never will.  God has not granted a new revelation, which conveniently coincides with the political correctness of 21st Century western culture.  Therefore, my next few blog posts will deal with the problems in pro-gay theology.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Missing the Treasure

Before I begin this post I want to acknowledge John's kindness to type it for me.  Because he is typing, certain formatting may be done differently than I would do it; content, not style, remains the important factor.  Having said this, shall we get into our subject matter?

For the first ten days of my injury, I was unable to access the Bible.  The configuration of my wheelchair prevents me from turning pages, and using the computer was not an option because I use my arms to steady myself as I type.  During that time I relied on my memory verses to keep God's Word before me, and many of those verses spoke to me, offering correction, encouragement, and instruction.  In the past few days I have been back at my computer long enough to read short passages of Scripture, and to write notes on them. What a blessing to hear the Holy Spirit speak through the words He inspired thousands of years ago!

You see, the Bible came about through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who now, in His grace and power, gives us the ability to understand His Word.  The Bible is not a dusty old book written by ancient men who were bound by their own culture and customs, but rather it is a living word that transcends culture and custom to speak to us today.
Heb 4:12  For the word of God is living and active,
 sharper than any two-edged sword,
 piercing to the division of soul and of spirit,
 of joints and of marrow,
 and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ESV

It really saddens me when professing Christians claim that I put God in a box by confining His way of speaking to me through Scripture alone.  Could it be that they underestimate the Lord's power to speak with this amazing collection of books?  Do they lack the ability to appreciate the depth and vastness of the Bible?  Scripture is at once simple enough for a child to understand its message, and yet so profound that no one can hope to fully plumb its resources during a lifetime!  When people wish for God to speak to them independently of Scripture, could they perhaps miss the riches that His Holy Spirit offers through the Bible pages?

I hate to think that people who claim to believe the Bible neglect its power in favor of personal experience.  Having once been in the charismatic camp I well remember the frustration and heartache of not receiving "personal revelation."  I also recall feeling as if the Bible just didn't go deep enough in answering my questions.  Now I realize the fault was mine.  I failed to diligently study God's Word, patiently mining its treasures as a diamond miner mines diamonds.  Since I have learned to look to Scripture for the Lord's voice, He has spoken to me with amazing clarity, and much more richly than I could have ever expected!  I yearn for others to stop looking for mystical experiences and to turn to His Word, believing that the very Spirit who wrote Scripture will also interpret it to them. His Word reveals His glories in ways that nothing else can!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Don't Argue With Doors

Our discussion on God's mode of speaking will have to be put on hold for a few days.

It all started Saturday morning, when John discovered that the only Mexican restaurant in town had been closed since May.  I had never gotten to eat there!  Those who know me well are quite aware of my passion for Mexican food, and therefore will understand how gravely disappointed this discovery made me.  Of course, because I am a Christian, I knew that I could not divorce John on the grounds of deprivation (although I'm sure any judge would have sympathized).

So, in retaliation, I insisted that he take me to Wendy's for a Baja salad.  Being the loving husband that he is, John complied with my wish (both of us forgetting that FedEx had scheduled a delivery that day...but that's another blog post) by taking me to Wendy's.  The Baja salad tasted OK, but it was hardly comparable to what we would have gotten at the Mexican restaurant.  Still, we enjoyed getting out after yet another of week of rainy weather, so I was reasonably satisfied.

Just before we left Wendy's, they mopped the floor in the little ante-chamber between the front doors.  To avoid the "Wet Floor" marker, I swerved my wheelchair a little to the left.  The young man holding the door for me had such a cheerful attitude that I focused my attention on wanting to thank him when I should have been paying attention to my driving. The next thing I knew my left arm was pinned between the door and my armrest, both crushing my elbow and twisting my arm!

Because I use my arm to balance myself as I type with my headstick, I am forced off my computer until it heals (John is graciously typing this post as I dictate). Consequently I will not be blogging until I feel able to type again. In the meantime I know that there is a very smug doorway in the center of town laughing over the fact that it silenced me for a few days.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Limitless Limits Himself

Why would an infinite God limit Himself to a Book? That question reminded me of Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple:

But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! ~~2 Chronicles 6:18 (ESV)

Solomon recognized the absurdity of believing that the Creator of the heavens and the earth could physically reside in the comparatively miniscule structure that had just been built for Him. So it was a wonderous moment when God accepted the Temple as His place of prayer:

Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice."  ~~2 Chronicles 7:12 (ESV)

But then, God also accepted the limitations of a human body, which He still inhabits in its resurrected state. Without ceasing to be infinite, He graciously condescends to limit Himself to our smallness. He sees our limitations, and lovingly adapts to them while continuing to retain a glory that we won't be able to comprehend until He raises us up in our resurrection bodies.

Similarly, even though the Bible certainly doesn't tell us everything there is to know about God, it gives us everything we need to know in this present time. He chooses to reveal Himself through Scripture, knowing that none of us will ever be able to fully plumb its depths, no matter how often or how carefully we read it. After my almost 42 years of reading it daily and studying it more than most professing Christians do, I'm only now beginning to understand what He is saying through it.

Yes, God is greater than the Bible. I don't think any of us can begin to comprehend His majesty or His magnitude. But we can appreciate His graciousness to give us Scripture, through which He provides enough revelation of Himself to occupy us until He takes us home.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Guarding His Teaching

What do we mean by the phase "God spoke to me?" Couldn't God speak to 21st Century Christians as He spoke to various people in the Bible? Why wouldn't He? Why do people (like me) spend so much time arguing that He speaks with finality through the Bible?  Why question the spiritual experiences of our brothers and sisters in Christ? How can God be limited to a Book when He is infinite? In insisting that He doesn't speak apart from Scripture, aren't we negating the Person and work of the Holy Spirit?

All of these questions deserve thoughtful, respectful responses. I can't claim the ability to answer any of them thoroughly, and even if I could, those who insist on clinging to personal experiences would find reasons to reject my arguments. Their rejection, however, mustn't keep me from building a case for the Bible. Indeed, the objections they present helps me think more deeply about my beliefs. Despite the discomfort of working through their challenges, I praise the Lord for using them to drive me even more deeply into His Word and for strengthening my convictions.

In approaching such a massive topic, perhaps I should begin by explaining why it matters. While this explanation won't directly answer any of the specific questions today, I hope it will lay groundwork for subsequent posts which (I promise) will examine each of the questions I've introduced.

Quite simply, the issue of whether or not God speaks through dreams,  visions, audible voices, impressions or angels matters because it calls into question the Bible's authority. As a former Charismatic, I realize that adherents to personal revelation honestly believe they accept Scripture as the final authority, and I applaud those who do actually test their experiences against God's Word.

Yet, Scripture itself demands that Christians prefer doctrine over signs and wonders.

18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.  ~~Colossians 2:18-19 (ESV)

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul confronted the many false teachings that had infiltrated that multicultural church. The Gnostics, in particular, offered a "deeper spirituality" that went beyond the teachings of the apostles. Jesus is God's final revelation to mankind (see Hebrews 1:1-2), and Scripture gives us so much information on Him that we can never really exhaust its resources! If we cling to Him, trusting the  Holy Spirit to reveal Him through His Word, additional revelation becomes a distraction, with a potential of corrupting pure doctrine.

Since the New Testament epistles repeatedly emphasize the critical importance of doctrinal purity, I'm  convinced that it's imperative to be extremely suspicious of subjective experiences. Scripture can be trusted, but personal experience (precisely because it is personal) has tremendous potential to pull us into deception. And that potential makes our means of  hearing His voice exceedingly important!


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