CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Christian Adultery Conference

Dec 14, 2010

Allow me to take a few liberties here, with explanation to follow. But an upcoming conference should be on every Christian’s calendar. It looks to be a terrific event, with some noted Christian speakers as well. This is how the ad for the conference runs:

“Meet awesome people. Worship God together. Learn from Christian leaders. Recommit your heart to Christ. And have an amazing time doing it! The annual Christian Adultery Network conference brings hundreds of brothers and sisters in Christ together for fellowship, worship, support, Bible study, and more! Whether you’re an adulterer, know someone who is, or just want to learn more, this is an awesome opportunity to seek God together.

“This year’s Christian Adultery Network conference will be held January 6-9, 2011, in Denver, CO, with special guest Philip Yancey! As we gather in the ‘mile-high city,’ we look to examine our own ‘mountaintop experiences’ with Christ in our everyday moments, identifying how He works through us, and exploring the ways we can listen to Him as we journey through our lives.

“Our 2010 conference brought together over 350 Christians from around the world for an unforgettable, life-changing experience. We can’t wait to see you as we kick off the new year with an awesome celebration of God’s love!”

The above quote is fully legit, except I have made a few minor changes. It is actually the annual conference for the Gay Christian Network. My point should be clear: just as no one can get away with calling themselves a Christian adulterer, so no one should be allowed to call themselves a gay Christian.

Both are an oxymoron. Both are a complete contradiction in terms. If you are living in adultery and celebrating that fact, then you have made it clear you are not a biblical Christian. In the same way, if you are living the homosexual lifestyle, and celebrating that fact, you have declared your rejection of God and his authority.

Paul for example brings both sins together in various places, including 1 Timothy 1:8-11: “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”

Consider also an even stronger passage, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Both passages put adultery and homosexuality together, and both passages make it clear that those who are involved in such activities will not inherit the kingdom of God. Yet here we have a conference telling people the exact opposite. And here we have a famous speaker who presumably will come along and bless this whole unbiblical situation.

While Yancey has written a lot of good books, and has had a lot of helpful things to say over the years, he has often been a bit weak on the biblical understanding of homosexuality. By appearing at this conference, it seems we will simply have more of the same.

But even if he did not speak at this event, the sad truth is, hundreds of people may be deceived at this conference, thinking their lifestyle is perfectly fine, and that God fully approves of it. The truth is, Jesus Christ came so that we could be set free from our sins, not cemented in them.

Any group which tells believers that it is fine to live in known sin is not proclaiming the gospel of Christ, but a false and deceptive gospel. These people desperately need to hear the good news that God is in the business of changing lives and setting the captives free.

Sure, the work of overcoming deeply entrenched sexual addiction is often difficult and lengthy. But genuine help is available to those who are willing to confess their sin, repent, and turn to Christ for real help. Just as a heterosexual who has been involved in addictive sexual sin may struggle in the healing process, so too the homosexual.

But the Gospel is about releasing people from their bondages, and freeing them to live lives of holiness, purity and righteousness. This is true of every one of us, whether our sins are heterosexual in nature or homosexual in nature. Any “Christian” message which tells people it is OK to coddle and endorse a sinful lifestyle is not of God.

Jesus told the adulterous woman to go and sin no more. He also told us that to lust at another person makes one guilty of adultery. So both outward actions and internal lusts are clearly condemned by Jesus. Thus the adulterer must stop committing acts of adultery, and must clean up things internally as well. Indeed, all heterosexuals need to deal radically with lust of every kind.

In the same way, the homosexual must stop all homosexual activities, and also seek healing and restoration for the sinful lusts and desires. Again, such renewal may not come easily, and will often be a lengthy process, but God is in the business of radically and decisively changing lives.

There are many former homosexuals who have been set free from the homosexual lifestyle, and have even experienced radical change in their desires and inclinations. This should come as no surprise, since God seeks to bring us back to where we are meant to be.

All such restoration will be painful and difficult. That is why so many prefer being told that what they are doing is quite alright, and God fully accepts them as they are, expecting no change whatsoever. That is not the gospel I read about. It is a tough love which tells us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear.

We all struggle with lust and sinful sexual desires. The aim should be to let God help us to overcome these, not to seek to make excuses for them, to rationalise them, and to justify them. That is the last thing believers should be doing and saying.

By the way, anyone want to help me organise next year’s annual Christian Polyamory Network conference?

www.gaychristian.net/conference/index.php

[1136 words]

44 Responses to Christian Adultery Conference

  • FYI

    You can find Philip Yancey’s viewpoint here:
    http://www.philipyancey.com/q-and-a-topics/homosexuality

    Dale Flannery

  • I maintain that on this issue the biggest problem is that people mix up behaviour and identity. To speak against homosexuality is now perceived by many to be an act against someone as they are rather than simply an observation about what they do and to reject it, not much different than saying that breaking a window is wrong. I can understand non-Christians being confused but Christians who supposedly understand the distinction between a sinner and sin should not be fooled. If you are observant, you will see this mistake in almost every discussion of the topic these days. (In fact, Bill, I actually think you are perpetuating this error in some way – ie, the usage of ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ in the context of your article.) I make a point of sticking to the biological fact of male and female and that they are two complementary halves of the same function that cannot work to their ultimate purpose without one of each. Heterosexuality is just correct usage of that function, homosexuality incorrect.

    Homosexuality is not an identity attribute like gender (male/female) that cannot be changed, it is a wrongful and often destructive use of gender that is clearly a difficult habit to break – hence why so many give up and just ‘accept it’. As for a conference like the one mentioned above, way to go for spitting in God’s face by saying to Him that He didn’t know what He was doing when He created you as a male or female. It seems to me that the design of the reproductive processes and the creation of new life that lasts for 70-80 years is something that involved a significantly higher intelligence than any human I’ve ever heard of. Yet we have arrogant humans who can’t even create a twig sitting in judgement over it!

    I love what God says to Job:
    “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.
    “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:2-4)

    Also, this famous passage from Psalms lays it out:
    “For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
    I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
    My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
    Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

    God will not be blessing this conference, of that I am certain. How can He, when they are willing to perpetuate such an obvious lie about His creation?

    Mark Rabich

  • To be honest Bill I was liking the idea of a Christian Adultery Conference. I obviously read it wrong but the idea of a conference where Christian who have fallen into adultery can be in a safe environment as they work through repentance and forgiveness. A place where those who have been betrayed can experience healing and godly counsel on their relationship, a place where church leaders can learn how to deal with this destructive sin in their churches.

    If only these conferences were for people struggling with sin an wanting to overcome rather than celebrating sin. Anyone who has committed adultery is an adulterer, but that doesn’t mean they are living in sin, only that they have sinned. The hypocrisy comes when we continue to sin and call it righteous rather than repenting.

    Kylie Anderson

  • I like what you are saying Mark Rabich, government official should take note of your notes there and don’t get confuse dealing with behaviour and identity.

    Great work as usual Bill.

    Must keep in mind that not all Christian understand these things as things have not been reveal to them, not making excuse, just facts.

    Jeffrie Trika

  • Thanks Kylie

    Yes that is the whole point here. There are two very different ways one could run such conferences. One is the way this one seems to be going, which says this is OK behaviour, God loves you as you are, so just accept it and move on with your life.

    The other one would have this emphasis: we know this is sinful, we are struggling with it, we agree with God that it is wrong, and we seek his help to overcome and find victory here. If adulterers, or homosexuals, or any other sinners want to have a conference for those reasons, more power to them.

    But to have a conference to simply endorse, justify and celebrate a sinful lifestyle is just not on.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill

    I wonder if these people really believe in what they are doing is a good thing. God has put a natural law into each person, so deep down they must know that their life style is wrong. Maybe this “get together” is justifying the way that they are living. What do you think?

    Anne van Tilburg

  • Quite right Anne. Paul says the very same thing in Romans 1.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • This was included in the GCN’s statement of faith:

    “We believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians are full participants in God’s kingdom , and that the ways of holiness and the ways of sinfulness are equally available to them as to others < ??? - GV>. Recognizing this, we strive to live holy lives: turning to prayer, Scripture, and the leading of the Holy Spirit to discern God’s will.

    We affirm the need for the Body of Christ to be united in service to God. To that end, we recognize that personal conviction plays a part in many of the specific elements of Christian practice. We affirm that love and respect is owed to each member of this community as brothers and sisters in Christ, and this despite differences in personal conviction that will encompass questions involving sex, intimate relationships and the ‘Great Debate’.”

    Grant Vandervalk

  • Thanks for that Grant

    Notice they also talk about how to “discern God’s will”. What exactly is there to discern? One might as well argue that adulterous Christians need to discern God’s will. Sorry, but in both cases, God’s will is perfectly clear, and they have chosen to reject his will and instead continue in a sinful lifestyle.

    Next we will have a Christian Idolatry Network, or a Christian Thieves Network, seeking to figure out God’s will.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Excellent and compassionate restatement of Biblical truth on the subject, Bill.

    The link Dale provides to Yancy’s viewpoint is interesting. As I read his responses, I got the unmistakable impression that he was attacking conservatives whilst supporting the ‘homosexual Christian’ position. Here are a few things that jumped out to me:

    “I get hate letters full of equal venom from both sides: from conservative Christians appalled that I would maintain a friendship with Mel and write compassionately about gays and lesbians, and from the other side wishing I would go further with a full endorsement of gay rights.”

    TRANSLATE: Conservatives and gays are equal extremes and I am in the middle.

    (Mel) “receives much judgment and condemnation from the church”

    TRANSLATE: He’s the victim here and the church is wrong for expressing disapproval.

    “I think back to Jesus and how offensive he must have found the people he dealt with; yet he treated them with respect, compassion, and love”

    TRANSLATE: The other end of the spectrum to these horrible disapproving conservative Christians is Jesus. He did things differently.

    “Even if I conclude that all homosexual behavior is wrong, as many conservative Christians do”

    TRANSLATE: Maybe I don’t conclude that all homosexual behaviour is wrong the same way as conservative Christians.

    “I’d rather maintain contact with “gay Christians,” who are so isolated, and also conservative Christians, who often have little understanding of the issue”

    TRANSLATE: Poor “gay Christians” are so isolated. Bad conservative Christians don’t understand.

    “I should point out that there are articulate gay Christians who do not see homosexuality as a sin, particularly when it is exercised in a committed relationship. With some scholarly support, they interpret the few verses in the Bible differently than the church has historically”

    TRANSLATE: Gay Christians are smart and have very good arguments. Maybe they are right and we are wrong.

    And so on, ad nauseum. He appears to me to be quite clever and subtle in his pro-gay apologetics. The kind of leader that we had better line up with the word of God and with the witness of the Spirit. The Bible tells us there will be many false leaders in the last days who would deceive even the elect, if that were possible.

    Dee Graf

  • Thanks Dee

    Excellent analysis. Yes he feigns being neutral and in the middle on this, but it is clear that his sympathies really lie with the pro-homosexual crowd. I have read a number of his books and you find the same thing there. He is happy to ignore the clear teaching on Scripture on this. But to be consistent, as I say, then he should ignore the clear biblical teaching on adultery, or fornication, or plenty of other sins.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • As far as I understand, the crux of the whole issue, which I haven’t seen expressed before, is what Mark Rabich says – I quote: “I make a point of sticking to the biological fact of male and female and that they are two complementary halves of the same function that cannot work to their ultimate purpose without one of each. Heterosexuality is just correct usage of that function, homosexuality incorrect. Homosexuality is not an identity attribute like gender (male/female) that cannot be changed, it is a wrongful and often destructive use of gender that is clearly a difficult habit to break – hence why so many give up and just ‘accept it’.
    Thanks Mark
    Wilfred Parmenter

  • Mr. Muehlenberg,
    I share your belief that the term ‘gay Christian’ is an oxymoron. It is wrong to shape our identity around our natural feelings, actions and desires. We should identify ourselves instead by our relationship of love for God as our Father, Christ our Savior, Brother, Friend and by our agreement with, conformity and obedience to His Word. When we are born again, we die to the old man of the flesh and receive completely new identities as God’s children. In truth, the flesh must die and be crucified piecemeal in the process of sanctification…as we learn to walk by the Holy Spirit.

    Pertaining to your essay – in April, InterVarsity Press is publishing a new book, The End of Sexual Identity. Here’s a preview:
    http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=3836
    Sibyl Smith

  • Hi Bill and Other Readers,

    When reading my mail I opened a promotion from FlightCente. As I was irritated that another advertised good deal did not apply to people living in my area I thought I would contact them about it. But on hitting the “contact us” button the first thing I saw was the choice: “Gay Lesbian Travel.” Now I had two reasons to complain, so I sent the following letter:

    Hi,
    I have been checking your site for some time, but find myself less likely to do so recently because there are two things that irritate me about the site.
    1) When I find a good deal and click the link to look it up I find it applies to people in Darwin or Perth, whereas I am in Geelong – in other words, time wasted.
    2) The first thing I find when I hit the “contact us” button is “Gay and Lesbian Travel”. What are we going to have next? “Travel for people seeking adultery” ; Locations for sex perverts”, “Sex romps in the tropics” ?
    You will need to correct these irritants if you want me to keep using the site.

    Right after that I read your letter and thought I would share what I did. If more people sent similar messages maybe FlightCentre will clean up their site.

    Bill Berends

  • Well done Bill. Yes we all need to speak out when appropriate. The other side does all the time, and we need to do so as well.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill for the article. And thanks Mark for your thoughts. That is pretty much the line that I use – as a uni student it comes up more often than you think. The problem that I find is that it is easy for me to say “I have no problem with [name], but I don’t like his lifestyle just like I don’t like the fact that my other friend likes smoking”; but most people don’t see homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, but as part of that person’s personality and character as much as their eye colour is. So there is the impasse.
    Christie Ewens

  • I am surprised with Yancey, as I was helped so much in his writings on grace. I think Yancey, like Obama’s spiritual advisor, Jim Wallis is heaviliy influenced by liberal/progressive thinking and thus attempts to mold scripture & theology to fit his view points. The Right can do the same. As an aside, and not wishing to be controversial for no reason, I have often wondered why Sydney has such a large homosexual population and Hobart has a larger than average homosexual community as well. Being interested in history and knowing the foundings of Sydney & Hobart, with huge numbers of male convicts and hardly any woman for many years – it seems that the men turned to one another and have set a precedent? The same can be said for San Fransisco – a lawless town populated by a majority of men, years in advance of women settlers in the gold rush days? Lastly, off topic, but it seems all the hoopla with Assange is dying in the public consciousness, as his ‘leaks’ are really tattle tale gossip with no real revelations and I hope it continues this way. To the far left he is still a freedom fighter – but he is more and more looking like a prize winning dill!
    Neil Innes, NT

  • Thanks Neil

    As always the biblical balance must be maintained. God is certainly full of grace. But he is also holy and righteous. It is so easy to lose the balance and end up with quite lopsided positions.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks guys

    Now the Greens want incest legalised. Why are we not surprised?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/switzerland/8198917/Switzerland-considers-repealing-incest-laws.html

    Will people like Yancey now ask us to extend grace to these people as well? Will there now be an annual Christian Incest Network conference held? These are serious questions folks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • You can see where this is all going. People and organizations just tack the word “Christian” on to whatever they are trying to promote, so as to somehow bring legitimacy to their cause. With things like this the rest of the world starts to see Christians as hypocrites and then the message about Christ is degraded or worse annulled. Sometimes when I get challenged to whether I am a Christian, I answer with “I am a disciple / follower of Christ.”

    Maybe Yancey could take some of his books to the conference with him, and have them as free handouts.

    Maybe after they read, I Was Just Wondering how I was Fearfully and Wonderfully made, In His Image and In the likeness of God. Then to spend time in Prayer and to Meet the Bible, even The Bible Jesus Read they may start to get an understanding of Whats so Amazing about Grace, helping them through the Disappointment with God and the age old question of Where is God when it Hurts. Then Finding God in Unexpected Places even in The Gift of Pain Not asking What Good is God? but Reaching for the Invisible God and becoming a Soul Survivor. Hopefully not having the answer, But Jesus, I Never Knew….

    Jeffrey Carl

  • Mark Rabich wrote:

    To speak against homosexuality is now perceived by many to be an act against someone as they are rather than simply an observation about what they do and to reject it, not much different than saying that breaking a window is wrong. I can understand non-Christians being confused but Christians who supposedly understand the distinction between a sinner and sin should not be fooled. If you are observant, you will see this mistake in almost every discussion of the topic these days. (In fact, Bill, I actually think you are perpetuating this error in some way – ie, the usage of ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ in the context of your article.)

    This highlights the need for Christians to distinguish between orientation, behaviour, lust and identity when we talk about homosexuality.

    Homosexual orientation (involuntary attraction to the same sex) is a disorder, but is not a sin in and of itself. Homosexual orientation may be addressed with therapy. Someone who has homosexual orientation is subject to temptation (in regards to both lust in their heart and physical acts with their body), but if they resist the temptation, they have not sinned.

    Homosexual behaviour (having sexual acts with someone of the same sex) is clearly sinful. It requires confession and repentance.

    Homosexual lust (thinking unrestrained lustful homosexual thoughts without necessarily engaging in actual sex) is likewise sinful. It is similar to covetousness — no physical act may be committed, but the person voluntarily gives in to the sin in their heart.

    Homosexual identity (wilfully accepting the identity of “being gay”) is sinful. It is like a thief accepting stealing as part of their identity.

    I acknowledge that some Bible believing Christians will disagree with me on this. Some will say that homosexual orientation is sinful in itself. Others might say that no sin is committed unless there is a physical act. However I think that my view (which I’ve learnt from others who have done much thinking on this topic) does the best justice to the Biblical teaching.

    Jereth Kok

  • A further point of clarification.

    I said above that “homosexual orientation may be addressed with therapy”. I view this as being a choice to be made by the individual. Because I do not think that orientation is a sin in itself, I do not think someone who has homosexual orientation must be urged by other Christians to seek therapy. If they wish to live a celibate life, without entertaining lustful thoughts, and without accepting a gay identity, then I do not see a problem with this. I think that an individual can be God-pleasing in this situation.

    If, on the other hand, he/she wishes to overcome his or her homosexual orientation in order to marry someone of the opposite sex, he/she may choose to have therapy. I believe that therapy can be successful, but I would hesitate to say that it will always be successful. We live in a fallen world, and so I believe that some disordered conditions cannot be fixed before Jesus returns.

    I’m happy to hear other points of view on this matter.

    Jereth Kok

  • Thanks Jereth

    Admittedly things can get a little difficult here, and the terminology and definitions can be used differently by different people, so disagreements may well arise.

    One way to look at the whole orientation matter (and I include here terms like inclination, predisposition, and the like) is to see it in the larger lens of biblical theology. If we accept – even to a certain extent – the doctrine of original sin, then the believer must acknowledge that we are all born sinful. We all have a sinful orientation.

    We have a predisposition, or inclination, or orientation, away from God, and to self. We are all fallen, and none of us seek God. So we all have a sinful, selfish orientation instead of a God-ward orientation. That would then manifest itself in various ways. Some might be born with a predisposition or orientation to anger, or overeating, or same-sex attraction.

    So in that sense one can argue that the homosexual orientation is sinful. But so too is every human orientation as a result of the fall. Our inclination is not to God and his best for us, but away from God, and to please self.

    But as I say, there can be disagreement here, and much of that may hinge on how we define our terms. So the discussion needs to continue.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I had seen the name Yancey around, though I had never read any of his work before reading the website http://www.philipyancey.com/q-and-a-topics/homosexuality
    posted by Dale Flannery. If that is typical, then Yancey is not a Christian. Even if not typical, maybe he is an “angel of light,” so close to the truth that he can easily fool many genuine Christians.
    Graeme Cumming

  • Thank you, Bill.

    Yes, as a good Calvinist, I agree with you that all humans are fundamentally oriented towards sin — that our basic human nature is sinfully corrupt. As David says in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” All of us are born sinners, from the time we are inside our mothers’ wombs.

    As such, we could say that a homosexual “orientation” (or “inclination” or “predisposition”) is part of the in-born fallen and sinful nature that we all have. I agree with you on that.

    I do think, nevertheless, that it is important to distinguish this basic fallenness, that all of us share — and from which none of us can ever escape in this life — from sins that are committed.

    If my understanding of Scripture is correct, a homosexually oriented person does not commit sin (and therefore does not need to repent) simply by having that orientation or inclination — even though the orientation itself is an expression of their fallenness. It is only if they follow that inclination through and commit a homosexual act (in heart through lust or in body through a physical act) that an actual sin is committed.

    Thus, a homosexually oriented person may choose not to overcome their orientation and live a celibate life, trusting in Jesus, and this is acceptable before God. This is the same as you or me continuing to possess a disposition towards anger, or greed, or alcoholism, or heterosexual lust, but living in a manner which refuses to allow these inclinations to gain mastery over us.

    That is my understanding. Would you agree?

    Jereth Kok

  • Thanks Jereth

    As I say, we tread on somewhat murky territory here.

    But I must take umbrage at your claim to being a ‘good Calvinist’! A true Calvinist would say: “We are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners”. Again, it is our initial fallenness which must be dealt with, not just the expressions of it.

    One can take all this further. Living in a fallen world means all sorts of abnormalities will abound. Some people are born with six fingers, or minus a leg. While this is due to the fall, these are not in themselves sinful conditions. They are not moral or spiritual matters, but are consequences of living in a fallen world.

    But a disposition away from God and to self is something quite different. And one manifestation of this sinful disposition is a propensity away from God’s intention for human sexuality. And Paul in Romans 1 seems to argue that it is not the acts alone which are a sign of rebellion against God, but the disposition itself.

    But again, there may be some room to move here.

    As to how one deals with all these matters as a beleiver, that is a separate issue. Just as a recovering alcoholic may well need to always stay away from alcohol, so too a recovering sex addict (of whatever stripe) will need to avoid obvious places and sources of temptation.

    Ex-homosexuals themselves are a bit divided on whether the orientation or attraction can fully be overcome or disappear. Some say it is fully gone, by God’s grace, while others say it continues to be a struggle.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Again, I need to clarify what I said. I said “a homosexually oriented person may choose not to overcome their orientation” …

    What I meant by this is: a homosexually oriented Christian person may choose not to actively seek re-orientation away from homosexuality to heterosexuality. For example, a homosexuality oriented Christian man may choose not to re-orient himself so that he becomes attracted to women; he may choose instead to live a life of celibacy in mind and body.

    Of course, all believers have an obligation to resist our sinful natures. It may not be possible for me to completely rid myself (in this life) of an inclination towards anger, or greed, or heterosexual lust — but with the help of the Holy Spirit, over time, I can gain some degree of mastery over these inclinations so that they do not control me. Similarly, I would expect that a homosexually oriented Christian would, over time, and with God’s help, gain some degree of mastery over their homosexual inclination, so that the power of this inclination is gradually broken — even if they can never be fully rid of the inclination in this life, and even if they never develop a sexual attraction to the opposite sex.

    But I do not think the church should expect homosexually oriented Christians to be able to completely re-orient themselves to heterosexuality, nor expect that they will all actively attempt to do so. I think that this is asking something that the Bible does not ask them to do.

    Paul says
    “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires…. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. ” Romans 6

    Sinful inclinations shall not have mastery over us, but as Scripture makes clear, they will always be with us until we are raised on the last day.

    Jereth Kok

  • Thanks Jereth

    I am mostly with you, but not fully. I am still not happy with your words: “But I do not think the church should expect homosexually oriented Christians to be able to completely re-orient themselves to heterosexuality, nor expect that they will all actively attempt to do so. I think that this is asking something that the Bible does not ask them to do.”

    But first, leave out the word “completely” in your sentence. We all agree that this side of eternity complete or perfect restoration or re-orientation will not be possible. We will always be forgiven sinners struggling in many areas, but hopefully we will experience gradual, progressive and substantial change and healing as time goes on.

    But even with that issue settled, I believe that every believer has to agree with God about his condition. That means not just changing outward actions, but allowing God to change inward dispositions. That is the whole point of the radical demands of Jesus in Matt. 5:21-20. He is calling for a complete overhaul, beginning from the inside.

    So I do think a believer should agree with God and say, “I know this orientation is not your best for me, and is part of my fallen condition. With your help and grace I ask you to help me to seek for real change in this area.” So I do expect them to “actively attempt to do so” with the power of the Spirit of course.

    If all this is not our ultimate aim, then the many commands to be holy and be prefect (or complete) would be mere advice.

    But we are probably pretty close here, and there is always a place for a bit of iron sharpening iron.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • God’s grace does seem to be delivered in different ways. While one Christian is delivered of depression and suicidal thoughts another will struggle with them for the rest of their lives. I don’t know why, but God does.

    One homosexual may repent, be tempted, sin, repent as so the cycle continues as he battles with sin. Another may be living in chastity for a time while still embracing homosexuality and a valid and godly expression of sexuality.

    It is not whether we sin or not but how we respond to our sinfulness and whether we turn back to God with the intent of not sinning again that matters.

    Kylie Anderson

  • Hi Bill,

    I am a good Calvinist! 🙂
    Yes, we are all born sinners, and we sin because we are sinners. (Not the other way around.) Absolutely.

    I agree that having a homosexual orientation is not the same as being born blind, or with six fingers. It is an area of moral fallenness that is contrary to God’s design. As we have both been saying, it is more akin to having a propensity towards anger, or greed, or dishonesty, or an addiction.

    I hope my previous post helped clarify my thoughts on all this.

    To repeat, I do think that with God’s grace, over time, a homosexually oriented Christian can experience increasing degrees of deliverance from the homosexual inclination. I do think, however, that different individuals will experience this to different extents. I think we would all agree that homosexual orientation is a form of brokenness that often results from a less than ideal childhood, coupled with poor influences and choices later in life. This brokenness can be very deep, and can take a very long time to heal; and in many cases it may not ever heal during an individual’s earthly lifetime.

    Thanks for engaging in this discussion. This is a delicate area, as you have noted, and it is good to work at getting our thinking right.

    My original comment was prompted by Mark R’s comment: “To speak against homosexuality is now perceived by many to be an act against someone as they are rather than simply an observation about what they do and to reject it”. I do think Mark is basically right there, but it is over-simplified and lacks the nuance needed with this issue. It is not quite as simple as “love the sinner but hate the sin” — as I have been saying, there is not a simple dichotomy here between the sin and the sinner. There is the complex interplay between orientation/inclination, identity, and behaviour/activity. By “hate the sin”, do we hate just the homosexual activity, or do we also hate the homosexual identity and the homosexual orientation? If we hate the identity and orientation, does that not imply we are also hating the person him/herself? And so on…

    Jereth Kok

  • Thanks again Jereth

    Yes we are pretty much on the same page here.

    And yes the ‘hate the sin’ discussion also needs to be carefully teased out as well. I try to do that a bit more here:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/02/22/love-and-hate-in-an-age-of-tolerance/
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/11/10/the-sin-of-tolerance/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi again Bill,

    Yes I think we do basically agree. The word “completely” is important. None of us will be “completely” rid of sinful inclinations in this lifetime. We should aim to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, but we should not expect to actually achieve perfection in this life.

    When I said I don’t think a homosexual Christian needs to “actively” seek re-orientation, what I really meant there was “make it a life priority to get professional counselling and reparative therapy with a view to ending up happily married with children”. We all have an obligation to resist the sinful nature, and to put to death our sinful desires, yes. We all should ask God to heal and transform us inwardly, yes. And yes, “we will experience gradual, progressive and substantial change and healing as time goes on”.

    I do sincerely think, though, that disordered sexuality is the sort of brokenness that runs very deep (personally I believe it should be classified among mental disorders, as it used to be), and sometimes a human lifetime is simply not long enough to undo the damage. Yes, every believer should be open to the powerful working of the Spirit, and it is certainly the case that some homosexuals have experienced an immense deliverance. It is just that I do not think this is something that can be expected (or asked) of everyone.

    I’m happy to know if you think otherwise!

    Jereth Kok

  • Thanks Jereth

    Hey, I am with you. Blessings,

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Great, Bill!

    Thanks again for the discussion. I think that Christians need to be really clear on these matters, in order to avoid the kind of sloppy muddledness that Yancey has gotten himself into. It really is a shame to see such a well respected and high profile believer expressing such sloppy thinking.

    cheers,
    Jereth Kok

  • Jereth,

    Sorry to put a spanner in the works here (maybe) but I actually don’t think your points will be very helpful to the majority of people who want to consider this issue and to be awake to the embedded messages.

    I guess my background in communication makes me tend to try to find ways to make sure people understand something rather than end up being confused by making an issue more complicated than the majority can understand. I admit that may make some of what I write seem “over-simplified” when a more careful approach may be required, but there simply needs to be an acknowledgement of what will communicate the most successfully to the most amount of people.

    My point about the distinction between identity and behaviour has more to do with the selling of the issue by the activists to the general public. It is their contention that the issue is entirely about identity similar to gender or skin colour. Choice and/or environmental factors do not come into it for them because they desire to make people believe that this is entirely genetic. Everything is geared towards drawing attention away from the sexual act that is at the centre of this issue. Indeed, I have now come across the derisive attitude more than once of some as they contend with faux astonishment something like “You do know people are born that way, don’t you?” As if that question was even remotely settled in their favour…

    I feel what you are actually discussing here has more to do with how to deal with individuals in their particular situations. Of course, this is quite legitimate, as I do not believe any foolproof ‘formula’ exists to bring healing into the life of someone caught in this lifestyle. God deals with all of us differently and we are all different. There are probably at least as many variables as there are people involved. But the simple fact is that we are created male and female and the marketing of homosexuality gains traction on muddying this fact. This is a marketing campaign, make no mistake, so complex messages will not work anywhere near as well. I don’t think involving nuances will help resist the simplicity of the ‘born that way’ lie. I would be very happy if people read what I write and were empowered to recognize what is going on and respond effectively in whatever situation they find themselves in.

    Put it this way, given the ‘bite size’ way people consume information these days, would an emphasis on male and female identity be remembered over a detailed discussion on homosexual orientation/behaviour/lust/identity? I think it would.

    I hope you do not consider this a disparagement of what you wrote, more a ‘nuance’ 😉 in recognition of the intended audience. I think it’s pretty clear we agree on way more than we may disagree on.

    Mark Rabich

  • I also wanted to acknowledge Dee’s great post above and comment.

    On that link of Dale’s, Yancey also writes “As long as I get angry letters from both sides, I feel better. ”

    Allow me to quote from a couple of letters sent from Jesus:

    But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (Rev 2:14)

    I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman) Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. (Rev 2:20)

    I wonder what Yancey would think if he got a personally addressed “angry letter” from Jesus and the devil – would he “feel better” about that? After all, that’s “both sides” isn’t it?

    If you read Dale’s link all the way, you will find the error I mentioned above in virtually every paragraph. Yancey is convinced homosexuality is identity. Stuff the fact that God created male and female.

    I’ll give an example of how it affects his ideas – Yancey writes “it saddens me that the evangelical church by and large finds no place for homosexuals” but this is wrong because the reality is that their sin is not their identity, but that if they are continuing in such behaviour unrepentantly, their behaviour is spitting in the face of Jesus. Claiming sin as if it was identity blocks repentance (after all, how can one repent of ‘who they are’?) which is critical for the continuation of fellowship with other Christians. How does one celebrate the release from sin with one who wants to be bound to it? Yancey overlooks this rather obvious problem. He is asking true believers who want God’s change to join themselves with people who do not want God to change them. Yet it superficially reads as if the evangelical church is rejecting people on attributes equivalent to skin colour. The truth is that what has “no place” is the belief that sins don’t matter.

    (It’s funny but I had already written this when Jereth also quoted from Romans 6 – I would simply expand the quote:)
    In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Rom 6:11-14)

    Maybe Yancey is malicious, I think it more likely that he is deceived. But for Christians who want to grow, they may want to consider if someone who cannot appreciate the clear testimony of their own physical bodies will be good at teaching the intangible aspect of God’s word.

    Yancey is ignoring that by continuing in homosexuality without admitting it as sin and setting out to leave that lifestyle, some are bringing the name of Jesus into disrepute. (Apparently God can create the universe through His Son but is not big enough to change you.) Paul gave the church in Corinth no option to keep such people around. In regards to another form of sexual immorality:
    “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? (1 Cor 5:1-2)

    It’s interesting that Yancey notices that 1 Cor 5 exists, but somehow doesn’t consider what ‘policing ourselves’ is meant to look like. But Paul does:
    “But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” (1 Cor 5:11)
    Bad Paul! – Philip Yancey says that it is sad that you find “no place” for people who want to keep right on ignoring God’s Word (as they simultaneously claim they uphold it) and even denying their own bodies.

    This is just one example, but by the sounds of things, Yancey has let his friendships with those in this lifestyle dictate his overall response, rather his friendship with God. May he come to his senses sooner rather than later. And may Christians be awake to how to respond to those who claim they are brothers and sisters but are not – so that they can in the long run be saved, not facilitated in their lifestyle of death. This is not about rejection, it is about eternal destiny.

    Mark Rabich

  • Hi Bill,
    Thank you for all your tireless work.
    I notified one of our pastors about the conference. She has subsequently written to our local ‘Koorong’ book store informing them of the situation. They are now looking into it.
    Blessings,
    Karen Harrison, Perth

  • G’day Mark,

    Thanks for getting back into the conversation 🙂

    I think you are right in your desire to communicate effectively to a large number of people about this tricky issue. I think that as a general summary statement, “love the sinner, hate the sin” is appropriate. I also agree with you that it is homosexual behaviour and acts which receive the strongest condemnation from the Bible, and therefore should receive the heaviest criticism from Christians.

    But we also have to be prepared to explain exactly what we mean when we say things like “love the sinner, hate the sin”.

    Some people will hear this phrase, and take it to mean that we object to homosexual acts, but we are okay with (or even approving of) the gay identity or orientation — because identity and orientation are part of the “sinner”, not the “sin”. They will then attack us for being inconsistent — if a gay orientation or gay identity is acceptable and normal, how can we deny these gay people the right to follow through and have gay relationships?

    You correctly observe that the gay lobby is trying to sell us the message that there is such thing as “the gay identity”. I’m not convinced it is helpful to just deny it and say “no, there’s no such thing as a gay identity” because people really do think and feel that being gay is an identity. So what we need to say is: yes, you may feel that being gay is part of your identity, but that is unnatural and wrong and against God’s will. You need to repent, and stop thinking of yourself as “a gay person”. It is not enough to just stop having gay sex, but keep thinking of oneself as “a gay person”.

    I hope I’m making some sense here. Let me know if you’d like any clarification.

    Thanks brother.
    Jereth Kok

  • Sexual orientation is another term for conditioned sexual response which is the consequence of a combination of emotional/cognitive/physical factors. All our responses are conditioned responses and these conditioned responses, EVEN the sexual ones, can be changed, treated, modified – otherwise why would the telephone book have numerous listings for sex therapy on the pages for counselors, psychotherapists and psychologists?

    A book that describes the dynamics, beliefs, other influences and factors that can engender same-sex attraction/sexual response and shows how these responses are re-oriented in therapy is Dr. Joseph Nicolosi’s book, ‘Shame and Attachment Loss.’

    Sibyl Smith

  • Bill,
    there is nothing on that link that says it’s a Christian adultery conference??

    thanks
    Liz Gee

  • Thanks Liz

    No it is a link to a Gay Christian conference. The whole point of my article was to say that to argue for a gay Christian group makes as much sense as to argue for a Christian adultery group. Both are oxymorons and unbiblical. Compendo?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I wrote a response to the same questions posed by Philip Yancey which he posted on his website. I am disappointed in his appearance at the Gay Christian Network conference but not surprised. You can find my responses on my website.
    Pam Ousley, US

  • Wow! Thank God for someone like Sy Rogers around at this time! Although he is only one he is at least a strong and truthful voice who bring his message in absolute love and compassion.

    Servaas Hofmeyr, South Africa

  • I remain strongly committed to the belief that heterosexual marriage is the only biblically valid paradigm for authentic marriage and human sexual intimacy. Therefore I approached the GCN conference web page with some serious reservations and misgivings. One “redeeming feature” of the site is the Great Debate section at: http://www.gaychristian.net/greatdebate.php?
    There two reasoned positions are presented for the “for” and “against” cases for gay marriage. The “against” case has as its strongest plank an appeal to heterosexual marriage as a part of God’s original Creation model for human intimacy. The “for” case, to my way of thinking, relies too heavily on arguments from ancient cultural context and pays insufficient attention to the “from the beginning it was not so” hermeneutical principle that Jesus uses against divorce. I also find that the “for” case pays less than adequate heed to the implications of the ancient Greek terms used in the New Testament and their Old Testament counterparts in the ancient Septuagint version.

    John Wigg

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