Scripture or Love – The false dichotomy created by the current debate surrounding Homosexuality

I’ve been too busy to be overly attentive to the furor erupting around the supreme court decision to allow gay marriage, but I’ve seen enough around facebook and through media streams to know it is becoming divisive.

The false urgency that pushes everything into Yes or No

There are christians wanting to nuance their public voices to make them pastoral (at best) and to subjugate the scriptural challenges (at worst). This tends to be followed by christians wanting to correct other christians by reasserting the importance of scripture (at best) and espousing their own bigotry (at worst).

These issues often take on a very two-sided nature, especially in the U.S. where the public sphere of conversation has been defined by 2 party politics pushing each other into opposite extremes.

So again here the loudest voices want to make us quickly affirm a YES or NO, even when the question itself is not always clear or stated.

Each of these questions I believe should have a clear christian answer, but not all the same answer;

  • Does Scripture condone homosexual relationships?
  • How do we handle situations that don’t seem explicitly dealt with in Scripture?
  • Should Church conform to culture?
  • Should society demand religious communities to neglect clearly held scriptural teaching that has historical continuity for the past 400 years or more?
  • Are all sins the same or are sexual sins worse?
  • What should Christians think? about believers who practise homosexuality? about believers who experience same-sex attraction? about non-believers who practise homosexuality? about believers who want to hold offices of authority who practise homosexuality?

I’ve learnt to foster a healthy suspicion for issues that push themselves on the church with an apocalyptic sense of urgency. This is not a new issue, and urgency normally creates two false choices and encourages you not to think but rather feel what is right.

Our emotional need to belong to something other than Jesus

Whilst you might be able to back your feelings up with well grounded scriptures, once someone pokes through the thin veil of proof texting we can often find a darker reality below our strongly felt convictions. Often when we investigate our feelings about a subject, we will find our impulses are not coming from as rational a place as we would hope. Often the opinion will emerge from a tradition, group, or even the voice of respected people, parents, leaders etc. and any change from that opinion will mean we are (or at least feel) out of the confines of the primary place we derive belonging from.

For almost the entire history of Christianity, belonging to Jesus has not been enough for church communities and the individuals within them. Paul says already people were gathering around the sub-set teachings of Paul, Apollos and even Jesus in a way that was not serving the Kingdom but rather, self-serving their emotional need for belonging. I am not talking about the various ‘stands for truth’ which have taken place throughout scripture for better or worse, but rather the way that our espoused desire for doctrinal purity maybe not be as honest and that our emotional needs also lurk beneath it.

Again and again, Jesus invites us to reconsider in the presence of Holy Spirit whether we inherited beliefs from a religious system or whether we have engage the renewal of our minds, and restoration of our lives in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As soon as language like ‘conversation’ or ‘process’ comes out for issues that are strongly felt, suddenly accusations of ‘liberalism’ and really any other word that will get the other person to shut up raise their voice. The desire to have someone else just shut up invariably emerges out of a place of fear. Cultural Christianity does have good reasons to be fearful, we are losing our place of privilege in society, and although there are certainly aspects to be grieved about that, I think there are a few reasons to feel quite hopeful.

A Hopeful way forward in societies that no longer honours its Christian roots

The Church mainstream has not had to stand apart from or against the general cultural flow and this trend will make Christianity much harder to opt into for the sake of comfort or moralism, this inevitably means Christians will have to think harder, reflect more consistently, speak with conviction, act courageously and love more intentionally that ever before.

In the midst of these strongly felt issues there are always loud voices, who broadly fall into both the YES and NO categories that I am embarrassed to be Christian alongside. There are few people who are articulating the type of nuance that separates the multitude of issues this conversation brings up;

  • Church vs Society,
  • Sin vs Damnation,
  • Witness vs Holiness

But from the plurality of voices getting airtime, especially around this current issue of homosexuality I have appreciated the thoughtfulness of Tim Keller. Keller is a church leader in New York City – He has more reason than most to bend to cultural pressure to adjust his convictions, and does not. Neither does he fall into the conservative hero trap of self-congratulatory crusading whatever the cost, He is thoughtfully responding in the public square and for that we can be grateful.

Watch his responses here at the Veritas Forum where he responds with grace and nuance to a somewhat accusatory host.

Here is the skill and integrity of this approach that Keller takes, skills that Christians will need to begin developing in order to not fall into shouting past their perceived enemies;

  • Affirming the scriptural and historical basis for homosexuality not contributing to God’s intended human flourishing, of which sexuality is a part.
  • The call of Christians is also to love their neighbour, especially those who oppose them, unto death.
  • A Christian is supposed to say; “I serve the needs of all my neighbours in the city, whether hindu or muslim, gay or straight.
  • Owning the hypocrisy of the wider church in loving certain neighbours, but recoiling in disgust at this sin.
  • Using humour to derail aggression – “Heterosexuality does not get you into heaven, I happen to know this personally”.
  • Finally, He finds a way to disciple in the public forum by explaining what sin is, sharing the Gospel which is centred on the work of Jesus and not a self-righteouss moralism.

Where ever you land on the multitude of issues relating to homosexuality, it is not going away, not societally, not pastorally, and hopefully not scripturally either, and we will have to find thoughtful engaged responses that speak much deeper than our dismissive YES or NO’s.

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2 Comments on “Scripture or Love – The false dichotomy created by the current debate surrounding Homosexuality

  1. This is a great response by Tim. Not giving up the biblical worldview yet being humble about it. He is speaking the truth in love, seems biblical 😉

  2. This is the most sensible, considered article I have read thus far on this topic. Kellers response too.

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