News has emerged of a religious guru who was “using his warped brand of evangelical Pentecostalism to run a clandestine homosexual sex ring”. According to the ABC, members of the cult have reportedly said that -
bizarre sexual rituals were carried out in secret by the cult leader, who described himself as “The Anointed One” with the Lord’s authorisation to sidestep biblical commands against homosexuality and sexually train his male members into submission and obedience.
The cult began in the Bavarian region of Germany. A former member of the cult has lamented that
“in Bavaria kids have no concept of the Bible and very little concept of religion per se, so really he could have told us anything and we would have believed it.“
Sadly, lack of knowledge about what the Bible teaches, has led to similar misunderstandings in churches around the world, not just about sexuality, but about an endless array of topics.
Canada has taken some significantly leftist turns in the past say, decade. At times they have had some of the most restrictive laws concerning speech that offends others, arguably travelling down the dangerous road away from freedom of speech. Oh gosh, listen to me “fear mongering”. At least people wernt getting offended, right! Phew.
Canada was also one of the first countries to convert marriage into an institution that is no longer directly aligned with the biological process of raising families. In Canada marriage was redefined so that gay couples dont feel left out – a change that has continued to spread to other countries. The worry of people feeling left out, is presumably also the reason why Quebec decided to publicly fund IVF treatment for lesbian or gay couples. Increasingly, it seems that in Canada, ensuring that everyone is at peace and everyone is equal, is more important than functional logic. If the West begins to ease legal ‘discrimination’ against polygamy by redefining marriage so that it is no longer limited to two people, I have a hunch that Canada would be at the forefront once again.
So with Canada having the reputation of being a country that is largely a national group hug, images of an adult group punch-up came as a surprise recently. The violence resulted in a case of concussion and hospitalisation in July when “tempers flared between pro Palestinian and pro Israeli protesters …” according to the Calgary Sun (for details, select the image). The violence in Calgary was infinitely small compared with conflict in countries in the Middle East, but I saw it as a reminder that radical attempts to legislate equality, are not a panacea.
When Jesus’ disciples told him that a lifetime married to a woman, with no option for divorce, was not necessarily an desirable path, Jesus reflected on an alternative; the life of a eunuch.
Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Matthew chapter 19
What seems particularly remarkable to me, is that there are those who choose to live like eunuchs. So what are eunuchs, and are there people today who prefer to live as eunuchs rather than enter heterosexual marriage for life? Yes, apparently, according to this article -
The following is part of feedback received on this blog site recently, from someone who described himself as a gay man.
“Mr [X] comments gave me for the first time in my entire life the deep feeling that God might actually love me”
Troubled by this, I replied as follows -
“… Im very saddened to hear once again the perception that gay people often have; that God may not love them. I dont recall such a perspective being taught in churches Ive attended, and I still find it strange that people believe it, despite the fact that the Christian phrase “love the sinner …” is so widely known. Are you able to help me grasp where the message that “god hates gays” comes from? The only source that comes to my mind is the tiny yet vocal group known as Westborro Baptist Church. Are there any large or mainstream groups that teach that god hates gay people?
God does love you Robert, very much.”
It’s been some days now and Robert has not responded, so I doubt that he will. But Ive continued to ponder where he would have heard the lie that God hates gay people. Certainly there are many good Christians who point out that God hates sin, including gay sex. And certainly there have been Christians of the past who have been inarticulate or just uneducated about what aspects of homosexuality are sinful, and have likely given others the incorrect impression that God hates gay people. But do conservative Christian ministries still say that God hates gays? I cant think of any recent incidences of this. Can you?
So who is keeping the “god hates gays” line alive in today’s broader conversation? From what Ive noticed recently, it’s the gay activists who are keeping it alive. Yesterday I read an article online that included reference to GLBT people, mentioning -
“… a church that calls you abnormal, crazy, “intrinsically disordered,” and asserts that God hates you enough for who you are to send you to an eternal hell …”
And a few days prior, a key leader of the Metropolitan Community ‘Church’ released a statement which said in part -
“We categorically reject the disastrous religious dogma that God wants Christians to hate some people.”
Which of course raises the question – if gay people think that God might hate them, is this belief due to what conservative Christians have expressed, or is it because of what gay activists have expressed? Perhaps it’s increasingly the latter.
Which sexual practises are morally acceptable? Is gay marriage approved by God? What about pedophilia? The Bible teaches that both are sin. Some academics say both are fine -
Others will counter this, claiming that the two are quite different, since one involves consent and one does not. But is that argument as strong as they think it is? Probably not -
And what about polygamy? As a blogger pointed out in the following link, Scripture is clearer in its condemnation of gay sex, than it is of advocacy for monogamy -
In recent years, President Obama has put a lot of effort into advancing the status of GLBT people; EG making affirming statements, changing laws in areas relevant to marriage, and promoting GLBT’s to positions of authority in law and international relations.
And he’s rather pleased about what’s been done in this area. As part of remarks made during celebrations of LGBT Pride Month 2014, Obama enthused: “We’ve got a lot to be proud of”.
Or have we? I suppose it depends how you measure progress. GLBTs probably face a more compassionate US than the less-than-Christian violence and persecution that has featured at times in the past. And those who see nothing wrong with homosexuality ought to be jubilant at the changes under Obama. But certainly there are elements of the Gay US that serve as a reality check, even for the gay activists. Joseph Sciambra, for example, writes that in the realm of HIV/AIDs, some regions of the US are doing worse than countries in Africa. He’s posted a damning article here, that raises the question of whether the progressives are ultimately making gay progress at all:
On June 28th, what many of us have long hoped for, finally happened – the infamous Matthew Vines finally participated in a debate with a Christian who is well versed in the Bible and homosexuality. The debate lasted almost an hour and was hosted by Up for Debate, a programme on Moody Bible Radio.
The next day, Vines confided to friends in a facebook group that he wasnt initially aware that the show was to be a debate with Dr Brown, and inferred that he likely would not have agreed to participate so if he’d known. Vines added that after finding this was Moody’s plan, he didnt want to back out in case it made himself look bad.
A recording of the debate is available below. And here’s my take on how it went.
The host, Julie Roys, began saying the programme was “not a formal debate”, but rather an “open discussion.” All 3 parties were warm and welcoming. Julie invited Matthew to speak first, and let him speak for some time. She began by asking him why Christians should be open to re-examining what Scripture says about homosexuality.
Matthew responded saying that he is gay and Christian, implying that he is proof that you can be both. He then said that when he came out as gay, he was faced with two choices; “I had really two options; I could pursue lifelong celibacy or I could seek out a committed long-term same sex relationship.” He noted that the latter option would not be approved by his home church. But I think it’s notable that he presented only two options. He not did specify the more Biblical approach of a life-long monogamous relationship as an option, and he did not specify the pathway of most western gay males – short term and non-monogamous relationships. Why did he only present two options? Was he trying to mislead the audience about what his options were?
Speaking of those in his home church who regard homosexual relations as sinful, he said “Most of them ground their views in six passages in Scripture. Three in the old Testament and three in the New Testament that refer to same sex behaviour. And so when I … was in a fork in the road and needing to figure out where to go, I spent a lot of time studying those six passages” Reading between the lines, the sceptic in me would translate what he said to be: His home church was telling him that homosexual relationships were not allowed, so he spent a lot of time trying to explain away what the Bible says.
But if he was only looking at six passages, then that perhaps explains half of the problem – he hasnt spent enough time on the other Scriptures which talk of heterosexual relationships being the sole model for Christian relationships.
Vines continued “… and the basic conclusions that Ive come to and that I outline in my book are that while all six references in the Bible to same-sex behaviour are negative, none of them directly address or envision the prospect of long-term, faithful same-sex relationships that are based on commitment and love.” And how does he know that they dont envision long-term, faithful same-sex relationships that are based on love? He doesnt say, despite this being his fundamental argument! Nudge, nudge Dr Brown!
Vines then proceeded tells us that (contrary what many Christians would say) he doesnt believe Leviticus needs to be followed by Christians, and that Romans 1 doesnt relate to loving gay relationships. And we know from what he has said elsewhere that he doesnt believe that Gen. 19, 1 Cor. 6:9 or 1 Tim. 1:10 apply to loving gay relationships either. In other words, he believes that none of those 6 passages relate to loving gay relationships. Yep, although he believes that the Bible repeatedly refers to homosexual relations in the negative, he believes that the Bible provides says nothing specific about whether gay relationships are sanctioned. What kind of unlikely tortured logic is that, to say that the 6 most relevant passages are actually irrelevant? Unless Vines is arguing for gay relationships that are non-sexual (and Vines has never articulated such a stance), it’s a rather thin argument to say that gay relationships are okay despite the fact that the Bible repeatedly and only portrays gay relations as sinful.
Vines then said “… we then need to ask can same-sex unions be consistent with Scripture’s basic vision for marriage and human sexuality. I think according to the New Testament, the basic vision of marriage in the New Testament is about continental love and self-giving, which same-sex unions can be consistent with and that’s why I think Christians should support same-sex relationships for gay Christians.” Again, this is where Vines has focused far too much on six passages rather than the message of the Bible overall. In addition to being too quick and dogmatic in dismissing 6 of the most relevant passages, he’s missed or is ignoring the fact that the Bible consistently portrays Christian romantic relationships as either exclusively or inherently heterosexual (Eg Gen 2, Mat 19, Eph 6).
After Vines goes on to say that the belief that homosexual relations are sinful, is emotionally harmful to gays, Dr Brown was finally invited to speak. Brown made some very good points, including:
- the bible only ordains heterosexual relationships and under all circumstances condemns homosexual relationships
– many Scriptures dont fit well or seem unbalanced if Christian congregations are supposed to include gay couples, eg Ephesians 5 “husbands love your wives” or Mark 10:7. If Christian congregations are supposed to include gay couples, then surely the Scriptures which specifically refer to heterosexual couples, would also include reference to homosexual couples.
– interpreting the Bible through the lens of your sexuality as Matthew is doing, is a reversal of how we should interpret our sexuality through the lens of the Bible. IE we should deny ourselves and follow Jesus rather than firstly affirming ourselves and making the Gospel fit into that.
– It’s a peculiar idea that the Bible can explicitly speak against something, yet if you do it repeatedly in a loving way it supposedly becomes redeemed.
– You cant judge Scriptures based on how they make you feel. EG the rich young ruler in the gospels, went away sad due to the need to follow Christian principles he didnt like
– Some homosexuals do turn straight
Julie then took a phone call from someone claiming to be an ex-lesbian, which tied in nicely. Matthew responded, kinda contradicting what he said in his classic video, saying that some may change their orientation. However, he cites ex-gay leader Alan Chambers saying that 99.9% dont. Matthew then developed a more focused tone and clarified; “This entire conversation that we are having about gay Christians and their committed relationships is not a conversation that the Christian tradition has been having before the mid 20th century. It’s not a conversation that Scripture directly addresses. In that sense Im not arguing for the overturning of 2000 years of church history. Im simply acknowledging that we are in a new situation, faced with a new issue of gay Christians. And I think that the best evidence for that claim is the fact that until the mid 20th century, [in] all Christian writings pertaining to same-sex behaviour, there is no recognition of the fact that mandatory lifelong celibacy would be the consequence for anyone of a total rejection of same-sex relationships. Once we realise that that’s the consequence even for some people, that puts us in a new interpretative environment that makes us ask that same fork-in-the-road style question that I was posting earlier.“
Dr Brown then responded – “Yea that’s the whole fatal flaw of Matthew’s argument. It’s saying that God himself did not understand the concept of sexual orientation. Which is outrageous. And that He inspired the writers of the Scripture to write things that would be terribly harmful to same-sex attracted people. Because if sexual orientation is a true concept, it’s existed through the ages. So God inspired people to write the opposite of that, to hurt people for 3000 years until somehow the aftermath of the sexual revolution when our sexual morality is in massive decline all around us we discover this new thing called sexual orientation which allegedly Jesus, when he looked into the heart and soul of human beings – John 2:25 – he knew what was in men, he didnt get this. He didnt understand this. And Paul, who in his culture saw long term male-male commitments as historians will tell you, loving long-term commitments, that he didnt get it right either and he wrote things that were so destructive. You have to overturn the Bible to hold Matthew’s position. Because Paul says “yes, not everyone be celibate, therefore let every man have a wife and let every woman have a husband.” That’s his solution, which remarkably, Matthew doesnt quote in his book because it undermines his whole position.“
And Dr Brown has a good point here, cutting through Vines’ central thesis. IE Vines claims that we are dealing with something new. But how could that make sense? Surely if there are gay people today, then there would have equally been gay people in Jesus’ day. So as Brown indicates, how can this be new? And if gay relationships are not sinful, it doesnt make sense that neither Jesus nor Paul catered to them at the time. If Vines is right, it seems very odd that Jesus isnt specifically on record as saying that the Leviticus passages are to no longer be regarded as valid. If Vines is right, it is very odd that St Paul’s apparent allusion to homosexual sex in Rom 1:27 is worded “shameful acts” as though it’s the act that is shameful rather than the context as Vines suggests. If Vines is right, it’s very odd that an omniscient god would allow the Bible to appear to oppose homosexual sex for millennia.
Dr Brown soon raises the example of a man who is only attracted to young girls, asking whether such a man should proceed with his attractions on the grounds that he cant be celibate for life. Dr Brown said some are celibate and happy and others who have turned straight, but ultimately we must surrender to God. Dr Brown also said that Alan Chambers statement was an exaggeration, and that Chambers had lost his way – hence some of his partner ministries left him. Dr Brown said that whether you are gay or straight, in Jesus you have everything you need. Dr Brown continued, saying “Again Paul was fully aware of long term committed male-male relationships in his day. It was not all abusive, it was not all pederasty.” And he added “... the Bible is not just against homosexual practise when it’s excessive or lustful or pederastic. It’s against it at its very core. That’s why Leviticus 18 – by the way this is a universal prohibition – Levitcus 18 is for all people for all time. Read the text from beginning to end. God judged the pagans for this, not just Israel for this. This was not like food laws and things like that which were given to them to keep them separate which were abominations for them but not for everyone. Homosexual practise is universal abomination …“
Vines responded by saying Leviticus 18 existed to promote patriarchy, and does not apply to Christians today. Not a comment that will endear him to evangelicals.
By this point, the show was reaching the end of its timeslot. In the wrap up, Vines raised doubt on whether there exists any text contemporaneous to St Paul, referring to homosexual relationships where the partners were of equal status. And it seems that yes, such evidence is thin on the ground. But does that prove anything? An argument from silence, casts some doubt, but the 99.x% of us who have little idea how extensive the first century historical record actually is, are left simply guessing whether this is a compelling argument. [Update: did Vines kinda answer his own question, here when he refers to NT Wright and Vases?]
Julie’s concluding statement indicated that she was not convinced by Vine’s arguments. Neither am I. I doubt many of the audience were either. After the debate, various friends of Matthew commented online. Some of these people were more advanced in years and experience of such public discussions, and several advised him that it would not be worthwhile to engage in further such debates on the topic.