A Critical Analysis of The NALT Christians ProjectPosted: September 7, 2013
The NALT Christians Project (NALT being short for “Not All Like That”), is basically a website that features video testimonies from people who mistakenly believe and express that homosexual relations are not sinful. One blogger characterised the group as “the Christians who are opposed to the Christians who are opposed to gays”. Id say it’s more a case of being the supposed Christians who are opposed to the Christians who are opposed to gay theology, but anyway…
They are almost akin to an emerging denomination, under the priesthood of some rather unpious leaders. The website lists 3 people as being co-founders; John Shore, a gay advocate blogger and ‘pastor’ ordained by the “Progressive Christian Alliance”; Wayne Besen, a gay activist who tends to neither affirm or deny whether he is a Christian; and newcomer activist and instigator, Evan Hurst. On the website, Hurst refers to himself as “culturally Protestant” probably implying that he doesnt actually consider himself to be actually Protestant, or even Christian. The website lists Shore and Besen as being contacts, along with Dan Savage, whose It’s Gets Better campaign apparently inspired the website, and of whom it states “Dan was raised Catholic and still considers himself a cultural Catholic”. Other websites refer to Dan as an agnostic and it’s been pointed out that he is soon due to receive an award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Dan has previously expressed that he believes the Bible rules out homosexual sex, but that the church should disregard that ruling. So of these four key players, two identify themselves as merely culturally Christian, one doesnt take a stance one way or the other, and one is a pastor who has reportedly said that theology follows sociology, stating “It changed when it came to slavery, it changed when it came to women’s suffrage, it will change with this issue.” IE the pastor tends to believe that Christianity can be whatever the culture wants it to be.
The website is a cynical attempt by non-christians and a pastor who does not take the Bible literally, to encourage people with poor theology to rally together and promote a false gospel that supports a particular sin. The indications are that the organisers dont really care about Christian truth. Their priority is to promote homosexual relations as non-sinful, and for them, Christianity is just a flexible theme rather than a stable foundation. Exhibit A is the fact that the website displays the infamous video from Matthew Vines that argues that same-sex marriage does not violate Christian teaching, whilst offering no indication of the widespread criticism that the video has received from more respected theologians. How misleading. Exhibit B is the poor theology they repeat, despite the various elements long having being refuted in numerous websites and other publications (EG1, EG2, EG3). And exhibit C is lack of Christian commitment from those behind the establishment of the organisation.
A page of the website, titled The Bible Does NOT Condemn Homosexuality, details the beliefs of the group. Below, I’ll quote sections from that page in italics (although unfortunately this has the effect of making any text that they had in italics themselves, to be indistinguishable ) and Ill respond with my own commentary in a non-italicised font –
The Bible is very often used as “proof” that Christians should condemn homosexuality.
Yes, true. It is the Bible after all, and it does condemn homosexual sex (although it doesnt condemn those who are same-sex attracted and are chaste).
But that is a terribly false and mistaken reading of the Bible.
No it’s not, but I guess we will get into the details in a moment.
Here is why no one—and especially no Christian—should use the Bible as a weapon against LGBT people:
A weapon? Has anyone advocated using the Bible as a weapon against people? That would be sinful. Why such emotive wording?
Compassion for others is the fundamental cornerstone of Christian ethics; the Bible is the bedrock of the Christian faith. What Christian can possibly choose between the two?
The answer is that no Christian is called upon to make that choice.
Well it depends a bit on what you mean by ‘compassion’. There are times when God asks Christians to do things which some would describe as not being compassionate, but which others might describe as “hard yet for their own good”. For example in 1 Corinthians 5:11, St Paul writes “… 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.” And what about Matthew 5:32 which states “anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Is this website claiming that wedding celebrants/pastors should feel no need to reject a request to preside over a wedding ceremony where divorcees get married? Should the celebrant reject Matthew 5:32 because to do otherwise would be to lack compassion? I dont think so. 1 Corinthians 8 teaches that it is sinful for you to allow your example to lead others into sin. Yes, sometimes a Christian needs to prioritise God’s will over the desires of others.
The text of the Bible on one hand, and full equality for gay and lesbian people on the other, is a false dichotomy. God would not ask or expect Christians to ever choose between their compassion and their faith.
What would full equality mean then? I guess it would mean that gay and lesbian Christians should be able to do whatever heterosexual Christians can do, right? So if heterosexual Christians can marry and engage in intimacy with each other, then gay Christians should be able to marry and engage in intimacy with each other? Well no, that would violate Leviticus 18 etc which teaches that gay sexual intimacy is sinful. So in a sense, yes God does expect Christians to sometimes choose between their compassion and their faith, but their compassion is part of their faith, so it’s not really a case of one or the other.
Reconciling the Bible with unqualified acceptance and equality for LGBT people does not necessitate discounting, recasting, or deconstructing the Bible. All it takes is reading those passages of the Bible wherein homosexuality is mentioned with the same care that we would any other passage of the book.
Sorry I doubt you are right about this, but let’s hear your rationale.
We Christians can trust God; we can trust that God is loving.
And we can trust that we can—and that we certainly should—take God, in this matter, as in all things, at his word.
If there is no clearly stated directive in the Bible to marginalize and ostracize gay people, then it is morally indefensible for Christians to continue to do so.
Homosexuality is briefly mentioned in only six or seven of the Bible’s 31,173 verses. … While the Bible is nearly silent on homosexuality …
I think you have just contradicted yourself. Mentioning something 6 or 7 times is far from being silent about it. We should also note the 6 or 7 times is only a count of the more direct references to it. In addition there are further verses that speak to the subject indirectly.
Christians evaluate the degree of sin, or even whether or not a real sin has occurred, by looking at both the harm caused by the sin, and the intent of the sin’s perpetrator. They do, that is, for all sins except homosexuality.
I dont think this is the case. If someone gets drunk, I think it’s a sin no matter whether harm was caused or not. It’s true that if high levels of harm are caused by a sin, then it’s thought of as being worse. But this also applies to homosexual behaviour, EG a homosexual rape is generally regarded as more sinful than consensual homosexual sex.
The Bible isn’t a rulebook
Sure it’s not just a rulebook. But it’s hardly reasonable to claim that it’s not a rulebook at all! Amongst other things, it also contains policy, IE rules!
In practice, Christians do not follow the dictates of the Old Testament. If they did, polygamy would be legal, and things like tattoos, wearing mixed fabrics, eating pork, and seeding lawns with a variety of grasses would be forbidden. If Christians followed the dictates of the Old Testament, then today if the parents of a new bride could not, upon her husband’s request, prove that she was a virgin, that bride would have to be stoned to death. Christians would also have to stone to death any Christian guilty of adultery.
This is an oversimplification. The reason Christians do not usually practice polygamy, is not because Christians ignore the Old Testament, but because the New Testament, which supersedes the Old, portrays monogamy as the Christian way. The same is true about eating pork and stoning people. Jesus expressed opposition to those Old Testament laws. But he expressed no opposition to the Old Testament policy on homosexuality. In fact Jesus is depicted in the New Testament as affirming heterosexual relationships as the Christian model (Matthew 19). Other passages in the New Testament also refer to homosexual sex as sinful.
In the clobber passages Paul condemns the coercive, excessive, and predatory same-sex sexual activity practiced by the Romans—and would have condemned the same acts had they been heterosexual in nature.
There is little foundation for this claim. Read through Romans chapter 1, and note how in verse 27 it states “the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.” The attractions are presented as though they are most likely mutual. There is no indication in this passage or in 1 Corinthians 6 etc, of reference to coercive, excessive or predatory activity. Certainly in that era it was not unusual for homosexual relationships to include an age or authority imbalance, and some of these relationships may have been exploitative. But today although we dont have slavery in the West, there are still some homosexual relationships with an age imbalance of some decades and the participants do not regard this as exploitative. If it’s not exploitative now, then it wasnt necessarily always exploitative back then when Paul wrote of it. Romans chapter 1 expresses that the shameful element of what it is describing is not an element of being coercive, excessive or predatory, but rather it describes the lusts and sexual acts as shameful and the exchanging of natural for unnatural (verses 26-27). Why ignore the reasoning that the Bible actually provides?
Yes, Paul condemned the same-sex sexual activity he saw around him—because it was coercive, without constraint, and between older men and boys.
Again this doesnt match the words that I read from Paul. The NIV translation words it in Romans 1:26-27 “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men”. It doesnt say “men committed shameful acts with boys”. If Paul had wanted to highlight an age gap between the participants as being the problem, he could have used a Greek word for pedophiles, such aspaiderastes (Plato, Symposium, 192b), but he didnt. Paul expresses no concern about age differences here, but he does express concern about the gender mix. Again, why ignore the reasoning that the Bible actually provides?
The Bible’s clobber passages were written about same-sex acts between heterosexual persons, and do not address the subject of homosexual acts between a committed gay couple, because the concept of a person being homosexual did not exist at the time the Bible was written.
On the website, quotations are included from the Oxford Classical Dictionary to prove the point. But as I mentioned above, read through Romans chapter 1, and note how in verse 27 it states “the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.” If these were heterosexual persons, how is it possible that they were inflamed with lust for members of their own gender? It’s simply not true that the concept of a person being same-sex attracted did not exist at the time the Bible was written. That claim has been dismissed a long time ago (more details here). I dont think it’s safe to assume that the Oxford Classical Dictionary is entirely accurate on this topic. Given the historical records of people engaging in homosexual relationships, and the details revealed eg here for example, it seems to me that the OCD overstates its case. And we should note that the relevant scriptures do not make reference to sexual orientation, but rather to sexual acts. In Leviticus for example, it does not state that a straight man should not lay with another straight man, but rather it seems to state that any man should not lay with any other man. The New Testament references take much the same approach.
Because there was no concept of gay marriage when the Bible was written, the Bible does not, and could not, address the sinfulness of homosexual acts within the context of gay marriage.
And how do we know there was no concept of gay marriage when the Bible was written? We know that the concept was referred to around 300 AD. And it’s known that the ancient Jews talked of how marriage was not appropriate between members of the same gender. The above quoted statement misses the point that when the Bible portrays homosexual sex as sinful, it does so without specifying a context. It doesnt state that homosexual sex is sinful because it’s outside of marriage. It just says that homosexual sex is sinful. The Bible says that having sex with an animal is sinful too (Lev. 18), and I dont think that marrying the animal would mean that the sex is no longer sinful!
“The greatest of these is love”
Yes indeed. Christians have often not really loved homosexual people, but have instead kept them at a distance or even said nasty things about them. Christians are supposed to love their neighbours, and this includes their homosexual neighbours, even while not condoning sin.
And that is a good note on which to end.