Author Archive | Denny Burk

Is the Pope right about the Lord’s Prayer?

Last week, The New York Times reported that Pope Francis wishes to change the English translation of the Lord’s Prayer. From the article:

Pope Francis said the common rendering of one line in the prayer — “lead us not into temptation” — was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does.

“A father doesn’t do that,” the pope said. “He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”

In essence, the pope said, the prayer, from the Book of Matthew, is asking God, “When Satan leads us into temptation, You please, give me a hand.”

French Catholics adopted such a linguistic change this week, and the pope suggested that Italian Catholics might want to follow suit.

I think the exegetical case for this change is pretty weak. The words and phrases simply don’t mean what Pope Francis wants them to mean. I agree with Tony Esolen, who writes:

The words of Jesus are clear. The original Greek is not ambiguous. There is no variant hiding in the shelves. We cannot go from an active verb, indicative mood, present tense, second person singular, with a clear direct object, to a wholly different verb—”do not allow”—completed by an infinitive that is nowhere in the text—”to fall”—without shifting from translation to theological exegesis. The task of the translator, though he should be informed by the theological, cultural, and linguistic context of the time, is to render what the words mean, literally, even (perhaps especially) when those words sound foreign to our ears.

I couldn’t agree more. I do not deny that there is a hermeneutical spiral or that theology shapes our interpretation of the biblical text. Nevertheless, it is bad translation and bad discipleship to deny the meaning of biblical words simply because they don’t line up with human estimations of the way God ought to behave. In this case, it is hermeneutical malpractice to change the translation in an attempt to force God’s revelation onto a procrustean bed.

But if the words don’t mean what the Pope suggests, then what does “Do not lead us into temptation” mean? I make four suggestions that need to figure in to any faithful rendering of this text:

1. God doesn’t need us to get him off the hook.

The Pope’s translation is designed to get God off the hook for leading people into temptation. After all, if we pray not to be led into temptation, then failure to make this request suggests that God might lead us into temptation, right? Well, not so fast. As R. T. France points out:

A negative request does not necessarily imply that the positive is otherwise to be expected – a husband who says to his wife, “Don’t ever leave me,” is not necessarily assuming that she is likely to do so.”
France, The Gospel of Matthew, 251

The Pope is trying to solve a theological dilemma that is actually no dilemma at all. Praying not to be led into temptation doesn’t mean that God otherwise would lead us into sin. It means that we are simply praying in line with God’s will.

2. God exercises agency in our trials.

The Pope wishes to deemphasize God’s agency in leading us into “temptation.” Nevertheless, the text clearly indicates God’s agency. “Lead us not” is an imperative active verb. It’s an appeal for God to actively guide our paths away from trials of various kinds. Commentator John Nolland expresses it this way:

Various attempts have been made to spare God the responsibility for where we find ourselves. A Semitic original may have been ambiguous, but our Greek text is not. The OT is quite comfortable with the idea that God puts his people to the test (LXX peirosmos), and more generally with the idea that in an important sense we receive from the hand of God what we experience (e.g., Job 2:10).
Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 291-92

That God leads his people in and out of testing is well-established in scripture (Gen. 22:1; Deut. 8:2), and we shouldn’t be surprised to see a similar notion reflected in the Lord’s prayer.

3. “Temptation” may refer more generally to a “trial” or “test.”

The word translated as “temptation” is the Greek term peirosmos. Its basic meaning is “trial” or “test.” For example:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing” (1 Pet. 4:12).

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials” (1 Pet. 1:6).

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2).

In every one of these texts, peirosmos simply refers to a “test” or “trial” designed to show the true character of the one being tested. That is the ordinary sense of the term.

If “test” or “trial” is the fundamental meaning of the term, then why is it sometimes rendered as “temptation”? The reason is simple. Some tests are designed to entice a person to sin, and some are not. Trials that are designed to entice someone to sin are precisely the kinds of “trials” that should be rendered as “temptations.” That is why Jesus’ confrontation with the Devil in the wilderness is often called a “temptation” and not simply a “test.”

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).

On the one hand, the Devil clearly intended to entice Jesus to sin through trials. On the other hand, Satan is not the only one with agency in this verse. The text says that God the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for this test. Did the Spirit intend to entice Jesus to sin? No, he did not. God does not tempt anyone to do evil (James 1:13).

The Spirit’s design for the trial was different from Satan’s. Consequently, this one use of peirosmos is pulling double duty in this text. The Spirit led Jesus to this “trial” in order to prove Jesus’ pious obedience. The Devil intended the trial to be an enticement to sin. In other words, the trial that Satan intended for evil, God meant for good.

What sense does the term have in the Lord’s prayer? Trial or temptation? The answer is probably both. When we pray, “lead us not into temptation,” it likely means, lead me not into the trials that Satan designs to entice me to sin but which you design to prove my character.

But this raises a question. If God intends trials to prove a disciple’s character, then why would a disciple ask to be delivered from such trials? And that leads to one final observation.

4. It is good and right to pray for deliverance from trials that God intends for our good.

Scripture affirms that it is good and right to ask God for deliverance from trial. Our prayers in the midst of trial, therefore, should include humble entreaties for divine help, comfort, and deliverance.

  1. Jesus modeled this kind of prayer: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matt. 26:39).
  2. Paul modeled this kind of prayer: “There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me– to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me” (2 Cor. 12:7-8).
  3. The Psalmists modeled this kind of prayer: “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from those who do iniquity, And save me from men of bloodshed” (Psalm 59:1-2).
  4. God designs the trial precisely so that you will trust him for deliverance and cry out to him in this way: “We had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9).

The truth is that God plans our trials for our good. And our crying out to him for deliverance is not a rejection of God’s purpose in our suffering. Rather, it’s the expression of God’s purpose in our suffering. When we cry out for deliverance from a trial (e.g. a disease, an enemy, etc.), we are showing that our trust is in the Lord. And even if he does not give us temporal deliverance, our crying out to him demonstrates our trust in him and our confidence that deliverance will eventually arrive one way or the other.

So how does this work out practically? Let’s flesh it out with respect to a trial like cancer. The Lord’s prayer teaches us to pray not to get cancer (“lead us not into trial”). But if we do get cancer, it teaches us to pray for holiness and healing (“deliver us from evil”). In short, it teaches us to cry out to God in our most desperate moments and to find God right there with us in the midst of the trial.

“By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

To adopt the Pope’s translation is to lose the precious truth that God does exercise agency over our trials. His loving providential care extends over every area of our lives, from our deepest joys to our most profound pain. His sovereign hand over all of these things is what gives us the confidence that he has the ability to hear and answer prayer in the first place. Let’s not back away from God’s agency in our trials. Rather, let’s press into it for the Lord’s sake and for our own.

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It’s formally a subjunctive, but it functions here as a prohibition or negative command.

Who will stand for the children if their own parents won’t?

It is a shame that there is need for a video like the one above, but there is. Doctors are telling parents to put their gender-confused children on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone therapies which eventually render them infertile for life. Some are even recommending the surgical removal of functioning reproductive organs. All of these harmful therapies are in the service of a destructive, untested transgender ideology.

Who will stand for the children if the parents won’t?

Parents, don’t be taken-in by the erroneous, totalizing claims of transgender ideologues. Protect your child from destructive “therapies” that are irreversible and that cause permanent bodily damage. If you don’t stand, it is very unlikely that anyone else in the medical community will.

The Daily Signal has a transcript of the video above at the following link: “I’m a Pediatrician. Here’s What I Did When a Little Boy Patient Said He Was a Girl.”

The Lesser of Two Evils Does Not Vindicate Evil

Sohrab Ahmari has written a penetrating op-ed for The New York Times titled, “Supporting Roy Moore Is a Devil’s Bargain.” I agree with just about everything in this piece, but I want to highlight one part of it that evangelicals would do well to pay attention to.

Ahmari points out that many evangelical voters felt that the binary choice of the 2016 election meant that voting for a morally compromised candidate was necessary in order to preserve the Supreme Court and to advance the social conservative cause. And then Ahmari highlights this defense from evangelical Trump supporters:

Well, respond the Trumpian conservatives, our vote is just the opener. We will call our leaders’ moves as we see them — the good and the bad.

Except they don’t. They might take issue with this or that White House policy. But they rarely if ever call out the president’s moral degradations. And such criticism is the only kind that truly irritates Mr. Trump.

This point needs to be underlined. I understand why some evangelicals felt they had no choice but to support a compromised candidate because of the binary nature of the general election. I disagree with that calculation for reasons that I made well-known throughout 2015-2016. I still disagree with it. Having said that, I understand and am sympathetic with those who felt constrained by the poor alternatives before them. I disagree with the decision, but I get it. I really do.

But the choice to support a candidate that one knows is morally compromised also brings with it an obligation to be morally consistent. You still have to call balls and strikes with your morally compromised candidate. The lesser-of-two-evils approach to voting is not a vindication of the “lesser” evil. The so-called “lesser” evil is after all still evil. And evil doesn’t become good simply because someone else’s evil is perceived to be greater.

And that means that you cannot pretend that a politician’s obvious moral degradations are irrelevant. Nor can you turn a blind eye and pretend that they don’t exist. In short, you have to recognize evil as evil and cannot treat it as something else. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

Nor does the lesser-of-two-evils approach to voting relieve the Christian of his obligation to speak and bear witness to truth. Why? Because such a Christian now has the burden of proof that his principles are not beholden to earthly partisan interests but to the eternal and unchanging word of God.

That means that when the president says or does something morally bankrupt, it is wrong for his supporters to pretend that he didn’t. It also means that when a party fields a morally compromised candidate, it is wrong for Christians in that party to turn a blind eye to the moral degradation in their midst.

The sins of another do not justify your own. Likewise, to call out the sins of the other political party while ignoring those in your own is rank hypocrisy. “You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s” (Deut. 1:17).

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Recommended: “How to Live Under an Unqualified President” by John Piper

Christian Baker Jack Phillips Gets His Day in Court

Today, Jack Phillips will finally get is day in court–the Supreme Court. The State of Colorado is attempting to force Phillips, a Christian baker, to use his artistic gifts to create a cake for a gay wedding celebration. Phillips says that creating such a cake would violate his religious beliefs. Phillips is not singling out gay weddings as uniquely objectionable. He has also declined to make Halloween cakes and cakes with risqué messages for bachelor parties. Why? Because those messages also violate his religious beliefs.

Today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the question. The Court will decide (probably in June) whether the state of Colorado can force Jack Phillips to create a message that contradicts his beliefs. What will they decide? That remains to be seen. Until they do, however, it is important to keep in mind what this case is and is not about.

I first wrote about this case over four years ago, and I have been following it very closely ever since. In that time, I have observed a raft of news reports that obscure the facts of the case. For example, The New York Times reported last summer:

The case will be a major test of a clash between laws that ban businesses open to the public from discriminating based on sexual orientation and claims of religious freedom. Around the nation, businesses like bakeries, florists and photography studios have said, so far with little success, that forcing them to serve gay couples violates their constitutional rights.

This paragraph is actually incorrect. Phillips is not discriminating against anyone because of their sexual orientation. He is not refusing service to gay couples because they are gay. In fact, he serves gay customers all the time. He is perfectly happy and willing to serve gay customers in his shop.

Earlier this year, USA Today and Religion News Service ran an article headlined, “Supreme Court will hear religious liberty challenge to gay weddings.” This one really distorts the nature of the case. Phillips is not challenging the legality of gay weddings. He’s challenging Colorado’s attempt to force him into participating in one (RNS has since corrected the headline).

And that is the real issue. Phillips does not think the state has the right to coerce him to create art that contradicts his faith. Creating a cake for the purposes of celebrating a same-sex wedding would violate his faith. And that is what he is objecting to.

You will read press reports and hear news stories claiming that he wishes to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. That is just simply not true.

How will this case ultimately be decided? The decision is likely to come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the man who was the deciding vote in both Obergefell and Windsor. David French explains the religious liberty peril before us:

If Justice Kennedy views this case primarily through the LGBT lens, then the First Amendment may well lose. Kennedy is obviously proud of his long line of LGBT-friendly precedents, and that pride has even led him to a relatively rare First Amendment misstep, so it will be critical to explain to him (and the other justices, of course) that this isn’t a case about “discrimination” but rather about forced speech. Framing matters, and the other side will wrongly frame the case as raising the specter of Jim Crow. The right framing is found in the First Amendment.

This case will likely be a watershed for how free speech and religious liberty claims are treated in the future. If the government can force Jack Phillips to create a message that contradicts his beliefs, then the state can coerce anyone to violate their conscience. Free speech and religious liberty are not just for Christians but for everyone.

If the court gets this right, it will have gone a long way to upholding our first freedom in the Bill of Rights. If the court gets this wrong, it will have gone a long way to undermine it.

How CTE may be affecting decline in NFL viewership

Clay Travis reports that TV networks are set to lose about $500 million dollars due to ratings decline in their NFL coverage. NFL viewership is down about 20% from two years ago. Many observers are blaming the decline entirely on the protests. Other observers say that the protests are just one piece of a larger picture.

Travis argues that there are four reasons for the decline: (1) kick-off times no longer concentrated on Sundays, (2) poor quarterback play, (3) the addition of two teams to Los Angeles, and (4) the protests. I highlight Travis’s article not because I wish to weigh-in on the debate about the decline in NFL viewership. I cite his article because of what he says about number two—poor quarterback play.

Travis argues that CTE is going to change the future of the quarterback position in the NFL and thus the overall quality of play. He writes:

I think the biggest threat to the NFL’s product right now is the lack of quality quarterbacks. The scary thing for the NFL? I don’t see that improving because with the CTE issues now becoming a major point of discussion across the country there are going to be fewer and fewer kids playing football. You know most parents won’t let their children box now because we know what it does to a person’s brain, what if the same thing happens with football?

You might think the declining numbers of kids playing football won’t impact things very much, but it’s important to contemplate the position that will be most impacted by this decision.

It’s quarterback.

I think CTE is likely to decimate the quarterback position in football.

That’s because quarterbacks tend to come from two parent, middle class households and the players would probably go to college even if they didn’t play football. Playing quarterback is expensive, you have to go to exclusive camps now to refine your craft and become elite.

The parents of quarterbacks are the most likely parents to pull their sons from football.

Look at the list of top quarterbacks in the NFL, how many of them needed to play football to go to college? Maybe Dak Prescott. Maybe. Are there any other star quarterbacks in the NFL that wouldn’t have gone to college without football?

Not that I know of.

That means football is something that they are choosing to do as part of many other potential activities, sports and otherwise. Football isn’t their way out of poverty, it’s just a sport they start playing and happen to be good at. Odds are most top quarterbacks in the NFL could have also been pretty good at baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, tennis or lacrosse if they’d played those sports instead.

What would happen if you took the top ten quarterbacks and removed them from the NFL? The league would be virtually unwatchable, right?

In the next decade will the Manning brothers, the Brady’s and Brees’s, the Cam Newton’s, Matt Ryan’s and Russell Wilson’s of the world play football? I doubt their parents will let them.

They’ll play other sports.

If that happens, the NFL’s bad play is going to get worse and worse in the years ahead.

Whether Travis is right about the ratings decline, I can’t say. But anecdotally, I think I can confirm what he is saying about CTE. Parents are becoming more and more aware of safety issues in football—in ways that no one was concerned about back in the olden days when I played in high school.

The trend seems to be that the more engaged parents are with their children, the more reluctant they are about football. Obviously, that is not universally the case, but it does seem to be happening in some measure. Such a trend will have inevitable consequences for the NFL in the long term, and those consequences may already be occurring.

I’m curious if readers are seeing the same thing I’m seeing. Are you reluctant to let your sons play football? Why or why not? Weigh-in on the conversation here.

Polyamory, the next sad frontier of the sexual revolution

Now that homosexuality and transgenderism are all but normalized, polyamory seems to be the next sad frontier of the sexual revolution. The latest installment of this trend appears in The New York Post’s profile of a polyamorous “throuple.”

Stories about polyamory are appearing with more and more frequency, and I have seen a theme beginning to emerge in other polyamorous profiles that I have read. Not everyone in the relationship is happy about polyamory. At least one partner wishes for monogamy but concedes to polyamory so that he won’t lose the one he wishes he could be monogamous with.

The throuple in the Post’s profile is no different. One man and woman in the relationship describe themselves as “bisexual.” A second man describes himself as “homoflexible”—by which he means homosexual but willing to accept the presence of the woman so that he doesn’t lose his man.

Readers of this blog know where I stand on this one. Any sexual relationship outside of marriage is an immoral one and does not promote God’s glory or human flourishing. I grieve that our culture has become so debased that this kind of blatant immorality could be perceived as normal or wholesome.

Acceptance of polyamory begs some fairly obvious questions about sexual morality that our culture is not prepared to answer. If sexual morality is reduced to consent, then on what basis could anyone possibly object to polyamory? If our culture is willing to accept polyamory merely based on consent, where does this end?

Yesterday’s taboos are today’s norms. Who could have imagined ten years ago how much our culture would come not only to accept but also to celebrate homosexuality and transgenderism? I can’t help but wonder what taboos today will give way in the days ahead. Incest? Bestiality? Indeed, where does this end?

Moral Clarity and Witness are the Priority, not Politics

Yesterday, I saw a portion of the emotional press conference in which another very credible woman accuses Judge Roy Moore of sexual misconduct. The New York Times reports on what she said:

The new accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, told a packed news conference in New York that Mr. Moore attacked her when she was a teenager and he was a prosecutor in Etowah County, Ala. Ms. Nelson was represented at the news conference by Gloria Allred, a lawyer who has championed victims of sexual harassment.

“I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch,” Ms. Nelson said, growing emotional as she described the assault, which she said happened one night after her shift ended at a local restaurant, where she was a waitress.

She said that Mr. Moore warned her that “no one will believe you” if she told anyone about the encounter in his car.

Ms. Allred displayed a yearbook that Ms. Nelson said had been signed by Mr. Moore, and the writing mirrored other examples of Mr. Moore’s signature.

If you haven’t seen the video of the press conference, watch it for yourself. As I said, I think this woman is very compelling and credible. And the same can be said of the other accusers who have come forward over the last week.

I am not omniscient and cannot claim any special definitive knowledge about the veracity of each and every allegation. All I can say is that from what I’ve read and seen over the last week, there is certainly enough smoke to suggest a very serious fire. Even if one does not believe the most serious allegations, everyone ought to be scandalized by the undisputed allegations—that a grown man was seeking to date underage teenage girls.

As Christians, our first response to such allegations should not be a political calculus. Our first response should be horrified compassion for those traumatized by sexual misconduct. And that response should also include moral clarity and consistency. The balance of the United States Senate is not our chief concern. Our witness is. More than anything, we must be concerned to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to its transforming power. That witness is undermined when God’s truth is set aside for any reason, much more for worldly political ends.

Yesterday before these most recent allegations came forth, Albert Mohler made the following remarks on The Briefing:

We also understand a particular responsibility to defend the defenseless and to speak up for those who need that defense, and we must make very clear that predatory sexual behavior, especially predatory sexual behavior addressed to a child, to a minor, is absolutely heinous, reprehensible, and cannot be accepted by any morally sane society. Even in our sexually confused age, we should be thankful for the fact that there is at least enough residual moral sense in the American people that they understand that any contact by an adult male with a minor female, or for that matter you could even change the genders, it’s absolutely wrong, immoral, and unacceptable. So we should at least state that about the charges right up front: If indeed the allegations are true, they are genuinely, morally devastating and they should be politically devastating as well.

I couldn’t agree more. Every person who names Jesus as Lord should agree as well.

Beauty, Order, and Mystery: A Christian Vision of Human Sexuality

Todd Wilson and Gerald Hiestand have put together a stimulating collection of essays on sexuality titled Beauty, Order, and Mystery: A Christian Vision of Human Sexuality (IVP, 2017). Contributors represent a diverse range of views within evangelicalism and include Richard Mouw, Beth Felker Jones, Wesley Hill, and yours truly.

My chapter is titled “The Transgender Test” and explores the ways that transgenderism presents a unique challenge to Christian faithfulness and witness. I argue that it is a test of biblical authority, a test of biblical message, and a test of biblical relevance.

All of the contributors participated in the 2016 conference hosted by the Center for Pastors Theologians in Oak Park, Illinois. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Humans are sexual creatures. Our sexuality can be a beautiful and mysterious expression of what it means to be human. But it can also become distorted and sinful. Perhaps no issue is as urgent for the church today, or confronts it with as many questions, as human sexuality: What does it mean to fulfill God’s will through our sexuality? To what extent should our sexuality define who we are? How can we navigate cultural trends around sexuality while being faithful to Scripture? The Center for Pastor Theologians (CPT) seeks to assist pastors in the study and production of biblical and theological scholarship for the theological renewal of the church and the ecclesial renewal of theology. Based on the 2016 annual CPT conference, this volume brings together the reflections of church leaders and academic theologians who seek to answer the urgent questions concerning human sexuality. contributors engage with Scripture, draw on examples from church history, and delve into current issues in contemporary culture, including embodiment, marriage, homosexuality, pornography, transgenderism, and gender dysphoria. Beauty, Order, and Mystery tackles difficult questions with discernment in order to offer a theological vision of faithful human sexuality for the church.

The essays are not overly technical but are accessible to ordinary lay readers. If you’re interested, you can order the book here.

12-year old boy transitions to female (then changes his mind)

60 Minutes Australia reports on a 12-year old boy who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and who decided to “transition” to become a female (watch above). With the help of his mother, he adopted a female identity, began taking female hormones, and grew breasts.

Two year later, however, at the age of 14, he changed his mind. He decided that he didn’t want to be a girl after all. But his body had already been permanently changed by the female hormones. His reversal will now require surgery, including breast reduction surgery to try and make his feminine-looking frame look more masculine.

A few thoughts on this:

1. The science conclusively demonstrates that 80-90% of children with gender confusion grow out of it by puberty, and they do so without any medical intervention at all. In light of that incontrovertible fact, everyone on all sides of this debate should agree that it is cruel and abusive to make permanent changes to the bodies of minor children based solely on their self-reported gender confusion.

2. Is gender dysphoria real? I think that it is. Some children experience real distress because of a perception that their body doesn’t match their mind. But what is the solution to this? Is it not far better to teach such children to resolve their distress in a way that affirms and embraces their biological sex? In other words, it is better to change their mind to fit their body than to amputate healthy body parts to make the body fit the troubled mind.

3. God’s “purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences. The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God” (source). Among those “short-sighted” alternatives are gender transitions of minor children. That radical measure is but one of the ways that people are harmed by failing to recognize God’s good design.

The Nashville “Megachurch” that embraced gay marriage two years ago has cratered

Two years ago TIME magazine highlighted an evangelical “megachurch” whose pastor had led the congregation to affirm gay marriage and to welcome LGBT persons as full members of the church (see the sermon announcement above from two years ago). The story made quite a splash at the time, even though many pointed out that the church wasn’t really a megachurch and could hardly be seen as a bellwether of things to come.

Yesterday, the website “Juicy Ecumenism” reported that the church has cratered over the last two years. From the report:

A once-large Nashville-area Evangelical congregation that made headlines after its pastor announced that the church would conduct same-sex marriages is selling its campus and relocating to rented space.

After his announcement of LGBT support in 2015, Pastor Stan Mitchell of GracePointe Church in Franklin, Tennessee was profiled in Time magazine. But what was a much sought-after sign of Evangelical movement towards LGBT affirmation may have been wishful thinking on the part of cultural progressives pouring money into programs that aim to shift Evangelical pastors’ views on sexuality…

Changes ultimately were not limited to teachings on sexuality. In August, the Nashville Star reported that GracePointe would share space with another progressive congregation, now describing itself as “unapologetically interfaith”.

A visitor to a recent service counted approximately 240 attendees, a fraction of the number that once participated.

“The public embrace of LGBTQI people and same-sex relationships by Mitchell and GracePointe Church in 2015 has led to a major decline in attendance and revenue,” Out & About Nashville reported in September. “The half-empty lot bears evidence of a minor exodus over two years of congregants.”

GracePointe has listed the 12,000-square-foot modernist chapel and 22 acre property where the church has met since 2009. The property, initially listed in February at $7.5 million, was dropped to $5.7 million in March and $4.9 million in April according to real estate records. The property is now under contract according to the Franklin Patch, and the sale could finalize by year’s end.

The loss of more than half of the congregation has hurt GracePointe’s financial stability, Mitchell told Out & About Nashville. The congregation is hoping the sale of the church property, along with budget and staff cutbacks, will improve finances.

This is a sad but predictable result of a pastor who leads a church to apostatize from the Christian faith. Walking away from Jesus is not a catalyst for church growth. On the contrary, it is the catalyst for church death. Believers in such churches will eventually leave, and those that remain to embrace the error will be an unfaithful remnant. It may be a gathering of people, but it will not be a gathering of born-again people and will not therefore be a church of the Lord Jesus.

I wrote about this church two years ago after the TIME magazine report. What I wrote then, I still believe to be true:

Gay marriage and homosexuality are going to become the occasion for a great winnowing of the evangelical ranks, and we are going to be seeing a lot of that in days to come. Those churches that have been evangelical in name only and that have not been conducting themselves with biblical integrity are going to get exposed on this issue. Many of these “evangelical” churches will buckle under pressure (like GracePointe) and will be known as “formerly evangelical” in very short order. For that reason, GracePointe’s falling away is not the future of evangelicalism but of former evangelicalism. And that is a big difference.

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