Archive | Theology/Bible

A friendly response to Wesley Hill’s “thought-experiment”

I am really grateful that evangelicals seem to be moving toward a serious conversation about homosexuality. Two articles in particular seem to be driving some recent online discussions. One is a piece in World magazine profiling a lesbian chaplain at Wheaton College. Another is a piece by Michelle Boorstein in The Washington Post about the “celibate gay Christian” movement. Both of these articles have provoked disagreement and spirited discussion about what it means to be a same-sex attracted Christian.

I am not going to try and rehash all that has been said up to this point. I invite you do to take a look at the links in this post if you want to get up to speed on the points of disagreement. My aim is to engage with Wesley Hill’s recent post at the Spiritual Friendship website. He invites feedback to his “thought experiment,” so I am going to offer some.

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Does the Bible teach that women can be deacons?

I have been preaching through the Pastoral Epistles at my church, and a few Sundays ago I delivered a message on deacons from 1 Timothy 3:8-16. You can listen to the sermon below or download it here.

The second point of the sermon focuses on verse 11 and deals with whether Paul intends for women to serve as deacons. This is a controversial question, and I obviously don’t treat it exhaustively in this sermon. Nevertheless, here’s where I came down.

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Is same-sex attraction sinful? Charles Hodge sheds biblical light.

A few weeks ago, I sat on a panel at the Evangelical Theological Society discussing the question “Is Same-Sex Orientation Sinful?” Owen Strachan moderated the discussion among three of us who presented papers on the subject: Wesley Hill, Preston Sprinkle, and yours truly. Both Wesley and Preston have posted on the session. Craig Sanders has written a report as well.

I am currently working on a book about sexual orientation, and much of what I presented to the panel was a rough version of what will appear in that book. So I will hold back on rehashing the entire argument here. If you want to read my paper, send me an e-mail and I’ll send it to you (contact me here).

The heart of our disagreement on the panel was over the ethics of orientation. In short, we had a disagreement about whether same-sex attraction is sinful. I argued that it is. Preston and Wesley argued that it is not. So those were the two sides of the panel. Continue Reading →

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Doug Wilson’s gut-punch to theistic evolutionists

Doug Wilson delivers a gut-punch to the theistic evolutionary group Biologos. You should read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:

The clear tendency of the BioLogos outlook is to consider young earth creationism as the ultimate academic faux pas. Young earth creationists are not just in error, they are embarrassing. But students in our schools are being taught any number of embarrassing things — like marriage consisting of one man and one woman, for example. An essential part of our training is to show our students how scholarly tongue clucking is not an argument.

So learning how to resist the academic cool shame on this point is a most excellent exercise. And we can begin by making the arbiters of all intellectual rigor answer the most basic questions about their assertions on time and the age of earth. “You say that the universe is fourteen billion years old, give or take. Where is it that age? Is it the same age at the point where the Big Bang occurred as it is out at the edges? Are there any edges? What clock are you using? What Newtonian balcony are you standing on when you measure the age of the whole universe?”

Read the rest here.

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Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith square-off over Ferguson and New York

Two days ago, I mentioned Charles Barkley’s recent remarks affirming the Ferguson grand jury’s non-indictment. Since then, fellow commentator Kenny Smith has penned an open-letter that sharply disagrees with Barkley’s strident tone.

Yesterday, Barkley and Smith faced each other on the set of TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” Instead of discussing basketball in the opening segment, they spent about ten minutes talking out their differences. Shaq made some comments as well. Be warned that Barkley has some salty language near the end, so you might not want to watch this one with your kiddos around. Nevertheless, I think it’s helpful to hear conversations like this one.

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Godless virtue is no virtue at all

I’ve been reading through Jonathan Edwards’ treatise on The Nature of True Virtue. This book can only be properly understood in connection with Edwards’ earlier work The End for Which God Created the World. In that earlier work, Edwards shows that God is the first and best of beings and that the purpose of all things in God’s universe is to glorify God’s own magnificence and goodness.

In The Nature of True Virtue, Edwards argues that true virtue consists in having one’s heart attuned to that great reality—the glory of God. Virtue, therefore, can only exist in those who know and love God above all else. Edwards says it this way,

And therefore certainly, unless we will be atheists, we must allow that true virtue does primarily and most essentially consist in a supreme love to God; and that where this is wanting, there can be no true virtue. -Yale Edition, p. 554

In other words, moral uprightness may be a dim shadow of virtue, but it is not true virtue if it has no respect to God. Only an atheist—or someone whose view of God is so low that he no longer conceives of the true God—can deny that true virtue must be defined this way.

This means that all systems of morality—secular or religious—that ignore God are not truly virtuous. Those who follow them—no matter how rigorously they follow—are not truly virtuous. In short, godless virtue is no virtue at all.

If this is true (and I believe that it is), the implications are staggering.

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What’s wrong with reparative therapy?

I have expressed my own concerns about reparative therapy on this blog in the past. But Heath Lambert has perhaps the most thoroughgoing critique from an evangelical perspective that I have yet seen. He focuses his attention on the work of Joseph Nicolosi and writes,

I am convinced that one of those unbiblical approaches to change is reparative therapy. Reparative therapy (RT) is infamous in the current cultural context. It has received scorn in the media, politics, and psychology. Many people, including Christians, have embraced it because of the promise of change it holds out to homosexual men and women.

Because of the controversial nature of the therapy it is crucial for Christians to think through it with care. I want to try and begin that thoughtfulness in this blog by evaluating RT as articulated by Joseph Nicolosi in Shame and Attachment Loss: The Practical Work of Reparative Therapy. Many other articulations and modifications of RT are out there, but Nicolosi is the leading practitioner and Shame and Attachment Loss is his most recent—and most thorough—articulation of the therapy.

I will argue here, that in spite of some positive elements, RT is an unbiblical and ultimately unhelpful approach to change for same-sex attraction.

Lambert does not mince any words here. Near the conclusion, he explains why he does not even regard reparative therapy as a Christian approach to counseling:

Any method of change will fall short if it fails to understand the central importance of repentance in the change process. God has ordained that our sinful desires and behaviors are changed as we humbly name our sin, and plead with God for his grace to turn from sin to Him (Prov. 28:13).

This is a crucial matter. If the core problem of homosexuality is something other than sin, the solution will be something other than the grace of Jesus Christ. This is an unacceptable concession for Christians. The gospel is truly at stake in this issue.

Any counseling approach that ignores the importance of repentance and the consequent centrality of Jesus Christ, as RT does, is not worthy to be called Christian.

This conversation will no doubt be explosive, but it is a conversation that evangelicals need to have. Read the rest of Lambert’s essay here.

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Evangelicals meet to discuss sexual orientation in San Diego this week

This week the 66th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) will be held in San Diego, California. I will be there to participate in a special session on sexual orientation. As I have said elsewhere, I think that we evangelicals have not yet thought our way through to biblical clarity on this issue. Among evangelicals who are otherwise close to one another confessionally, there is still a range of opinions about how to think biblically about sexual orientation. There are some who recognize same-sex orientation as an identity category that is beyond moral scrutiny. There are others who deny that Christians can even make faithful use of the category. There are some who view same-sex attraction as morally benign, and others who do not.

So for our special session we’ve gathered together three New Testament professors who are publishing in this area and who are coming at this question from different perspectives: Wesley Hill, Preston Sprinkle, and yours truly. The three of us will present papers and then sit for a panel discussion moderated by Owen Strachan. These are good brothers, and I am looking forward to be sharpened by them. If you are in or near San Diego during this year’s ETS meeting, I would love to see you there. Here’s the info on our session:

Session: “Issues in Sexuality & Gender”
When: 2:00-5:10pm, Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Where: Hampton, Town and Country Resort & Convention Center, San Diego, CA

Presentations:
DENNY BURK, “Is Same-Sex Orientation Sinful?”
PRESTON SPRINKLE, “Sexual Orientation in Paul’s World: It’s Not What You Think”
WESLEY HILL, “Is Being Gay Sanctifiable? Scripture and the Great Tradition on Same-Sex Love and Christian Friendship”
OWEN STRACHAN, moderator of panel discussion

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Death, Be Not Proud


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

———-
Poem: “Death, Be Not Proud” (Holy Sonnet 10), by John Donne
Music Credit: Audrey Assad, “Death, Be Not Proud”

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Transgender: When Psychological Identity Trumps Bodily Identity

Earlier this week, I spoke at the ERLC National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I was asked to address the topic of transgender. An adapted excerpt from my manuscript is below. The full video is below.

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Now that the gay marriage cause is all but won, sexual revolutionaries are turning their attention to the “T” in LGBT. Both Newsweek and Time have written cover stories in the last two years arguing that the transgender cause is the next phase of the LGBT revolution. There seems to be evidence confirming this in headlines across the country. From the city ordinance in Houston that led to the subpoena of pastors’ sermons to children being allowed into the opposite sex bathrooms in public schools, there is no question that significant cultural changes are afoot. Continue Reading →

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