Archive | Theology/Bible

Is temptation sinful?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from readers about a piece that I co-wrote with Rosaria Butterfield for The Public Discourse titled “Learning to Hate our Sin without Hating Ourselves.” Rather than trying to answer each reader individually, I am going to try and address these questions individually in a series of blog posts.

The first question is this: Is temptation sinful? Some readers wonder how temptation fits into a paradigm in which desire for sin is itself sin. They object that such a framework makes temptation into a sin. Since we know that not all temptation equals sin (e.g., Heb. 4:15), the thesis of our article fails because we effectively make temptation into a sin.

Before answering the question, let me begin with some caveats. One, the thesis of our Public Discourse piece doesn’t rely at all on an answer to this question about temptation. Two, I can only speak for myself in answering this question. Other people who share my view that same-sex sexual desire is sinful may express themselves differently than I will below. And that’s okay. I expect some give and take on these matters as we all think our way through to biblical clarity. Three, nothing that you read below is new. In fact, it is an adaptation of what already appears in my book Transforming Homosexuality. For the full argument, I encourage you to get the book. Continue Reading →

The Difference between Protestants and Catholics concerning “Concupiscence”

Rosaria Butterfield and I have published an essay dealing with controversy surrounding the Revoice conference and the Spiritual Friendship project. Among other things, we try to show that a great deal of this controversy is due to conflicting theological commitments between Protestants and Catholics. To that end, we write:

The current debate about gay Christianity traces back to a centuries-old dispute between Protestants and Catholics about the doctrine of man and the doctrine of sin. Roman Catholics do not regard involuntary desire for sin (i.e., “concupiscence”) to be sinful. Reformed Protestants do.

We go on to state that the differences between Protestants and Catholics on these points go back for half a millennium. Today, a friend wrote to me and pointed out a stark example of this from The Council of Trent (1563). The Council of Trent was a Roman Catholic ecumenical council that sought to counteract the Protestant Reformation. In section 5 of the fifth session, the Council says this:

This holy synod confesses and is sensible, that in the baptized there remains concupiscence, or an incentive (to sin); which, whereas it is left for our exercise, can not injure those who consent not, but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; yea, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned. This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin. And if any one is of a contrary sentiment, let him be anathema.1

Notice the underlined portion. This Roman Catholic council acknowledges that the Apostle Paul calls concupiscence sin, and yet the Council ends up disagreeing with the apostle! It is really astonishing, but it does illustrate why Protestants have disagreed with Roman Catholics on this for so long. No one has the right or authority to gainsay the words of holy scripture, and yet that is what we think is happening on this important issue.

For the rest of the argument that Rosaria and I make, please read the article at The Public Discourse: “Learning To Hate Sin without Hating Ourselves.” Many thanks to Ryan Anderson for hosting this important debate at The Public Discourse.

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1 Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Greek and Latin Creeds, with Translations, vol. 2 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1890), 88.

Why “same-sex attraction” may be more confusing than clarifying in our debates about sexuality

One of the besetting difficulties surrounding discussions of sexuality is terminology. Many of us are simply not on the same page when it comes to the meaning of the terms we use to frame the discussion. Also, many of the terms we use are loaded with baggage from secular theory that does more to confuse than to illuminate.

I’ve been thinking recently about one of these terms and how its current usage does indeed confuse rather than clarify. That term is attraction. Many people who write about sexuality tend to use “attraction” and “desire” as synonyms. Thus to say that someone experiences “same-sex attraction” is just another way of saying that they experience “same-sex desire.” I think this usage is a demonstrable fact in both theological and non-theological literature. I give a number of examples in my book, but I will provide one here to illustrate the point. In their book Sexuality and Sex Therapy (InterVarsity, 2014), Mark Yarhouse and Erica Tan write this (p. 296): Continue Reading →

If same-sex attraction is sinful, then what?

Recently, there has been much debate about sexuality and human identity. A great deal of it has been related to the upcoming “Revoice” conference in St. Louis. That controversy is ongoing. As I have mentioned previously, evangelicals have not come to a consensus whether same-sex attraction is sinful and whether it is the proper basis for constructing an “identity.”

Heath Lambert and I wrote a book back in 2015 arguing that SSA is sinful as it is a part of our fallen Adamic nature (see Transforming Homosexuality, P&R 2015). Our argument goes against some celibate gay identity proponents who argue that SSA may be a part of the brokenness of creation but is not itself sinful. They would say that SSA is fallen, but it’s fallen like cancer not like pride. Our argument also goes against those like Gregory Coles who suggest that SSA may have roots in God’s good creation design. Continue Reading →

The End of BibleWorks

If you walk into my study at any given time of the day, you will find that there is one program that is almost always open on my computer—BibleWorks. I use this software not only in my private study but also in nearly all of my college courses. For me, losing this software would be like losing a limb.

That is why I was so sad to read the news today that BibleWorks has decided to cease operations as a provider of Bible software tools. When I say sad, I mean really grieved. I have used this tool so much and for so long, I can hardly believe that it is about to be no longer available. That is why I urge you serious students of scripture to purchase a copy before it becomes unavailable on June 15. Why am I so high on this software? There are several reasons: Continue Reading →

What about divorce and abuse?

Evangelicals have never been monolithic in their views about divorce. Some believe that the Bible disallows divorce altogether. Others believe that the Bible allows for divorce in certain situations (see Matt. 19 and 1 Cor. 7). There is no one view on divorce that has commanded the consensus of evangelicals. My view is the latter, and I suspect that it is the view held by the majority of evangelicals (though certainly not all).

The reason that so many of us hold the latter view is because of what Jesus and the apostle Paul say about the matter. Obviously, the accent in both Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching is that divorce is generally prohibited because of the nature of the marital covenant: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Yet in the very same passage, Jesus also says this: Continue Reading →

T4G Pre-conference on The Nashville Statement

CBMW hosted a pre-conference at T4G last week, and the topic was The Nashville Statement. Lig Duncan, Al Mohler, Sam Allberry, and myself all delivered messages. All four of us were in the room in Nashville last August when the statement was finalized.

In our talks, we try to make the case for The Nashville Statement as a faithful expression of the Bible’s teaching on male, female, and sexuality. We also commend the statement to ministry leaders as one they might adopt within their own ministries and churches.

I posted my message above. You can see and hear the rest of them at the CBMW website. Here’s a list with each speaker followed by the title of his message.

Session 1: Ligon Duncan, “What does Nashville have to do with Danvers?”

Session 2: Albert Mohler, “Understanding the times; knowing what to do”

Session 3: Denny Burk, “‘Male and female He created them’: Thinking biblically about transgenderism”

Session 4: Sam Allberry, “‘And the two shall become one flesh’: Thinking biblically about homosexuality and the covenant of marriage”

The Strangest Thing about the Christian Faith

The strangest thing about the Christian faith is not our views on sexuality or politics. Those things are not even our most controversial of claims. The strangest thing about us is what the apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:

3 that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

To be sure, that Jesus died is not the controversial part. Even unbelieving pagans agree with the death of Jesus as an historical fact. They don’t, however, agree with the meaning of his death—that it was a vicarious sacrifice “for our sins” to reconcile us to God. But they do agree that he was dead and buried. No great dispute there. Continue Reading →

The Innermost Meaning of the Cross

“But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.”
-Isaiah 53:10

“God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation in His blood through faith, in order to demonstrate His righteousness.”
-Romans 3:25

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’”
-Galatians 3:13 Continue Reading →

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