D. A. Carson warns against affirming gay marriage as a “Christian” view

D. A. Carson has written an essay for Themelios explaining “Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture in Our Lives.” Among other examples, he lists Zondervan’s recent Counterpoints volume which has two essays arguing that homosexual immorality is compatible with scripture, and two essays arguing that it isn’t. I’ve commented on the Counterpoints volume twice in this space (here and here), and I share Carson’s concerns. Here is an excerpt from Carson’s essay:

Recently Zondervan published Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church; this book bills these two views as “affirming” and “non-affirming,” and two authors support each side. Both sides, we are told, argue “from Scripture.” If the “affirming” side was once viewed as a stance that could not be held by confessional evangelicals, this book declares that not only the non-affirming stance but the affirming stance are represented within the evangelical camp, so the effect of this book is to present alternative evangelical positions, one that thinks the Bible prohibits homosexual marriage, and the other that embraces it…

Inevitably, there have been some articulate voices that insist that adopting an “affirming” stance on homosexual marriage does not jeopardize one’s salvation and should not place such a person outside the evangelical camp. For example, in his essay “An Evangelical Approach to Sexual Ethics,” Steven Holmes concludes, “Sola Fide. I have to stand on that. Because the Blood flowed where I walk and where we all walk. One perfect sacrifice complete, once for all offered for all the world, offering renewal to all who will put their faith in Him. And if that means me, in all my failures and confusions, then it also means my friends who affirm same-sex marriage, in all their failures and confusions. If my faithful and affirming friends have no hope of salvation, then nor do I.” But this is an abuse of the evangelical insistence on sola fide. I do not know any Christian who thinks that salvation is appropriated by means of faith plus an affirmation of heterosexuality. Faith alone is the means by which sola gratia is appropriated. Nevertheless, that grace is so powerful it transforms. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone issues in a new direction under the lordship of King Jesus. Those who are sold out to the “acts of the flesh … will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19–21). The apostle Paul makes a similar assertion in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers not men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (emphasis added).

In the context of Paul’s thought, he is not saying that without sinless perfection there is no entrance into the kingdom, but he is saying that such sins—whether greed or adultery or homosexual practice or whatever—no longer characterize the washed, sanctified, and justified. In other words, it is one thing to affirm with joy that sola fide means that we appropriate the merits of Christ and his cross by faith alone, not by our holiness—that holiness is the product of salvation, not its condition—and it is quite another thing to say that someone may self-consciously affirm the non-sinfulness of what God has declared to be sin, of what God insists excludes a person from the kingdom, and say that it doesn’t matter because sola fide will get them in anyway. The Scriptures make a lot of room for believers who slip and slide in “failures and confusions,” as Holmes put it, but who rest in God’s grace and receive it in God-given faith; they do not leave a lot of room for those who deny they are sinning despite what God says. Sola gratia and sola fide are always accompanied by sola Scriptura, by solus Christus, and by soli Deo gloria.

Carson goes on to comment on a number of contemporary developments related to evangelicals and sexuality—including Brandon and Jen Hatmaker’s recent endorsement of sexual immorality. Read the rest of Carson’s essay here.

Evangelical Trump supporters have an obligation to pressure their man to stand for religious liberty

I wrote last week about the internal struggle within the White House over religious freedom and LGBT policy. For evangelicals and other religious conservatives, this struggle is perhaps the most important and relevant debate unfolding in our politics. But for some reason, it is not really getting enough attention. On his Facebook page, Robbie George weighs-in:

There are numerous media reports that Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner led the charge to persuade Donald Trump to retain Barack Obama’s “LGBT” executive order, despite the demands of religious freedom advocates to revoke it. Reportedly, the couple is also standing against the proposed religious freedom executive order that the President had promised social conservatives he would issue. It is well-known that Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner were supporters of same-sex marriage and contributed money to advancing that cause. The fact that Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner identify as orthodox Jews is neither here nor there. They do not subscribe to orthodox Jewish moral teachings on the nature of marriage as the union of husband and wife.

Social conservatives should not deceive themselves. Donald Trump is not a social conservative. I don’t know that he believes anything, but I know that he does not believe what we believe. Donald Trump is a deal maker. He will make deals when he perceives it as in his interest to do so and he will keep the terms of his bargains when he perceives it as it is in his interest to do so. He rightly perceived it to be in his interest to keep his promise to appoint a constitutionalist judge to the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. That’s how we got Neil Gorsuch. But it will take a lot of pressure from social conservatives to overcome the influence of the Kushners when it comes to the proposed religious freedom executive order.

An irony, of course, is that Mr. Trump, in upholding the Obama “LGBT” order and stalling on the religious freedom order, is serving the interests of the organized LGBT lobby—which loathes him and attacks him at every turn. Mr. Trump is notoriously thin skinned and ordinarily retaliates against anyone who criticizes or slights him. But perhaps because of the Kushners’ influence, Trump is rewarding, rather than retaliating against, the lobby. Or perhaps the deal maker still thinks he can make a deal with them.

I think George’s impressions are correct here. That means that it will require political pressure to induce Trump to take necessary steps to do the right thing. There are at least three things that Trump’s supporters should insist that he do to protect religious liberty:

  1. Repeal President Obama’s 2014 “LGBT” executive order
  2. Sign the religious liberty executive order that was leaked to news outlets last week
  3. Sign the “First Amendment Defense Act” when/if Congress passes it

President Trump could act on the first two items from this list right now if he wanted. But he hasn’t acted. Instead, he has put out a press release celebrating his decision to keep President Obama’s LGBT policy in place.

Religious conservatives need to take notice, especially those who supported Trump’s candidacy. Their voices will carry much more weight with the Trump administration than the voices of “Never Trumpers” like myself. President Trump appears to be under the impression that it will cost him nothing to fold on religious liberty. That is why evangelical Trump supporters have a special obligation to pressure their man to stand for religious liberty and to make sure that he understands what it will cost him politically if he folds.

The Benedict Option comes to Southern Seminary

I suspect that one of the most important books of 2017 will be Rod Dreher’s forthcoming “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.” The book won’t be released until next month, but Dreher will be on the campus of Boyce College and Southern Seminary this week to deliver lectures on the material in the book. “The Benedict Option” has been much maligned and much misunderstood in popular conversation, and Dreher is going to be clarifying and making the case in these lectures. Here’s the schedule:

Tuesday, February 7

  • 1pm – Session 1 (Heritage Hall)
  • 2pm – Session 2 (Heritage Hall)

Wednesday, February 8

  • 10am – Session 3 (Heritage Hall)
  • 1pm – Session 4 (Heritage Hall)

On both days, the first 100 students will receive a free book and will be entered in to win an iPad. Light refreshments will be served. Hope to see you there!

The battle lines are drawn in the White House between religious liberty and LGBT rights

There is a controversy brewing in the White House that religious voters had better start paying attention to. As I wrote yesterday, there is one faction that wants to keep President Obama’s 2014 LGBT executive order in place, and there is another faction that wants to oppose it with an executive order protecting religious liberty. Politico reports today about who is leading the factions and where this conflict is going:

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump helped lead the charge to scuttle a draft executive order that would have overturned Obama-era enforcements of LGBT rights in the workplace, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO.

A draft executive order on LGBT rights — which outlines how to roll back former president Barack Obama’s protections and expand legal exemptions based on religious beliefs — has been circulating among journalists and worried progressive groups this week.

But two sources close to Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who have in the past been supporters of gay rights, said the young couple were both in favor of putting out a clear statement from the president, promising to uphold the 2014 Obama executive order and stopping the momentum for the turnaround in its tracks.

In short, Politico reports that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are responsible for the effort inside the White House to put an end to the religious liberty order. This puts them squarely at odds with Vice President Pence who supports it.

The salient question, therefore, is this. Who is the president going to listen to in the final analysis? Will he listen to Vice President Pence and enact religious liberty protections? Or will he listen to his daughter and son-in-law and advance President Obama’s LGBT agenda? Politico answers that question:

The fight over LGBT rights could reveal a fault line between Pence, an evangelical Catholic who as Governor of Indiana signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015; and Kushner, who is Jewish and whose social circle includes socially progressive New Yorkers.

“There are some in Trump’s family that have some views on these things,” said a source close to the discussions. “That’s where the decision is ultimately being made.[emphasis mine]

If this is correct, then the advice of Jared and Ivanka will carry the day. The Obama executive order would stand, and there would be no religious liberty protections forthcoming. Indeed, Politico reports that Jared and Ivanka are responsible for the statement that the White House put out on Tuesday night affirming its commitment to “LGBTQ rights”:

President Donald J. Trump Will Continue to Enforce Executive Order Protecting the Rights of the LGBTQ Community in the Workplace

President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election. The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression. The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.

I don’t think any Republican president has ever issued such a bald endorsement of gay rights. This is a first. But even more important than the rhetoric is the substance of Obama’s 2014 order that President Trump now says he supports. The order establishes LGBT as a protected class insofar as federal hiring and contracts are concerned. And now it is being adopted by a Republican president. That is a first as well.

Religious conservatives ought to be at Defcon 1 right now, but they are not. Everyone seems so distracted by the refugee order and the nomination of Neil Gorsuch that they are missing a looming threat. And it is one that they cannot afford to ignore.

Perhaps in the end, the Pence faction will win out. I hope and pray that it does. But from where I’m sitting, this doesn’t look very good. A Republican president is crossing lines that have never been crossed before by a Republican president. Religious liberty proponents who have influence with the president need to make their voices heard right now. The president must sign the executive order protecting religious liberty.

Pray for President Trump. There are things unfolding right now that will determine the future of religious liberty in this country. Will the trajectory be to continue what President Obama started? Or will there be protections for those citizens who cannot consent to the totalizing claims of the sexual revolution? The contest is unfolding right now in the White House, and we will know the answer to those questions soon enough.

It appears that President Trump is willing to accept LGBT as a protected class

Liberals are abuzz this morning about a leaked draft of an executive order (EO) that would protect religious freedom if signed by the President. Sarah Posner has a copy of the draft and contends that the EO “reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination” against LGBT people.

I have read the draft, and it does no such thing. The order does not legalize discrimination against LGBT people. It simply says that the government cannot coerce citizens to violate their religious beliefs. Ryan Anderson has also read a draft, and his assessment is spot-on, “The executive order is good, lawful public policy. And it makes good on several promises then-candidate Trump made to his supporters.”

As Anderson points out, this draft of the EO was leaked to liberal news outlets so that they could gin-up negative publicity that might convince President Trump not to go through with it. But this EO is good policy, and the president needs to sign some version of this. For more on this, go read Ryan Anderson’s piece at The Daily Signal. Continue Reading →

The Boy Scouts succumb to radical gender ideology

Today the Boy Scouts of America announced that they would begin allowing girls to enroll as Boy Scouts and as Cub Scouts. But this new policy doesn’t allow all girls to enroll—only those who are willing to say that they are a boy on their Scouting application. Here’s the text of the statement released earlier today:

As one of America’s largest youth-serving organizations, the Boy Scouts of America continues to work to bring the benefits of our programs to as many children, families and communities as possible.

While we offer a number of programs that serve all youth, Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting are specifically designed to meet the needs of boys. For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs. However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.

Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application. Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child.

The Boy Scouts of America is committed to identifying program options that will help us truly serve the whole family, and this is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible – all while remaining true to our core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.

Two observations about this statement:

1. An 8-year old girl recently sued The Boy Scouts of America for discrimination after she was kicked out of her scouting group. She had identified as a boy on her application. But the troop subsequently told her that she wasn’t eligible because the gender on her application did not match the sex listed on her birth certificate. The suit against New Jersey Boy Scouts claims that the Boy Scouts “violated the state’s law against discrimination.” State laws like the one in New Jersey are precisely what this BSA statement cites as its rationale for this decision. Because these laws are on the books, the BSA would be exposed to lawsuits in every state that has a SOGI law in the books (for more on SOGI laws, read this). Rather than fighting these lawsuits, the BSA has apparently decided to capitulate. Given the fact that the BSA has already succumbed to pressure to allow gay Scouts and gay Scouting leaders, it is no surprise that they have succumbed on this issue as well.

2. The statement says that “Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting are specifically designed to meet the needs of boys.” This new policy, however, is just one more way in which the BSA will fail to “meet the needs of boys” (and girls, for that matter). Until now, the BSA has used the sex listed on the birth certificate to determine who was a boy and who wasn’t. But now the BSA is saying that this is no longer sufficient for distinguishing male from female. That means that the BSA is saying that biology no longer matters in distinguishing male and female. This is an enormous concession to radical gender ideology, and it is not something that will help children. Last year, the American College of Pediatricians released a statement contending that “Gender Ideology Harms Children.” Among other things, the statement says this:

A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such…

Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse. Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to “gender clinics” where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures they will “choose” a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.

When a child embraces a psychological identity at odds with his bodily identity, this is not healthy or good for that child. And it only adds insult to injury for adults to accommodate this harmful self-impression. But that is what this new policy does.

I can’t help but grieve that the Boy Scouts are going along with this radical redefinition of what it means to be a boy. They are making a big mistake in this, and it will be one that hurts not only their organization but also the very boys they wish to serve.

Sorting through the aftermath of the executive order heard round the world

President Trump’s Executive Order putting a halt on immigration from certain countries has been the story of the weekend. In many ways, the reporting and talking-headery have been difficult to sort out. If you want to make a start at understanding what has and hasn’t happened, I recommend reading these four items.

First, read the actual text of the executive order. Second, read Joe Carter’s helpful explainer. Third, read David French’s analysis which argues that the EO is not as bad as some of its worst critics allege. Fourth, read Benjamin Witte’s hard-hitting essay explaining why the EO is “malevolence tempered by incompetence.” From Witte’s trenchant conclusion: Continue Reading →

The Womens March has a doctrinal statement

Kirsten Powers had a tense exchange on CNN the other night as she was trying to point out that the Womens March over the weekend excluded some women (see above). One of the other panelists chuckled at her for pointing this out, although it is not clear why.

In advance of the march, the organizers published a doctrinal statement titled “Unity Principles.” Anyone who departed from the doctrinal statement was not allowed to “partner” with the march. Among other things required of “partners” is explicit affirmation of unrestricted abortion rights and gay rights. Here’s a snippet:

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.

LGBTQIA RIGHTS

We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.

The Womens March was in fact exclusionary of some women as the organizers did not allow prolife women to be “partners” for the event. The New Wave Feminists, a prolife feminist group, were dropped from the “partner” list specifically because of their views on abortion.

Perhaps it wasn’t clear to all the marchers, but there was a specific agenda for the march. Kirsten Powers was right. It wasn’t a march for all women. It was only for those women who hold to certain dogmas about sexuality and gender.

Read the rest of the “Unity Principles” here.

President Reagan’s stunning statement of pro-life conviction

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is an annual observance held on the Sunday closest to anniversary of the Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion (January 22). The tradition started in 1984 on the eleventh anniversary of Roe.

President Reagan issued a proclamation marking the day, which was held on January 22, 1984. Since then, Democrat presidents have tended not to mark the day with official proclamations, while Republicans have. Nevertheless, the observance has gone on in churches across the country every year with or without the proclamation. I will be marking the day in my sermon tomorrow at our church.

Tomorrow’s observance happens to fall on the exact anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I thought it would be worth the time to revisit President Reagan’s original proclamation. It is a stunning statement of pro-life conviction, and it is cast in terms that are very rare today from people in high office. The text is below. Continue Reading →

Did President Trump just eliminate the contraceptive mandate on the first day?

Readers of this blog know that I have written extensively about Obamacare’s controversial contraceptive mandate. In fact, the most viral post I have ever written on this site was about this issue. The mandate has been controversial because it forces employers to provide coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients–even if those employers object to buying such coverage on religious grounds. The Christian owners of Hobby Lobby fought this all the way to the Supreme Court and won. But the problematic mandate still stands, and other cases are pending. 

President Trump signed an executive order that effectively overturns the contraceptive mandate. The order authorizes the HHS Secretary to eliminate administrative rules related to Obamacare. If I’m reading this correctly, that would allow the new secretary to get rid of the mandate. Here’s section two of the order:

To the maximum extent permitted by law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies (agencies) with authorities and responsibilities under the Act shall exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.

I’m not a lawyer, so we’ll see how this pans out. And you can be sure I’ll be following this one closely.

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