Dating apps and greasing the skids on human lust

A really sad essay appeared in The New York Times last week titled “Wanting Monogamy as 1,946 Men Await My Swipe.” It is another sad story about the emotional and spiritual dead-end of the so-called “hook-up” culture. It is the first person account of a young woman and her experience with dating apps. Even though she knows that the men available on dating apps are only looking for one thing, she decides to take the plunge anyway. She ends up meeting a guy, having a 6-week tryst, falling for him, expressing her wish to be more than his Monday-night-girl, and then having her heart broken as he tells her that he has no desire for “monogamy” with her or anyone else. And so the sad affair ends with a sad young woman going back to her dating app and finding that there are 1,946 men waiting for her to swipe.

This is a sad read for obvious reasons. But what struck me about it was the conclusion. You would think that perhaps she learned a lesson about the dangers of easy hook-ups on dating apps. But that is not at all what she concludes. This is:

It’s easy to dismiss dating apps as insincere, objectifying and sketchy. But in the end, they did do one thing for me. They introduced me to Michael, someone I was willing to bend the rules for, someone I was actually able to admit I liked. And maybe there is hope in that.

Hope in the fact that there is a technology that facilitates selfish promiscuity and bad faith? Wow. I have to say that this is not the conclusion that jumps out at me.

What does jump out at me is that this story illustrates in spades that the sexual revolution makes promises that it can never keep. By separating sex from the marriage covenant, it hasn’t made people happier or freer but more lonely and alienated than they ever were before. Fidelity, covenant, an old man holding the hand of his wife on her deathbed after a lifetime of love and loss and faithfulness. These things don’t come from the fast fornication of dating apps. We were made for so much more than a degrading technology that greases the skids on human lust (1 Cor. 6:18-20). But so few in our culture seem able to see it—even when the pain caused by it is so evident.

Let’s say “only-begotten” in the Apostles’ Creed

If last summer’s trinity debate did anything, it raised awareness among evangelicals about the primary importance of eternal generation in distinguishing the persons of the trinity. As I have written previously, it also highlighted the fact that the Nicene Fathers were interpreting scripture when they confessed Jesus to be the “only-begotten” son of God.

As we approach the one year anniversary of the beginning of last summer’s trinity debate, I thought it might be worth noting one small way that the debate impacted the liturgy of the church where I serve as a pastor. Our church follows a regular liturgical order, which includes a recitation of the Apostles’ Creed before receiving communion. We do this every Sunday, week in and week out. The only exception is that once a quarter we recite our church covenant in place of the Creed. That has been our longstanding practice, but several months ago we began confessing Jesus as “only-begotten” in the Apostles’ Creed.

Why weren’t we confessing “only-begotten” before the trinity debate? The short answer is that we were relying on English translations of the Creed, many of which render the Greek term MONOGENES as “only” or that follow a Latin version that has unicum (“only”) rather than unigenitum (“only-begotten”). In any case, the Greek form is generally regarded as the oldest form of the Creed and may even be as old as the second century.1 And the Greek form (which I hadn’t read before the Trinity debate) clearly has MONOGENES.

For that reason, we have included “only-begotten” in our weekly confession of the Apostles’ Creed. It is the language of the oldest form of the Apostles’ Creed. It is the language of the Nicene Creed. And most importantly, it is the language of scripture itself (John 1:14, 18; 3:16; 1 John 4:9). It is the universal confession of the Christian church. I hope our English translations of the Creed in public worship will reflect that. The recitation in our church now does. Perhaps it will in yours too.

1 Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The History of Creeds, vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1878), 19.

Check Your Privilege

I mentioned a few weeks ago, that I’ve been doing some reading on intersectionality and identity politics. One item that I have observed in this reading is the tendency among some to assign moral guilt based not on moral action but based on identity.

The thinking goes like this. If a person possesses a privileged identity (e.g., straight, male, abled, etc.), that person benefits from an unjust system of social privilege. Therefore, the person benefitting is morally guilty of injustice just by virtue of possessing the so-called privileged identity.

A few weeks ago, I came across a column in the Harvard Crimson that illustrates the point. In this column, Nian Hu is warning women to “Beware of the Male Feminist.” She writes:

What these male feminists fail to realize is that, as men, they will always be oppressors. No matter how many feminist marches they attend or how much feminist literature they read, they are not exempt from perpetuating the subordination of women. Their support of the women’s movement does not erase the fact that they, on an individual level, are capable of harassing, assaulting, or silencing women—nor that, on a structural level, they continue to benefit from a system that establishes male dominance at the expense of women. And even though male allies may genuinely feel guilty, they will continue to benefit from male privilege. The patriarchy does not offer special exceptions for men with good intentions. Men, as a class, are culpable for misogyny, and male allies are no different and no less capable of demeaning women through their words, actions, and complicit silence.

Notice what she argues here. One does not have to commit an act of oppression to be guilty of oppression. One merely has to be “capable of harassing, assaulting, or silencing women.” Just by virtue of being male, therefore, every man is guilty. And no amount of feminist allyship or “good intentions” can erase the stain of his guilt. “Men, as a class, are culpable for misogyny.”

As I have been reading through some of this material, I’ve become more and more convinced that Christians are going to have to think carefully about some key concepts that are driving articles like the one above. We are going to have to think carefully and biblically about identity, privilege, allyship, intersectionality, and a host of other related topics that are driving the conversation in the culture today.

To that end, Jonathan Leeman has a really helpful post over at The Gospel Coalition helping us to think through the issue of privilege: “Identity Politics, White Privilege, and Gospel Peace.” Jonathan is thinking through the privilege motif vis a vis racial inequalities, but the larger point that he’s making about guilt and privilege would apply to any social identity, including the ones implicated in the article above from The Harvard Crimson. Jonathan writes:

In the American context, the phrase “white privilege” refers to the structural injustices affixed to ethnicity and skin color.

More specifically, white privilege can mean at least three things, two of which I accept and one of which I don’t. First, it means that I possess, by virtue of my skin color, social and material advantages. This is simply a statistical reality…

White privilege means, second of all, that I possess those advantages by virtue of systemic and historic patterns of discrimination and injustice… I accept this second plank of white privilege as well…

But there is a third, more profoundly ideological and typically unstated meaning of white privilege that I do not accept. And that is the automatic transfer of guilt to anyone who possesses such advantages… As author Eula Biss put it, whiteness is not an identity but a moral problem. Whites are moral debtors simply by being white. If a black 4-year-old is demonstrably indicted as guilty by the structures of society, says Ta-Nehsi Coates following Malcolm X, then “it is impossible for white 4-year-olds to be innocent.”…

The bottom line here is: Identity politics, at its most careless, undermines moral agency. The white 16-year-old at Northeast High is not guilty simply for being white or for the advantages he possesses by virtue of his skin color. We cannot forsake the demands of justice at an individual level. We understand from Scripture that guilt and culpability are individual; punishment and responsibility are individual. To say otherwise is its own kind of Nietzschian power move—creating a concept of guilt for the sake of leveraging power.

This excerpt doesn’t do the full argument justice, so you really have to go read the whole thing. I think Jonathan is spot-on here. There is no question that privilege exists in the first two senses of the term, but the third sense is problematic. If privilege implies guilt, then it is possible to be guilty of a sin that you didn’t commit and for which there can be no atonement. Moreover, there would be no possibility of reconciliation on an individual level as long as systemic injustices persist in the world.

Obviously, these conclusions are squarely at odds with biblical teaching about guilt, justice, and reconciliation with God and with one another. And that is why we are going to have to give careful attention to the claims being made by proponents of identity politics. Their claims are theological at their core, and they require a theological answer. Jonathan gets us started in the right direction, and I encourage you to read the rest of his piece here.

How much do I love “Speedo Dad”? Let me count the ways…

Most likely by now you have already seen the video posted above. It has gone viral since it was posted two days ago on Facebook and is approaching 20 million views as I type this.

The video shows a father picking up his teenage son on his son’s last day of school. The twist is that Dad shows up wearing only a Speedo, swim cap, and medals. Not only that, Dad gets out of the car and runs down the school sidewalk through crowds of kids to his mortified son. It’s inglouriously hilarious. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this since it appeared two days ago, but I fall out of my chair every time.

How much do I love this? Let me count the ways:

1. The dad is Justin Beadles, and he happens to be an old friend of mine from seminary. He’s a pastor now in Stillwater, OK. And yes, he was hilarious back in the day too. This video was hilarious when I first saw it, but it was not surprising. Not. One. Bit.

2. What really cracks me up is the female voice off-camera that says, “Is he your church?” Ha! Could this have been an elaborate “outreach” ploy? There has to be an easier way!

3. The medals slay me too. Justin said he wanted to pick-up up his kid dressed like Michael Phelps. I can’t believe he found medals. They jingle all the way. Nice touch.

4. Justin goes running toward his son across the school yard with arms wide open and yelling his son’s name the whole way. There’s no hiding. If the kid runs, his dad will chase him around the schoolyard in that get-up. There is no option but to roll with it–which the boy does. What a great kid!

5. After the humiliation is complete, mom points the camera at the kid and sheepishly says, “It wasn’t my idea.” Nice try, Heather. You’re holding the camera! I think he noticed that you’re kinda implicated in this too.

The Beadles have been all over the news today, and I’m sure they will show up some more before the week is out. I like the interview they did with a local station. Kinda gives you a sense of the aftermath. You’ll be relieved to hear that everyone’s okay. See below.

Treating young women as sisters in absolute purity

Yesterday, I wrote about how pastors are to relate to different sex and age groups within the congregation. The apostle Paul helps us to think through this in his instruction to young pastor Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:1-2. Here’s the rendering I provided yesterday:

Do not speak harshly to an older man but exhort him as you would a father.
Do not speak harshly to younger men, but exhort them as brothers.
Do not speak harshly to older women, but exhort them as mothers.
Do not speak harshly to younger women, but exhort them as sisters, in all purity.

Everything that we observed yesterday—about treating people with respect and about honoring each member’s age and station in life—carries right over to the pastor’s treatment of younger women. The pastor must not speak harshly to “younger women” but must exhort them with the same respect and honor that he would owe to his own flesh-and-blood sister.

But notice that Paul adds one additional element when it comes to the younger women of the congregation—purity. Paul says Timothy is supposed to treat these young women “as sisters, in all purity.” The word translated as “purity” only occurs two times in all of the New Testament—here and in chapter 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” The word indicates moral purity, but its connection with younger women here certainly means that Paul has sexual purity in mind.

It is likely that Paul adds a word about sexual purity because there is a particular pitfall that is all too common—sexual immorality. A pastor who has learned the art of communicating with warmth and compassion can easily find himself in a situation of emotional connection with a woman that he ought not have such a connection with. And so Paul says that there must be no hint of impropriety in his ministry to younger women.

But it is important to notice that Paul places two obligations on Timothy’s relationship to younger women. Timothy must treat them “in all purity” and treat them “as sisters.” Pastors have an obligation to get this balance correct.

On the one hand, he must relate to these young women “in all purity.” That means that he must learn to think about and to talk to these women in ways that neither imply nor intend any sexual possibility. There are certain emotional and physical connections that are only appropriate to marriage. And the faithful pastor must avoid making those connections with women who are not his spouse. He must relate “in all purity.”

On the other hand, the pastor has an obligation to relate to these young women as “sisters.” This means that a pastor must not simply withdraw from relating to the women of his congregation. He may make private efforts to gouge out his own eye or cut off his own hand (Matt. 5:28-30). But the pastor’s quest for personal holiness does not authorize him to cut off the eyes and hands of Jesus (1 Cor. 12:21). And that is what these younger sisters are—members of the body of Christ. A pastor must not simply tune these women out as if they weren’t members of the body of Christ.

A female seminary student once told me a story about a time she said “hello” to a male classmate before class started. His response to her was “I’m married,” and then he turned away. This misses the mark. A pastor must strive for holiness, but he must be careful not to let his striving turn into stiff-arming the younger women of the congregation. How arrogant it is to assume that if a female says “hello” that she is trying to be a home-wrecker. No one should be naïve about the fact that there are promiscuous women in the world that all men need to beware of (see Prov. 5). Likewise, a pastor must be vigilant. But he must also not be so cynical that ordinary conversation with a Christian woman be interpreted as a sexual advance.

What does it communicate to a sister in Christ if a pastor treats her like that? It tells her that his mind is preoccupied with things it ought not be preoccupied with. It also communicates that he thinks her very existence is a threat to holiness. It communicates that he is not thinking of her as a sister “in all purity.”

Sibling relationships help us to remember that it is possible to have a warm brotherly love for a person of the opposite sex that involves no sexual intention or possibility. And that is why Paul presses the familial analogy in this teaching about sexual purity. We all know what it’s like to have female family members—perhaps a mother or a sister or an aunt, etc. And thus we can imagine what it is like to have relationships in which sex is the farthest thing from anyone’s imagination. Paul wants pastors to retrain their minds to think of the younger women in the same way—as family members.

Even though the so-called “Billy Graham Rule” has been much maligned of late, I believe there is great wisdom in it. Every one of us must be vigilant about holiness, and every one of us would do well to develop habits and disciplines that keep our eyes on the path in front of us. A pastor must be exemplary in this regard. He must also be exemplary in relating to all the members of the congregation as family members. This balance is not beyond the realm of possibility. It can be done. Indeed, it must be done. And we must not let worldliness and carnality steal the wholesome vision that the apostle Paul has set before us.

Pastors, don’t be a jerk. Be a shepherd.

The venting of the proverbial spleen seems to be the order of the day from cable news to social media and sometimes even in interpersonal interactions. We like to hear someone who agrees with our views “tell it like it is,” especially if the telling involves a few zingers against people whose views offend us. We thrive on this kind of outrage because it appeals to our sense of self-righteous indignation. It feels oh so good to be oh so right. And there’s nothing quite as satisfying as dressing down “those people” who don’t agree with us.

This spirit is destructive wherever it is found, but it is especially destructive when it stands behind a pulpit. Even for preachers, it can be tempting to turn the pulpit into a platform for outrage. When that happens, preaching can become more an expression of a carnal pastor’s irritations than a shepherd’s care for the people of God. This is not to say that preachers must avoid confronting sin. It is to say that whenever you have to confront someone, it matters how you say what you say—even if what you are saying is right.

Paul seems to have had this dynamic in mind in exhorting young pastor Timothy about how he was to address the different people in his congregation. In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul says this:

1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

At first blush, it can be a little confusing to hear Paul forbid Timothy from “rebuking.” Is Paul really saying that pastors must never “rebuke” anyone in the congregation? Doesn’t that contradict what Paul has said elsewhere about the necessity of rebuking false teachers (1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:25; Tit. 1:9)? Doesn’t it contradict what the Bible says generally about the goodness of a faithful rebuke (Prov. 17:10; 27:5; 28:23)?

There really is no contradiction, however, as the problem is mainly one of English translation. The word translated as “rebuke” in the ESV probably isn’t strong enough. Rebukes can be life-giving and helpful, but that is not the kind of “rebuke” in view here. The literal sense of the term is to beat something with your fists. It is a term that in certain contexts suggests physical violence. But the word also has a figurative meaning that refers to verbal violence. The NIV’s “speak harshly” captures what Paul is trying to communicate. It is possible to abuse someone with fists. It is also possible to abuse someone with words. And Paul is saying that the pastor is forbidden from verbally assaulting his congregants. A pastor sins when he lords his authority over the flock by berating them (1 Pet. 5:3; cf. Matt. 20:25; Mark 10:42).

If we were to fill in the ellipses, the sense of Paul’s exhortation would go like this:

Do not speak harshly to an older man but exhort him as you would a father.
Do not speak harshly to younger men, but exhort them as brothers.
Do not speak harshly to older women, but exhort them as mothers.
Do not speak harshly to younger women, but exhort them as sisters, in all purity.

In this way, Paul tells Timothy not to obliterate but to conciliate with his words.

The term translated as “encourage” in the ESV usually has the sense of strongly appealing to someone, urging them or exhorting them to do something. Clearly, Paul has in view the manner in which a pastor exhorts his people, and this certainly applies to his teaching and preaching ministry. The term translated as “encourage” also has the added sense of speaking in a conciliatory, friendly manner. Paul wants Timothy to know that even if the pastor must bring a confrontation, he must do it in a way that respects the person he is talking to.

A wise and courageous pastor will always remember the wisdom of Solomon when exhorting his people: “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18). A good pastor is not going to use his words like a sword but like a scalpel. A sword and a scalpel are both made for cutting. But a sword is for killing. A scalpel is for healing. Even in confrontation, a pastor’s aim is not to deliver the coup de grâce but to heal.

Some pastors seem to believe that if they aren’t getting through to their people, that means they need to yell louder. But Paul says that a good pastor must not hammer people with his words. Instead, a good pastor will do his ministry with a sensitivity to the different kinds of people that he ministers to. It matters how a pastor treats people. And a pastor must not treat the congregation in an undifferentiated way. He must treat people in a way that respects their age and station of life. A pastor will minister to all different kinds of people in a given congregation, but Paul tells Timothy to treat every one of them like family. And there are appropriate ways to treat family members.

First, Paul says that the Timothy must not speak harshly to “an older man” but exhort him as he would a father. Paul wants Timothy to know that he should avoid talking down to a man who is older than he is. Even if an older man is wrong and needs correction, Timothy must not draw the sword but the scalpel. He needs to speak with the same respect that he would accord to his own father. If a pastor pulls a sword, he may destroy the older man. Or it is just as likely that the older man may draw his sword as well, and the verbal fisticuffs can cause division and get out of hand very quickly. It is always good to remember that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

Second, Paul says that Timothy must not speak harshly to “younger men” but exhort them as brothers. Addressing younger men is different than addressing older men. Both situations require respect, but it will be expressed in different way. A pastor will not say “Yes, Sir” and “No, Sir” to a younger man, but neither will he talk down to them. He must treat younger men like brothers. A man must not draw the sword on his own flesh and blood, and that is what a younger brother is in the body of Christ. A pastor must respect the younger men in a way that is due their age and station. This calls for honestly, truthfulness, and forbearance.

Third, Paul says that Timothy must not speak harshly to “older women” but exhort them as mothers. A pastor must not treat women who are his senior with careless disregard. He must care for them and speak to them like he would his own mother. The respect required for older men is also called for in relating to older women. But there may be an added dynamic that Paul wishes to accent. A man has a kind of built-in protectiveness when it comes to his own mother. Perhaps Paul is appealing to this sensibility as well and calling pastors to have a sense of protectiveness about the elder women of the congregation.

Paul’s final exhortation relates to the pastor’s treatment of the young women in the congregation. Because Paul adds a requirement of “purity” to this exhortation, we will consider this one in a separate post tomorrow.

Feed my giraffe?

The apostle Paul once gave an exhortation to his disciple Timothy about the job description of a pastor. Among other things, Paul said this: “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 4:6). In context, “putting these things before the brothers” means teaching God’s word to God’s people. And in this case, teaching that word involved a direct confrontation with false teaching.

This means that the main labor of a pastor is to understand and explain what the Bible means. But a faithful pastor can’t leave it there. If he does, it’s just a lecture. A good servant is going to connect the dots for the people. He’s going to tell them not only what the Bible means but also how it applies to their lives.

Some preachers think they are serving their people if they deliver eloquent theological discourses that are long on concept but short on connection to people in the pew. Everything they’re saying is learned and perhaps even true, but it’s going over the congregation’s head. Charles Haddon Spurgeon confronted this problem with a pointed, humorous quip:

Christ said, ‘Feed My sheep. . . . Feed My lambs.’ Some preachers, however, put the food so high that neither lambs nor sheep can reach it. They seem to have read the text, ‘Feed My giraffes.’1

Spurgeon is being light-hearted here, but he is making a serious point. A preacher has the responsibility to “put these things before the brothers” in a way that doctors and plumbers and lawyers and housewives and factory workers can all understand. A preacher’s job is not to complicate simplicity but to simplify complexity. Unfortunately, too many do the opposite. A good servant of Christ Jesus preaches the word in a way that connects to people.

I know that I need to do better here. Perhaps there are some other preachers out there who need this little nudge too.


1 William Williams, Personal Reminiscences of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 2nd ed. (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1895), 145.

David Gushee: Our “differences are unbridgeable”

David Gushee has a column at Religion News Service about Jonathan Merritt, Jen Hatmaker, and LGBT “inclusion” within the church. Gushee says that he exited evangelicalism 30 months ago, and since then he has concluded this:

I now believe that incommensurable differences in understanding the very meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the interpretation of the Bible, and the sources and methods of moral discernment, separate many of us from our former brethren — and that it is best to name these differences clearly and without acrimony, on the way out the door.

I also believe that attempting to keep the dialogue going is mainly fruitless. The differences are unbridgeable. They are articulated daily in endless social media loops.

Gushee is absolutely right about this. We have “incommensurable differences” and the differences are indeed “unbridgeable.” On the one side are the traditionalists who believe that homosexuality is a sin. On the other side are the revisionists who believe that homosexuality is not sinful. The differences between the traditionalists and the revisionists go right to the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

If the traditionalist side is correct, then there can be no fellowship between the true church and revisionists—because the revisionists have revised themselves right out of the faith. And if the revisionists were consistent with their conclusions, they would recognize that no fellowship is possible from their point of view either. The only reconciliation is for one side or the other to repent and embrace the views of the other side.

This is why the whole Side A/Side B approach to the issue is a dead end. The Side A/Side B approach wants to convince people that differences over these issues shouldn’t really divide us. Some Christians will affirm sexual immorality and some will not. In terms of doctrinal priority, the issue is more like baptism than the deity of Christ. No big deal. We are all Christians after all. Why can’t we all just get along?

There are a number of problems with this kind of reasoning, but I will mention just two:

(1) The scripture casts sexual immorality as a first-order issue. In fact, it treats all unrepented sin as a first order issue that prevents people from entering the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11). No matter what side you come down on in this debate, there can be no question that our conclusions will define how we understand the boundaries of the church. This is not a debate about adiaphora but about the essence of our faith. A church can no more accommodate both points of view than it can accommodate both light and darkness (2 Cor. 6:14-16).

(2) The Side A/Side B approach is functionally no different from an “affirming” approach. Here’s the bottom line. A church either will or will not accept members who are practicing homosexual immorality. A church either will or will not discipline members for homosexual immorality. A church either will or will not ordain clergy who are practicing homosexuals. There is no middle ground between these practical polarities. If you are in a church that allows both points of view (Side A/Side B), then functionally your church is no different from a fully “affirming” congregation. You accept members and clergy who are practicing homosexual immorality. Again, there is no middle ground between the polarities of these two positions. Those who attempt middle ground will eventually have to move to one side or the other.

Gushee understands this, I think. It is time for folks on both sides of this debate to come to terms with just how much of a watershed this issue is. The evangelical movement is facing a moment of crisis over this issue. We are about to find out who is for real and who isn’t. We shouldn’t relish this moment as it reveals so much that is unhealthy in our movement. But neither should we shrink from it. We must contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). That is what the true church has always done. And that is what she must now do again.

It is not “character assassination” for the church to be the church.

Last night, Jonathan Merritt penned an article for Religion News Service excoriating Christians who have distanced themselves from Jen Hatmaker. He writes:

Hatmaker’s original sin is that she broke ranks with the evangelical powers-that-be on same-sex relationships. In an interview with me last October, Hatmaker stated that if she found out one of her children were gay, she would love that child just the same. If an LGBT friend of Hatmaker’s got married, she said she would attend the wedding. And Hatmaker said she believed LGBT relationships could be holy.

In the interview, Hatmaker did not deny a line in the Apostles Creed. She did not promote a historical heresy. She merely claimed that after a careful study of the scriptures, she had arrived at a different understanding of same-sex relationships. But this was enough to outrage some conservative Christians. Lifeway Christian Stores even banned her books from their shelves.

Merritt says that Hatmaker has not only been “blacklisted” but that her detractors have engaged in “the nastiest character assassination.” In sum, Merritt believes Hatmaker’s endorsement of same-sex relationships should be treated as within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy and that evangelical churches and ministries are mistreating her by excluding her because of her views on sexuality.

There are more problems in Merritt’s article than I can address in a single essay, but it is worth pointing out some of the more significant mischaracterizations. The entire 2,000-year history of the Christian church has spoken univocally about homosexuality. Faithful Christians have always believed what the scriptures teach about this. Homosexuality is sexual immorality and is therefore sinful (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:10). We understand that this is an unpopular point of view today, but it is nevertheless what the church has always believed and confessed.

There are many voices within the North American evangelical movement that are turning away from what the church has always believed and confessed. Hatmaker is now among them. They are trying to tell people that sexual immorality is compatible with following Jesus. And they are asking the rest of the church to accept their point of view as within the orthodox stream.

The problem is that their teaching never has been, is not, and never will be within the orthodox stream. It will always be a mark of those who have fallen away from the faith. Theirs is an ancient error—one that can be found within the pages of the New Testament itself:

“Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 3-4)

What is this departure from “the faith once for all delivered to the saints”? What is this teaching that amounts to a denial of “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” and that puts adherents under “condemnation”? It is the teaching that distorts the grace of God into a permission slip for sexual immorality. It is the errant notion that somehow God is okay with sexual immorality after all.

But He’s not okay with it. And neither are his people, the church. Faithful Christians are never going to accept this teaching. The true church is never going to embrace this. It may look otherwise to those who are focused on Christian organizations in the secular west. But this is not an accurate picture of the church worldwide, which is overwhelmingly with the orthodox on this question. And if we give attention to what G.K. Chesterton called the “democracy of the dead”—the faith of the church throughout the ages—it becomes very clear that American revisionists are a tiny schismatic minority. Just an ounce of historical and global perspective puts the lie to the notion that the revisionists are winning the day on this. They are not.

That is why faithful Christian ministries and churches are not going to give their platforms to teachers who have stepped outside of the healing stream of Christian truth. The Spirit of Christ commands His bride to stand apart from those who are leading people astray:

“As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Tit. 3:10-11).

The word translated as “division” is the Greek word hairetikos, which is the basis for our English word heresy. It is clear that the divisive person in this scenario is the false teacher, not the church who is standing apart from him in faithfulness to Christ. The church is supposed to be calling people to Christ, and she dare not platform those who are leading people away from Christ.

Merritt writes as if there is an underlying groundswell of evangelical support for this false teaching. He even claims that there are many well-known pastors and leaders who privately believe that homosexual immorality is compatible with following Christ. But, Merritt says, these leaders dare not say so publicly because they don’t want to lose their ministry platforms. I don’t have any way to verify this claim. But even if it were true, I think Merritt misconstrues the meaning of the presence of such hucksters. Their subterfuge is not evidence of where the church is going but of what the church will be casting off when their deception becomes known.

I was grieved by what I read in Merritt’s column last night. It represents a sad celebration of serious error that is completely incompatible with the Christian faith. The good news is that the New Testament does offer hope that false teachers might recognize their error and come back from the brink. Paul himself holds out some hope for his opponents:

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

This is my prayer. It really is. I am hoping against hope that those who have embraced this error might come back from the brink. So much is at stake. Everything that matters is at stake. Our arms are open. Come back. Please come back.

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