Azusa Pacific University now allows students to be in gay relationships

Over the weekend, I read the news about Azusa Pacific University—an “evangelical” school in California that is removing its ban on homosexual relationships among students. The campus newspaper reports:

Effective this fall 2018 semester, Azusa Pacific removed language from its student standard of conduct agreement that prohibited public LGBTQ+ relationships for students on campus. As an evangelical institution, APU still adheres to the Biblical principles of human sexuality—the belief that “sexual union is intended by God to take place only within the marriage covenant between a man and a woman” and it remains a cornerstone of the university’s foundation.

The paper claims that the ban on homosexual relationships has been removed even as the school still maintains “biblical principles of human sexuality.” If that seems confusing, that’s because it is. An APU alumnus attempts to explain the change:

“We thought it was unfair to single out queer folks in same-sex romantic relationships while it is impossible to enforce or monitor [whether other students are remaining abstinent],” Green said. “Queer students are just as able to have romanticized relationships that abide by APU’s rules. The code used falsely assumed that same-sex romances always involved sexual behavior. This stigmatization causes harm to our community, especially those serious about their Christian faith.”

The students spoke, and the administrative board listened. Associate Dean of Students Bill Fiala, Ph.D., said that as the board evaluated their code of conduct, they wanted to be attentive to equity.

“The changes that occured[sic] to the handbooks around sexual behavior creates one standard for all undergraduate students, as opposed to differential standards for different groups,” Fiala said. “The change that happened with the code of conduct is still in alignment with our identity as a Christian institution. The language changed, but the spirit didn’t. Our spirit is still a conservative, evangelical perspective on human sexuality.”

Notice how the school is now parsing things up. The school’s standards of conduct now simply ban “sexual intimacy outside the context of marriage,” where marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman (10.1 Inappropriate Sexual Behavior). As long as students avoid “sexual intimacy” outside marriage, they are free to pursue whatever romantic relationships they please—gay, straight, or otherwise. In other words, homosexual romance is permitted so long as no “sexual intimacy” is involved.

Despite the school’s claim otherwise, there are major problems with this policy, and it’s stunning that the administration doesn’t see them. First, the school reduces sexual sin to “sexual intimacy” outside marriage without defining what “sexual intimacy” consists of. Obviously intercourse would be prohibited, but what about kissing? Holding hands? What exactly is being prohibited here for those in homosexual relationships?

And that raises a second problem. In an attempt at “equity,” the statement fails to reflect biblical distinctions between homosexual relationships and heterosexual ones. It seems that the statement is open to couples expressing public displays of affection—holding hands, hugging, etc. On its own terms, it would also allow gay couples to hold hands, hug, etc. along with a range of other public and private displays of affection. Anyone who thinks this is a Christian approach to relationships doesn’t understand Christianity.

Which brings us to problem number three. The Lord Jesus himself teaches us that it is not merely immoral sexual behavior that is sinful but also immoral sexual desires:

Matt. 5:27-30 27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Jesus says that it is sin to look at a married woman in order to desire her sexually. And there is literally hell to pay if immoral desires are not kept in check. Sexual holiness, therefore, is not merely a matter of deeds committed but of desires felt. Yet Azusa is saying that it is okay for romantic homosexual relationships to happen on campus so long as there is no sex. Do they not see how this contradicts what Jesus teaches us about sexual holiness as a matter of the heart?

The fundamental problem here is that Azusa has adopted a policy that fails to make a moral distinction between homosexual and heterosexual relationships. Even when abstinent, they are not morally equivalent. A heterosexual relationship can and may have the covenant of marriage as its aim and goal. A homosexual relationship can never have marriage as its aim and goal. That means that a homosexual relationship can never be holy or pleasing to God. By definition, it is sinful (Rom. 1:26-27).

One more item is problematic. The school’s standards of conduct prohibit students from cohabitating with the opposite sex (9.0 Cohabitation). Yet students of the same-sex are still permitted to cohabitate—presumably including those that are in homosexual romantic relationships. Does Azusa believe that it is good for same-sex attracted students to be cohabitating while experiencing sexual desires for one another? What an unwise and confusing and destructive message the school is sending.

The problems in this new policy are legion, but on the whole this cannot be squared with a faithful Christian sexual morality. In the name of “equity” it abandons historic Christian teaching about homosexuality. It’s a capitulation to error that is neither faithful to Christ nor good for students. This policy contradicts Azusa’s claim to be a Christian institution. I hope and pray that they see this, and soon.

Does guilt or innocence even matter anymore?

Yesterday I read a column by Ross Douthat that is perplexing. If I’m being truthful, it’s worse than perplexing. It is an absolute disappointment. Douthat makes the case that it doesn’t really matter whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh is guilty or innocent of the allegations against him. Even if Kavanaugh is innocent, he has been tainted by accusations made against him and on those grounds alone could be unfit to serve on the Supreme Court. Douthat writes:

Even if Kavanaugh is innocent of the charge of a teenage sexual assault… to give such prominence and power to a man credibly accused would both leave an unnecessary taint on his future rulings (especially given his appointment by our Playboy president) and alienate social conservatives from the persuadable Americans, women especially, whose support any pro-life program ultimately requires.

Douthat goes on to argue that the uncorroborated allegations and the politics are so weighty, that “he may be innocent but his nomination will deserve to fail.” Continue Reading →

Albert Mohler answers questions about social justice

Albert Mohler had an open Q&A session with students at Southern Seminary and Boyce College today in which he answered a question about social justice. At 24:14 in the video above, a student asks, “How do you define social justice, and how do you define our gospel call in how you define social justice.” Dr. Mohler gives an extensive statement in response, and at 38:35 offers a specific explanation of why he didn’t sign the recent Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel.

Later in the day, Dr. Mohler answered more questions along these lines on his podcast “Ask Anything Live.” In the video below, you can hear the questions and his answers at following time marks: Continue Reading →

John Calvin on Temptation and Original Sin

Over the summer, Rosaria Butterfield and I coauthored an article about the differences between Protestants and Catholics concerning original sin. I followed up that article with some of my own reflections about temptation and sin. I stand by what we wrote. I have many Roman Catholic friends that I love and appreciate, but I still think that our differences on this point are important to come to terms with.

John Calvin opines on these differences as well in a sermon on Galatians 5:19-23. Calvin’s comments reveal that our differences with Roman Catholics about original sin are as old as the Reformation. The sermon also reveals that the debate was not and is not still merely academic. It has tremendous practical implications for how we are to live our lives as pleasing before God. The rhetoric here is strong and reflects the pitched conflict of the time. Nevertheless, the underlying theological point still stands. Here is Calvin in his own words: Continue Reading →

An 88-year-old dad is reunited with his 53-year-old Down Syndrome son

This really is wonderful. As Jayber Crow would say, “Good-good-good-good-good!”

A speech delivered at the dedication of the “Silent Sam” monument

Today’s New York Times has an op-ed from Blain Roberts and Ethan Kytle titled “The ‘Silent Sam’ Confederate Monument at U.N.C. Was Toppled. What Happens Next?” I was very interested to read this in light of their article in The Atlantic three years ago concerning confederate memorials. In the earlier article, they favored leaving the memorials in place with placards explaining their origins in white supremacy. They made the case that leaving them standing with historical context would encourage Americans to come to terms with their troubled racial past. Continue Reading →

Why get rid of priests who experience same-sex attraction?

I read the news with horror two days ago after I saw the headline from The New York Times: “Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania, Report Says.” If you haven’t been following this story, you need to. It is simply horrific. And all this in the wake of the disturbing revelations about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of young boys and seminarians.

The scope of the problem in the Pennsylvania is staggering. What struck me when I read the Times article, however, was that the words “gay” and “homosexual” appear nowhere in The New York Times’ coverage. I understand why it wasn’t mentioned. This is a kind of third rail for the reporting class. They don’t want to cover the networks of sexually active gay priests within the Catholic Church as if their presence were a problem. The coverage (or lack thereof) actually reflects the worldviews of those reporting the news. To them, abuse may be a problem, but homosexuality isn’t. Moreover, homosexuality per se has nothing to do with scandals uncovered in recent weeks. Continue Reading →

The Trinity Debate Two Years On

It’s been about two years since the great online conflagration known as “the Trinity debate” began to wind down. I still think a lot about what happened during those months during the summer of 2016. Two years hence, I can say that my dominant feelings about it are thankfulness. And I say that in spite of the fact that it was one of the most bitter and unsparing debates I’ve ever been a party to.

Why am I mainly thankful? I stand by what I wrote two years ago in the immediate aftermath. I learned from both faithful and unfaithful critics. And it was good for me.

Before the debate started, I would have identified myself as a standard fourth century Nicene Trinitarian. I haven’t moved from that identification but own it all the more fervently (and with greater clarity) as a result of what unfolded over those two months in the summer of 2016. I have done more reading on the trinity because of that debate than I ever had previously. Which means that I know God better than I did before. Praise God. Continue Reading →

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