Alastair Roberts: “Hugh Hefner, the Logic of Porn, and the Homosexualization of Sex”

Alastair Roberts has written long form piece about an article that Christianity Today reprinted some years ago. The original article included some countercultural salvos against pornography. Roberts says that the CT version seems to have downplayed those details:

The striking thing about the CT version is the way in which it reworks the original article in a way that removes much of the bite of Prof. Schuchardt’s thesis on two fronts: carefully downplaying his masculinization of women and feminization of men claims and also his claims about the homosexual character of the culture of porn. Both claims make some appearance in the CT article, but in a form that are radically weakened from their form in the original piece.

Yet Schuchardt’s original thesis, though overstated at points, is an important one. Our society, in whose construction Hefner has played no small part, depends upon the feminization of men, the masculinization of women, and the homosexualization of their approach to sex. Such assertions violate all of our culture’s sensitivities, but they are important.

The rest of Roberts’ article is a must-read because he defends the thesis that our culture’s fixation on pornography relies upon the “feminization of men, the masculinization of women, and the homosexualization of their approach to sex.” In the conclusion, Roberts writes:

Speaking forthrightly about these issues jeopardizes the respectability that Christians so covet. It will even provoke outrage from a great many modern Christians, who have a great deal invested in the neutralization of sexual difference and pretending that men and women are largely interchangeable in the family, in the church, in society, in politics, and in the economy. It will deeply offend those whose extreme concern not to say anything remotely insensitive about homosexual persons prevents them from speaking forthrightly about the intrinsically disordered and destructive character of the acts they are drawn to. It will anger people who have made their peace with the extremely elevated levels of porn’s background radiation within our society and within their own lives and will rationalize or excuse the effects that it is having upon us.

However, our desire for respectability and the approval of men shouldn’t lead us to defang the teeth of truths that will pierce our thin skins. The issues Prof. Schuchardt’s original article highlight are very real and are effecting us all. We must speak candidly about them and address them unflinchingly both in our own lives and within the society at large.

Read the rest of this very insightful article here.

Kenwood Music: “Hope of Every Promise”

Kenwood Music is a ministry of the church where I serve as associate pastor. Under the direction of Matt Damico, they have just released a new album titled Hope of Every Promise. Matt Damico wrote the words and music for most of the songs on the album with one credit going to singer Bethany Breland.

This really is an outstanding set of worship songs Matt has put together, and I highly recommend it to you. You can watch and listen to the lyric video for the song “Good to Know the Father” above. But even better than that, you can buy and download the entire album from iTunes, Amazon, or Bandcamp.

Jimmy Scroggins: “Jesus Is the Multiplier”

Yesterday was unusual for me in Southern Seminary’s chapel. I sat in my seat on the verge of tears for nearly the entire sermon. The preached word is always powerful and transforming in ways that we do not always detect. But sometimes the Lord lands in special power in ways that we can quite clearly detect. That is how Jimmy Scroggins’s message landed on me yesterday.

The message is titled “Jesus Is the Multiplier,” and the text is the feeding of the five thousand in Mark 6:30-44. There are four simple points: (1) Start where you are, (2) Use what you have, (3) Do what you can, and (3) Trust Jesus as the multiplier.

I think it is worth your time to give a listen. You can watch it above, listen below, or download here.

Steve Scalise returns to the House of Representatives for the first time since being gunned down

On June 14, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was gunned downed during a practice for a charity baseball game. Scalise’s security detail was able to take down the shooter and thereby to save the lives of many other congressmen.

Scalise nearly died as a result of his wounds, and his life hung in the balance through many subsequent surgeries. Today he returned to the House of Representatives for the first time since the shooting. He delivered an emotional speech that is worth your time to watch from start to finish. See above.

Is it okay for a Christian to affirm polyamory?

Earlier this week, a Patheos blogger ran an interview titled “Southern Baptist Preacher Affirms Polyamory.” The title actually turns out to be a misnomer. The “preacher” in question is not in fact a Southern Baptist, although his bio says that he was ordained in a Southern Baptist Church ten years ago. Whatever his background, he has fallen a long way from anything Southern Baptist and is not now the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church. Indeed, the article reveals that he has fallen away from the faith altogether and is in no sense even recognizably Christian. For the article to call him a Southern Baptist, therefore, is at best misleading.

But Hood does illustrate what is happening right now among many “Christians” in our culture. There is an attempt by false teachers to revise and repress what scripture teaches about male, female, sex, and marriage. And in doing so, they are attempting to revise and repress the nature of Christianity itself. This is not a renewal of the faith but a declaration of war upon it.

Advocating for polyamory may seem outlandish now, but Christians have to ask themselves why? Bible-believing Christians have an answer to that question ready at hand. The Bible’s clear teaching and the entire 2,000-year tradition of the church has spoken with one voice against such immoral relationships.

But on what basis would so-called “affirming Christians” preclude such immorality? Because they have already rejected God’s revelation about homosexual immorality, they really have no basis for opposition to polyamorous immorality. Indeed, they have no basis for raising moral objections to any sexual relationship between consenting adults. The logical endpoint of their revisions is not Christian integrity but sexual anarchy.

That is why it is so astonishing that some self-identified evangelicals are beginning to give a hearing to such subversive revisions to the Christian faith. In the name of tolerance and of acceptance, they are redefining love as unconditional affirmation of whatever someone wants to do with their bodies sexually. Such revisionists may call themselves Christian, but they are Christian in name only (Titus 1:16).

One of the most important features of The Nashville Statement is the clarity it provides concerning the definition of marriage and sexual purity. And that clarity begins in the first two articles:

Article 1
WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.
WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.

Article 2
WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.
WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality.

These articles reflect the biblical truth that marriage is not a choose-your-own-adventure story. God designed marriage as a part of his original good creation, and he explicitly designed it to be covenantal (Mal. 2:14), sexual (Gen. 2:24), procreative (Gen. 1:28), lifelong (Matt. 19:6) union of a man and a woman. And God has designed this relationship to be an icon of the gospel itself (Eph. 5:32). No sexual relationship outside of that covenant—homosexual, heterosexual, or otherwise—can ever be pleasing or honoring to God. Such relationships are in fact “an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness” (The Nashville Statement, Article X).

Since the release of The Nashville Statement, I have heard reports about how pastors and church leaders are using the statement to teach their people. One of the ways is simply to read through the articles with the congregation, explain them, and show how the articles reflect the truth of scripture (there are now scripture references posted on The Nashville Statement website). This is the kind of basic discipleship that is so sorely needed today when it comes to the Bible’s teaching about sexuality and gender. And it is exactly the need that the statement was designed to meet.

Our day calls for clarity on these matters because there is so much confusion around us—even among those who claim the name “Christian.” That only makes the task more urgent for authentic disciples of Jesus to bear witness to the truth:

We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good. God’s good plan provides us with the greatest freedom. Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it in overflowing measure. He is for us and not against us (The Nashville Statement, Preamble).

To deny this truth is to deny Christianity altogether. To deny these truths is to lead people away from Jesus and not to him. There is so much at stake—more than the polyamory-affirming false teachers would have you believe.

What if you’re not as awesome as you think you are?

Proverbs 16:2 is simple and uncomplicated, yet it says something profound about the human condition.

All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the LORD weighs the motives.

The “ways of a man” refers to the way that a person leads his life. The “man” in the proverb shows very little concern about the moral character of his life. When it comes to decisions or relationships or work, this kind of person tends to hold himself in high esteem. He views himself as “clean” in his own sight—which means that he thinks he is doing just fine.

Perhaps a man is angry and harsh to his wife, yet he doesn’t see it that way. He thinks he’s justified in the way he treats his wife. He’s “clean” in his own sight. Perhaps a woman regularly cuts corners at work and undermines her fellow workers, yet she doesn’t see it that way. Her own self-estimation is that she is popular and loved among her co-workers. She doesn’t know how people really feel about her because she is “clean” in her own sight. Perhaps a man is emotionally absent from his children, yet he doesn’t see it that way. He’s unaware that they are slipping away from him because he’s “clean” in his own sight.

This proverb indicates that we are by nature prone to excuse our own shortcomings, to overlook them, or even to justify them. The result is that we walk around with a self-regard that often exceeds reality. This is a special danger in our current cultural context where self-esteem is presented as the end-all-be-all of human virtue. The therapeutic worldview encourages us to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. And yet here is a proverb that is telling us the opposite.

Why does this proverb tell us to be so skeptical about ourselves? Because God is the One who “weighs the motives.” Literally, the text says that God is the one who “examines” our “spirits.” God knows me better than I know myself. I may have an inflated view of my own achievement and success at life, but God can see what I either cannot or will not see about myself. There is often a gap between the reality that God sees and the illusions that I sustain in thinking about myself.

All of this teaches us at least three things:

(1) An untroubled conscience might say less about our real character than it does about our lack of self-awareness. Paul said it this way: “I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:4). Paul understands that his clean conscience doesn’t make him innocent of evil doing. It’s possible to feel innocent while not actually being innocent. This is the point that we must press upon our own hearts. God is our judge. We don’t judge ourselves.

(2) We need to be suspicious of ourselves. That is why the proverb warns, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26). We need to realize that we have a tendency to view our foibles through rose-colored goggles. We tend to view things that way because we are sinners by nature, and self-regard comes rather natural to us. That is why we need to be attuned to our hearts enough to know when pride is swelling. “A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor” (Proverbs 29:23).

(3) We need to see ourselves as God sees us. God knows that we are but dust and that sometimes our self-knowledge falters. Nevertheless, God gives us Proverbs like this one to encourage us to view ourselves in the full light of God’s revelation. The more grand our vision of God is the more humble our estimation of ourselves will be. There is a joy and a humility that only comes from the self-forgetfulness of worship. Self-loathing is not the antidote to pride, but God-exaltation is.

Answering frequently asked questions about The Nashville Statement

Last week, I answered a range of questions about the Nashville Statement from the guys at the Apologetics Canada podcast. These brothers had really great queries—many that I have been asked from others over the last few weeks. The interview is only a little over twenty minutes, but we ended up covering a lot of ground. You can download the interview here or listen below:


Here are the questions that they asked:

  1. Why did you issue The Nashville Statement?
  2. Why does The Nashville Statement not include scripture references?
  3. Why was a broader coalition of people not included in drafting the statement?
  4. How many people have signed The Nashville Statement? And how important is it for people to sign it?
  5. Why was this published during the Hurricane Harvey crisis in Houston?
  6. Weren’t there more important things to talk about? Like immigration issues, Charlottesville, neo-Nazis, etc.?
  7. Did you include complementarian theology in The Nashville Statement?
  8. How do you respond to people who say The Nashville Statement wasn’t gracious enough?
  9. Is Article 10 trying to be harsh toward people who identify as gay or transgender?
  10. Why not make a more vigorous public defense of The Nashville Statement?
  11. How do you respond to the criticism that teaching God’s truth about sexuality is harmful to people?
  12. What surprised you the most about the feedback you’ve gotten?

Design, teleology, and the Nashville Statement

Many conservative critiques of the Nashville Statement boil down to a complaint about its scope. Critics acknowledge that the statement’s affirmations and denials are basically sound, but they complain that the statement should have covered more ground. That is a legitimate line of critique, even though it should not be confused with a refutation of what the statement does in fact say.

I suspect that every one of the Nashville Statement‘s signatories would affirm much more than is included in the document but that none of them would want to affirm less than what is in the document. And one of the key concepts included in the statement is the idea that God’s design for his creation discloses to us his will for our lives as male and female. The Nashville Statement refers to God’s design no less than nine times:

  • “The beauty of God’s design for human life”
  • “God created human beings for his glory, and… his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female.”
  • “The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures…”
  • “We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good”
  • “WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.
    WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.”
  • “WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.”
  • “WE AFFIRM that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female.”
  • “WE DENY any obligation to speak in such ways that dishonor God’s design of his image-bearers as male and female.”

Why the accent on God’s design? Because God’s design is integral to any faithful account of Christian sexual ethics. God’s design in creation is foundational for understanding what God requires of us. We must test every moral claim not only by the specific statements of scripture but also by whether they conform to God’s design for us as sexual beings. Oliver O’Donovan puts it this way:

The order of things that God has made is there. It is objective, and mankind has a place within it. Christian ethics, therefore, has an objective reference because it is concerned with man’s life in accordance with this order. . . Thus Christian moral judgments in principle address every man (Resurrection and Moral Order, p. 17).

God has designed his creatures to live and move and have their being within the order that he has established. To believe or to act contrary to that order is not only self-destructive but also sinful.

God designed everything with a purpose, including our sexual lives. His design reveals the purposes for which he made us and helps us to distinguish that which is good and true from that which is errant and false. As I have argued elsewhere,

We ought to evaluate the ethics of any sexual act on the basis of its ability to encompass the four purposes [of sex]: consummation, procreation, love, and pleasure. In addition to that, we ought to consider how the act in question relates to the overall purpose of marriage and to the ultimate end of glorifying God. Christian ethical reflection has to take into account the whole counsel of God. Ethical decision making can fall short of that ideal when Christians are quick to label something a matter of Christian freedom simply because there is no explicit prohibition in Scripture. Even without an explicit prohibition, an act may fall short of the glory of God because it does not achieve His purposes for human sexuality (What Is the Meaning of Sex, pp. 117-118).

God’s design in nature and his revelation in scripture are not at odds. On the contrary, they are perfectly congruent, and they both reveal his will for us sexually. God’s design for male and female, therefore, is not arbitrary. It is the revelation of his will for our lives.

Are there many other helpful and necessary things to say about sexual ethics not included in the Nashville Statement? Of course there are. But that doesn’t render the items that are covered any less essential. And that includes our personal and physical design as male and female.

On the Scandal of Divorce

Ron Belgau is one of the founders of the Spiritual Friendship blog, and he has released a long letter on Rod Dreher’s blog expressing his disapproval of The Nashville Statement. Over the years, Ron and I have had many back-and-forths over these issues, and I have always found him to be a really powerful and generous interlocutor. His remarks deserve a fuller response than I am going to give right here, so some of the engagement will have to wait until later.

But before getting into disagreement, I would highlight one part of Ron’s letter that I completely agree with. Ron points out that many Southern Baptists have totally capitulated to the divorce culture and have a really bad track record here. He also argues that conservative evangelicals writ large have allowed and tolerated this moral collapse for decades.

I completely agree with him about that. The widespread acceptance of no-fault divorce shows that our culture and capitulating Christians were redefining marriage long before gay marriage was on anyone’s radar screen. That is in part why the Southern Baptist Convention overwhelmingly approved a resolution in 2010 “On the Scandal of Southern Baptist Divorce.” It’s also why I wrote this in my 2013 book on sexual ethics:

There may be no greater blight on the testimony of Christianity in our culture than the church’s near total capitulation to the divorce culture… What is perhaps most disconcerting is the fact that so many Christian marriages seem to have accommodated themselves to American divorce culture. Not only did churches say very little when no-fault divorce became the legal reality of our land, but they also said very little when no-fault divorce became the practical reality of the people sitting in our pews. Though practicing Christians tend to have lower divorce rates than the general population, the numbers are still very concerning… Perhaps there is some consolation in the knowledge that church-attending Evangelicals seem to fare better than those who are less devout. Nevertheless, it is a spiritual crisis that more than one-third of the more committed evangelicals report having been divorced or separated. The numbers are still far too high for those who confess to believe what the Bible teaches about the sanctity of marriage. John Calvin’s admonition is one that more people could stand to hear:

“They who, for slight causes, rashly allow of divorces, violate, in one single particular, all the laws of nature, and reduce them to nothing. If we should make it a point of conscience not to separate a father from his son, it is still greater wickedness to dissolve the bond which God has preferred to all others.”

Denny Burk, What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Crossway, 2013)

So I think we are agreed on this point. I think where we disagree is whether The Nashville Statement addresses the fact that evangelical churches are already woefully compromised on the issue of marriage. I think it does. He believes that it doesn’t. Our difference is over this paragraph in the preamble:

Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin?

Ron reads this paragraph to mean that the church may become compromised but is not compromised yet. I understand this paragraph to mean that although many among us have already bowed the knee to Baal, there are many who have not. This paragraph frames the document, in my view, as a statement for a compromised church. The question is who is going to win out? The ones who have bowed the knee or the ones who have not?

One of the most important things to understand about The Nashville Statement is that it was not primarily aimed at the outside world. It is aimed at the evangelical Christian world where so much confusion on these questions seems to remain. As I said in my opinion piece for The Hill over the weekend:

The Nashville Statement is not a culture-war document. It is a church document. It stakes out no public policy positions. It advocates for no particular piece of legislation or political program. Rather, it was drafted by churchmen from a variety of evangelical traditions who aim to catechize God’s people about their place in the true story of the world. And fundamental to that storyline is our “personal and physical design as male and female.”

The Bible begins in Genesis with a marriage and ends in Revelation with a marriage, and that is why the nature of marriage is fundamental to our story as well.

You may be asking, “If the Nashville Statement is simply a Christian confessional statement, then why has it dominated headlines this past week? What’s so newsworthy about that?” Truthfully, we too have been astonished by the amount of attention this has gotten in the press. It does not seem all that newsworthy to reassert what the church everywhere has confessed for the last 2,000 years.

But we are okay with the attention because we believe that God’s design for his world and his people is not bad news but good news. We all stand in need of grace. This story of sin and repentance, faith and forgiveness is my story too. It is our hope and prayer that everyone who reads The Nashville Statement will find it to be their story as well.

I hope to have some more interaction later on other items Ron raises.

 

 

Ten ways to show truth and love to your gay neighbor

No doubt you have already read the news about the release of The Nashville Statement earlier this week. My staff at CBMW and I have been working hard on this effort for many months now, and we are grateful to the Lord to see it finally come to fruition. It is a statement that is faithful to scripture and, hopefully, one that may serve as a standard and guide for many years to come.

In light of the statement’s release, I thought it might be helpful to review ten practical ways that Christians can show love to their gay neighbors.

1. Be a friend.

And by that, I mean be a real friend. Don’t make changing your gay neighbor a condition of your friendship.

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17).

2. Listen.

Your gay neighbor may have a story to tell, and you need to hear it. Not just for their sake, but for yours. There is nothing better to wipe away erroneous caricatures than to listen to someone else’s story. Listening does not equal approving an unbiblical ideology. It just means that you care and are open to learning.

“He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him” (Prov. 18:13).

3. Feel compassion.

Understand that your gay neighbor often feels distress over unwanted same-sex attraction. There can be a real sense of alienation that they feel from their own sexual desires. For some, the experience is quite agonizing. How would you feel if you had to walk a mile in their shoes? We all experience some measure of brokenness due to the fallenness of creation. So we too know what it means to groan (Rom. 8:23). If this is true, it ought to summon forth a compassionate response to our gay neighbors.

“And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12).

4. Share the gospel.

The gospel is good news for sinners. It is the true story about a Creator God who loves sinners and who has made a way to reconcile them to Himself through the death and resurrection of His own Son. It’s the best news in the world. How could we possibly withhold that from any friend?

“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

5. Speak the truth.

You don’t have to be mean, angry, or haughty to speak truthfully. You can do it in a way that is winsome and that shows concern but does not disdain. In short, you can speak the truth in love.

“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15).

6. Be candid about differences.

This is a necessary corollary to speaking the truth. A true friend will always find a way to communicate differences that matter. A friendship that glosses over such things can degenerate into flattery and superficiality. Sometimes the truth about God’s word brings a confrontation no matter how nice and compassionate you try to be in delivering it. But don’t let the fear of confrontation keep you from being candid.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov. 27:6).

7. Oppose bullying.

Christians must lead the charge to condemn acts of abuse or bullying committed against our gay neighbors. Take your stand with the oppressed. Speak up for them. Do it even if it costs you social capital or risks subjecting yourself to the same bullying. This is the kind of sacrificial love that bears witness to the way Christ has loved us.

“My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, Let us lie in wait for blood, Let us ambush the innocent without cause…” My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, For their feet run to evil, And they hasten to shed blood” (Prov. 1:10-16).

8. Receive your brothers and sisters.

We should befriend our gay neighbors including, of course, those who are not Christians. Perhaps some will repent of their sin, trust Christ, and become Christians. When they do, be prepared to rejoice and to receive them with open arms as brothers and sisters in Christ. Make sure they know that they are received as full members into the body of Christ even if they have ongoing struggles with same-sex attraction.

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).

9. Strengthen your brothers and sisters.

Some new converts may experience a complete deliverance from same-sex attraction. Others may continue to struggle. Be prepared to walk with the strugglers and to strengthen them for what may be a very difficult obedience. God has given them everything that they need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), and a part of God’s provision for them is your friendship and encouragement.

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13)

10. Pray.

The Devil wants to destroy. Jesus wants to save (John 10:10). Pray for your gay neighbor that Jesus might have his way. In his own prayer for wayward Peter, Jesus modelled how we might intercede:

“Behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32).

—-

*These ten items are adapted from the final chapter of Heath Lambert’s and my book Transforming Homosexuality.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes