Theological Journal

The July 2010 issue of the journal Themelios came out earlier this week, and the entire journal is available as a free download. I have an article in this issue about the debate among Christians over the moral status of homosexuality. You can download that single article here:

Why Evangelicals Should Not Heed Brian McLaren: How the New Testament Requires Evangelicals to Render a Judgment on the Moral Status of Homosexuality

There are some outstanding articles in this issue that you should check out as well. Fred Zaspel’s essay on B. B. Warfield is an important one. B. B. Warfield is often cited as the prime example of an evangelical inerrantist who also held to theistic evolution. Zaspel shows that the conventional wisdom concerning Warfield is incorrect. He was not a theistic evolutionist.

Steven Dempster and William Edgar give critical reviews of Jeffrey Niehaus’s Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology. Niehaus has a response at the end.

D. A. Carson has a short essay on preaching for conversion.

There is a mountain of book reviews. Check out especially Barry Joslin’s review of James Thompson’s commentary on Hebrews.


  • Mitch

    I can honestly say that I have never felt such conflict. I am so very happy and proud to see your work published again. Having published and contributed to a few small articles myself, I know the work involved in this process. However, I am deeply saddened to see the title of this article which (to me) suggests that it will explain why followers of your faith should engage in rendering moral judgments.

    You have always been one of the best and brightest of all our childhood friends. I have watched with great interest and excitement as your career has progressed. I still remember sitting around the fireplace at Blain’s house and trying to get my brain around the articular infinative concepts in your then thesis and now book. And two years ago at Christmas when you told me and Tom about your new position at Boyce, I was so excited for you. I’ve continued to keep up with you through this blog and have truly enjoyed many of the links and books you’ve suggested.

    We are very different people and I disagree with you on several important issues but I have always known you to be a good and decent person. This is why it makes my heart very heavy to see what appears to be you encouraging people to judge others. I know you and your other readers will likely point out that the article is arguing for a judgment of a sin and not of sinners (this seems to be a favorite comment of evangelical christians). Of course, we all know that kind of hair splitting never really removes the judgment of other people.

    I think my biggest problem with the article is the fact that the portions of I’ve read so far share a troubling characteristic with many of your past statements on this issue: they sound as though they are primarily motivated by your personal (though widely shared in the evangelical/christian right community) feelings of disgust toward homosexuality and gay people.

    Like all of your work I’ve read, the article is very polished, insightful and expertly researched. You are, without question, a gifted writer and scholar. This brings me to a few questions that keep nagging me. I wonder if (regardless of whether you keep writing on this issue) you might ever see fit to use your talents not to condemn or tear down but to encourage and build up? Would it be possible for you to create messages that focus on what christians can praise and agree with rather than on what they can justifiably deem unfit or inappropriate? Might you and other christians not be able to live your lives without this debate secure in your belief that god will eventually judge ALL sinners? What, in the end, will this debate really do to improve the short time that any of us have to spend here on this earth?

    Thanks for always listening and remaining friends with a heathen/heretic/outcast/non-southern baptist.

  • Denny Burk


    Thanks so much for the extended comment. I think the issues you bring up are both substantive and important, and I am honored that you are taking the time to engage here.

    I can see how including the word “judgment” in the title can be a flash-point for an already contentious national debate. My aim in the article, however, is not to call Christians to bring down “judgment” on homosexual persons. My purpose is rather to engage an intramural debate among professing Christians over the moral status of homosexuality. One side of this debate is calling for Christians to change or to keep silent about their views on biblical teaching. The other side is trying to hold the line on what the Bible actually says. I’m arguing that it is not an option for Christians to reserve judgment on what the Bible teaches.

    Jesus Himself defined Christian faithfulness by how we respond to His words, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:23-24). The progressive wing of the evangelical movement (represented by Brian McLaren in my essay) is calling Christians away from keeping Jesus’ words. That is always a dangerous proposition, whether the issue be homosexual sin or gluttony or whatever. Faithful Christians have to face what the Bible says squarely in the face. We cannot avoid an issue that the Bible speaks to simply because it’s contended over in the wider culture. That’s what my article is about.

    I take very seriously your point about how Christians treat homosexual persons. I would reiterate points five and six in the conclusion of my essay.

    “We believe that all persons have been created in the image of God and should be accorded human dignity. We believe therefore that hateful, fearful, unconcerned harassment of persons with a homosexual orientation should be repudiated. We believe that respect for persons with a homosexual orientation involves honest, reasoned, nonviolent sharing of facts concerning the immorality and liability of homosexual behavior. On the other hand, endorsing behavior which the Bible disapproves endangers persons and dishonors God.

    “We believe that Christian churches should reach out in love and truth to minister to people touched by homosexuality, and that those who contend Biblically against their own sexual temptation should be patiently assisted in their battle, not ostracized or disdained.”

    In other words, Christians are called to love homosexual sinners just like they are called to love heterosexual sinners. When non-Christians visit my church, we don’t check their “orientation” card before giving them a warm greeting. If we are being faithful to Christ, we love everybody–even people with whom we have fundamental religious and political disagreements. This is what Jesus did, and so must His disciples (Matthew 9:10-13).

    At the end of the day, we are all sinners. My sins are just as blameworthy (if not more so) than anyone else’s. I don’t have the moral high ground on anybody. I’m just as broken as the next guy. I do believe, however, that even though I’m a great sinner, Christ is an even greater Savior. That’s the message that I want everyone to know and to hear. But no one is ready to meet Christ who is not ready to come to Him on His terms. His terms are very simple: repentance and faith. The means turning away from sin and trusting in Jesus Christ alone to save us through His sacrificial work on the cross and through His resurrection from the dead. This invitation to come to Christ is for anyone who wants to answer it.

    Once again, thanks for the interaction. I do appreciate your continued friendship in spite of our disagreement on these matters. It has meant a great deal to me over the years.


  • Vicki

    I would like to point out that Denny’s concern for both homosexual and heterosexual people is not primarily that they be improved for the “short time” any of us have to spend on this earth. But I suspect his view is the same as that of the Lord Jesus Christ, who instructed His hearers not to fear those who could only kill the body and after that do nothing more, but rather to fear Him who could, after killing the body, throw both body and soul into hell. I believe Denny is concerned for the eternal souls of those who are enslaved to sin, not with merely making them comfortable in this present life.

  • sandra

    From a non-scholarly, layperson’s point of view, I have drawn a few conclusions from this debate and from my own experiences in life. The Bible speaks very plainly on sin and itemizes several categories of sin in many passages. As Christians, we give our lives to our faith and embrace its precepts. The Bible to us has the final word on how to live our lives.

    No one has anything to say to Christians when we profess our belief that murdering (unless, of course, we speak of abortion in that category), stealing, taking the Lord’s name in vain, coveting something that does not belong to us, etc., are sins. Paradoxically, however, if we profess what the Bible has to say about sexual sins, suddenly in our modern culture, we are labeled as narrow-minded, ignorant, bigots who are on a hate mission. Go figure!

    I see my daughter ministering in the projects of Nashville every week and ministering to the homeless “bridge people” in downtown Nashville every Tuesday night. I see her hugging them and sacrificing her time, energy, and money, and all the while her face radiates love and acceptance. She and her husband have successfully taught their children to do the same. Real Christians truly can and do LOVE the sinner but distain the sin. That motivation is the miracle of Christianity, because it comes from the inner presence of the Holy Spirit helping Christians to transcend personal prejudices while generating
    “agape” love for all humanity. It is both a great miracle and a great mystery, but don’t knock it until you have tried it. It works!

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