For all those thinking through issues of what the Bible says when it comes to the subject of homosexuality here is a response by Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York to two new books that are both supportive of same-sex relationships within the church.
Living out is a new resource for anyone who wants to think through issues of same-sex attraction from a biblical perspective. Put together by friends of mine their example, honesty and desire to serve the God they love in faithful ways is a remarkable example to us all. Please make use of the resource to equip the church to understand the issues, find help for your own struggles and use it to pray for these men at a time like this.
A friend of mine was enjoying a pint in the pub when a guy he didn’t know offered him a job. The job was working on a building site for a multi-storey office block. My friend had never done anything like it but was up for a challenge so he turned up, found a hard hat and walked on-site. Within a few hours he was operating a pneumatic drill breaking up a concrete floor that needed to be re-laid. Within a few minutes of starting he was falling through the floor onto another concrete floor below. He missed scaffolding pipes by a few inches that would have broken his back. He could have died, he ‘should’ have died and if he had, others would have been guilty of his death.
You might say he should have had the sense to have not been there in the first place, but nevertheless someone should have been protecting him. He was put in a dangerous place that he had no right to be in — unprepared for the dangers that awaited him, he nearly lost his life.
I tell the tale because I have recently been reminded that I have a job that involves protecting people from entering dangerous places. The pastor-shepherd protects the flock and the way we protect, at least in part, is by saying ‘don’t go there’ when we see or sense danger.
That charge to protect is a call to ‘preach the negatives’. Our preaching needs to challenge wrong living but it also needs to warn of dangerous theology. In a talk I heard last week I was reminded that false teaching doesn’t even necessarily have to affirm that which is false. False teachers often start by promoting dangerous ideas in an altogether more subtle and invasive way. Rob Bell’s book Love Wins is a case in point. When you turn deadly ideas into open questions, you invite God’s people to enter dangerous places.
Hugh Palmer, Rector at All Souls Church, London (the home of John Stott’s ministry for over 50 years) warned in a recent talk that Bell’s book ‘opens the door to tragic places and never closes them’. You don’t have to walk through the door yourself to be a false teacher, you merely have to open one after another and invite others to explore for themselves where they would like to go.
Our ministry has to have some negatives. We protect the flock by preaching the truth but also by locking and double-locking the doors of dangerous and deadly ideas and then we stand in the way of anyone reaching for the handle.
Paul writes in Acts 20 in his farewell message to the Ephesian elders;
Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!
The preacher must know the truth, preach the truth and warn against those ideas that oppose the truth.
It’s desperately sad to see Steve Chalke walk away from evangelical truth in his recent statements in support of practising homosexuality, arguing that it is consistent with Biblical Christianity. But what is also culpable is the decision of those at Christianity magazine to promote his ideas in the most public way by letting him open doors in people’s minds, many of whom are vulnerable to dangerous ideas. True, the magazine also presents the biblical evangelical position alongside Chalke’s ideas but in effect, that is to leave two doors open and invite people to decide for themselves.
The defence the editor of the magazine makes is, first, that Steve Chalke has written for the magazine for a number of years
(so it’s the least they could do to give his ideas such a prominent place in this month’s edition?) and secondly
opening up the issues is what this magazine does. We’re evangelical in conviction, but our approach has never been to suppress what others think, whether within or outside of evangelicalism.
I hope you notice the emotive choice of words. If it is an act of ‘suppression’ to silence false teaching then the same charge applies to Jesus and the apostles who spend considerable time not only refusing to promote dangerous ideas but actively speaking out against them.
Christianity magazine has decided to leave open the door that Chalke has walked through, and their rationale is that they have opened another door in an alternative and more traditional point of view presented by Greg Downes. What this all amounts to is opening two doors and inviting people to decide for themselves which they will walk through. One door leads to life and the other, death. One must be closed and locked, but that will only happen if you are prepared to preach the negatives.
I enjoy reading Matthew Parris in the Spectator each week and occasionally in the Times newspaper. His is a reasoned voice and one of moderation. I was somewhat alarmed therefore when in an article in Saturday’s Times (£) he argued that it is disingenuous of Christians to use sincerely held non-religious arguments in their case against the redefinition of marriage.
Peter Saunders (see below writes)
What appears to have inspired the piece is a debate he had with the former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali at a fringe meeting organised by ResPublica, a think-tank, at the Conservative Party conference. Nazir-Ali put forward a case against ‘gay marriage’, which Parris said ‘could have been made by an unreligious professor of sociology’.
His argument was ‘apparently based on the social and cultural value of marriage as presently defined, the importance of a stable upbringing for children, and the resistance people feel to attempts “to change the meaning of the word ‘marriage’ ” ’. Parris then asked the former bishop if he believed that ‘homosexuality was a sin’ and accused him in the article of beating about the bush with his answer.
He goes on to say that Nazir-Ali was ‘being disingenuous’ because he ’plainly believes that homosexuality is a very considerable evil in the eyes of God’. In Parris’ view ‘the rest of us have a right to know the source of (peoples’) opinions, and if they are faith-based those who hold them have a duty in all honesty to declare it.’
He argues that ‘it is slippery for people to couch objections that are really undeclared religious objections in the language of a secular argument.’ It is the case that Christians have some arguments that derive from their faith but we also have many that are shared by people of all faiths and none.
Essentially Parris is insisting that religious presuppositions must stand behind non-religious arguments when those non-religious arguments are presented in a debate by a believer. With respect, that is a complete nonsense. The fact that an atheist and a theist may arrive at the same conclusion on the issue of gay marriage based on the same sociological evidence and present the same arguments is demonstration of the fact that whilst a religious person may have some arguments for a position that derive from his religious views they need not all do so. In fact one would expect a rational, intelligent Christian to derive his arguments from a diverse range of evidence.
Parris’s position is a dangerous one that suggests that any argument uttered by a Christian is inherently one of faith because it depends on their theological convictions. The result is that all arguments spoken by someone of faith can then be conveniently dismissed by the secularist. Where this leaves us is in a world where arguments against gay marriage may be presented by both a gay atheist and a Bible-believing Christian but where the Christian (unlike the Atheist) is told he has no right to use them because they derive from his religious convictions (even though they don’t). The result? The voice of the Christian is dismissed at a stroke whatever he or she may be wishing to say.
This is not a position of reason and smacks somewhat of prejudice, even intolerance, against ‘people of faith’. If we use faith based arguments they will be regarded as irrelevant in an increasingly secular world and if we use non-faith-based arguments we will be accused of hiding our real reasons! Either way we can’t win.
Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship and himself a regular on TV programmes such as Newsweek and Radio 4’s Today programme takes issue with Matthew Parris in an excellent blog post here.
Trevin Wax has a great post here on how he might hope a TV debate would go on the subject of Christians and homosexuality
Back in 2008 Tim Keller was interviewed by Martin Bashir at Columbia University after the publication of his book The Reason for God. As part of the evening Keller also takes questions from the audience.
For his interesting answer to a question on homosexuality listen in at around the 50 minute mark.
For a great answer to ‘do atheists have faith?’ go to 48 minutes.
Justin Taylor has helpfully produced a breakdown of all of the questions, produced below.
Q&A with Martin Barshir
0:18 – Why did you write Reason for God now?
2:22 – Are faith and reason contradictory?
5:35 – Is God just a projection of our cultural circumstances?
9:10 – Is belief in God a mental defect?
11:39 – Is it narrow to believe in one God? Is everyone else going to hell?
18:30 – Is the Bible trustworthy?
23:59 – What about the behavior of so-called Christians?
30:33 – Are you resolutely convinced today that Christianity is true?
Q&A moderated by Dr. David Eisenbach
35:25 – How could God allow evil and suffering?
44:04 – Is there any reason to believe in God in a chaotic world?
45:48 – Does giving a reason for faith undermine its value?
48:49 – Does it take faith to be an atheist?
50:48 – What does Christianity have against homosexuals? Are they going to hell?
57:29 – Why is Christianity so exclusive?
1:03:58 – What do you believe about politics?
1:11:25 – How do you get to heaven?
1:13:13 – Why would God make people who sin?
1:16:58 – Why did God put that tree in the Garden of Eden to begin with?
1:199:34 – What happened for you to have so much peace?
The BBC comedy Little Britain may not have been your cup of tea but most of us have some idea of who Daffyd Thomas is. He lives in the Welsh mining village of Llanddewi Brefi and the comedy kicks in when poor deluded Daffyd thinks he’s ‘the only gay in the village’. In fact half the village is homosexual but Daffyd can’t or won’t see it. Unable to cope with the fact that everyone (including his parents) are quite OK with his sexuality and that even his best friend, Myfanwy, the local bar-maid is a lesbian, Daffyd stays the centre of attention as he persists in playing the ‘victim’, a misunderstand and isolated gay man in a straight world.
What makes it funny is the lengths that Daffyd has to go to in refusing to recognize the gay community around him. The fact that it is a gay man revelling in his status as ‘victim’ makes it particularly powerful. But the sketches also challenge the assumptions and thought-processes behind all those, gay or straight, who wish to ignore the sizable gay community in their own town or city in a desire to keep homosexuality on the margin of society.
But clever as the big idea is that makes the sketch work new research suggests that perhaps the voice of the gay community, in our media in particular, is out of proportion to it’s size.
How many people are gay in the UK?
The most common statistic is still the 1 in 10 figure associated with the Kinsey Report. The study reported that 10% of American males surveyed were “more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55“.
More recently, during the debate over civil partnerships, the then government accepted a figure of somewhere between 6 and 7 percent.
However it now appears that such figures are hugely inflated. The most recent and comprehensive survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics demonstrates that in this country we have consistently overestimated the size of the homosexual population.
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