how should we approach the “gay Christian” debate? (pt 2)

The previous post briefly reviewed some of the more common reasons offered in defense of homosexual identity for a professing Christian. The second of three responses we’ll characterize as accommodation. By “accommodate” I mean that when faced with the question “Can a Christian be gay?” the respondent is neither willing to affirm nor deny the validity of the homosexual-Christian identity. Rather, he takes something of an “all have sinned” approach which, while implying that homosexuality is sin, essentially validates the identity in question.

We should recognize that accommodation isn’t necessarily the intent of everyone who takes a non-committal stance on the matter. No doubt some Christians genuinely wrestle with this issue and would hate to see anyone shunned by the church absent any clear conviction. But we must also admit that another segment of this group seemingly take this approach as a way to curry favor with those who might otherwise label them as hypocrites and judgmental bigots. As with so many discussions the motive behind the accommodation is just as important as the argument itself. The following statements are often posited as a middle-of-the-road approach:

1. Jesus never spoke against homosexuality. To be fair this sentiment typically reflects more than just an argument from silence. Along with the absence of any direct address by Christ we’re encouraged to consider that Jesus actually spoke most aggressively against religious hypocrites than he did tax collectors, prostitutes, etc. But emphasizing the absence of a rebuke from Jesus related to homosexuality ignores several other facts: (a) Jesus affirmed the authority of the OT which does prohibit homosexuality (b) the NT epistles are just as authoritative as the gospels–God has spoken on the matter of homosexuality. You can’t pursue the “Jesus-didn’t-say-it” argument without diminishing the NT epistles as writings of lesser importance. (c) an argument from silence cuts both ways. Whereas Jesus addressed debates surrounding matters such as divorce & remarriage, sabbath laws, etc. an issue such as homosexuality went unmentioned because there was no argument as to what Scripture had to say on the matter. Jesus’ followers and detractors alike would have been in agreement on the matter (especially since homosexuality was largely considered a Gentile sin).

2. Sin is sin. Yes and no. Sin is sin in that all sin condemns us and brings us under God’s righteous judgment, but some sin receives a greater condemnation. Just a few examples of the degrees of sin: (a) Num 15:28-31 defiant sin was treated differently than unintentional sin (b) Luk 12:10 unlike all other sins, Jesus said blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was/is unforgivable (c) Mat 11:20-24 Jesus claimed some will receive a greater judgment based on the amount of revelation they rejected (d) 1Cor 6:18 sexual sin is unlike other sins in at least one respect

3. We can’t change feelings but we can control actions. This point will be dealt with more fully when we offer our 4th response, but presently we’ll acknowledge up front that this notion falls far short of what Scripture teaches. The Bible calls us to deny sin not to manage it and Jesus taught that even the sinful feeling/attitude within a man makes that man guilty of sin (see Mat 5:21-22). Additionally, the Bible teaches that what lies in the heart will bear fruit in actions (Prov 4:23; Mar 7:20-23). So to suggest that the mark of Christianity is that we simply don’t act on our deeply held feelings is to contradict what the Word has to say concerning our new birth and the transformation of heart and mind.

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

2 thoughts on “how should we approach the “gay Christian” debate? (pt 2)”

  1. Got a question about #2 above. Sin is sin in that all sin seperates us from God. But I agree, the Bible does mention there are degrees of sin as you have pointed out above. The question I have is, can a Christian grow and mature in Christ while practicing any sin on a regular basis? Let me explain a little further. In our culture, the sensational sins, ie. sexual sins, are seen as just that, a sin that if you are practicing on a regular basis, you will not be able to grow in your walk with Christ. But there are non-sensational sins (maybe because they are less visible or more acceptable) that Christians do not get in an uproar about and assume that you can grow in Christ (and even lead others) and still practice these sins on a regular basis. So do all sins, when practiced regularly, hinder our relationship with God?

    1. So do all sins, when practiced regularly, hinder our relationship with God?

      My short answer would be “yes” assuming that when you say “practiced regularly” you also mean knowingly/willfully. In fact, John would go further and say that practicing sin doesn’t mean your growth is stunted but that you’re dead (1Jn 3:5ff). [No, I’m not suggesting that if you sin more than 10x you’re not a real Christian] I would quickly add, however, that any discussion over NT vice lists or frequency of sin misses the point if we neglect the matter of repentance. The difference between the dead, the stunted, & the growing can be seen in their sorrow (over sin) that leads to repentance (Acts 26:20; 2Cor 7:9-10).

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