Of mice and ministers

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” {Acts 20:18-21, ESV}

My previous post engendered some conversation with friends & family on the nature of Christian witness in the public square. To review: Louie Giglio withdrew from the presidential inauguration after it was revealed that he had preached a biblical message on homosexuality sometime in the 90s. Reading his public statement I interpreted Giglio’s move as a thinly veiled retreat from the cultural battlefront (see previous post) while others saw the move as the proverbial “ounce of prevention” thwarting the slander & caricature of the Christian faith.

Those who wish to give Giglio the benefit of the doubt raise three points in his defense: (1) there’s no evidence that Giglio has changed his views on homosexuality (2) Giglio had no chance for a fair hearing so long as it was to be filtered by the MSM (3) refraining to speak in public prevented a spectacle and allows Giglio & Co. to reach out to the homosexual community privately and/or personally.

Concerning #1, I find it more than a little disconcerting that the American church has come to expect so little from her pastors. When Christians must review our leaders’ public statements to see if there’s any clear, irrefutable evidence to show that one foot landed outside the doctrinal line you can bet that that game will not result in a W for the church. The prevent defense has never won a game and we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can effectively take part in the contest without causing any offense. Our message will either be foolish or offensive to those who oppose the gospel. Show me a pastor who doesn’t offend worldly sensibilities and I’ll show you a pastor who’s stopped preaching salvation from sin. [btw, didn’t Rick Warren face the same kind of bullying upon his invitation to participate in the 2008 inauguration?]

Concerning #2 and 3 I think two clarifications are in order. First, Giglio didn’t shy away from a debate but an accusation—and an accurate one at that. Exhibit A for the prosecution was a clearly articulated sermon which labeled homosexuality as sin while also proclaiming salvation for all who would turn to Christ. [Would that all our accusers would quote us accurately & in context!] Second, and perhaps more significant, the hand-wringers & teeth-gnashers weren’t seeking an explanation from the pastor anyway. The left wasn’t asking “How could Giglio say that?” but “How could Obama choose him?”. The onus was on the President to apologize for or defend his invitation, but what we ended up with was Giglio lamenting the fact that he and his “priorities” were misunderstood.

Further, the premise that Giglio (and Passion City Church) shunned the public scrutiny for the sake of personal evangelism doesn’t add up unless we assume that Atlanta’s homosexual community is essentially clueless when it comes to what orthodox Christianity has to say about their lifestyle. If that were the case, Giglio was wise to pull back so that he and his church could continue to evangelize incognito. File this notion under the heading “willing suspension of disbelief” and move on.

In the end, I can’t escape three recurring thoughts concerning the inauguration fiasco: (1) exchange homosexuality as the point of contention with a societal sin such as abortion, racism, or slavery and many more of today’s Christians would find Giglio’s statement grossly inadequate (2) it seems that popular culture has digressed to the point that high-profile pastors must seriously consider whether or not prophetic omission has kept them viable and palatable to cultural elites (3) we should confidently preach equal opportunity salvation—for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

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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.

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