It’s Time: Have a Debate and Sort This Out

Christians all over the English-speaking world, as well as many beyond, are discussing the legitimacy of same-sex marriage and a whole range of LGBTQ+ issues. So we should, of course, since people all over the English-speaking world, as well as many beyond, are discussing them as well.

Today I want to speak a little “inside baseball” and address my own “tribe” or tradition of Christianity, that of Anglosphere evangelicalism.

The last couple of years have seen the emergence of prominent pastors and ethicists announcing their change of view to various forms of support not only for people of various sexual types (we should always have loved our neighbours as ourselves, and it is to our shame that we often haven’t) but also support for one or another of those sexual types beyond the traditional heterosexual matrimonial norm.

Alas, however, camps have formed that engage very much in the polarizing discourse of so much else that is dysfunctional in public life today. Champions cheerfully address rallies of the faithful, preachers rev up adoring choirs, and the rest of us remain unsettled and confused.

I have one small suggestion to make. Get David Gushee and Robert Gagnon on the same stage, over an entire day, and have them hash things out. Maybe it’ll take a whole weekend. Fine. But give them time to hear each other (in person, not just in print), address each other’s best arguments (not merely cherry-picking the worst), and truly work together, as professed brothers in Christ, to arrive at the most obedient and grateful interpretation of Scripture…and everything else we think we know…on these questions.

I don’t know either man well, but I’ve enjoyed opportunities in the past both to talk with each of them and, indeed, appear with them in previous conferences. They seem sincere, they seem smart, and they seem much more equipped to deal with these questions than most of us are. Here’s David, and here’s Rob:

 

 

Fuller Seminary? Wheaton College? Trinity Evangelical Divinity School? The National Association of Evangelicals? The Evangelical Theological Society? Some honest broker needs to host such an event on behalf of the communities all of these places serve. (If I were still at Regent College, I’d suggest it there, too.)

If such an extended debate doesn’t happen, and happen soon, I’m afraid that positions will merely harden. This precious moment is the time to have this kind of serious wrestling, while there is uncertainty in the air and widespread interest in the debate.

If such an exchange doesn’t happen, alas, I’m afraid that evangelical institutions will be conceding theological leadership to boosterism promoted through the uncertain channels of biased conferences and the vagaries of YouTube.

Who is going to step up?

53 Responses to “It’s Time: Have a Debate and Sort This Out”

  1. Andy H

    I would love to get past the bumper sticker slogans and see that debate by two scholars. Gagnon is a ferocious debater.

  2. Tim W. Callaway

    ferget a debate … let’s set up a boxing ring and have a good old theological slugfest … mano a mano … “in the gay corner, wearing the _____ shorts and fighting out of X university/seminary… ” – you might even attract a corporate sponsor with that approach!!

  3. BigB

    In the video you linked, Mr. Gushee is comparing persecuted Jewish people to persecuted LGBT community. One is a ethnic group and the other is a sexual orientation. I understand the commonality is his outrage against persecution but they are very different groups, it is not a true comparison.

    What about other sexual practices? What about Polygamy? I believe that they are pushing through into the US supreme court. What about Bestiality, You may laugh but the play called Equus starring the actor who portrayed Harry Potter contains this very subplot about ‘HorseLove’, You may not want to have a serious conversation about that but, you will eventually have too.

    • Ed Rae

      While a debate with both sides stating their best arguments would be better than laymen being subjected to straw-man attacks, I’m concerned by the implication that this matter is really ‘debatable’ from an orthodox evangelical Christian perspective if one holds to the authority of Scripture.

      There are two arguments in support of the above assertion. The decisive one is that the Scriptural passages are so clearly against homosexual acts that unless one argues that Scripture can err in both science AND morals, it is virtually unfathomable that one could advocate homosexual acts within the Christian community. The second argument (which is not conclusive, but which establishes the ‘burden of proof’ is that there are no Christian theologians who believe in the infallibility of Scripture in matters of faith and morals (whether Patristic, Scholastic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant or Roman Catholic) prior to the 20th century who came to the conclusion that unrepentant acts of sodomy (the pre-19th century term) were anything other than proof of damnation.

      The concern, then, would be that a debate would ‘legitimate’ the pro-LGBT side. The main counter-argument to that would be that if Evangelicals are largely apostatizing on that issue, a debate may serve to win some back to orthodox biblical doctrine.

  4. Tom

    The debate won’t happen. Those on the gay side tend to tell each other not to debate. They know from experience that they gain greater ground by not debating. Spong reached a point where he declared he will never debate the topic again, and the newcomers have followed that same policy.

  5. Bruce

    Mr. Stackhouse, I’m not sure if you’re welcoming people to share their views on the matter here, but since I see no such restriction declared, I will briefly express my thoughts.
    First of all, I’m encouraged by the fact that Matthew Vines hasn’t chosen to react against the Church by declaring it to be a pit of vipers, as has been the response of most of the gay community. A dialogue, if it is ever to happen, will require level heads to prevail.
    A dichotomy seems to exist, arising from the fact of God’s unequivocal condemnation of homosexual acts in the Old Testament, and from Jesus Christ’s unequivocal (and unique for his time) love for the most miserable of sinners that surrounded Him.
    Love of the sinner, however, doesn’t necessarily denote acceptance of the sin. On numerous occasions, Jesus extended his hand to sinners, but never failed to express what they needed to change. The Church has rather clumsily attempted to do the same, but has come off as ambiguous at best, and judgemental at worst.
    But the dichotomy begs a question, which you, Mr. Stackhouse, are much more qualified than I, to answer; were Jesus’ admonitions to reform meant to affirm a provisional continuation of the Old Testament law, up until a culmination and final fulfillment in His death and resurrection, or were they affirmations that the Old Testament law was never to pass into obsolescence, but only to reach a higher level of realization?
    The teachings of Paul on homosexuality and its apparent continuation as a grievous violation must be taken into consideration, if we take seriously Paul’s transformative epiphany on the Damascus road. If it was real, we can be assured that God chose Paul to deliver a fuller understanding of the nature of the marriage of the Gospel with the law.
    It seems to me a tenuous branch to walk out on, to declare the teachings of the Apostle null and void in the shadow of the superlative teachings of Christ, for we don’t actually know if Jesus said anything on the subject – surely He said more than was recorded in the Gospels? We are compelled, however, to see the Gospel record as the complete revelation of Jesus as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
    Questions of which documents have the higher authority aside, the Church, for better or for worse, finds itself in the rather awkward position of being called upon to speak for God on the matter. It’s a fine line to walk, and one that we’ve continually faltered on, and there is still no clear answer forthcoming.
    Personally, I am inclined to suggest that it is not the Church’s purview to set the boundaries for a people who don’t want them. The Bible sets the boundaries for those who submit to its teachings. WE are called to submit, and in our submission, put forth an example of Godly living and Godly love, upon which the world will look with disdain or admiration. The choice to follow that example is theirs to make, and here’s why;
    When God put Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, from the very first moment, He gave them the right to choose for themselves whether to obey His commands or not. Who are we, then, to take that choice back from the people, by imposing laws that were actually only meant for those who wish to follow God? Do these laws pretend to install the Kingdom of God on earth? But the Kingdom is a realm of the heart.
    When we seek to impose laws, do we unwittingly find ourselves in a position analogous to the lawmakers at the time of Christ, straining on gnats and swallowing camels? Does our desire to dominate echo Israel’s rejection of Christ on the grounds that He would not fulfill their hopes for an earthly ruler who would turn Rome’s subjugation of them on its head?
    In this life, on this plane of existence, we cannot hope to create a Christian nation. History has shown us the corruption that takes root in the Church when it is granted a ruling status. The Church works best when it is counter-cultural, and peculiar.a
    So what are we to do? What if we were to simply extract ourselves from the new paradigm of marriage that has been established by the powers that be? Marriage in the eyes of God does not require governmental imprimatur. Why not simply surrender our licence to marry people under the state, and provide Church marriages without the legal accoutrements? Bereft of legal benefits, I’m sure that few, if any of todays culture warriors would be interested in Christian marriage anymore. And it enable us to keep sacred that which is clearly only sacred to us.
    As for speaking to the world, we must continue to speak the truth in love, when called upon. But without a claim to power to rail against, all the world can do is disagree. Maybe persecute. But we knew those times were coming anyway.

  6. John Tiffin

    Very good article & thoughtful comments.

  7. Royce

    I am not opposed to Gagnon or anyone else debating Gushee, Brownson, etc. but I am more persuaded that we should just do what God says and completely ostracize them. I believe the Word tells us that the Spirit may well be better able to work in what’s left of their heart if we completely turn them over to Satan. As I’m sure you are aware of 1st Cor. 5 but also those passages in Timothy that talk about us having nothing to do with false teachers and apostates.

    It’s hard to put into words but I think God is telling us that we do more harm than good to give them any association or recognition as “Christian”. I listened to one such debate, an excellent one at that, on Moody Radio with Jan Parshall and, if I recall correctly, those 2-3 people endorsing “Gay Christianity” and SSM were referred to as “Brothers”. That should not be so!

  8. Royce

    Forgot to mention that I totally agree with Gushee when he says that the LGBT people should be allowed to be treated the same as every other Believer and to be accepted by the same exact terms as every other Sinner. Totally agree.

    Jesus said you must die to yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Him. EVERY Believer MUST be willing to leave their sin and follow Christ. And ANYONE who is not willing to leave their sin should be cast out of the Church just as 1st Cor. 5 states.

    God is no respecter of persons. Anyone, no matter what, who desires to cling to their sin has NO part in Christ. Anyone who wishes to confess (agree with God), repent (TURN AWAY), and follow Christ shall be saved.

    But Mr. Gushee doesn’t really mean what he says. What he wants us to do is say that Homosexuality and the LGBT lifestyle is not sin. He doesn’t really advocate for what he preaches but rather wishes to redefine Scripture just as they’ve done with Marriage.

  9. Tim W. Callaway

    Royce writes: “And ANYONE who is not willing to leave their sin should be cast out of the Church just as 1st Cor. 5 states.”

    May I respectfully suggest, as one who has pastored 4 evangelical churches in North America over almost 30 years, that if you equally apply that “solution” – as Royce appears to insist – to those guilty of the sins of materialism, greed, anxiety, dishonesty, ego, gluttony, gossip, manipulative politics, control, etc., North American evangelical churches would accordingly be virtually empty. This would be before you even arrived at the homosexual matter. Believe me, gay marriage, homosexuality, et al, is the least of the matters that threatens the integrity and credibility of today’s evangelical world.

    • BigB

      Tim, are you saying that you would officiate a gay marriage ceremony, what about a marriage ceremony for two gossips? Unless you answered yes to both questions than you also treat homosexuality as a different type of sin do you not?

      • Tim W. Callaway

        Yes, a most valid point, Big B. The denomination I presently serve with prescribes the marrying two homosexuals matter which conveniently buys me time while I personally wrestle through that issue. The point I was attempting to make is that I think the gay marriage/homosexual debate serves as a convenient “whipping boy” focus thereby enabling evangelicals to dodge the much more relevant “sins” that exist among us. There are many evangelical marriages I have performed with a bad-feeling in my gut while deferring to the politically-correct pressures of pastoral ministry. Do I refuse to marry the career-oriented, materialistic-focused son of the board chairman who’s merely looking for a trophy wife from the local church, imho? Many of those bad-feelings have proven to be for good reason. There are far, far more considerations to the realities of modern pastoral life than merely the theological dimension that academics have the privilege to exclusively focus on.

        • BigB

          Tim,

          I hope you won’t go against the Scriptures in your choices.

          When you said that Theologians do not have the whole picture, it resonated with me, you know that when people talk about the LGBT community they do not realize that the last letter stands for transgender ie. changing gender. Now, experts often say they care bout those people’s rights but none of them bothered to find out what percentage of the transgender population feels incomplete after surgery. Many are having issues that surgery is not solving. This proves some experts really do not care enough about these people, just about their right to change.

        • Royce

          I submit to things to you. First, you need to get outta that Apostate denomination and second, there is nothing to wrestle with. It’s simple. Obey or disobey God.

          As for “much more relevant ‘sins'”, I don’t know what you consider as such unless it’s the example you gave (which doesn’t even come close) but in the age we live in today I can think of nothing more relevant than that which points right to the very heart of The Gospel and who God is.

          Genesis starts with “In the beginning God”. So everything starts there. In just a few verses below that we see God created male and female and it is these very verses that Jesus Himself refers to. The issue goes to the very heart of “Life” just as the other issue “Abortion” does.

          What is an “evangelical marriage”???? You ask a question but I think you know the answer. “I have performed with a bad-feeling in my gut while deferring to the politically-correct pressures”.

          A true pastor would defer only to God. Nuff said.

    • Royce

      Tim, thank you for your respectful response. May I ask you, as someone who’s pastored 4 churches over 30yrs, where in Scripture does it say that we are to overlook and ignore any sin?

      I think it’s important to emphasize my words “not willing to leave their sin”. Perhaps Spurgeon said it best with “If the professed convert distinctly and deliberately declares that he knows the Lord’s will but does not mean to attend to it, you are not to pamper his presumption, but it is your duty to assure him that he is not saved. Do not suppose that the Gospel is magnified or God glorified by going to the worldlings and telling them that they may be saved at this moment by simply accepting Christ as their Savior, while they are wedded to their idols, and their hearts are still in love with sin. If I do so I tell them a lie, pervert the Gospel , insult Christ, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.”

      I would also suggest that were the leadership of the churches to start obeying Scripture rather than being concerned over numbers and whether the churches were empty, that we might have a whole lot less folks attending church but they would actually look a lot more like they should and would have far fewer tares amongst the wheat.

      As for whether SSM (it’s not ‘gay’) and homosexuality is the least of the matters that threatens the integrity and credibility of today’s evangelical world, I don’t believe you and I might add that there are MANY “Evangelical Leaders” today that would disagree with you as well.

      The other unfortunate reality of today is that words no longer have meaning. Even the term “Evangelical” has been hijacked. Just look at some of the churches who call themselves “Evangelical” and support SSM and Homosexuality.

  10. Tim W. Callaway

    Fear thou not as to mine orthodoxy, Big B! With theological luminaries such as Brother Stackhouse to guide us betwixt the doctrinal goalposts, one canst not wander far from the, ahem, STRAIGHT and narrow!!

  11. Donna-Jean Brown

    Dear commenters, A word to the wise: clearly this is an emotional issue, not simply an academic or theological one. Let us beware lest our attitude of superiority (pride in our own right-ness) undermine our articulated position on this issue. None of us wants to earn the label of “Pharisee” from our Saviour.

  12. Donna-Jean Brown

    P.S. During prayers in church this morning I wondered if a debate such as you are proposing, John, would be helped if attendance was allowed to only those who arrived an hour or two early to sit in silent prayer, asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and powerful work within all hearts and minds present.

    • John

      Yes, I agree: The constructive use of debate is to work together to analyze evidence and arguments in hopes of coming to better conclusions than we can on our own. Debate recognizes our penchant to come to conclusions we prefer, and calls us to submit together to the truths that emerge, however still partial, and partially understood. Debate is an expression of community, therefore: that we are better together than apart. That’s why those whose jobs commit them to the pursuit of truth–scientists, academicians, medical professionals, and others–conduct regular sessions of presentation + Q&A, rounds, conferences, and the like.

      Of course, debate is often, even usually, not this kind of endeavour. Given our human ability to screw anything up, we screw this up, too, and turn it all too often into mere bloodsport, pandering to our respective constituencies, posturing before the cameras, and other perversions of the pursuit of truth.

      I have dared to hope, however, that people as evidently committed–personally, professionally, and confessionally–to the truth of the gospel, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the welfare of the world as Brothers Gushee and Gagnon are would not stoop to such depths but instead maintain a proper standard of mutual charity and the cooperation necessary to subordinate their egos to the recognition of whatever appears to be truly the best answers.

      If that is, in fact, too much to hope for, then we’re in very bad trouble–as evangelicals in particular and as Christians in general. And even though I have my dark days in regard to the prospects of both, I have dared to harbour the hope that in this case, at this time, with these two scholars, evangelicals might actually rise to the occasion.

      And we would do so, Donna-Jean, only if the whole thing were prayerfully undertaken. Thanks for your suggestion that is spot-on.

      • Royce

        John, you make some very good points but you error tremendously with you refer to Gushee and Gagnon as ‘Brothers”. Gushee is no more a Brother to Gagnon (or any other Christian) than Jesus and Satan are Brothers as the Mormons believe.

        • John

          Royce,

          Unless you have somehow taken over the office of the Holy Spirit, I daresay it would behoove you to be careful about confidently naming who is in and who is out when it comes to the Family of God. David and Rob both impress me as people who love Jesus, who love the Bible, who love drawing others to the gospel, and who earnestly contend for what they understand to be the truth. The fact that I may disagree with the views of one or another of them about even a matter that is to both of us both important and clear does not render one (or both) of us a false Christian. I stand with John Wesley on this one (so his great sermon, “Catholic Spirit”) in that I understand both men to be one with me on the essentials of the Christian faith, disagree as we might (and do) about matters important enough to divide congregations and other Christian institutions from mutual cooperation.

          I hope to write more about this crucial question of unity and diversity once I catch my breath from eight weeks of travel. But I did address this question in the Anglican Cathedral of Adelaide, Australia, a few weeks ago and I hope to do so again: We have too much mutual excommunication going on over these matters, important (but not essential to the confession of Christ) as they are.

          • Dr. Priscilla Turner

            John, I agree that Royce went more than a bit far in his verdict on David. But the latter’s view in the matter under discussion is certainly aberrant by any standards. And best of luck invoking the Nicene Fathers, or Wesley, in favour of any form of unchastity. “… for us men and for our salvation” certainly covers our redemption from the worship of Aphrodite and Christ’s ownership of my body, with all that this implies. And “giver of life” is very comprehensive when properly unpacked. Those who framed the creeds were perfectly clear that many ethical questions were completely closed.

          • Royce

            John,

            Perhaps you’re not familiar with the fact that all true Believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, that Jesus defined the term “Christian” (which literally means “Little Christ”) in Matt. 16:24, and that Paul – who obviously didn’t “take the office of the Holy Spirit” gives several examples of those who were apostates and not of the Faith but claimed to be.

            Terribly sorry to hear that Dr. Gushee “impresses” you as someone who loves Jesus. That doesn’t speak well of a sense of discernment or an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Gushee is obviously a follower of Satan, son of disobedience, and child of wrath (Eph. 2) who disguises himself as an angel of light and is leading many to Hell. All in the name of “love” and “compassion”.

            Do you really think Wesley would see this as a disagreement on a non-essential? Really? Gushee preaches a false Gospel that encourages and supports those who practice sin and call God a Liar. He is a perfect example of those who will call Jesus “Lord” to his face and hear the infamous words of Matt. 7:21-23.

            The issue of God’s design and ordained order for men and women and the institution of Marriage is most certainly an “essential” It goes to the very root of the Gospel in that we were created in His image and therefore He chose to redeem us. It goes to the very root of what it means to be a Christian. A Little Christ. A follower of Jesus Christ, having died to oneself, picked up their cross, and FOLLOW Him!!

            No, the problem with the Church today is NOT that there is too much excommunication. The problem is there hasn’t been and isn’t now enough accordingly to obedience to God’s Word.

  13. Tim W. Callaway

    for what it’s worth in what has become a most peculiar, possibly bizarre, discussion … a note I rec’vd today from a perceptive colleague …

    “I know many gay Christians. Know them. Not one of them makes their sexuality the primary source of their identity. The ones I know seem to clearly understand and live their identity as an image bearer of Christ. From my vantage point, it’s the church that makes this the main focal point of gay people’s identities.

    It’s not that I don’t expect pastors to preach on this topic, but I wish that when they did, that they’d actually get to know…really know, some real gay people before they speak from a position of authority, influencing many who take their word as…well, near gospel. What I heard today from a pastor made it clear to me that he doesn’t have close, real relationship with gay Christians, or he wouldn’t have made the statement that gay people’s primary sense of life’s joy and satisfaction is in and through their sexuality

  14. Royce

    Tim,

    Do you not see the irony in your post? You say “Not one of them makes their sexuality the primary source of their identity.” Any yet how do they refer to themselves? “Gay Christian”. Which comes first there?

    Btw, there is no such thing as a Gay Christian. It’s an oxymoron and an impossibility.

    Additionally, I don’t have to “really get to know” someone that wants to have sex with a dog, donkey, child, or another person of the same sex to know that it is wrong and sin and that all Mankind should not have anything to do with it. I don’t have to “really get to know” a murderer, a Kleptomaniac, a drug addict, or anyone else to know that it is sin. All I need to know is that God says it is Sin and it will result in one being hurled into the Lake of Fire.

    Moreover, God’s Word is clear, for those who wish to cling to their sin, and not die to it and repent from it, we are to have nothing to do with them.

    I would think a pastor of 30yrs and 4 churches would know that. Would you like to be saved? I’m happy to show you the way.

  15. John

    A-a-and with that, Brother Royce, let’s leave each to confront God as he or she shall, shall we? You’ve made your position both loud and clear, and I cannot see anything to be gained by your having to reiterate it further. Time for some new content in the comments, please.

    • Tim W. Callaway

      hmmm, can’t seem to get the sound to work – maybe it’s just as well; but if you can hear the Brother, it’s worth a chuckle or three – believe dat!

  16. KC Jay

    I’m sure there’s a place for “plausible words of wisdom,” in this arena, but what has been lamentably absent is a demonstration of the power of the Spirit, which enables us to love the other beyond our ability in these fierce wars of words. My OT prof., Walter Brueggemann, used a term that sticks with me: “prophets of rage.” They are too many, on both sides of the divide! Let us learn first to love one another as Christ has loved us.

  17. Tim W. Callaway

    KC – I don’t know if you are north or south of the 49th parallel – regardless, I’m wondering if given what I see as a significant and prevalent conflation of the religious & political agendas today (arguably on both sides of the border – I’m in Canada), do you think this matter of rancorous exchange is but another way the Christian community is mirroring popular culture or, to borrow from St. Paul, allowing the world to squeeze us into its mold? what other factors are at play in the dynamic?

    • KC Jay

      Tim, I’m well south of the 49th parallel, in the “Bible belt” of the southern U.S., so no surprise that I have held a more conservative view on this issue. However, I tend to get downright nauseous over these verbal fist fights because they seem so totally devoid of love. Both sides “read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other” – I don’t know whether it’s the Christian community trying to mirror the popular culture (though that’s a VERY broad term) or whether it’s the world trying to squeeze Christians into a mold that leads to the rancorous debate. What I’m more and more convinced of is that God “answers neither fully.” The best I can do is to love and serve others in deep humility and trust God to do any necessary sorting out. I am a sinner who deserves the wrath of God and have received instead grace upon grace. How can I, then, judge and condemn others rather than letting the grace I have received spill over onto them?

      • Tim W. Callaway

        Thanks for that, KC. Our son is an LSU grad school graduate so we’ve learned to love “the South” and all of its fascinating history and peculiarities. I very much like that concept of “God answers neither fully;” are you citing someone/something? I’ve often told people regarding the inflammatory rhetoric accompanying the culture wars to remember that St. Paul did not say “now abideth faith, hope and orthodoxy; and the greatest of these is orthodoxy.”

  18. KC Jay

    Tim, both quotes are from the 2nd inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln. It’s a masterpiece!

  19. Steve Wilkinson

    John, I think we’re far less likely to see a serious debate now (post-SCOTUS). There has already been an attitude shift within Gushee’s camp. If you have a weak argument, but are winning in public opinion, the last thing you want to do is debate.

    Maybe Dr. Gushee is capable, but in that presentation, he’s just playing to his base. Dr. Gagnon, Dr. James White, Dr. Michael Brown, etc. could all easily handle Gushee (or Vines, etc.) and they know it, so I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing such a debate.

  20. Rev. Barb

    The curious thing about the notion of a debate between Robert Gagnon and David Gushee is that they seem to be talking about two different things. David Gushee focuses on how we Christians have mistreated the LGBT community and also provided (unwitting?) justification for people who have committed terrible acts against them. Gushee wants us to see how anti-gospel and anti-Jesus our language and behavior have been. On the other hand, Gagnon focuses on the scriptures that, without exception, assert the sinfulness of LGBT sex. No matter how much I might wish to, I can’t find a biblical way around that particular reality. What the church desperately needs is a way forward that allows us to express both of these truths in practical and specific ways. Are there Christian leaders wise enough to help the church learn how to love the LGBT community without backing down from the bottom line that LGBT sex is sin?

    • John

      Rev. Barb, I don’t think they are talking about entirely different things, for David Gushee is not just rueing the way Christians have failed to treat some of our neighbours properly (which I rue as well), but the traditional ethical condemnation of all same-sex marriage, same-sex coupling, and the like…which he now thinks are not only okay, but positively good inasmuch as they possess the other qualities of their heterosexual counterparts.

      I don’t think Rob Gagnon is perhaps best equipped to help us with your last question: I see Rob’s considerable gift to the church to be his hard-earned expertise and clarity of argument on the Biblical and ethical principles governing sexual relations. I doubt he would disagree that there would be others among us who might be better suited to taking these principles and applying them pastorally in the various challenging contexts of our time…without denigrating at all Rob’s evident concern for the well-being of his LGBTQ+ neighbours.

      • Rev. Barb

        Thanks for the kind reply. I certainly take your point that David Gushee is “open & affirming” while Robert Gagnon is not. It strikes me that their radically different starting places cause them to spend the majority of their time talking about divergent concerns. Hm, Could hermeneutics be at least some of what this fight is really about? Not very sexy is it? (sorry, couldn’t resist.)

        • Steve Wilkinson

          The final part of John’s last sentence is really important. While I’d maybe not characterize Dr. Gagnon as ‘pastoral’ in his approach (it’s certainly more academic), I think he has done a tremendous job in interviews and debates, often in face of a lot of abuse and disrespect.

          But, unlike Dr. Gushee, he’s actually addressing the issue. Take Dr. Gushee’s presentation, and replace homosexuality with some other sin, and see how it flies. It simply doesn’t. So, Dr. Gagnon is working on the core issue, and then in light of that, sure, the church should talk about how to move forward and correct our past wrongs.

          re: hermeneutics – No, I don’t see any new information being brought forward. It’s emotion and rhetoric, now fueled by political might, trying to ram it through all of society and the church as well.

          BTW, if you don’t mind a non-flowery treatment of the subject, Dr. White over at aomin.org has a roughly 5-hour dissection of Gushee’s presentation. Just search for ‘Gushee.’

          • Royce

            Excellent point, Steve. I posted very much the same sentiments on my FB wall.

            The two videos are excellent teaching aids for a group or such to discuss. The first by Dr. Gushee was excruciatingly difficult for me to watch all the way thru but it is a outstanding lesson in the tactics used to deceive the masses and attempt to now redefine Christianity and rewrite Scripture. A careful study should be made to note the methodology and tactics employed. They are often repeated in many other venues. All I’ll say here is that one should note the number of times Scripture was actually referenced and when any kind of exegesis is employed. Then ask yourself, “What part of a human being does this video appeal to?”

            The second video is an excellent juxtaposition to the first. I would say the same about it. A careful study should be made to note the methodology and tactics employed. All I’ll say here is that one should note the number of times Scripture was actually referenced and when any kind of exegesis is employed. Then ask yourself, “What part of a human being does this video appeal to?”

            From where I sit, one side plays to one’s emotions (The Flesh) and the other side plays to one’s mind (Rom. 12:1-2).

            In another of Gagnon’s FB posts (“A Response to Christopher Yuan & Rosaria Butterfield) he addresses their articles and while he was struck by something different, I found this question the most striking: “So the question now stands: will we begin caring for the LGBT community just as they are?” and the subsequent commentary:

            “Right away, the phrase “just as they are” raises a whole host of questions, all of which are conveniently evaded as the authors’ word count runs out. Even under the assumption that they would draw the line at affirming sin, or welcoming unrepentant homosexuals as official church members, a phrase like this is meaningless without specific examples and clear definition of terms. Define “care for.” Define “LGBT community.” Define “as they are.” Do the authors mean to imply that Christians are duty-bound to invited unsaved gay and lesbian couples into their homes, even if they have young families? Do they mean to imply that a man who believes himself “transgender” should be allowed to use the bathroom of his choice at the local church? Do they mean to imply that anyone who expresses concerns about shared living situations involving even celibate gays and lesbians is a bigot? And so on and so forth.”

            These are the things that I think the Church is going to have to grapple with. Those are legitimate questions and if the Church is to properly disciple people they are going to have to come up with the Biblical answers to those questions and teach them to the people.

    • Steve Wilkinson

      re: “Are there Christian leaders wise enough to help the church learn how to love the LGBT community without backing down from the bottom line that LGBT sex is sin?”

      That isn’t a possible outcome as far as the LBGT-movement is concerned, as ‘love’ has been redefined as approve of, support, encourage, etc. Hopefully it is possible within the church (at least the part of the church that hasn’t already buckled on the issue due to the social pressure).

      As for the leadership, I think most are there and have been for some time (at least the thought leaders on this topic). So, it is mostly a straw-man in that regard.

      While there is far too much bad history, and still poor attitude towards LGBT people in the trenches, it is being used as a brickbat in these kind of lectures (as an emotional tactic to avoid addressing the real issue).

      In other words, I think the church is well positioned to do just what you’ve said, but I don’t think the LGBT-movement or society in general will allow it any longer.

  21. Rev. Barb

    I agree that the (evangelical) church (mostly) wants to love the LGBT community w/o backing down from the sin issue. And I agree that the LGBT community isn’t willing to tolerate their behavior being called sin. Impasse in the public square. But churches haven’t got a plan for when gay couple comes to church. What does love look like beyond some vague generalities? Maybe civil conversation/debate between different evangelical points of view would help us come to some nuanced answers.

  22. Tim W. Callaway

    I submit again that, among other curiosities, the current homosexual debate among fundagelicals seems to me to serve as the “whipping-boy” or “bogeyman” of choice for the present quarter-century. Thus it has ever been in the history of the movement. Higher criticism – evolution – prohibition/temperance – Communism – inerrancy – abortion – gay marriage – the movement is restless and discontent unless it is sabre-rattling with respect to some component of the socio-religious scene that it perceives as the ultimate threat to orthodoxy. Meanwhile, the movement’s shameless embrace of all the trappings of unfettered capitalism remain comparatively unaddressed except in certain quarters. Curious, that.

    Next week I will lunch with a colleague who resigned his evangelical church a year ago in part to obtain the freedom to perform the marriage ceremony of one of his children to their gay partner of 20+ years. At least that’s the word on the street in local evangelical circles. I am aware of a more nuanced explanation including an overwhelming weariness associated with combating the prevailing materialism and all of its accordant “rights” that dominate within North American evangelical congregations. When the words of Jesus are essentially construed as irrelevant with respect to my “right” to buzz down to Las Vegas, Cancun and other “Vanity Fairs” every four weeks simply to help me cope with the stresses of another Canadian winter, – with respect to my “right” to regularly upgrade my home, my car, my I-Phone, as dictated by modern advertising and business protocol, – with respect to my right to live with a calloused disregard for the welfare of the 60,000 people who today are walking from Afghanistan/Iran in an effort to somehow get into Europe, etc, etc, I’m sorry, but I simply can’t drum up the enthusiasm for whatever “issue” we’re told is the most urgent and pressing within modern fundagelicalism. When are we going to give ‘equal time’ to Pauline admonitions such as “godliness with contentment is most desirable?” – truly get serious about the Christ’s admonition that “you CANNOT serve both God and money” despite our ongoing efforts to prove Jesus wrong on that count? That strikes far, far closer to home for where the average evangelical lives than any of the “demons” fundagelicalism has danced with since its inception.

    Thus endeth today’s rant. Selah.

    • John

      That is a very long rant to say that “I’m more concerned about A than B, so I can’t get worked up about B”–or, at best, “A matters more in the Kingdom of God than B, so I don’t care about B.” Either way, though, Tim, I’m not sure what the rest of us are to gain from this except, I suppose, to get to know you better.

      And to imply that these issues are simply the product of a fevered evangelical imagination that always needs a rallying point seems again to involve a false dichotomy. One can agree that evangelical leaders have exploited issues to their own political ends, but that hardly means that there was nothing to the worries about higher criticism, evolution, widespread alcoholism, and so on.

      So sure, rant if you like. But might you edify us even more if you took a deep breath and focused that righteous indignation a little more finely?

  23. Royce

    “the movement is restless and discontent unless it is sabre-rattling with respect to some component of the socio-religious scene that it perceives as the ultimate threat to orthodoxy”

    That says about all that needs to be said. When the inerrancy of Scripture, the very Truths of God are impugned, and the Eternal state of one’s salvation or damnation is at stake, is seen as nothing more than “sabre(sic)-rattling” then all honest and intelligent discussion pretty much goes outta the window.

    Btw, your disdain for wealthy Christians is obvious but, I would remind you, Jesus never said a rich man couldn’t be saved and go to Heaven. He did say a practicing Homosexual who mocks God and His institution of Marriage won’t.

    I’d say your love for your fellow man and your priorities are a little outta whack.

    • Tim W. Callaway

      I disdain no one, Royce. What I disdain is an approach to Scripture that belabors the speck of sawdust in a brother’s eye while paying no attention to the plank in one’s own eye. What I disdain is an approach to Scripture that carelessly attributes to Jesus the words of St. Paul. What I disdain is an approach to Scripture that reads St. Paul with an agenda so impassioned as to conveniently overlook that “idolaters,” “adulterers, “greedy, “slanderers,” “thieves” and “swindlers” are right there in the 1 Cor 6:9-11 text alongside homosexuals, et al. That’s what I disdain.

      • Royce

        Pointing out a behavior that will result in the Eternal Damnation and torment of another is hardly, in my view, a speck of sawdust.

        As one who profess to be a pastor of so many churches over so many years, I find it a bit surprising that you do not understand the word of Paul ARE the words of Jesus!!

        I would also submit to you that nobody here, certainly not myself, is “conveniently overlooking” any of those others you listed in 1st. Cor. 6:9.

        Yes, it is true that unrepentant Idolators, etc. will inherit the same Lake of Fire as Homosexuals. The difference is, I don’t see Fornicators, Adulterers, Liars, Murderers, Rapists, Blasphemers, Thieves, or what-have-you’s, running around advertising it, celebrating it, heralding it, and demanding that everyone else approve of it.

        Nor are they the subject of this post. Nice try though. Distraction, Deception, Diversion, and downright subterfuge is a common weapon of The Enemy.

  24. Rev. Barb

    I’d like to go back to what John said in his original post about inviting Gagnon and Gushee to share a stage to “truly work together, as professed brothers in Christ, to arrive at the most obedient and grateful interpretation of Scripture.” I’m sure neither group will completely reverse positions, but maybe we could all learn something from one another about how to be more fully Christ honoring. I think it’s worth a try.

    • Steve Wilkinson

      I can’t speak for Dr. Gagnon, but I know that thought-leaders on the topic, such as Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. James White have been very actively trying to setup such debates. From what they’ve said, there seemed some promise of such an event being in the works, but since the SCOTUS decision, those talks have broken off, and the general tone coming from the pro-LGBT camp has changed substantially.

      (That’s why I linked, for example, to Matthew Vines comment on Dr. White above…. Vines had earlier expressed interest in debating Dr. White. And, if you listen to Dr. White’s commentary on Vines’ talks and book, while it isn’t soft and cuddly, it certainly isn’t as Vines represents it in his post-SCOTUS commentary.)

  25. Royce

    Steve, you’re spot on. I actually listened to a really good debate on Moody Radio moderated by Janet Parshall with Dr. Brown, Justin Lee, Brandon Robertson, and Anne Paulk. If you listen to it, you will see the exact same patterns and tactics used there as well.

    In your video Vines’ demonstrates very well why he won’t debate and why debates themselves are basically always going to be ineffective on this subject. It’s not like Piper’s debate with the 3 Theologians on Eschatology where 3 good, godly scholars can discuss Scriptures that are unclear and lead to differing viewpoints. However, when it comes to Homosexuality and SSM the Scriptures are quite clear and The Church as a whole has held to the same teaching for 2000yrs.

    Vines’ demonstrates his unwillingness to debate Scripture and to carefully exegete Scripture. Why? Because he is unqualified to do so. So he takes it to the emotional level. Which is just what I eluded to above. This is exactly why I stated at the beginning of this discussion that I’m not convinced debating would produce anything fruitful. When Gagnon, White, Brown, or anyone else brings up Scripture and the response is “That’s just so wrong. That’s just so unloving and hateful for you to say that.”; the debate is over. This is ALWAYS the weapon that is brought out when the mind, reason, and facts can’t counter another’s same. The name calling begins and the impugning of the other’s character begin. As White says, “Unkind”, “Not Thoughtful”, “Vitriolic”, “Not Compassionate” are all terms that they throw out when they don’t have an intellectual argument. How do you prove to someone that you’re not being unkind when what you are saying is not what they wanna hear and therefore is “unkind”?

    Who are those “worth engaging” in a debate? Vines confesses it is only those who can be swayed by emotion and drawn over to their side because they are not mature enough to know that Scripture, and Scripture alone, is what we must stand on.

    The more and more I read the comments on here, and the more and more I watch videos like White’s and the Gushee/Gagnon videos, the more I am convinced that debates will be fruitless and a waste of time. How does the spiritually dead debate The Word of God with those who have been Born Again. (1st Cor. 2:14)

    Now John claims I am overstepping my bounds by making such a claim. I submit that Jesus said in Matt. 7:15-16, speaking of those claiming to be Christians and being false teachers, that you shall know them by their fruits and the fruit of Vines, and other false teachers, are that they are LEADING people into sin – not away from it. They are outright blatantly teaching others that a Sin, which if continued to be practiced, WILL result in that person spending Eternity in Hell. (Matt. 7:21-23) Therefore, according to John 3:17-20, I submit it is not I that am condemning them but according to the very words of Jesus which I am only repeating, they are condemning themselves.

    And here’s one other problem I see with debates. That is whose power are we relying on to illuminate another? We must be careful with “debating” to not cross over into the Seeker-Sensitive mindset where we come to believe that we somehow can make someone wanna believe or somehow see the Truth.

    I’m convinced that the best approach is to look to Scripture. Did Jesus “debate” anyone? I don’t see that. I see Him bringing the Truth and then leaving it to one to accept or reject. With the Pharisees, did He not say, “Have you not read…?” Did Jesus not say that He came to bring Division?

    Same with Paul. One only has to look at the way the true Followers of Christ were treated to see that “inclusiveness” was not a major concern for them and that there wasn’t a lot of debate.

    That’s why I maintain that the best thing for The Church, and for the immature Christians who may be swayed by Vines and his ilk, is to draw a very clear distinction between Truth & Error. Light & Darkness. To refer to obvious apostates as “Brothers” is a grievous error and only serves to cause confusion. Which God is not the author of.

    And the MOST loving thing we can do for Vines, Gushee, and all the others is to put them out and NOT feed their deception and delusion by allowing them to think they are “Brothers”. As Jesus and Paul both said, they should be considered Unbelievers in the hope they will repent and be saved.

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