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?

Top 10 Reasons Pastors Should Avoid Politics

National Public Radio, among many other sources, features news of hundreds of American pastors attending workshops to learn how better to rally the faithful to a new round of culture wars.

Not that I want to rain on anyone’s parade, or crusade, but after giving the matter a little thought (and after setting out my views at rather too much length here), let me offer a few points for reflective hesitation among my clerical brothers and sisters.


10. Because no one trained you properly to get involved with politics—and a little seminar, however exciting, won’t make up for that yawning deficit. (Do you think politicians can be trained to be pastors by attending a seminar?)

9. Because no one hired you to get involved with politics. (And if they did, they shouldn’t have: See #10.)

8. Because pastors are supposed to call us toward the ideal and the ultimate, while politicians have to compromise over the real and the immediate.

7. Because the Scriptures (your main area of intellectual expertise—right?) are, at best, only suggestive and regulative over the field of politics (a quite different area of intellectual expertise—right? See #10 again).

6. Because you’ll alienate a considerable part of your constituency who see political matters differently, and will hold that difference against you, thus losing the benefits of your pastoral care and authority.

5. Because you need to consider the troubling fact that you’re not alienating a considerable part of your constituency, so why is your church so uniform in its politics?

4. Because governments come and go, and you need to reserve the sacred right to prophesy to whoever is in power.

3. Because politicians come and go, and you need to reserve the sacred right to comfort whoever is not, or no longer, in power.

2. Because politics brings out the worst in people, and you’re supposed to bring out the best in people.

1. Because politics brings out the worst in people, and unless you’re an exception (like Tommy Douglas), politics will bring out the worst in you.

Pastors, by all means think about politics and study about politics so that you can preach and call people to politics according to Biblically grounded principles and insight into the major trends of our time.

But leave the actual politics to actual politicians and political scientists.

(Remember that “foot” and “hand” thing, as someone, somewhere said?)


On Trusting God Rather than Freaking Out

I’ve been enjoying teaching the basic concepts of my book Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World to students gathered for the annual conference of the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship (= IFES = IVCF = UCCF) in New Zealand. This morning I found myself articulating a feeling that’s been growing within me since the American Supreme Court decided, barely, to make same-sex marriage legal in the United States. And that feeling is this: Keep Calm and Carry On.

Downstream of the Canadian Parliament’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage almost a decade ago, it is increasingly perilous in Canada today to articulate any position other than full-on endorsement of same-sex marriage—even if you get anyone in the mainstream media or among the cultural elites to give you a listen, which is becoming rare indeed. Any position other than The Right One is now met with revulsion in bien-pensant Canadian society, as if one were defending chattel slavery or child pornography. Traditional sexual mores in this regard have very quickly become un-thinkable among many and almost un-sayable in public, for fear of…

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