Monday, April 19, 2010

What things are disputable, and what must we fight for?

What things are disputable, and what must we fight for?

Postmodernists posing as Evangelical Christians have tried to open a debate on whether a Christian can be a homosexual. Some postmodernists advocate that a Christian can practice homosexuality. Some postmodernists such as Brian McLaren argue the church should, at least for the present, be silent on the issue. Other postmodernists don't believe a Christian can practice homosexuality, but argue that those who believe a Christian can practice homosexuality should be allowed to teach this. In other words, postmodernists in the church would like to shift the issue from the status of a 'serious heresy' to to be fought and silenced to a 'disputable issue', where we should be tolerant of others opinions in church. How tolerant should we be of such teaching? Dr Kevin Roy, pastor of Muldersdrift Union Church and former Principal of the Cape Town Baptist Seminary helps answer the question in the following article:

Philip Rosenthal


What things are disputable, and what must we fight for?

By Dr Kevin Roy (First published in Baptists Today, Issue 4 2008)

The apostle Paul was a very liberal man in the area of legitimate differences between Christians. Whether to eat meat or not, whether one day is more holy than others, or not, his counsel was not to judge one another on such ‘disputable matters’, but rather respect one another. His own policy was to be a Jew to the Jews, a Greek to the Greeks, indeed, all things to all men, in order to win as many as possible. And he bent over backwards in order to promote peace and unity in the church, allowing a generous difference of opinion on secondary issues between believers. And we can follow his example in many areas today. Most of us have definite views about baptism, church government, the rapture, the millennium, election, predestination, tongues, prophecy – and that’s a short list – but we would not assign to hell those who differ from us. At least, I hope not. We recognize that many eminent servants of Christ who have been greatly blessed by God have differed on all these issues.

But Paul was fiercely inflexible when it came to the purity of the gospel and matters that affect our salvation. These are life and death issues, and must be fought for strenuously. To those who were seducing the Galatians from the gospel of grace and drawing them back into works religion he pronounced, “Let him be accursed.” And to emphasize his seriousness, he repeated, “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Knowing that without genuine repentance there can be no salvation; Paul took an equally strict and inflexible view of moral issues. “No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of God. Let no-one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes upon those who are disobedient.” To the Corinthians Paul spelled out explicitly those breaches of the moral law that would exclude a person from the kingdom of God: sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexual practice, theft, greed, drunkenness, reviling, and swindling. Concerning these things there could be no toleration or debate. Those things that lead a person to eternal destruction are literally life and death issues. We must fight for people’s salvation and guard them against being deceived by plausible perversions of the truth.

Paul was not alone, of course, in this matter. All the apostles said the same thing. “No murderer has eternal life in him,” warned the apostle John. “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur,” he declared. Peter spoke of the destruction awaiting false prophets and false teachers who secretly introduce destructive heresies, and those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. The pattern in all the apostolic teaching is the same. Those teachings that lead a person away from the gospel of truth and into moral transgressions that bring destruction and condemnation must be resisted with all our might. People’s lives and eternal destiny depend on it.

It is clear from the above that all moral transgression is serious. But there is one sin that is warned against with almost monotonous regularity – sexual immorality. Perhaps because this is an area of special weakness for so many of us, and one in which we can be so easily deceived. Sexual sins condemned by God are clearly identified: fornication (sex outside the marriage bond), adultery (sex across the marriage line), homosexual acts (same gender sex), incest (sex with a close relation) and bestiality (sex with animals). In short, sex is the precious and sacred gift of God to be enjoyed within the marriage bond of a man and a woman. So sacred is this gift that the same word (know) is used for sex and the believer’s relationship with God.

For more than 3000 years there has been consensus in the above understanding of what constitutes sexual immorality. Today, that consensus is under serious attack, especially in the area of homosexual relations. It is argued that Scripture does not condemn homosexual relations if they are loving, monogamous (?) and lifelong. Only abusive homosexual relations, such as rape, pederasty and prostitution are condemned. Considerable ingenuity is used to reinterpret key biblical texts. Lev 18:22, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable,” is discounted on the grounds there are other OT texts forbidding clothes made of different materials, certain foods, planting different crops in one field and so on. This ignores the most basic rule of Bible interpretation, namely, that Christian believers under the New Covenant distinguish between moral laws, which are eternal and reaffirmed in the NT, and ceremonial and civil laws which apply only to the Old Covenant. Furthermore, Lev 18 does not only forbid same sex relations. It also condemns incest, adultery, child sacrifice, bestiality and concludes with the words, “do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.” Those who claim that Lev 18:22 is no more applicable today must logically argue the same for the rest of that chapter. (Please read Lev 18 for yourself.)

I mentioned that the moral law is expressly reaffirmed in the NT. This is certainly the case with the prohibition of same sex relations. In his opening chapter to the Romans Paul shows the universal sinfulness of human beings. Though they know God through creation, they turn aside to idolatry and folly. In judgement, God gives them over to shameful lusts. “Even their women exchanged the natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men.” It is claimed that ‘loving homosexual relations’ are not in view here, but what Paul had in mind was pederasty (sex with young boys). But Paul does not mention boys. He writes of men committing indecent acts with men. Similar ingenuity is used to claim that 1 Cor 6:9 does not have ‘loving, committed’ same sex relations in mind. But the word arsenokoitai comes from two words, arsen (male) and koite (lie) meaning ‘one who lies with a male.’ The allusion to Lev 18:22 is unavoidable. It is same sex relations that are here condemned, without any exceptions.

There can be no doubt that when the NT writers referred to sexual immorality they had a number of practices in mind, including same sex relationships. There is not even a hint, anywhere in the Bible, of a certain kind of homosexual relationship acceptable to God. Generations of Christian scholars and leaders would have been astonished at the very idea – the early church fathers, the Reformers of the 16th century, the 18th century Evangelical leaders. In fact, there is something rather arrogant in the idea that the whole church has got this one completely wrong for 2000 years. Only now, thanks to certain modern liberal scholars, do we know the truth.

Does this mean we must be nasty and hateful to homosexual offenders? On the contrary, we must love them sincerely and passionately. We must love them enough to warn them in the spirit of Ezek 33 “Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel. So you will hear a message from my mouth and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die,’ and you do not warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man will die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you, on your part, warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.” The apostle Paul could say, “I am free from the blood of all men,” because he had declared to them the whole counsel of God. Let us love our homosexual neighbours in the most sincere way possible and warn them not to be deceived into the way of death, but to turn into the way of life by genuine repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.