I was reading an NPR article where the following two paragraphs can be read:
Chambers also believes that homosexual acts are a sin because the Bible calls for heterosexual marriage. He says gay Christians must either be celibate, or if they want to marry, it must be with someone of the opposite sex. But he says even if you are in a gay relationship, you can still be a good Christian.
“I believe that once someone knows Christ that they have an irrevocable relationship, that if someone has a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, that God’s bigger than removing something at the first sign of trouble,” Chambers says, referring to salvation.
Now, having “an irrevocable relationship” is NOT the same thing as being “in a gay relationship [while being] a good Christian,” as the article asserts. Maybe Chambers said this in the actual interview, but in terms of this NPR article, I’m not certain Chambers should be judged on a summary comment written by a (most-likely) non-theological writer.
Like Chambers, I don’t think my favorable relationship standing to God hinges on what I do. I’m not sure declaring that truth gives “false assurance” to those who are not living in repentance, as Robert Gagnon has expressed concern.
I think Dr. Gagnon’s concern is valid: we, as Christians, should avoid saying things that give false assurance of the goodwill of a holy God to those who are in rebellion to what Scripture says about sexual mores (or anything, really). However, that rhetoric can be pushed too far, as hyper-Calvinists do where they offer no hope to anyone at all prior to them seeing signs of regeneration.
Some who take the news that what they do doesn’t have a bearing on what God thinks of them can either rest in God and desire to please Him with their lives, or they can opt to show the fruit of their mucked-up hearts which are far from God anyway. Ultimately, the assurance of God’s favor comes from God’s decisive act in history by Christ on the cross. And to those who have been called, their hearts change and become softened to continual repentance. That is the message that the Church (and Exodus) should be telling others who ask.
The reason for the hope within us–all Christians–is not that we can sort out our childhoods and find healing. It’s that Christ has taken the sin we’ve experienced and perpetrated upon Himself and that all bad things are now being undone. Christ’s resurrection is the downpayment on that promise from God…and we can say with confidence that while peace does not yet rest perfectly on us, it is sure and certain.
The cutlural framework in which I live and operate my belief of same-sex relations culminates from a biblical and contemporary understanding. After Paul’s traditional Roman ideals of sexual relations, Augustine actually crafted the notion of “original sin.” The deaf child who renders an open attraction to males was not “taught” this behavior. I have known deaf gay males and women who have an entirely non-judgmental personal view of their sexual identity. For them to be programmed that their natural feelings, in and of themselves, are especially sinful is morally criminal. This is why I feel that in the end, we do not have a resolution of the question but a process of listening and speaking that kept the community together and kept the process open. All kinds of learning was happening around the table and some of it my own.
That’s a nice version of history you’ve crafted, but Augustine didn’t craft the idea of original sin…Moses wrote about it in Genesis and Jesus even referenced it when talking to the rich young ruler.
Talking is good…but talking just to talk and listen without any resolution is to be “ever learning but not come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7), and is condemned by the Bible.
“…we can sort out our childhoods and find healing”
Where are you going OR where have you been with this kind of thought pattern in relation to the content matter of this post?
I was referring to the content of the NPR article, not with anything I’ve actually gone through.
This makes sense. I was hoping to not find a nature vs nurture conflict being referenced. Don’t you just love the new “kinder more gentler” daemon? 🙂
Don Hartness said:
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” – Mt 22:14
After reading the Chambers interview in the Atlantic, and Gagnon’s lengthy response, I was invited this Sunday to a new church by a good friend of mine. Curiously, the pastor was preaching on Ro 8:38-39. With Gagnon’s point resounding in my head (that everything listed by Paul are external things), I waited and hoped for the Pastor to point out that there is one thing that can remove us from God’s grace, and that is unrepentant sin (ref: Jas 1:19-25; 2:14-26). Sadly, what I heard was more of the same “Christ-lite” theology preached in church after church: Jesus loves everyone, everything is all good, praise God, and pass the tithing plate. (Sigh)
“ ‘From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people, as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,’ says the LORD.” – Je 6:13-15
I’ll save the teaching for a later post, choosing instead to illustrate by way of personal example…
Years ago, in answer to my prayers following yet another heartbreak from yet another busted relationship, I heard the call to be chaste in my sexual life. Although my desire is for the opposite gender, it doesn’t matter, because that desire is not pure: it is lust, a sin that I have stumbled over repeatedly (of which the broken marriage and broken relationships attest too). Hence, the call as a means towards further sanctification.
With each subsequent heartbreak, the call grew louder. In time, the call became a deafening roar within my spirit. Other areas of my life were improving, but I was not at peace. My prayer life became disturbed. I was a fraud. On the surface, I appeared to be a devoted disciple; internally, I knew that I was deliberately disobeying the Lord’s command (Jn 14:15)
The “Christ-lite” crowd would tell me that my guilt was the source of my problem. “Believe that Christ atoned once and for all for your sins, and that you are accepted by Him.” However, this is a false teaching, because it is a lie by omission. It ignores the fact that there is no Christ for me unless Christ is in me. Read 1 John again. The journey is on God’s timetable, but make no mistake: there is a point when a believer has to make a choice of whether they will live by the Spirit or by the sinful nature. It is a CHOICE, because the power of God enables the believer to make that choice (they are no longer a slave to sin). The sad thing is that so many turn back, going back into the darkness. All of God’s knowledge and wisdom bestowed on us will not prevent us from walking away, should we choose too; just ask Solomon. (reference also Heb 6:4-7)
Hence why so few are chosen…
And that was the worst part. I knew which direction I should go. I knew all of the reasons behind the Lord’s calling. I knew that only healing and blessings would come from heeding this call. I knew that it was possible (for I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me). I had no argument left for why I shouldn’t. And yet, I STILL hesitated, unable to take a step in that direction.
It came down to a simple choice: would I choose the Lord, or an idol?
I chose the Lord and let it all go. The sinful nature is strong, too strong for those without the Spirit. Each of us has an Achilles heel when it comes to sin, the one thing that masters us, rendering us a slave. What good is it for me to hear that I shouldn’t do this or that sin? Don’t I know this? When I hear the standard for the holy, and I realize that I cannot accomplish it, it produces despair within me. Indeed, I would have been better off not hearing it.
But the core of the gospel message is simply this: not only is there a holy standard, but there is also a power that enables us to achieve it, if we hold on in faith.
(And, btw, we’ll learn a thing or two about forgiveness and love along the way…)
Don, thanks for the comment. I’ve been chewing on it, I think this is where we part ways:
While the believer is, in fact, morally culpable for the decisions he or she makes, the Scripture attests to the fact that the believer’s will is changed by the regenerating work of the Spirit. God does not merely bring us to a morally neutral place and then we have to decide to follow Jesus to make our calling and election sure. Instead, God literally re-writes our will and where we once hated God and his ways, we now love him. That’s the very nature of regeneration.
Ultimately, my regeneration and my being a part of God’s kingdom of priests is not about whether or not I chose God or an idol. Instead, His choice for me compels me to forsake all other idols and come to Him continually. My holding on, therefore, is wholly dependent upon His work in my life, since of myself, I can’t hold on…and neither can you. We serve a God who mercifully doesn’t leave us hanging out to dry on the rat-wheel of good works. Instead, His grace secures our salvation and brings about our obedience!
Don Hartness said:
Oh no, we haven’t parted ways: yours is simply a more concise way to put it (and you’ll have to pardon me for not being able to do likewise, since the completed journey in this matter is still quite fresh; a matter of weeks, instead of months or years!).
If you told me, before the journey began, to be chaste, I would have laughed at the utter ridiculousness of such a command. The journey has been a series of ascents. First, the acknowledgement that the call was even possible. Next, the realization that it was true (producing despair). Then, the dawning realization that it was possible to answer this calling, as I began to realize the power of God’s grace. After, a drawing upon that grace, first to strengthen the will and reach for the higher standard; then to stand on that higher plateau. Finally, the transaction of will, where I stepped up and placed my feet on that higher plateau. All of this is just an experiential description for that same word: regeneration.
Ultimately, you are absolutely right. It wasn’t my will that brought me here, it was, indeed, His will, as my will would have never been strong enough in this matter. However, being told that it is the Lord’s will that works towards my salvation, and experiencing it, are two different things. During the many stumbles and falls, it is then when the enemy attacks with many suggestions concerning my election, His faithfulness and mercy, and so on. However, His will proved to be stronger, and my “choice” was simply an alignment of my will with His, producing harmony.
I use the word “choice”, not from a morally neutral place, as you put it, since the conclusion is already known. Instead, I use it from the subjective perspective of someone who is in the heat of the battle. That person’s “choice” merely indicates whether the Spirit was there all along or not. People do not fall away in the strictest sense; rather, they demonstrate that they never truly had the Spirit to begin with. Of course, if one realizes this, then this could be a call to accept Him! But I digress…