The Gay Revolution in Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective

Jul 9th, 2011 | By | Category: Ethics, Featured Issues

Recently, I received in my office at Grace University a single sheet entitled ?The Heartland Proclamation? by the Heartland Clergy for Inclusion.  In part, this sheet read, ?As Christian clergy we proclaim the Good News concerning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons and publicly apologize where we have been silent.  As disciples of Jesus, who assures us that truth sets us free, we recognize that the debate is over.  The verdict is in.  Homosexuality is not a sickness, not a choice, and not a sin.  We find no rational biblical or theological basis to condemn or deny the rights of any person based on sexual orientation. . . In repentance and obedient to the Holy Spirit, we stand in solidarity as those who are committed to work and pray for full acceptance and inclusion of LGBT persons in our churches and in our world. . . The Holy Spirit compels us:

  • To affirm that the essence of Christian life is not focused on sexual orientation, but how one lives by grace in relationship with God, with compassion toward humanity;
  • To embrace the full inclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters in all areas of church life, including leadership;
  • To declare that the violence must stop.
  • To celebrate the prophetic witness of all people who have refused to let the voice of intolerance and violence speak for Christianity, especially LGBT persons, who have met hatred with love.

Therefore, we call for an end to all religious and civil discrimination against any person based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.  All laws must include and protect the freedoms, rights, and equal legal standing of all persons, in and outside the church.?  The back side of the sheet contains the names of clergy (3 and ½ columns) who have presumably signed this statement.  Most of the signers are clergy from Nebraska, Iowa and other Midwestern states.  How should we think about this?

The western church, but especially the evangelical church of North America, is facing a veritable challenge that is shaking it at its very foundation:  It is a moral and ethical revolution in human sexuality, and at its heart is homosexuality.  Recently, theologian Albert Mohler has written, ?In less than a single generation, homosexuality has gone from something almost universally understood to be sinful, to something now declared to be the moral equivalent of heterosexuality ? and deserving of both legal protection and public encouragement.?  Mohler also explains why the liberal churches and denominations (all represented in The Heartland Proclamation, for example) have no problems accommodating to this moral and ethical revolution:  ?They simply accommodate themselves to the new moral reality.  By now the pattern is clear:  These churches debate the issue, with conservatives arguing to retain the older morality and liberals arguing that the church must adapt to the new one.  Eventually, the liberals win and the conservatives lose.  Next, the denomination ordains openly gay candidates or decides to bless same-sex unions.?

Two important conclusions:

  1. Genuine, biblical Christianity cannot accommodate to this new morality.  Many evangelicals have failed in so many ways when it comes to this moral revolution.  Mohler correctly observes that ?we have often spoken about homosexuality in ways that are crude and simplistic.  We have failed to take account of how tenaciously sexuality comes to define us as human beings.  We have failed to see homosexuality as a Gospel issue.  We are the ones, after all, who are supposed to know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only remedy for sin, starting with our own.?  Genuine biblical Christianity never speaks of the sinfulness of homosexuality as if we have no sin.  In fact, it is precisely because we have acknowledged our sin that we came to faith in Jesus Christ.  Our passion must be that the homosexual, the bisexual, and the transgendered person come to see their own sin and thereby their need for Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and cleansing that He alone offers.
  2. The Bible condemns same-sex behaviors in a comprehensive and clear manner.  There is no ambiguity on this issue.  In fact, it is interwoven with the Bible?s message concerning God?s plan for humanity, marriage and the larger society?as well as the Gospel.  Mohler has also written that ?our rebellion against the Creator is never so insidious as when we declare that our own plan is superior to His.?  His plan is clearly articulated in the Creation Ordinance of Genesis 2:18-25.  God created Adam and concluded that he needed a perfect complement?woman.  As God had Adam name the various animals, Adam understood his need as well?and thereby enthusiastically embraced God?s precious gift of Eve, different physiologically, emotionally and in every chromosome from his body.  Therefore, as Genesis 2:24-25 declare, God?s design is that man and woman come together in a ?one flesh? relationship, symbolized by sexual intercourse but also by the merging of two complete personalities into a complementary whole.  The Bible irrefutably links two critical realties?gender difference and procreation?with marriage.  You cannot separate these two.  When you do, as this moral and ethical revolution is now doing, moral and ethical chaos result.  It is for this reason that the Bible, when it discusses human sexuality, uses terms such as ?natural? and ?unnatural? (see Romans 1:18-32).  The term ?natural? strongly implies a standard that transcends all culture and all time?and that standard is of course God?s Creation Ordinance.  Any sexual activity that violates that standard (e.g., adultery, premarital sex, extramarital sex, or bestiality?as well as homosexuality in all its forms) is sinful in God?s eyes and in need of forgiveness and cleansing.  Our civilization has abandoned all commitments to that standard.  In its place is a dangerous postmodern autonomy that believes whatever the individual chooses to do in the sexual area is fine as long as it meets a need and is consensual.  (We have not yet sanctioned rape!!!)  But if we truly follow the logic of The Heartland Proclamation, which even sanctions ?bisexuality,? then on what basis would we declare that bigamy or polygamy is ethically wrong?  If the standard that the Bible so comprehensively and clearly articulates is rejected, then what exactly is the ?new? standard to be?

In one of the Bible studies I lead in the Metro Omaha area, we were recently discussing the moral and ethical standards detailed in Scripture.  One of the businessmen who attends had an ?ah ha? moment when he said, ?Oh, God paints the lines on the tennis court.?  We can choose to play the game outside the lines but the penalties for doing so in tennis are clear.  So, it is in life.  God has defined the ethical and moral standards for us and for our good because He is the Creator.  If we choose to defy those standards, we will face the consequences of that defiance.  Indeed, that is what Paul is arguing in Romans 1:18-32.  The Heartland Proclamation is wrong in its affirmation of LGBT choices in sexual behavior.  That is not a statement of intolerance; that is a statement that reflects the absolute standard of God?s Creation Ordinance.  That is not a very popular sentence I just wrote?but it is the truth.  May God gives us the grace and the enablement to represent Him well in this tragic and difficult culture we now face.  As Mohler correctly observes: ?. . . it is not the world around us that is being tested, so much as the believing church.  We are about to find out just how much we believe the Gospel we so eagerly preach.?

See Mohler?s essay in the Wall Street Journal (1 July 2011) and (3 June 2011). PRINT PDF

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2 Comments to “The Gay Revolution in Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective”

  1. Theresa Barlen says:

    Interesting essay. I just heard about a young girl who was expelled from Grace University and then asked to pay back a scholarship she was awarded. This is why I even looked into Grace University. I wondered if there was something in the fine print of her documents that would have outlined this eventuality.

    None the less, interesting point of view. I have known many homosexuals, a few Bisexuals and one trans-sexual. All of them seemed to be as ordinary as the next. And when I say ordinary, this is what I mean. All held same values for life and liberty as I do. All had a tremendous regard for safety and life of the young and animals. Many were vegan and most had “family” pets. All against pedophilia.

    I found for myself their most egregious sin to be the wanting of opposite sex couples lives. The want of marriage and family. But I have a hard time condemning this when I see what happens in the traditional family. There is still family planning using abortion, early pregnancy DNA screening and abortion, infertility assistance where so much suffering occurs to the pre-term births of multiple gestations. None of these can be classified as natural. And then I wonder where to the teachings of Christ come in?

    When a human is born with defects there are teachings that indicate this is because of sin. I do not believe this to be true, as the graces that are received from such experiences are transcendent. And if defects are part of the equation of sin then it would stand to reason that these same powers may be responsible for sexual defects as well. I have a nephew who is about 50 years old. He has displayed overt feminine traits since he was a toddler. At this time he still lives at home with his parents. My sister is extremely homophobic and speaks out violently against homosexuality. I believe that his life is very sad. I am sure that given the opportunity he would explore his sexuality and like to have a life relationship of sharing and love.

    I have never met a LGBT person who told me that they decided their own sexuality. None did planning or research. Just like all things that occur, naturally, in nature they just followed their own urges. Could this equate to the behaviors of a pedophile or mass murderer? Perhaps. First and foremost we are genetic entities. What is good, bad, safe or evil is interpreted by the society at large. Very few religions hold women on par with men. Is that because of our sin too? I think not. Maybe some teachings have more to do with fear and power.

    And this is where it all come down to, who has the power? Making great edicts to predict our immortal outcome has been done for centuries and still we do not have a clue as to our actual disposition. Some people say it ends at the end and others believe we keep coming back until we get it right. In terms of our greatest religious teachings this may be the most important: To admit we do not know.

    I sometimes wonder if Christ were to come back today could he be gay or be the child of a gay couple. So much judging over an issue that is only real because of others discomfort. LGBT are a natural event. They want to build a moral safe world where others are treated with respect and dignity. As for their sexual proclivities this is truly of God’s making. Like a tornado or a rose none of it is explainable. Argue all you want about the wages of sin, but it will never change the fact that God is nature and nature is God. All things come from him and all things are in his image. Is this our life lesson to learn?

    Thank you for this opportunity to express my opinions. I continue to work on issues of tolerance, judgement, forgiveness and understanding. If we took all religions away today and lived by the tenants of love and compassion, how would this world look?

    Theresa Barlen

  2. David Carlson says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful explanation.