A Response to John Shore

This article is a response to John Shore's article "Taking God at his Word: The Bible and Homosexuality" on patheos.com (April 2, 2102). Not because I have something against John Shore but because Mr. Shore very eloquently presents the majority of the arguments that homosexuals have presented against the Church; and, I might say, presents those arguments as logically as is possible for untruth to be presented. This article is primarily intended not so much to be a rebuttal of Mr. Shore's arguments as to be a resource to which Christians might refer to see that all that appears logical may not necessarily be true or Godly. Please note that while I refer repeatedly to John in the article below I do so merely by convention as it is far simpler to respond directly to the author of an article than it is to the group with which he is associated.

If you are a member of what John refers to as the "LGBT Community," please know that I bear you no animosity. You may be offended by this article, and I am truly sorry if you are, but please remember as you read the word "sinner" in this article I am not only referring to you but also to myself before God saved me.

So, onward.

John begins his article by saying that "God does not ask us to choose between compassion and faith in the Bible;" a statement with which I certainly have no argument and with which most, if not all of the Church can whole heartedly agree. The prime Biblical example of the truth of this statement is in the presence of Jesus in our form. Not only did He share our lives that we might share His; He also non-judgmentally welcomed all who came to Him, to the point that prostitutes, tax-collectors and other sinners were comfortable around Him.

John is wrong, however, in one of his final statements of this section, where he says "reconciling the Bible with unqualified acceptance and equality for LGBT people does not necessitate discounting, recasting, or deconstructing the Bible. All it takes is reading those passages of the Bible wherein homosexuality is mentioned with the same care that we would any other passage of the book." He is wrong because to interpret the Bible in such a manner as to accept sin of any kind does indeed require "discounting, recasting, or deconstructing the Bible."

I also agree with the premise of the next section, where John states "If there is no clearly stated directive in the Bible to marginalize and ostracize gay people, then it is morally indefensible for Christians to continue to do so." Marginalization and ostracism of anyone run counter all that the Bible teaches. We who are Christians are saved, we say we are saved because we have literally been saved from death by the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. We have been saved not because we were worth saving but because we were so unworthy that there was no hope for us but that it came from God. How can we say that we are God's children if we withhold this very gift from those who need it as we do. Not more. Not less. The same.

Where I begin to disagree with John is in his next section, where he begins by saying "Heterosexual Christians are being unbiblical by using the clobber passages as justification for applying absolute standards of morality to homosexual 'sins' that they themselves are not tempted to commit, while at the same time accepting for themselves a standard of relative morality for those sins listed in the clobber passages that they do routinely commit." That one Christian is not tempted by a sin that is a true struggle for another does not invalidate his argument against that sin; and in fact may well make that Christian the best help available to overcome that sin.

John makes several errors of conclusion here to which I would like respond:

First - John begins by creating a negative impression by referring to the passages in the Bible that prohibit homosexuality as "clobber verses." True, he does so primarily because "they are typically used by Christians to 'clobber' LGBT people." Also true, it is reprehensible that Christians would use the Bible to damage people rather than to heal them. To do such is sin, from which we must repent. Yet by calling them clobber verses, John extends a negative connotation to all Christians who would use these passages in their discussions with homosexuals. This creates a sympathetic response to his argument without supporting fact.

Second - John continues by saying "Homosexuality is briefly mentioned in only six or seven of the Bible's 31,173 verses...The fact that homosexuality is so rarely mentioned in the Bible should be an indication to us of the lack of importance ascribed it by the authors of the Bible." a) He makes a mistake here in assuming that quantity (or lack of it) is indicative of importance; yet murder and theft are scarcely mentioned more frequently and yet are almost universally reviled regardless of the scarcity of supporting texts. b) He also begins here, by referring to "the authors of the Bible," to humanize the Bible's author; distracting his readers from the fact that while man penned the Bible, its true author is God. c) Finally, it is not the number of times a thing is condemned in the Bible that shows us it is evil but that it is condemned at all. When God condemns an act He need only condemn it once for all to know that act is evil and against His will. By repeatedly condemning that act, God is emphasizing its evil, not saying it is more evil than something He had condemned less frequently.

Third - He is completely correct in saying "If heterosexual Christians are obligated to look to the Bible to determine the sinfulness of homosexual acts, how much greater is their obligation to look to the Bible to determine the sinfulness of their behavior toward gay persons...?" We Christians are obligated to love everyone just as Jesus did. To the point of forgiving them as they are in the act of sin against us. As John continues "a great deal of [the Bible's] content is devoted to how a Christian should behave," and if we are actively antagonistic toward homosexuals we are, in fact, sinning.

But in saying "..., especially in light of the gay community's call to them for justice?" he wrongfully assumes that homosexuals are on a quest for justice that has been denied them by the Church. It has been my observation that justice is not wanted as much as for the Church to accept them as they are, without their having to change. Both he and the rest of the "LGBT community" convey the struggle in terms of an equality that has been denied them because of Christianity's unwillingness to abandon it's archaic sexual morality. It is, in fact, a spiritual struggle where homosexuals want the Church to change for them rather than them to change for the Church. As though merely being in the Church, yet not having one's life changed by Jesus, were sufficient for salvation. Yet if the Church be changed as they wish then it will no longer be the Church and even if it could have offered salvation at one time, once changed it could do so no longer. Which, in my opinion, is specifically the goal: The destruction of the Church as the body of Christ and its transformation into a social club of no ultimate benefit to anyone; saint or sinner.

John continues this section by saying that "Christians evaluate the degree of sin, or even whether or not a real sin has occurred, by looking at both the harm caused by the sin, and the intent o the sin's perpetrator. They do, that is, for all sins except homosexuality." Even if Christians, as a group, truly act as John says we do, it is obvious that he is setting up a straw-man to make his point. A sentence or two earlier he states that Christians "accept as inevitable that any given Christian will, for instance, on occasion drink too much, lust, or tell a lie." He is here defining those who sin and whom Christians will nevertheless accept sinners of occasion. (Even so, those Christians in leadership who are 'caught' in such sins are typically reprimanded, disciplined and/or removed of their office.)

That this is what he is doing is made even more clear in his following statement "They understand that circumstances and normal human weaknesses must be taken into account before condemning any transgression." Again, he makes a correct statement but applies it too far. Having set up his straw-man of Christian acceptance of occasional sinners he now wants to have that same acceptance extended to habitual (or unrepentant) sinners. In no church on the planet will you typically find unrepentant murderers gladly accepted. A person who under certain circumstances has committed murder and is repentant, yes, you will find them accepted. But someone who is known to not only have murdered but who continues to murder despite objection, no, you will find that person accepted. It is not that the Church is against homosexuality but that the Church is against unrepented homosexuality. Just as it is against any other unrepented sin.

John then uses the passage "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Matthew 7:1-2) as an admonition for Christians to not behave toward homosexuality as they do. Yet there are several errors in his application of this passage:

First - By telling the Christian not to judge the behaviour of others he is, in fact, judging the behaviour of Christians. Christians cannot tell homosexuals that what they do is sin but John can tell Christians that they sin? This is hypocritical.

Second - To take this verse and apply it to Christian condemnation of homosexuality while overlooking all the passages in the Bible that specifically encourage confrontation of sin lifts this passage entirely out of its context. Just a few words later John makes this very argument himself - "The Bible isn’t a rulebook, and Christians cannot lift out of its context any passage from it, and still hope to gain a clear understanding of that passage." Again, in doing what he says Christians cannot do is also hypocritical.

Third - In referring only to this passage and ignoring the incessant emphasis of the New Testament on repentance from sin John overlooks the fact that Christianity is a religion of reformation. Every Christian, myself included, was at one time an unrepentant sinner. Every Christian, myself included, has been rescued from that life by a miraculous act of God through His son Jesus. Every Christian, myself included, is no longer a rebel against God but a child of God.

John also makes an error in interpretation here in equating correction as judgment. The purpose of judgment is to apply the a penalty for the thing being judged. That is not what Christians are to do. Christians are to correct, or confront, as I have said above. The purpose of correction is to enable the one being corrected to avoid the penalty that is the result of the thing being corrected.

He correctly applies the subsequent passage he quotes: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" (Luke 6:41-42) and I suspect that this may actually be at the heart of his argument. That for Christians to confront homosexuality as sin yet to continue in their own sin is also hypocritical. Christians need to be extremely careful when confronting sin.

John next proceeds to discredit Old Testament laws against homosexuality. "Using the four Old Testament passages to condemn all homosexual acts is not in keeping with any Christian directive from God, nor with the practices of contemporary Christians. The Bible’s first four references to homosexuality occur in the Old Testament. While continuing to be spiritually inspired and influenced by the Old Testament, Christians were specifically instructed by Paul not to follow the law of the Old Testament....Therefore, the use of the four Old Testament passages to condemn all homosexual acts is not in keeping with any Christian directive from God, nor with the practices of contemporary Christians." What he has done here is to interpret the Bible based on the conclusion he wants, rather than to come to a conclusion based on what the Bible says. His argument that the Old Testament laws against homosexuality can be discarded because Paul told Christians that they were no longer under the law is very poor interpretation. Paul never once discarded the law of the Old Testament and he himself kept the law even after becoming a Christian. (His arrest in Acts took place in the Temple as he was offering the sacrifice required at the termination of a Nazirite vow.) Every reference that Paul makes to the law is in the context of its powerlessness to save us from the sin that it convicts us of. Paul's argument is not that the law is no longer necessary but that it never was sufficient to save anyone because "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." Paul sees that the law informs us of sin but can do nothing to alleviate sin's power; that could only be done through the blood of Jesus. Jesus Himself said that He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. No Christian today considers the law to be worthless, but we do see it to be powerless; pointing out our sins to us but with no ability to make atonement for those sins. This is what Jesus meant when He said that He came to fulfill the law; it was to Him that the law pointed and it is His sacrifice that provides the atonement for our sin to which the law could only point.

There are also two significant New Testament interpretations of the Old Testament that John completely overlooks in his argument for the contextualization of Paul's prohibition of homosexuality:

First - Jesus' own words where He tells His hearers: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." In speaking these words Jesus upholds all the teaching of the Old Testament as being as valid as when they were first spoken.

Second - In his letter to Timothy, Paul writes that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," at the very least indicating that, whether or not Paul's opposition to homosexuality could be contextualized, Paul continued to regard the entirety of Old Testament as the word of God.

Neither of the above in any way supports the idea that the laws against homosexuality in the Old Testament were discarded in the New Testament; but, rather, that these laws continued to stand as the will of God.

What John seems to be really trying to do here is to discredit the definite Old Testament laws against homosexuality so that he can move on to what he regards as the New Testament's more ambiguous opposition to homosexuality. Once he is at the point where the Old Testament no longer applies he can begin to discredit the New Testament's opposition to homosexuality on cultural context and adopts the line of "caring, committed, loving relationship" as though care, commitment and love were what makes anything acceptable to God. But the point is not what we say makes a thing acceptable to God but what God says is acceptable to Him. In the Old Testament God calls homosexuality a sin. In both the Old and New Testaments God says that He does not change. How then can we come to the conclusion that God no longer considers homosexuality a sin in the New Testament? If God calls homosexuality a sin in the Old Testament and God does not change then it is still a sin in the New Testament.

So, having said all this, what must be the Christian's response to homosexuality in the Church? The Christian must respond in love and in such a way as to not hinder the grace of God in the life of anyone who wants to know God as Father.

Should the Church accept homosexuals in leadership positions? No, because no unrepentant sinner must be in such a place as to affect the doctrine of the Church or its ministry to the saint and the sinner.

Should the Church accept unrepentant homosexuals in its body? No, it cannot because an unrepentant sinner has no place in the Body of Christ. This is not a matter of policy but of possibility; it is simply impossible for an unrepentant sinner to join something where repentance is the foremost criteria.

Should the Church welcome unrepentant homosexuals in attendance? Yes, most emphatically! For if we will not go to them, how will they hear the gospel if they do not come to us?

Should Christians tell unrepentant homosexuals that they sin? Yes, with an abundance of love. Just as we would unrepentant murderers, thieves or adulterers. To not confront sin as sin is to say that God is wrong, which He cannot be. To not love the sinner is to say that Jesus is wrong, which He cannot be. Christians exist for one purpose and one purpose only: To make disciples of all nations, introducing them to salvation and teaching them the way of God. How can we do this if we do not both confront sin as sin and love those who sin as lost lambs of God?