What if they can’t help it?

Over at Theonomy, Kobra has written a provoking post that at first glance would doubtless make many Evangelicals very uncomfortable. The bulk of his post makes some very sound and biblical observations concerning homosexuality and the church’s attitude toward homosexuals (with which I agree completely). Before getting to his main idea, he lays the foundation of his argument by suggesting that sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, contra Dobson (and other conservative integrationists), many in the ‘biblical counseling’ world, and many Evangelicals at large. From experience, I know that this assertion alone is enough to cause a firestorm within many churches, seminary classes, and Christian gatherings…leaving the one who made the suggested branded ‘liberal,’ ‘heretic,’ or worse.

Personally, I think the jury is still out on whether or not homosexuality is a matter of preference or predisposition, but regardless of what we ultimately discover it seems this is the wrong question for Christians to ask/answer as we participate in the discussion. Kobra points out what is probably the prevailing societal opinion concerning homosexuality in his paraphrase of Pelagius, “If they can’t help it, we can’t hold them accountable for it.” While this assertion may have the appearance of correctness to some, it fails on two primary counts:

  1. A Religious perspective: Unless we are to adopt a Pelagian view of humanity and sin, which by the way has been condemned as heretical since the fifth century, orthodox Christianity has never proposed rejecting God’s perfectly righteous demands in the Law on the grounds that that no person can keep them. Simply because we cannot keep the Law does not lessen its requirements. After all, isn’t the overarching purpose of the Law to point us to Christ precisely because it reveals our unrighteousness and sin? Of course. Now, since non-Christians and society as a whole quickly reject this argument, let us look at…
  2. A Biological perspective: Science has found unique brain formation/function in serial killers that are not found in ‘normal’ people (i.e., non-serial killers), pointing to a potential biological disposition toward their killing sprees. To my knowledge, no one has seriously disputed these findings, though extensive research is still ongoing. Does reasonable society for one second, however, suggest that these people not be held accountable because ‘they can’t help it’? Of course not. Assuming for a moment that science discovers a bona fide predisposion to homosexuality, what would be the difference between a biological bent toward homosexuality and one toward serial killing? Absolutely nothing except that it is not (yet) socially acceptable to be a serial killer. To condemn one but not the other from a purely naturalistic worldview is logically inconsistent, which is why we must ultimately appeal to Scripture for morality, not utilitarianism or some other philosophical system.

So the basic question to be asked and answered concerning homosexuality (or any other thought/word/deed) is not whether or not we ‘can help it’ but whether or not God considers such behavior sinful. If he does, then our responses must be:

  1. To not excuse sin but call it what it is, sin…like Christ
  2. To have compassion on sinners, while calling them to repentance…like Christ
  3. To bear their indignation and hostility graciously…like Christ

Like other sins with which we struggle daily, God may or may not remove the temptation from our lives and ‘give us victory’ over it. By his grace, however, as we wrestle with sin against the passions of the flesh he will assure us of his mercy and forgiveness in Christ as we seek to walk like our Savior, stumbling repeatedly along the way!

Catechesis and Children’s Church

Ingrid at Slice of Laodicea has a great post about Catechesis, VBS, and teaching our children in church. Basically, in response to another reader, she laments the sad state of Evangelicalism and its sad preference of entertainment over teaching. She writes:

‘Anything with substantive content is looked down on these days. Evangelical parents don’t want catechism and systematic training in Christian doctrine, they want Disneyworld at church for their kids. Then we wonder why Megachurch Johnny is dressing like a vampire and listening to “Christian bands” like Showbread sing about dismemberment with a chainsaw. Children can and should be taught Christian doctrine.’

Unfortunately, her observations are spot on. Last year our church began using Great Commission Publication’s Kid’s Quest Catechism Club as the basis for our children’s church program. To my dismay, our labors were met with varying reactions, ranging from complete indifference to horror that we should be teaching a catechism to our children (“Isn’t that Catholic?”).

After a year of great work by our children’s church workers, I am not too much more encouraged.
Several of the children have really enjoyed learning the basic, great truths of the Christian faith and have shown a remarkable level of initiative…unfortunately, they are the exception and not the rule. The majority of the children have memorized and internalized (more importantly) very few of the questions we have taught. As frustrating as that is, I have to say I really cannot blame them, because without exception, the children report (some of them proudly) that their parents spend no time with them, ever, reviewing the material. With that sad attitude from Christian parents, who themselves want to be entertained in ‘worship’ and not taught, it is not surprising that most of the children show very little interest in Christain maturity.

By spending between ten and fifteen minutes per day with our nine year-old daughter, she has mastered all the questions to date…not because we have spent so much time on them, but because our enthusiasm and consistency have demonstrated to her that these questions are important. I often try to encourage her by kidding her and saying, “If you learn all your catechism questions, you’ll know more about Jesus than ninety-five percent of the adults in church!” She laughs, but unfortunately it is true. And unfortunately, more often than not, the attitude of the parents is learned very well by their children.

While the church / congregation has a corporate responsibility to disciple and nurture her members, ultimately the responsibility for our children’s discipleship and nurture falls on the shoulders of us as parents. Woe to us for continuing to shirk our God-given responsibility and privilege!

Context is king!

When drilling students on the meaning of particular passages in Scripture, my Greek professor used to repeatedly cry out, “Context is king!” In other words, like any written document, the proper understanding of a given word or phrase in the Bible has to logically connect it to the bigger picture (i.e., the context)…way back in second and third grade we used to refer to these as ‘context clues.’

Unfortunately, Evangelicals love to take Scripture (especially the OT) wildly out of context and make it say what it we want it to say, rather than letting God speak for himself through it. It happens all the time, just read some Christian bumper stickers. Not to digress, there’s an example coming…

An information packet recently landed in the church office from the Kentucky WMU for the upcoming Eliza Broadus offering for state missions. On all the material is emblazened a great quote from the opening of Habakkuk where God says to the prophet, “Be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Hab 1.5b, NIV) What’s the problem, you ask? Let’s look at some ‘context clues’…

The beginning of Habakkuk finds the prophet crying out to God to right the wrongs of violence, injustice, and sin that are rampant throughout Judah. In response, God tells Habakkuk, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” God then goes on to tell Habakkuk this unbelieveable truth, that he is going to raise up the horribly wicked Assyrians to be his arm of judgment against Judah. This is unbelievable to Habakkuk, and he lets God know it, because Assyria is much more wicked even than Judah has become (see Hab 1.12-17).

By pulling this verse completely out of context and placing it underneath a picture of people seemingly captivated in worship (whether or not this picture depicts the norm for Christian worship is another rant altogether), we are led to believe that God spoke these words to Habakkuk in order to say, “Look out, Habakkuk, I’m about to do something great and wonderful!” In reality, God is telling Habakkuk, “Look out, I’m about to bring upon Judah all the curses of my covenant for their faithlessness and apostasy!” Quite a difference, eh?

With the WMU, I too hope that God is about to do a great work through Kentucky SBC state missionaries. Though we as Evangelicals (and Americans) no doubt deserve it; however, I sincerely hope God is not about to raise up a foreign power in judgement! Woe to us that we so blindly rip Scripture out of its context to try to make God say something he has no intention of saying in a given passage! “Context is king!”

Welcome!

Well, I guess there is the need for some kind of obligatory ‘opening statement’ when one begins a blog and opens themselves up to the court of public opinion…or is there? Regardless, I suppose I should make a couple of remarks to answer the obvious question, “Why does the world need another blog?” Let’s look at the question two in parts…

‘…the world…’ — If you’re a part of the world at large and just managed to stumble onto this site, you’ll probably be bored. I’m not putting my thoughts down here to entertain or amuse and am certainly not aiming at a widespread audience.

‘…need…’ — Let’s be honest, nobody needs a blog, let alone this one. I’m not pretending for one minute that anyone needs anything that comes from my keyboard.

So why am I here? I am here to outline my ‘strange experiences with American Evangelicalism’ (to quote Rob at Beggars All), to vent my frustrations with the status quo in Evangelical circles, and to put down some not so random thoughts.

Much of my interaction will doubtless be with Luther and Lutherans…an addiction of mine ever since being introduced to Luther in seminary (a Baptist seminary, of all ironies!). Despite my Calvinistic heritage and upbringing of over 30 years, the more I read Luther the more I agree with him and see some shortcomings with historic Reformed theology. But I’m not Lutheran, yet…