A Bane of Non-theism: Unalienable Rights

The Declaration of Independence contains these famous words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

What isn’t always understood by modern ears, is the exact meaning of “unalienable” (identical in meaning to “inalienable” – used interchangeably here).  It’s not a word most Americans use every day.  The word is defined as “that which cannot be given away or taken away.”  When the Founder’s wrote of “unalienable rights” they meant that there are certain rights that cannot be taken away, namely, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and equality.  While individuals and governments can certainly take away these things, they cannot take away the rights to those same things.  For example, someone can take away my car by theft, but he cannot take away my rights to that car, since it’s mine.

Think about these rights for a moment.  If these ideas (life, liberty, etc.) are indeed rights, then there is a right-ness to keeping them, and a wrong-ness to taking them away.  It is wrong to unjustly take away someone’s life, for instance.  But by whose authority is it wrong?  And who decided that certain aspects of our existence were actual rights?  Such language implies – no, demands – an authority.  But who or what can bestows upon human beings rights?  Can governments?  Certainly a group of leaders can give rights by the laws they enact and then enforce.  But these are not unalienable.  They are only as good as the paper they are printed on and the remembrance of those who in power who choose to enforce them.  Given rights can be taken away, inherent rights cannot.  Humans can give rights, but cannot instill an inherent (inalienable) right.

What the Founder’s understood is that in order for there to be such a thing as an unalienable right, it must have been bestowed by the Creator.  In other words, there must be a transcendent being who created us with these rights.  In the same vein, any moral code of right and wrong, if it is to be taken as absolute, must transcend us all.  Otherwise, right and wrong, good and evil, are just opinions, varying by culture and individual.  If there is no higher authority, one who is above all human institutions, unalienable rights cannot be established.

So how is this a “bane” for non-theism?  Because they cannot affirm the most fundamental statement of the Declaration.  To accept it as true would be either hypocritical or inconsistent with their belief system.  Yet this sentence is not only one of the most famous in our nation’s history, it is also one of the most important; for it lays the foundation for the rest of the document, as well as the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  This is perhaps the primary reason non-theists have rarely been elected to the Congress, and never to the Presidency – at least those who are openly so.  Most Americans still intuitively understand what our Founding Fathers knew:  God himself gave us our rights, and there is an unspoken fear that those who do not hold the same values will be the ones who initiate the change to take away those same rights.

An important question is often raised.  Can a non-theist be a good president?  The reality is that some atheists might actually make a great Commander-in-Chief, just as many are good fathers, husbands/wives, neighbors, workers, teachers, leaders, etc.   Yet these “good” behaviors are in spite of their belief system (or lack thereof), not the result of it (And, it could be argued, their morality is largely borrowed from Christian principles – the product of growing up in a country still somewhat immersed in Judeo-Christian values).  The central issue in a country built on many freedoms is that the non-theist cannot uphold unalienable rights.  This is a huge problem, considering the country is built around a central principle: freedom.  If  non-theists cannot affirm that certain freedoms are inalienable, then how can they affirm Constitutional rights?  For sake of worldview consistency, those rights would have to be radically reinterpreted.   And that is what most Americans fear.



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Christianity and Homosexuality, pt 3: Inconsistent OT interpretation

Question: Why appeal to Leviticus to condemn homosexual practice when you ignore all of the other laws?  Do you pick up sticks on the Sabbath?  Do you wear clothes with different types of fabric?  It seems that Christians are picking and choosing.

This is a very common objection to the traditional Christian view of homosexuality.  On the surface, it seems rather devastating.  On the one hand, if we say that those other Old Testament (OT) rules don’t apply anymore, we seem to be picking and choosing, and opening ourselves up to the accusation of inconsistency and hypocrisy.  On the other hand, if we say those rules do apply, then we are viewed with even more distain since much of the OT laws are quite foreign and offensive to modern ethics.  So there you have it: Game, Set, Match.

Well, not so fast.  The reality is that the church has always had an answer to this objection.  So what I’m going to write is nothing new, and certainly not a modern invention to get out of this dilemma.  But at the outset I need to mention that this issue has led to a bunch of theological discussion regarding the place of the OT law in the life of the Christian; and it is ongoing, and when I say “a bunch” I mean voluminous.  Rather than getting too bogged down in the issues of law and grace, let me state a few things about how Christians answer this challenge.

First, the “offensive” laws are primarily located in the Law of Moses.*  These laws were  given to the children of Israel.  Many of the commandments were geared toward them alone, and this to distinguish them from the surrounding nations.  Therefore, as a whole, the Law of Moses was never intended for all people, let alone for all time.

Second, though the Law of Moses was only intended for Israel, it did contain rules that would have applied to all people.  For instance, “You shall not kill (murder)” is one of the Ten Commandments, yet also a law expected of all people, for all time.  Conversely, a command such as “All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you” (Lev. 11:30) is for Israel, not, say, the Philistines.  So how do we know which is which?  This is where much of the above-mentioned theological discussion rests, but there are some general guidelines that help.  For instance, we get a strong clue from how the Bible speaks of the sins of the nations.  They are condemned for such acts as murder, child sacrifice, idolatry, witchcraft, and various forms of sexual deviancy, including homosexuality.  However, they are not condemned for failing to adhere to many of the other laws: Sabbath keeping, eating unclean creatures, temple worship, cleanliness rules, etc.  What we see from this is a clear indication that there are many laws within the Law of Moses that are normative for all, and many that were only for Israel.  This is why many Christians throughout the centuries have categorized the law into moral, ceremonial, and civil, aspects.**

Additionally, when we look at the New Testament, we find much the same story.  One of the most important theological issues of the new church, and in fact what precipitated the first council, was how the Gentile Christians were to view the Law of Moses.  Were they to be circumcised, for instance?  The answer was, and still is, no.  What we find in the NT are teachings condemning various forms of sin (including homosexuality), but no teaching condemning anyone for not following those laws specific to Israel.***

To summarize:

  • The OT Law of Moses was intended only for the Hebrews.
  • There are moral laws that God intends all people, in all epochs, to follow.
  • The Law of Moses contains many of these moral commands, in addition to many other laws specific only to Israel.
  • Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses “thus abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances” (Eph. 2:15).  Yet if one breaks a moral command, it is still sin.
  • One of the moral laws clearly spelled out in both the OT and NT is the prohibition on homosexual behavior.

There is no inconsistency, no hypocrisy in how Christians view the OT law.  To state again, this has been pretty basic Christian teaching since the beginning.  The objection has never been a particularly difficult one and still isn’t – though to the skeptic it certainly seems to be.


* Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; also called the Torah in Judaism and the Pentateuch in Christianity.

** Most scholars today have distanced themselves from categorizing the Law of Moses into “moral,” “civil,” and “ceremonial,” since the Bible doesn’t include these categories and it oversimplifies the nuanced nature of biblical law.  While I understand the reasoning, I don’t have a problem with such categories.  It might be best to shun these distinctions in academic papers, but any meaningful dialogue with non-Christians or lay Christians needs these distinctions.  Otherwise, there is too much complexity, and too little clarity, leading to dead-end discussions.

*** For verses related to this paragraph: Acts 15:1-29; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:1-3, 16-26, 6:15


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In Whom Do We Hope?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.  They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.  Psalm 20:7-8 (ESV)

The election for President of the United States is now over.  Barack Obama supporters rejoice while many Mitt Romney supporters sulk in defeat.  Having watched with interest the campaign and having come to the conclusion that Mr. Romney was the better choice based on social and economic concerns, I was initially among the dejected.  Four more years of piling national debt?  More liberal judges on the Supreme Court?  Will the economic sector be able to thrive?  These questions quickly turned to fears.  So I had to step back, turn off Fox News, and consider what life is really all about.  After all, “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18).

The verses quoted above tell us two things: (1) the things that the world relies upon for safety and security will collapse; (2) if we trust in God, we will stand.  As to the first, the terms “horses” and “chariots” refer to military might.  If you had enough of these you could adequately defend your homeland, or even conquer neighboring countries.  With this strength would come prosperity and stability, and with those, peace and security.  Yet we cannot limit the verses to mere military might.  Anything we trust in that promises either peace or security can become a pitfall, an idol.  Examples today can indeed include a strong military.  But what about a messianic political figure?  A supreme court that will rule righteously?  A government that has more control?  A government with less control?  A strong economy?  Better educaton?  More technological advances to cure our ills?  The list can go on and on.  We can even rephrase the verse to illustrate:
“Some trust in Obama, and some in Romney . . .”
“Some trust in Democrats, and some in Republicans . . .”
“Some trust in a nuclear defense system and a strong navy . . .”
“Some trust in science and some in education . . .”
“Some trust in food storage, and some in their survival skills . . .”
What am I saying?  That it’s wrong to to support a candidate, have a strong military, or store food?  Of course not.  Israel had a trained army and Joseph stored tons of food in lieu of a famine.  What is wrong is when we get so wrapped up in any one of them, that we forget the One in charge, the One who created the heavens and the earth, the One who will bring it to its appropriate end.  He is the one who loves us, sent His Son to die for us, and desires us to trust Him above all things.  We were created to worship God alone, and when we get depressed over a candidate losing, or even a favorite sports team getting beaten, we are demonstrating a heart that has lost its bearing.  On the flip side, if we spend too much time and energy rejoicing in these things, this can also be proof to us that our desires are not in alignment with God’s.
So I’m not going to spend time being down and out about this election.  Yes, there will likely be some events occur in the next few years that will not align with my ideas.  And it’s not wrong to ponder, discuss, disagree.  But what I must remember is that God is in control, Jesus will come back again some day (soon!), and all these temporal issues and trials will vanish.
My word to Romney supporters: Don’t put your hope in a party or a candidate.  They will fail you.  Hope in Christ.  He will never fail you.
My word to Obama supporters: Don’t put your hope in a party or a candidate.  They will fail you.  Hope in Christ.  He will never fail you.
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 Jn. 5:21)

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20/20 Takes on Heaven

I just finished watching the two-hour 20/20 special, “Heaven: Where is it? How do we get there?”  Honestly, I didn’t expect much, so I wasn’t disappointed in what I got.  What does make me sad is how much distortion and deception there is on this topic.  Actually, it’s more provoking than anything.  It made me want to . . . well . . . blog about it.

In true post-modern style, we were treated to a smorgasbord of ideas from Barbara Walters and company.  Various faiths and non-believers had their say.  Even hell had a short segment at the end.  Very little of biblical truth was presented.  Barbara (yeah, we’re on a first name basis) did interview Joel Osteen.  He managed to state that Jesus was the only way to heaven, so that was good, but so much more needed to be said.  There are a couple of key truths that seem to elude virtually everyone, including an increasing number of Christians.  A lot more could be said, but let’s start with these two . . .

First, there is a tendency to think that heaven is achieved by how good we are.  Most people take this view.  We like to earn things by nature, so why not heaven?  Yet the Bible indicates very clearly that no amount of good works can get us into heaven.  It would be like a serial killer (think Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer) who thinks he should be released from prison because he bought some Girl Scout cookies, or gave some change to a homeless guy.  The problem is that the good deed comes nowhere close to matching the atrocities committed.  In the same way, our sin is presented in the Bible as an atrocity against God, our Creator.  No amount of goodness can cover that amount of rebellion. (cf. Rom. 3:9-20; Eph. 2:9).

Second, most people come at this issue with the idea that heaven is the default destination for themselves and everyone else.  This comes from the idea that we are good by nature.  However, Scripture gives us a totally different picture.  We are by nature rebels and we have sinned repeatedly against a perfectly holy God.  Therefore, the default destination is hell.  As the Paul wrote, we are all “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).

The Bible paints a bleak picture of humanity.  To sum it up, we’re not nearly as good as we thought – in fact we’re criminally bad.  And we’re not headed toward a future blissful existence – we’re destined for the due penalty for our sins.  We are doomed.

Well, not quite.  Not everyone.  There is more to this story.  Thankfully!  In the very same passages mentioned above, we also read these beautiful, life-giving verses:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by faith you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6)

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:21-26).

Yes, there is a heaven.  We’re not told exactly where it is.  But we are told how to get there: by faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance of our sins.  In an age of confusion, where every idea gets heard and the only ones viewed with suspicion are those stated with certainty, this truth must be proclaimed.  It is what a dying world desperately needs.

**All Scripture cited from  the English Standard Version, Crossway, 2001.

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Joseph and Christian Leadership

It has been said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Even a cursory survey of human history brings to mind tragic stories of promising men who ascended to powerful positions only to wind up as corrupt and paranoid mad men. Even recent church history is rife with scandal, as leaders have abused their position through love of money, sex, power, or some combination of all three.  The world has taken notice.  It is one thing to be a secular leader who falls, quite another when a religious leader does the same.  Little tolerance is given to the latter, as Christian leaders in particular have been judged rather harshly for their scandals.

Despite the recent scandals, most Christian leaders live exemplary lives.  One of the key ways to keep above the fray is to consider the examples in Scripture.  Of course, Jesus Christ is the greatest one to emulate.  But in the life of Joseph is found one who rose to the top of the Egyptian government, from slavery, to prison, to Pharaoh’s right hand man, yet was able to keep his head and spiritual life intact with such amazing faith that it can only be viewed as being a gift of God.  It will become clear that Joseph’s life is well worth studying for leadership or for life in general. Few can match the leadership skills he displayed.  In fact, many people have noted that Joseph is one of the few major characters in Scripture about whom nothing negative is recorded. This post will give various accounts of Joseph’s life and will include four areas of his leadership that are worthy to be emulated: faithfulness, honesty, discernment, and humility.  The text of Scripture will be from the narrative on Joseph’s life found in Genesis 37, 39-47, 50.[1]

Trustworthiness – (39:2-6)

When Joseph was a young man of about seventeen, he was sold by his jealous brothers to Ishmaelite merchants and taken to Egypt, where he ended up at the household of Potiphar, an official of Pharaoh.  It was partially because of Joseph’s obedience to his father’s command (Gen. 37:13) that his circumstance became so dire, and now in Egypt Joseph demonstrates his trustworthiness again, this time to his master, Potiphar.

We read in the text that the primary reason why Joseph prospered was because the Lord was with him (39:2).  But God’s help is in accordance with Joseph’s own faithfulness in fulfilling his duties.  Certainly God could override all circumstances, but he chooses instead to work with His creatures, especially in their obedience.  When it is said in Scripture that God is with someone or favors someone, it is always in accordance with their faithful actions.  Potiphar saw that the Lord was with Joseph and that Joseph was trustworthy, so he put him in charge of his entire household, leaving in “Joseph’s care everything he had” (39:3-6).

Joseph’s trustworthiness was challenged when Potiphar’s wife began to make advances.  She desired an affair with Joseph, but his response to her was to cite his master’s trust of him to take care of his household and that to sleep with her would be a sin against God (39:7-9).  Though he never touched her, she took his cloak and used it against him, lying to Potiphar that he tried to force himself upon her.  Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison where he found favor in the eyes of the warden, who put him in charge of many prison related duties (39:12-23).

The faith of Joseph in continuing to do good even when bad events follow needs to be heeded.  He obeyed his father, yet he wound up in slavery in a foreign land; he faithfully obeyed Potiphar, and he was falsely accused and sent to prison.  And even now he was being trustworthy in the most base habitation imaginable—prison.  Many times in leadership, we will be tempted to turn away from our faithfulness as negative circumstances choke the life out of our plans and self-image.  Yet Joseph demonstrates that the leader God has chosen is encouraged to persevere, knowing that God is with him.  Darkness comes before the dawn, and in every position of authority there will be times of darkness.  But the Christian leader is to continue to be faithful and trustworthy in his position.

Honesty – (40:9-19)

While in prison Joseph was tending to two of Pharaoh’s servants who had fallen out of his favor, the baker and the cupbearer.  One day Joseph noticed that they were down and dejected; after inquiring into the matter he found out that they each had a dream and were perplexed as to the meanings.  Joseph first listened to the cupbearer’s dream about a vine with three branches full of grapes that he, the cupbearer, squeezed into Pharaoh’s cup.  After listening to him, Joseph gave the positive interpretation that in three days the cupbearer would be restored to his previous position (40:9-15).

After listening to the cupbearer’s happy fortune, the baker told Joseph his dream, one in which three baskets of bread sat on his head while birds ate out of those baskets.  Then Joseph had the unenviable task of telling the baker what the dream meant.  In three days Pharaoh would hang the baker and the birds of the sky would eat away his flesh (40:16-19).  Both interpretations came true; the baker was killed and cupbearer was restored to his position, but he forgot about Joseph (40:20-23).

Another amazing truth about Joseph is that he was incredibly honest.  How easy it is to tell people good news!  The fact is, human nature is such that we like to be liked—so much so that sometimes the truth is compromised so that peace can be achieved.  It is easy to fall prey to such behavior, yet Joseph did not water down the interpretation God had given him regarding the fate of the chief baker.  Honesty had gotten Joseph in trouble with his brothers, but that did not stop him from being honest here.

In the same way, leaders are to be honest with everyone even in situations where the truth hurts.  Oftentimes it will.  Joseph had asked the cupbearer to remember him, but Joseph was forgotten and remained in prison another two years (41:1).  And it is almost certain that the baker did not have Joseph high on his list of favorite people.  So also, leaders and teachers are to proclaim the truth of God’s word and not try to water it down so that it becomes more palatable for the sheep.  Watering down the truth would not have done the chief baker any good, and it will certainly not do Christians good either.

 Discernment and Prudence – (41:33-40)

While Joseph was still sitting in prison, Pharaoh had a couple of dreams.  In one, there were seven fat cows followed by seven thin cows, and in the other, seven healthy heads of grain, followed by seven dry heads of grain.  In both dreams the sickly seven at up the healthy seven.  None of Pharaoh’s magicians could interpret the dreams, but the cupbearer remembered Joseph and Pharaoh sent for him.  Joseph gave Pharaoh the interpretations, both the dreams meant the same thing—there would be seven years of good crops and plenty of rain, followed by seven years of drought and scarce food.  The drought would be so terrible that the people would forget about the previous years of plenty.

After telling Pharaoh the interpretation, Joseph goes on to give him some instructions on the best way to handle the situation.  He suggests that Pharaoh appoint a wise man over the land of Egypt along with commissioners to oversee the gathering of one fifth of the grain harvest.  This grain was to be kept in reserve for the time of famine.  Upon hearing all of this, Pharaoh saw Joseph’s discernment and placed him in charge of virtually everything in Egypt.

Once again Joseph proved himself to be honest in rightly handling the truth of God’s interpretation, but now he is found to be wise in understanding and dealing with difficult situations.  While nobody else knew what to do, Joseph put forth a plan that would save the Egyptians, and many others, from starvation and ruin.  The wisdom he displayed did not go unnoticed by Pharaoh, who immediately understood who to put in charge.

Christian leaders are to display wisdom and discernment in handling people and various situations that arise.  Of course, the first step in attaining wisdom is to know and fear God.  Proverbs states that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (9:10).  It cannot be overstated the importance of the Christina leader’s relationship with Jesus Christ.  Only a humble submission to His Lordship and a firm grasp upon His word will the leader truly lead effectively.

 Humility – (45:1-15, 50:19-21)

The famine eventually came and much of the surrounding areas were affected.  Among those coming to Egypt for help were Joseph’s older brothers.  When Joseph recognized them, he was moved to tears (42:24).  But he pretended not to know them and sent them back to Canaan with the orders to bring back the youngest, Benjamin, while the oldest, Simeon, would be kept behind to ensure their return.  Upon their return, they met again with Joseph.  He gave them a feast and after seeing his younger brother, once again wept (43:30).  After a while, Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers, those who had treated him so badly and sent him into slavery.  Weeping loudly, he cried to them “I am Joseph!” (45:2-3).  What he said next truly revealed his heart and his understanding of God’s ways: “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. . .to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (45:5,7).  He then gave them instructions to bring back his father, Jacob; along with everyone else they were to live in Egypt so that they might have provisions.

What was perhaps the most startling attribute of Joseph was his tender heart.  He had every opportunity to let bitterness eat at him while on his journey to Egypt, as a slave, or while in prison.  And he also had the chance to become prideful in his new position of authority.  Yet Joseph did not let past aggressions or his power to change his heart.  He knew God and exemplified what it meant to be a humble servant and leader.

In the same way, Christian leaders cannot afford to let past hurts create a revengeful spirit within them.  Forgiveness is to be an important aspect of the leader’s life, since it will be required time after time.  If bitterness takes root, the heart will grow cold, and the ministry will dry up.  Additionally, a humble, tender heart is especially needed in positions where the flock’s admiration and accolades will threaten to make the leader feel too much pride.


In an age where many leaders, both secular and Christian, have fallen from their positions, and have created a general distrust among the populace regarding people of authority, it is especially important for Christian leaders to look at the life of Joseph as a model to follow.  If the need is to feed the sheep, Joseph’s honesty is a model of accurately handling Scripture.  If the goal is to model Christ-likeness, Joseph’s humility is a good example of living a godly life.  Of course, Joseph was not perfect, but he was used by God to keep Israel from starving in the famine, and is a great example for us today on how to be an effective Christian leader.

[1]All Scripture taken from the New International Version, Broadman & Holman, 1996.


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Christianity and Homosexuality, pt 2: An alleged inconsistency

Question: Why do churches harp on homosexuality so much?  Aren’t there many other sins they’re ignoring? 

The short answer is, yes and no.  A slightly longer answer is this: society has made homosexuality an issue, and the church has responded in kind to this new normalization.  If the issue was some other deviation, such as adultery or incest, there would be little said about homosexuality, and much said about the other two.

But we need an even longer answer.  It is a common conception that conservative Christians focus too much time and energy on homosexuality.  But this isn’t fully accurate.  Christians have the appearance of being unbalanced in this area for a couple of reasons.  For one, the political aspect of gay marriage and same sex benefits has brought this issue to the forefront.  Most Christians vote, and since they don’t find these ideas good for the country, they bring up the issue to their representatives, and also write and speak about them.  It’s therefore in the news a lot and Christians seem only to be focused on this particular issue.  Secondly, there are the extreme preachers and churches that do indeed put a great deal of time and effort into an anti-homosexual message.  A few have even done outlandish things such as picket the funerals of gay people, and preach sermons about rounding up gays and killing them.  Even though the vast majority of Christians abhor such behavior, and even though only a small percentage of Sunday sermons even mention homosexuality, guess who gets the media attention?  So when a non-Christian or gay rights supporter hears a hate-filled rant from a pulpit, or watches the unbiblical antics of Westboro Baptist with their “God Hates Fags” signs, is it any wonder that they attribute these attitudes to most conservative Christians?

The truth is that the Bible teaches that we all have sinned and fall (continually) short of his glory.  Everyone struggles with sin.  Whether gossip, slander, pride, violence, unjust anger, lust, or the myriad types of sexual perversions – God requires us all to repent.  Not only that, he has called believers in Jesus to teach others that we all must turn from our sins and believe in him.  On the one hand, Christians must call out all sin, including, but never limited to, homosexual behavior, since all sin keeps us from God.  On the other hand, when society experiences a tidal wave shift in thinking on a particular issue – in this case, homosexuality – it is perfectly reasonable, and should be expected, that Christians will respond.  The questions for Christians are: How am I responding?  Humbly or arrogantly?  With love or condescension?  And how much time am I focusing on this?  Is there a lack of balance?

One other thing to keep in mind is the fact that every group has its “black sheep” who make life difficult for everybody else.  There are millions of Christians and thousands of churches.  Just looking at the mathematical odds, of course there are going to be Christians and churches doing and saying outlandish things.  This fact really should go without saying, and I would have liked to have not said it, but I think it is easily forgotten, or at least ignored.  It is simply unreasonable to judge Christianity by the rogues out there who are not in any way representative of the whole.

In summary, our modern culture has made homosexuality an issue by normalizing it more than any previous culture in history.  Anyone who disagrees is often labeled “backward” or a “bigot.”  Society has drawn “first blood” in this issue, and Christians have responded.  Unfortunately, some have answered to fire with fire, and this has raised the ire of the pro-gay movement even more.  Yet it must be understood that the Bible does condemn homosexual acts, and it would be a violation of the Christian’s conscience to sit idly by while others are saying it’s “okay.”  We must call sin, sin, yet do so with gentleness, respect, and humility, knowing that we too are sinners.  To do otherwise would be unloving.

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Christianity and Homosexuality, pt 1: Jesus and homsexuality

Question: Jesus never condemned homosexuality.  Rather, he showed love and acceptance to everyone.  Shouldn’t Christians follow his example?

Most everyone claims to know Jesus.  Depending on your outlook, he is one or more of the following (in no way an exhaustive list): liberator, rebel, magician, great teacher, good man, miracle worker, hippie, leader, Lord.  Corresponding with many of these views is a pervasive tendency to rescue the true Jesus from a corrupted Bible and the insanity of his followers.  But my aim here is not to give an apologetic for the view that the Bible is trustworthy and reliable, nor to defend the “crazy” Christians.  Though important, that is a lengthy discussion going well beyond the present topic.  Besides that, the question above assumes the Bible is correct in reporting the words of Jesus.  Therefore, the answer given below will answer in kind.

I’m going to list some general points, in no order of importance.

  1. Jesus always affirmed the OT Scriptures, which clearly condemn homosexual behavior.  The burden of proof lies with anyone who argues otherwise.
  2. The culture he was in (1st C. Judea) universally rejected homosexuality so there wasn’t a pressing need to address the subject.
  3. We only have a limited amount of Jesus’ sayings.  He could have (and probably had) talked about the subject, but these things have not been recorded because.  As John wrote: “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,” (Jn. 20:31) and, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (21:25)
  4. If Jesus gave such strict understandings of other areas of sexuality, it is extremely unlikely he would have wavered on homosexuality.  For instance, to look at a woman lustfully was on a par with adultery; divorce and remarriage = adultery; in other words, he upped the ante on sexual behavior.  In fact, if someone says that Jesus only (or even primarily) taught on love and forgiveness, then they have not read the Gospels very closely.  Some of the hardest sayings of the Bible were from the lips of Christ.  He was uncompromising on the subject of sin.  Yes he spoke of love and forgiveness, but this is never to be divorced from the repentance demanded from those seeking God’s love and mercy.
  5. We cannot create a dichotomy between Jesus and the rest of the NT.  The same Jesus who died and rose again commissioned the apostles to write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  By Jesus’ own words, he was present in and through the HS.  Thus, the words of Paul should be considered worthy of scripture – as even Peter affirmed.  Paul condemned homosexual behavior.
  6. True, Jesus told the woman caught in adultery: “Neither do I condemn you.”  But we went on to say: “Now go and sin no more.”  We can surmise from this that he would have told a practicing homosexual something similar.
  7.  Jesus also never spoke in the Bible regarding polygamy or incest.  If threesomes (or more) are committed to one another, then why deny them the right marry?  If father and daughter or brother and sister want to be married, why not?
  8.  Jesus only spoke of marriage in terms of a man/woman relationship.

So, what about Jesus’ love and acceptance of all people?  Certainly, Jesus did show compassion to the downtrodden, and ended up talking and dining with society’s undesirables.  But his message to them was the same: repent and turn to God and you will inherit the kingdom of God.  Jesus was inclusive in that he welcomed all regardless of race, gender, status, or past sins; he was exclusive in that he only welcomed those who believed in his name and turned from their sins.  The same is true today.

More could be fleshed out of each of these points.  Suffice it to say, it is stretch to use the Gospel’s silence on the topic of homosexuality as a license from Jesus to practice the same.

**All scripture taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

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