Friday, September 29, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Not Going to Nashville [Part 4]

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

The Nashville Statement is a significant evangelical document. It’s an attempt by big names such as John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Russell Moore, James Dobson and others to formulate a written response to Western culture’s post-Christian “massive revision of what it means to be a human being”, especially as that revision relates to sexuality and marriage.

Significant though it may be, in our next few installments we’ll be discussing why, here at ComingUntrue, we’re Not Going to Nashville.

Tom: On to the next article then.

Article 8: Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

This one’s sure to stir up the dust, Immanuel Can:

WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.

WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel.
I’m confident the word “fruitful” slipping in to this Article was entirely unintentional. Humor does not seem the strong suit here.

The biblical answer to same-sex attraction is life-long abstinence. I agree, and in this the writers are not saying anything the Bible doesn’t say to heterosexuals. Paul tells the Corinthians, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” There are times, too, when heterosexual men and women must abstain, such as prior to and outside of marriage. It is not only same-sex inclined Christians who are restrained by their faith from acting on their desires.

Immanuel Can: I don’t object to that solution. I think it’s biblical. You may not be able to decide beforehand what particular temptations you may experience; but you’re always responsible for how you decide to respond to the temptation.

Tom: I’m not sure who is being addressed in the “DENY” portion though. It seems to me that liberal Christians aren’t the least concerned about being “outside the hope of the gospel”. They seem at least outwardly convinced that they’re safely inside the fold while continuing to live the homosexual lifestyle. The only problems they would acknowledge relate to the so-called prejudices of their fellow believers.

IC: I think the “DENY” is trying to head off a couple of the liberal objections: the “I was born this way / God made me this way” objection, and the “If my sexual inclinations are not legit I can’t be a Christian” objection.

Tom: If so, they’re offering a dialectical solution to objections that are merely rhetorical, or at least they would be if they offered evidence. There’s not much of a potential win in that. I think of Solomon’s advice, “Answer not a fool according to his folly.” But I may be wrong.

Article 9: Marriage vs. Immorality

This next Article must be taken along with Article 1 to mean much:

WE AFFIRM that sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and toward sexual immorality — a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality.

WE DENY that an enduring pattern of desire for sexual immorality justifies sexually immoral behavior.
If we didn’t already have the plain statement that marriage is defined as one man and one woman in the first Article, I’d expect the first reaction of supporters of homosexuality to be, “Of course. That’s why gay marriage is important.” But the writers are probably just avoiding redundancy.

Is there any value in drawing a moral equivalency between heterosexual and homosexual immorality, IC? I mean, the first is a single sin; the second is a combination of two different sins. From a salvation perspective, one will damn you as easily as the other. But from an advocacy perspective, it seems to me the latter does two different injuries, if I can put it that way, which makes it worse in a sense.

IC: I think that’s a good point. Heterosexual unions can be performed wrongly; but they have at least the potential to be done rightly. But homosexuality is not a union, has no legitimate form, and no possibility of being blessed or sanctified by God. It is, to use the scriptural term, an “abomination” from start to finish. That’s pretty clear.

Tom: Now, I’m not accusing the writers of the Statement of insisting on a precise moral equivalency between the two, or of minimizing the sin of homosexual unions, and I’m not even sure it matters all that much in the grand scheme of things. But I am all too familiar with the temptation to equivocate, and I’ve almost surely equivocated more than I ought, so I’m fairly sensitive to the sort of argument that is contentious enough to make you want to toss the other side a bone or two. This is one of those.

Article 10: A Broadside to the Enablers

Here comes another major bone of contention:

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.

WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.
This would appear to be a major broadside to the enablers, IC.

IC: I certainly agree that pretending to normalize damaging, deviant behaviour instead of working for the deliverance of the sufferers is wicked. This, I find, is not pointed out often: that the suicide rate for “transgenders” is nearly 50% — and yet remains the same following sex-reassignment surgery, and is unchanged by “acceptance” behaviours as well. So clearly the homosexuality advocates who are claiming to support these people are actually betraying them, and watching them die … all so those same advocates can see themselves as tolerant. If that isn’t sin, I’m not sure what is.

Tom: It pretty much takes the cake. If we need an example of this sort of behavior, Kerry Connolly at Patheos refers to the Nashville Statement this way:
“… a handy-dandy, user-friendly little list that says homosexuality is a sin and those of us who affirm the LGBTQ community are not Christians.”
Yes to the former, but she’s entirely mischaracterized what the writers of the Nashville Statement say in this Article, don’t you think? They are saying that what people like Kerry are doing when they support the practice of homosexuality is “an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.” That’s a little different from “not Christians”.

Did she misread this, or does she just want to make rhetorical noise?

IC: Noise. No question. She’s not sticking to the facts at all.

Tom: That’s my take. You have to really work at it to misunderstand what they’ve written here.

Did you have any further comment on Article 10?

IC: Just that many of the advocates of deviant sexual practices that call themselves liberal Christians today are far more concerned with appearing accepting and “loving” themselves than they are with delivering mentally-ill, body-dysphoric people from suffering, or captive souls from sin. So much for their tender mercies!

Tom: Yeah, that sounds about right, and scripturally it really does need to be disapproved of, if only for the sake of those involved. As Isaiah puts it, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” It’s not kind to anyone to lie about God’s standards.

Article 11: The Truth in Love

One more:

WE AFFIRM our duty to speak the truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female.

WE DENY any obligation to speak in such ways that dishonor God’s design of his imagebearers as male and female.
I’m not sure I can even process that one. Am I a bit thick?

IC: I think they’re saying … something like, “We don’t have any moral obligation to talk the politically-correct language that blurs gender and sexuality, because only the truth is loving, and this language isn’t truth.” Something like that. Or am I off too? The syntax in that statement is a bit of a mess.

Tom: Oh, okay. I can maybe see that in the latter statement. Initially I read it as a bit of a cop-out, but now I see what you might mean. So you’re suggesting they are taking the Jordan Peterson stance: “I’m NOT using their words!

IC: I can’t be sure … but I think that’s something they’re after. Maybe they’re reacting to the allegation that to condemn homosexuality and transgenderism is “unloving”. Or maybe they’re reacting against the impression some people have that being a Christian is about being “nice” or agreeable, rather than about truth. I really can’t tell.

Tom: Makes two of us. Let’s wrap this up next time.

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