Tuesday, July 22, 2014

such were some of you

A former homosexual, David Foster, shares his personal testimony and encouragement to others. In this he references a 2 hour documentary, Such Were Some of You. I look forward to finding the time to watch it.

Here's the trailer.



Here's Foster's post.

For over 10 years I lived the homosexual lifestyle, and for 34 years I have not. And there are very good reasons for that difference. To those who suggest that I never was homosexual, my response is, "Does sleeping with over 1,000 men count?"

Oh yes. I was homosexual, though like most, I never wanted to have such attractions. I saw the narcissism and arrested emotional development all around me, and in me. Guys flitting around like Peter Pan were sometimes cute and funny, and certainly nonthreatening, but I wanted to be a grown up. I wanted to be a man. I wanted to be strong, solid, stable and reliable.

I recognized the obsession with youth and beauty that drove their fantasies and lusts and knew that once I entered my thirties, the thrill of being wanted would quickly come to an end. I cringed at the epidemic of perverse sexual behaviors commonly practiced and celebrated by gay culture and wanted nothing to do with them.

Such behaviors were so obviously perverse. Simple anatomical design declared it. A man was designed to interact sexually with a woman. That's the design. And when sex is practiced outside of that design, physical damage and a legion of diseases are unleashed—not to mention the judgments of the Lord described in Romans 1:24-32: "God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual immorality ... God gave them over to shameful lusts ... receiving into themselves the due penalty for their perversion ... God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done," and in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: "the sexually immoral ... those who practice homosexuality ... will not inherit the Kingdom of God."

God created a man and a woman to become one flesh in a lifelong covenant of love (i.e., "marriage"), and to be fruitful and multiply when possible. God invented marriage. He designed it as a prefigurement of the marriage between Jesus and His Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32), and laid out its parameters from the dawn of time. Even cultures that do not know Him have followed that design from the beginning. There is no ambiguity about His design nor His description of it in the Scriptures. Indeed, every departure from that model is universally condemned and forbidden by Him, for what it does to our bodies, our souls and to the image of God that is stamped into the one flesh, marital union of male and female.

Having same-sex desires is a great trial—there is no doubt about it. The feelings have as great an intensity as those found in the alcoholic for alcohol, the drug addict for drugs, the smoker for nicotine. And in all such cases, it seems unfair to the natural mind that God would allow us to have such intense desires yet not allow us to act on them.

The idea floated by so-called "gay theology" that God created people to be homosexual (i.e., that He is the cause for such desires) is as ridiculous for the homosexual as it is for the drug addict. The Scriptures are clear about what God designed and what He desires. They are also clear that because of the sinful actions of our forebears, we are born with a sin nature that pulls us strongly in various destructive directions. Homosexual desire, born from a complicated convergence of our fallen nature, idolatry, rebellion, temperament, environment, experiences and developmental factors is just one more way that happens.

It does no good to pretend that it is good and natural and holy. That's called denial. Statistics overflow with evidence that homosexual sex causes damage to body, soul and spirit. It actually damages the body of the partner. It tears at the body in ways that result in homosexual sex being the number one risk factor for contracting AIDS in this country. In fact, an entire cottage industry of scientific study and medical care has arisen from the proliferation of gay sex in our modern culture.

Homosexual behavior also tears at the soul, causing much higher rates for substance abuse, suicide, depression, domestic violence, early death—even in the most gay-friendly regions of the globe. Why? Because active homosexuals are trying to find something through gay relationships that can never be found there. The happiness that they seek can only be found in submitting their sexuality to the Lordship of Christ and allowing Him to bring healing to the broken areas that have caused their homosexual desires. Yes, it's a slow and sometimes arduous path to take, just as it is for the addict, but the only one that leads to joy, peace and eternal life with God.

All that to say—the term "gay marriage" is an oxymoron. It is an invention of broken man in defiance against the expressed desire and design of God for mankind. It is the fallen creature trying to tell the omniscient Creator how things should be. Even the misnamed "gay Christian"—those who practice homosexuality without repentance and therefore are not Christian—are examples of man praising God with his lips while his heart is far from Him (Matt. 15:7-9)—calling Him Lord, Lord, while refusing to do what He says (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 6:46). To invent a form of marriage that defies the natural and spiritual order is insanity and can only lead to the destruction of those involved, and according to Scripture, even the society that allows it to happen (Gen. 19:1-29; Jude 5-7; Rom. 1:32).

We all know that marriage is in a bad state these days. Our population has laid the groundwork for faux marriages by practicing adultery and in other ways rebelling against the meaning and purpose of sex and marriage. But inventing and sanctioning homosexual marriages is a logarithmic jump in rebellion and consequent disaster.

In a high percentage of marriages these days, the children will spend a part of their childhood without their original mother or father, and that is very sad and can be very harmful for them. But in so-called "gay marriages" you are guaranteeing that the children will grow up without a mother or father in the home. You are guaranteeing it!You are state-sanctioning that deprivation and becoming a co-conspirator in the consequent damage to their well-being.

And yet the gay-supporting media presses on with its relentless drumbeat, promoting homosexual behavior, relationships and so-called marriage just as ferociously as it promotes the destruction of children in their mother's wombs.

A newly released two-hour documentary called Such Were Some of You attempts to counter that agenda with truth. In it, 29 former homosexuals expose the facts about homosexuality, its causes and how Jesus has set them free from it.

The film opens with people on the street giving their opinion about claims that are made by activist homosexuals in the press, followed by expert teaching on those same questions by Christian leaders like Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Neil T. Anderson, as well as theological correctives from the worlds top scholar on the biblical texts concerning sexual behavior, Dr. Robert Gagnon.

But what makes this film so powerful are the moving stories of being saved, set free, healed and delivered from the brokenness of homosexuality by those who have gone through that great trial. With love and sensitivity for friends still trapped in the gay lifestyle, they also describe the process by which God has brought healing to the brokenness that created their same-sex desires in the first place.

As the Scriptures promise in Revelation 12, they have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. God also says in Rev 21:6-7: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son."

And to the reader, hear the word of God found in 1 Corinthians 6:11 (speaking of practicing homosexuals, among others): "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

death and resurrection

John Calvin, quoted by Adrian Warnock in Raised with Christ:

By his death sin was taken away, by his resurrection righteousness was renewed and restored.

For how could he by dying have freed us from death, if he had yielded to its power? How could he have obtained the victory for us, if he had fallen in the contest?

Our salvation may be thus divided between the death and the resurrection of Christ: by the former sin was abolished and death annihilated; by the latter righteousness was restored and life revived, the power and efficacy of the former being still bestowed upon us by means of the latter.

Monday, July 21, 2014

restoration

Horatius Bonar in The Restoration of the Banished:

He spares not His Son, but sends Him in quest of the exiles. He comes into the land of banishment, lies in an exile’s cradle, becomes a banished man for them, lives a banished life, endures an exile’s shame, dies an exile’s death, is buried in an exile’s tomb. He takes our place of banishment that we may take His place of honor and glory in the home of His Father and our Father.

Such is the exchange between the exile and the exile’s divine substitute. Though rich, for our sakes He becomes poor. Though at home, He comes into banishment, that we may not be expelled forever. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

israel

I think this video is biased. I don't think Israel is completely innocent. At the same time, if I had to sum it up into something that wasn't completely inaccurate, this is pretty good.

lg on altmc

There are several good responses, written by others and reposted by me here and here, to Ken Wilson's book/confusion. Luke Geraty also thinks Ken Wilson is wrong. I tried to do some cutting and pasting but Geraty's style does not lend itself to that. So, if you have some time and energy to read a good thinker's thoughts on ALTMC, go to Geraty's posts: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. For me, the most helpful information was found in Geraty's fourth post ... I've pasted a good bit of it below.

1) When Ken states that the ancient world’s recognition of homosexuality isn’t the same as ours today, he makes a significant error. Bernadette J. Brooten, K. J. Dover, and Craig A. Williams have all provided significant scholarly treatments that would certainly challenge this assertion. The simple fact of the matter is that the ancient world was not nearly as monolithic as Ken implies. In fact, Rabun Taylor has argued in his essay, “Two Pathic Subcultures,” that there existed in in Rome a “homosexual subculture” where “men… found primary fulfillment in same-sex unions that at times involved the assumption of the passive role.”

Furthermore, Loader notes a significant change in Dover’s updated Greek Homosexuality:

“In his revised edition Dover presents evidence however to show that Greek homosexuality in both the classical and Hellenistic era consisted of more than pederasty, that it was not always seen as exploitive, and that same-sex relations could include lifelong consensual adult partnerships.” (The New Testament on Sexuality, 324, emphasis mine; Loader is referencing to changes made by Dover on pp. 204-205)

(2) Ken’s “extensive study” simply hasn’t taken into consideration of the academic works of these scholars.While these scholars are still hard at work interacting with both the ancient literature and their own respective works, there is ample evidence to suggest that Ken’s assumptions (and many others regarding the ancient world’s view of homosexuality) is still in need of refinement and development. And I say that as a student of this subject. As I’ve been reading through the massive amount of literature that is available on the subject, in both books and journal articles, I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that the ancient world’s understanding of people and their identities were just as complex then as they are today. So let’s do justice to the historical evidence that Ken speaks highly of by doing as much “extensive study” as we can… and when we find out there’s more, let’s read that literature and critically evaluate it.

(3) Ken actually writes that “comparatively little is known about the extent or practice of lesbian sex during [the times of the Bible].” This is simply not true. Quite a bit is known. For anyone — including Ken — interested in learning more about the subject, please consult Brooten’s Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism; Brooten is not an Evangelical and does not an advocate the traditional Christian understanding on the issue, but her work provides significant research on the subject of lesbian sex; in addition to Brooten and Dover, Homosexuality in Greece and Rome, ed. by Thomas K. Hubbard, is also helpful.

...

There are two primary prohibitive texts in the OT that Ken addresses outright:

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22 ESV)

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13 ESV)

Ken is correct to note that these two texts are found in the Holiness Code of the Levitical Law. One small point I think is relevant, in addition to acknowledging the texts place in the Holiness Code, is to note that the passages in Leviticus 18 and 20 follow casuistic models of law that were common to the Ancient Near East (ANE). Lev. 18 follows the apodictic model that is similar to the Decalogue (10 Commandments) and Lev. 20 the traditional casuistic law (protasis and apodosis). See, I learned something in seminary. Contextually this means that the penalty for breaking the Law found in Leviticus 18:22 isn’t stated until verse 29:

“For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 18:29-30 ESV)

At any rate, Ken‘s first oversight, I think, is to suggest that “Leviticus has nothing to say about lesbian sex.” On the contrary, I think Richard Davidson convincingly argues otherwise:

“Although this proscription explicitly mentions only sodomy (male homosexual relations), the prohibition of lesbian relationships is probably implicit in the general Levitical injunction against following the abominable practices of the Egyptians or the Canaanites, as recognized in rabbinic interpretation.[1] All the legislation in Lev 18 is in the masculine gender (with the exception of female bestiality, v. 23). The Mosaic legislation in general is considered from a man’s (male’s) perspective. Even the Decalogue is addressed in the masculine singular, but this certainly does not mean that it applies only to the male gender. The masculine singular is the Hebrew way to express gender-inclusive ideas, much the same as it was in English until the recent emphasis on gender-inclusive language. Since the male is regarded as the patriarchal representative of the family, laws are given as if to him (see, e.g., the tenth commandment of the Decalogue) but are clearly intended for both man and woman where applicable.” (Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament, 150)

Therefore, Leviticus may have “nothing” to say about lesbian sex in relation to actually including the words “lesbian sex,” the passage and its surrounding context in regards to sexual ethics does appear to apply to both men and women, young and old.

However, this is not the most problematic mistake. Ken goes on to state that Robert Gagnon understands Leviticus 18as being “produced with homosexual cult prostitution in view, given the context of the Canaanite and Egyptian idolatry. In the corresponding footnote, Ken quotes Gagnon as writing:

“I do not doubt that the circles out of which Leviticus 18 :22 was produced had in view homosexual cult prostitution, at least partly. Homosexual cult prostitution appears to have been the primary form in which homosexual intercourse was practiced in Israel.” (The Bible and Homosexuality, 130).

This is the same mistake that other authors have made and which Gagnon himself has actually addressed (here andhere). While I’m not in agreement with all of Gagnon’s ideas in relation to church praxis and interaction, his statement in regards to Leviticus is not being represented fairly in Ken’s use of it.[2] In fact, Gagnon states in the immediate context of the quote provided by Ken (which appears to have been lifted from Justin Lee’s Torn), that “male cult prostitution was not the only context in which homosexual intercourse manifested itself in the ancient Near East generally” and that since the author of Leviticus didn’t limit the laws application, “they had a broader application in mind” and that “the Levitical rejection of same-sex intercourse depends on Canaanite practices for its validity about as much as the rejection of incest, adultery, and bestiality.” Gordon Wenham confirms this by stating:

“The exact terminology of these laws deserves note. Lev 18:22 states: ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination’. This obviously prohibits the active type of homosexuality that was quite respectable in the ancient world. It should also be noted that the passive partner is just described as ‘male’, rather than ‘man’ or ‘youth’. Clearly this very general term prohibits every kind of male-male intercourse not just pederasty which for example the Egyptians seem to have condemned. Finally, the practice is condemned as an ‘abomination’, one of the strongest condemnatory words in the Old Testament, for offences deemed specially heinous in God’s sight.” (source, emphasis mine)

The reason that Gagnon and Wenham are so stridently opposed to suggesting that Leviticus is simply related to a certain type of homosexual activity is because Leviticus 18:22 uses zākār (male), a very specific Hebrew word. Donald Wold explains why this matters by writing:

“… the legislator could have expanded upon this term to prohibit sexual intercourse between specific categories of males (e.g., between boys, between adult males and old men), since Hebrew words exist for these various categories of individuals within the male species. But it would have been unnecessary because the term zākār inLeviticus 18:22 excludes all male sexual relations.” (Out of Order, 104; Wold also makes a great case as to why homosexuality is out of order with God’s principles of creation, 130).

For these reasons, Ken’s suggestion that the Levitical texts have more to do with “male temple prostitution” is simply unconvincing.

In Ken’s one page treatment of Leviticus, he raises a valid question concerning the complexity related to how we interpret (and apply) the Old Testament Law. As he notes, there is a challenge in how we interpret what is often called the “Moral” law and the “Ritual” law (theologians often break up the Law as moral, ceremonial, and civil). Raising this concern, Ken writes:

“While Leviticus 18 uses the term “abomination” to refer to a man lying with another man, the Hebrew term, toevah, translated “abomination” or “detestable,” is used to describe foods that may not be eaten (see Deuteronomy/ Devarim 14: 3, Orthodox Jewish Bible). In English , “abomination” implies severe condemnation reserved for the most egregious forms of immorality; this doesn’t seem to be consistent with the dietary uses oftoevah. The attempt to resolve this by categorizing one as a matter of moral concern and the other as a matter of ritual purity is not easy to establish on the basis of textual evidence.”

I must say that this question is surprising though. A basic rule of hermeneutics is to interpret texts in their immediate context. The way in which words are used by different authors or in different contexts are not always the same. Context should most often determine meaning, right? We must study words first in their immediate context and then in the context of the author’s work… working out essentially from the bark on the trees to seeing the whole forest, going micro to macro. So I’m not sure that the grammatical observation is as problematic as Ken thinks.

However, when Ken states that this matter is “not easy to establish on the basis of textual evidence,” the footnote points us to Richard Hays. Readers familiar with Hays’ work will likely recognize that his position is at odds with Ken’s. In fact, Hays answers Ken’s question by writing:

“The Old Testament, however, makes no systematic distinction between ritual law and moral law. The same section of the holiness code also contains, for instance, the prohibition of incest (Lev. 18: 6–18). Is that a purity law or a moral law? Leviticus makes no distinction in principle. In each case, the church is faced with the task of discerning whether Israel’s traditional norms remain in force for the new community of Jesus’ followers. In order to see what decisions the early church made about this matter, we must turn to the New Testament.” (A Moral Vision of the New Testament, 382)

True, the OT does not tell Christians which parts of the Law still apply today in a clearly stated biblical text. And we are not given a list in the OT of what is “ritual” and what is “moral.” And Further, I’m increasingly convinced by the growing number of biblical scholars that the way in which Christians have broken up the OT Law is a bit misguided.

But I think Hays’ solution to the dilemma regarding how we determine what falls into those traditional categories is spot on: we must turn to the New Testament.

comic poets in the church

The church today, as one would expect, still wrestles with heresies and error from within. There is nothing new under the sun.

From James R. Payton Jr.'s Irenaeus on the Christian Faith:

Not only are they guilty of plagiarism, since they bring forward the ideas found among the comic poets as if they themselves had dreamed them up; they also jumble together the things which have been said by all those who were ignorant of God and who are termed philosophers. Sewing together, as it were, a motley garment lout of a pile of miserable rags, the heretics, by their subtle manner of expression, have furnished themselves with a cloak which, again, is really not their own. It is true that they introduce a new kind of doctrine, which they try to substitute for the old; however, in reality it is both old and threadbare, since these opinions have been sewed together out of ancient teaching which reek of ignorance and irreligion ...

he made it all


I love simple statements of reinforcement of the faith.

From James R. Payton Jr.'s Irenaeus on the Christian Faith:

The rule of truth which we hold, is, that there is one God Almighty, who made all things by His Word, and fashioned and formed everything that exists out of nothing. This is what Scripture teaches: "By the Word of the Lord the heavens were  made, and all their host by the breath of His mouth" [Ps 33.6], and "All things came into being through him, and without Him not one thing came into being" [Jn 1.3]. No exception or exclusion is allowed here: the Father made all things by Him, whether visible or invisible, objects known by the senses of by intelligence, temporal or everlasting. He did not make the everlasting things with the assistance of angels ... God need needed no help creating: by His Word and Spirit he makes and disposes and governs all things, and commands all things into existence; He is the one who formed the world; He is the one who fashioned humankind —He is the one who is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. There is no other God above Him, nor any "initial principle", nor "power", nor "pleroma": He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

false messages


Messages that are falsely claimed to be the gospel from IX Marks:
  1. God wants to make us rich. Some preachers today say that the good news is that God wants to bless us with loads of money and possessions—all we need to do is ask! But the gospel is a message about spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3): God sent Jesus Christ to die and rise again for us so that we would be justified, reconciled to God, and given eternal life with God (Rom. 3:25-26, 6:23; 2 Cor. 5:18-21). Moreover, the Bible promises that Christians will not have material prosperity in this life, but tribulation (Acts 14:22), persecution (2 Tim 3:12), and suffering (Rom. 8:17), all of which will one day give way to unspeakable glory (2 Cor. 4:17; Rom. 8:18).
  2. God is love and we’re okay. Some people think the gospel is that God loves us and accepts us just as we are. But the biblical gospel confronts people as sinners facing the wrath of God (Rom. 3:23, John 3:36) and tells people about God’s radical solution: Jesus’ sin-bearing death on the cross. This gospel calls people to an equally radical response: to repent of their sins and trust in Christ for salvation.
  3. We should live right. The gospel is not a message that tells us a live a better life and so make ourselves right with God. In fact the gospel tells us exactly the opposite: we can’t do what pleases God and we can never make ourselves acceptable to him (Rom. 8:5-8). But the good news is that Jesus has done for us what we could never do for ourselves: by living a perfect life and bearing God’s wrath on the cross he has secured the salvation of all those who turn from their sin and trust in him (Rom. 5:6-11, 8:31-34).
  4. Jesus came to transform society. Some people believe that Jesus’ mission was to transform society and bring justice to the oppressed through a political revolution. But the Bible teaches that this world will only be made right when Jesus comes again and ushers in a new heaven and new earth (2 Thess. 2:9-10, Rev. 21:1-5). The gospel is fundamentally a message about salvation from the wrath of God through faith in Christ, not the transformation of society in this present age.
(Some of this material has been adapted from Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever,
pages 80-90)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

the presence of the future


George Eldon Ladd in The Presence of the Future:
God is the Lord of history; but there are hostile elements, opposing forces that seek to frustrate God's rule. It is not the biblical view that ... all of history moves toward the Kingdom of God. There are demonic forces manifest in history and in human experience which move against the Kingdom of God. Evil is not merely absence of good, nor is it a stage in man's upward development; it is a terrible enemy of human well-being and will never be outgrown or abandoned until God has mightily intervened to purge evil from the earth.
Christians can enjoy fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and blessings in this present age while at the same time look forward to a final and glorious fulfillment. Because of the First Coming of Jesus Christ, we now possess the complete fulfillment and blessings of the promises concerning the messianic age. At the same time this age brings a new series of promises to be fulfilled at the end of the age. The fulfilled promises give us greater hope and anticipation of the glory yet to come.

With his first advent, the Kingdom of God and the "last days" arrived indicating that Old Testament expectation had turned to New Testament fulfillment. 

Kim Riddlebarger describes three basic elements of New Testament eschatology in A Case for Amillennialism.
The first of these is that the Old Testament promise of a coming Redeemer was realized in Jesus Christ. ... With his first advent, the kingdom of God and the "last days" arrived, indicating that Old Testament expectations had turned to New Testament fulfillment. 
The second basic element of New Testament eschatology is that what was understood as one glorious messianic age predicted in the Old Testament unfolded in two different ages: "this age" and "the age to come." ... The coming of Jesus Christ marked the beginning of a glorious new redemptive age with a corresponding set of blessings. Yet this new age is not fully consummated and will be fulfilled in the future. This already/not yet structure gives the New Testament a strong forward-looking focus. The New Testament contains a distinct and pronounced tension between what God has already done in fulfilling the promises of the Old Testament and what God will do yet in the future. 
The third element of New Testament eschatology is that the present blessings of the coming Redeemer are the pledge of greater blessings to come. Christ's first advent guarantee his second coming.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

the age to come


George Eldon Ladd in The Gospel of the Kingdom:

The Age to Come is still future, but we may taste the powers of that Age. Something has happened by virtue of which that witch belongs to the future has become present. The powers of The Age to Come have penetrated This Age. While we still live in the present evil Age and while Satan is still the god of This Age, we may taste the powers of The Coming Age. Now a taste is not a seven-course banquet. We still look forward to the glorious consummation and fulfillment of that which we have only tasted. Yet a taste is real. It is more than promise; it is realization; it is experience.

this system of theirs

There's nothing new under the sun.

From James R. Payton Jr.'s Irenaeus on the Christian Faith:

[W]hile these people claim that they excel others in wisdom, their ravings show that they are fools ... (1:18,1)

While they affirm a wide variety of nonsense about the creation, each of them generates something new every day, according to his ability. Indeed, no one is deemed perfect among them who does not develop further prodigious gables! ... (1:18,1)

Beyond all this, they appeal to an incredible number of apocryphal and spurious writings which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish people and those who do not know the Scriptures of truth ... (1:20,1)

friend of sinners

Was Jesus "inclusive"? Was He a friend of sinners period or was He a friend of sinners with a purpose which is to lead to repentance and obedience?

Ian Paul takes a good stab at this:

The material in the gospels and Acts is of quite a different kind from the texts we have been looking at so far, in that there is no explicit mention of same-sex sexual activity. Arguments from this part of the New Testament therefore need to be made by inference to a large degree. This does not mean that there is nothing of importance here. But it does mean that we need to read realistically, taking historical context seriously, and being aware of the dangers of arguments from silence.

One of those arguments is that Jesus said nothing directly about the question of same-sex unions, and the inference made is that Jesus’ teaching has nothing to contribute. This is not strictly true, as we can see from two sets of texts.

First, in relation to the dispute about divorce (Mark 10.6, Matt 19.4), Jesus returns to the creation accounts. He emphasises the gender binary of humanity by citing Gen 1.27 first, before citing the explicit teaching on marriage in Gen 2.24. Marriage is not to be dissolved trivially, since it represents the restoration of the original unity of humanity.

Secondly, Jesus mentions sexual morality in Matt 15.19 ( par Mark 7.21):

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

It is worth noting that ‘sexual immorality’ (porneiai) is in the plural, and is included as a separate item from ‘adultery’ (moicheia). This term would include premarital sex before marriage, and sex with a prostitute, but would also refer to illicit sexual unions prohibited in Leviticus 18. Given Jesus’ ‘conservative’ approach to sexual ethics generally (such as supporting the more restrictive of the approaches to divorce), it is difficult to imagine that he did not also share the characteristic Jewish rejection of same-sex relations.

Against this, it is often noted that Jesus caused a scandal by his association with ‘tax-collectors and sinners’ (Mark 2.15–17; Luke 5.29–31; Matt 9.10–13), that he touched the ‘lepers’ (Matt 8.3) and others who would have been considered unclean (Mark 5.25–34). Eating meals with such people was particularly significant, since sharing food in someone’s home was a sign of acceptance of them. This was clearly a significant aspect of Jesus’ ministry, and one we need to take seriously. In some ways it is continued in the first generations of Christians; from what we can tell, the Jesus movement was particularly attractive to those in the lower echelons of first-century society. If any marginalized group in society is missing from the church, this suggests that we are not following Jesus’ pattern of engagement. But we also need to observe:
  • Jesus’ scandalous association with ‘sinners’ never leads to accusations that he himself behaved immorally. Rather, where the Pharisees see themselves as being in danger of contamination by the uncleanness of sinners, Jesus appears to act as though it is his holiness which will ‘infect’ those around him. Had Jesus relaxed biblical teaching on sexual relations in any respect, it would have been the first thing used against him by his opponents. The silence here is very significant.
  • Jesus explicitly reinforces his association with ‘sinners’ in his teaching about his mission and the kingdom of God: ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you’ (Matt 21.31).
  • Jesus’ consistent teaching in relation to the kingdom is that it demands a response of ‘repentance’ (Mark 1.15). God’s initiative in coming close to us must lead to a response of change, in our thinking, in our behaviour and in the direction of our life. In Matt 21.31, Jesus links the comment about those entering the kingdom with the teaching of John the Baptist, and Luke 3 gives an account of the specific changes John’s preaching demanded.
So Jesus’ association with ‘sinners’ was not simply a question of hanging around with undesirables, or even welcoming them, but being prepared to take the risk of being with them in order to preach the good news of the transforming power of God’s presence in his kingdom. If anything marked him out from the Pharisees, it was his belief that even these ‘sinners’ could change and be transformed. This is typified in the encounter with the woman caught in adultery in John 8. In this encounter, Jesus simultaneously confronts the hypocrisy of the accusers, pronounces forgiveness to the woman, and affirms the possibility of change and transformation: ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’ (John 8.11).

Several other arguments have been made to suggest that Jesus’ teaching should lead us to accept same-sex activity:
  • Dan Via, in his debate with Robert Gagnon, notes that Jesus comes to bring ‘life and life in all its fullness’ (John 10.10). Via argues that, for people with same-sex attraction, to deny sexual expression to that would be to prevent them living in this ‘fullness of life.’ This raises some significant pastoral questions, but it does seem to set aside Jesus’ own example as a single person, who appears to have experienced ‘fullness of life’ without such sexual expression, and with it the long Christian tradition of celibacy. In relation to the text of John, it also requires us to separate this idea from Jesus’ teaching a few chapters later, that this full life is found in ‘obeying my commandments’ (John 14.15); somehow or other, this ‘fullness’ is present in the restriction of obedience.
  • Some have argued that Jesus himself set aside OT laws (such as the importance of Sabbath in Mark 2.27 and food laws in Mark 7.14–19) on the basis of common sense and human need. These are, in fact, better understood as Jesus restoring both Sabbath and food to their original creation purposes.
  • Others have suggested that there are ‘hidden’ affirmations of same-sex relations in the story of the centurion’s servant (Matt 8.5–13) or the two men in a bed (Luke 17.34). But, as with the story of David and Jonathan, such approaches are imposing a sexualized reading for which there is no evidence in the text and no real possibility historically.
  • It has also been argued that the admission of the Gentiles into the people of God, following the council in Acts 15, offers a paradigm for the church’s response to those with same-sex attraction. The difficulty with this is that it ignores the nature and rationale of the fourfold prohibition in Acts 15.29, which correspond to the laws that apply to ‘resident aliens’ in Lev 17–18, including the prohibition on same-sex activity.
Acts 15 requests Gentiles to refrain from certain activities which were viewed as part of their Gentile identity and there is a strong case that amongst these was homosexual practice…[T]he value of Acts 15 for those seeking further to revise traditional church teaching on homosexuality is very limited. Indeed, by focusing attention on the Jerusalem council, revisionists may, ironically, have highlighted yet another biblical basis for insisting that, even as the church continues to struggle with this issue, to repent of its past hostility to gay people, and to welcome them into the church and learn from them as gay Christians, it must appeal to all disciples of Christ to refrain from homosexual conduct.

bookends


At the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry we have Lk 4.38-44 and at the end we have Acts 1.1-3. I think that's meaningful.

jesus' kingdom


John Wimber in Kingdom Come:

For the first twelve years of my Christian life I gave little thought to the kingdom of God. My pastors and bible teachers had taught us that the kingdom would come at the second coming of Christ and, therefore, had little significance on our lives today….. I find my neglect of the Kingdom remarkable because it is so clearly the center of Jesus teaching… I [now realize] that at the very heart of the gospel lies the Kingdom of God and that power for effective evangelism and discipleship relates directly to our understanding and experiencing the kingdom today.

John Bright in The Kingdom of God:

The gospel according to Mark begins the story of Jesus' ministry with these significant words: "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel" (1:14-15). Mark thus makes it plain that the burden of Jesus' preaching was to announce the Kingdom of God; that was the central thing with which he was concerned. A reading of the teachings of Jesus as they are found in the gospels only serves to bear this statement out. Everywhere the Kingdom of God was on his lips, and it is always a matter of desperate importance.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

tl on altmc

We've heard what Thomas John Creedy had to say about Ken Wilson's A Letter to my Congregation, now let's here from Thomas Lyons.

In Lyons' series of posts (1, 2, & 3), he focuses on Wilson's treatment of Romans 14-15, specifically term pornia. The first post is a "brief ... history and development of the biblical concept of porneia (and the related semantic family) through its usage in the NT." The second post begins by pointing us to Revelation where over one third of the use of the word porneia occurs.

After providing yet another excellent overview, Lyons focusses our attention on the letters to the seven churches:
While the arrangement of these letters seems to correspond to the order each would be delivered along a courier’s route, these seven churches can be categorized into three groups based on the contents of the narration to each church. Some of the churches, namely Smyrna and Philadelphia, have nothing wrong with their community (and thus there is no call of repentance) and are instead exhorted to remain strong in the face of their present adversity and persecution. Other church communities, Sardis and Laodicea, have nothing to be commended to their name and simply need to repent of their current wickedness. While still others, Ephesus, Pergamum, and Thyatira, are a proverbial ‘mixed bag’ where they are to be both commended for some things and yet rebuked for other activities. Robert Mulholland has helpfully labeled these various church groupings as “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” Both of the occurrences of porn- related language occur in these “ugly” churches. We’ll consider each of the three churches in turn (even though the porn- language only occurs in two of the three). 
The church at Ephesus is affirmed for their works, toil, patient endurance, and the fact that they do not tolerate those who do evil, which contextually seems to be those who are claiming to be apostles yet are found false (most likely by some combination of their doctrine, teaching, and works). But in their opposition to these false/evil ones (probably teachers or prophets), the Ephesian church missed the mark. Jesus rebukes them for they have abandoned the very love with which they first set out. They got a lot of stuff right –but doing so without love risks the community the very essence of its church-hood. Jesus threatens to “remove their lampstand” (which identifies the community as a church, see 1:20) unless they repent. It appears that, in their pursuit of doing right, of being right, they moved from hating sins to hating the people practicing those sins. Let me restate this a bit more clearly: Being right and doing right, if a community is doing so in an unloving manner, risks a churches’ status as a church in Jesus’ eyes—that is, they risk their community’s identity as participating in New Jerusalem. And yet, Jesus wants to make it clear—he hates, as the Ephesians do, the works of the Nicolaitans (just not the people). Nothing else is said at this point of who the Nicolaitans are, what they believe or practice. 
The next ‘ugly’ church, Pergamum, provides a little more clarity. This community is quite unlike Ephesus. This community is under persecution, living in the pseudonymously named “Satan’s throne” … yet they are holding to Jesus’ name even as individuals within their community are being killed. For this endurance and faithfulness they are to be commended. But Jesus also notes that they have individuals within the community who hold to the teachings of a pseudonymously named “Balaam” (explicitly used to invoke the parallel OT narrative of apostasy and sexual immorality) and the result is the activity of porneuō (sexually illicit activity) and eating food sacrificed to idols within the Pergamum community. Within this letter joint activity of porneuō (sexually illicit activity) and eating food sacrificed to idols seems to be directly linked to the teaching of the Nicolaitans (which may serve to inform us about the freedoms which this group taught). Within this community, there are individuals holding to such teachings and for those who do not repent, Jesus promises that he will come make war against them with the sword of his mouth (2:16; also in later in 19:15). 
Finally, we come to Thyatira. The Thyatiran community receives one of the most glowing reports of all the seven churches. Their works are prolific—they are affirmed for their love, faith, service, and patient endurance. Regarding their love, a clear contrast is set up between Ephesus and Thyatira—where Ephesus departed from the love that they first had, these works (including love) in Thyatira have only grown. But there is the catch. Jesus then rebukes the Thyatiran community for they are tolerating (in contrast with Ephesus) the pseudonymously named Jezebel who is a self-proclaimed prophet (probably invoking the Holy Spirit as an inspiration and authority for her teachings) that is teaching and beguiling individuals in the church to practice porneuō (sexually illicit activity) and eating food sacrificed to idols. Unlike Pergamum where adherents to teachings of “Balaam” were present, the false teacher herself, “Jezebel,” has taken up residence in this community—she has authority, and leadership, and is “beguiling” people away from the Lord. G.E. Ladd describes what is being observed as an “unhealthy tolerance” for the world. He suggests that, “The Ephesians had tested those who called themselves apostles and had rejected pseudo-apostles, but this had made them harsh and censorious. Here is a church abounding and increasing in love and faith which is tolerant of false prophets to her own detriment.” 
The letter suggests that Jezebel’s judgment is set but for those that continue to commit adultery (presumably against God) with her, their reward will be death. Each will be judged according to their works (2:23; also later in 20:12). But the Thyatiran community is also unique amongst the churches in that they have a group among them who do not share Jezebel’s teachings (2:24), who remain resolute in their faithfulness, and may be beyond the scope of the initial rebuke. This is a divided community; some within the community affirm the teachings that lead to porneuō while others do not. To these who are faithful and find themselves in these divided communities, Jesus exhorts them to only hold fast to what they have until he returns as he seeks to “not lay on you any other burden” (2:24-25). As an aside, I think it is interesting to note that an allusion to the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:28-29) is likely behind this letter to Thyatira based on particular linguistic and thematic elements. 
...
In his third post, Lyons proposes a way for radical welcome as well as radical holiness [copied here nearly entirely]:
On one end of the spectrum, we have an otherwise healthy church who, in their rejection of sin (which probably included some porneia), have become unloving. Somewhere in the middle, we have a community who are under persecution, even to the point of being martyred, but Jesus even corrects them for allowing people within their community to be deceived by false teaching, which is leading to porneia being practiced in the church. On the other end of the spectrum, we have a church where porneia is not just being practiced but also endorsed by leadership who is described as a self-proclaimed prophet and is probably invoking the Holy Spirit to give authority to her teachings, teachings that are declaring licit that which was previously declared illicit by the Holy Spirit. 
... 
On Porneia Practice in Pergamum and Thyatira 
In both Pergamum and Thyatira, Jesus calls those engaged in the activity of porneia to repent of this activity. In Pergamum, Jesus promises that he will come and “war against them with the sword of his mouth” (Rev 2:16) and that points forward toward Jesus’ final decisive actions (Rev 19:15). Likewise, in Thyatira, judgment seems to already be decided for Jezebel (!) but her followers still have an opportunity to repent. Jesus promises that each will be given according to their deeds (Rev 2:23; likewise echoing the language of final judgment in 20:12) and that a lack of repentance will result in death. 
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Given the historic understanding and development of porneia (see part 1), it is hard to understand same-sex sexual activity as anything other than porneia. Such an understanding is in-line with second temple Judaism and early Christianity and the prohibitions against porneia for both Jews and Gentiles within the church are consistent. We can’t ignore the reality that Scripture’s witness on porneia is uniformly negative: wherever it is addressed, whether on the lips of Jesus or at the pen of Paul, the witness is negative. Porneia is bad and must be avoided. 
Previously, I had mentioned that, “licit sexual activity was defined by Torah and served as a cultural boundary marker where everything beyond Torah-observance was categorized as illicit and labeled as porneia.” In essence, scripture suggests porneia continues to function similarly as a boundary marker within Kingdom praxis. That is, porneia practice is one of the boundary markers for the Christian identity. This boundary is not an issue of Torah observance or law keeping; it is an issue of community identity through holiness. As N.T. Wright appropriately notes: “the praxis of the kingdom (holiness) is defined without reference to Torah” in the Christian redefinition of the Kingdom. Holiness is the praxis and Paul suggests that porneia practice is antithetical to holiness at the most basic level. Embracing porneiais embracing an identity marker that is antithetical to holiness and thus is equated with rejecting God himself. THIS is why this issue is so important. We can jigger with definitions within society and culture; but we can’t redefine holiness. To do so would be to redefine who God is. 
But, I hope astute readers will have noticed that I’ve focused on porneia rather than on same-sex sexual activity throughout my discussion. This is intentional. Is same-sex sexual activity porneia? Yep. So is premarital sex. And adultery. As is arbitrary divorce and even some remarriage. Complacency towards porneia arguably extends beyond these textual parallels to issues like our modern pornography epidemic, the proliferation of the sex trade and facilitation of a rape culture. Our culture, at best, is complacent and, more often than not, subversive and enabling of this brokenness. 
Ken appropriately saw this and cried foul to our inconsistency. He needs to be commended for this. But the answer in such circumstances isn’t to declare porneia clean. It is to repent and pursue Jesus and His holiness. Gather together frequently and call one another to accountability. Cry with one another. Pray for one another. Seek His face. 
Never stop thirsting for righteousness nor become complacent and tolerant of sin, for that is the path to destruction. 
We have a porneia problem in America and we need to repent. 
On Ephesus’ Love Deficit 
Jesus’ word to the Ephesians is a call to repentance and return to the love and practice that they first pursued. Jesus’ warning and call for repentance is testimony to the fact that you can be theologically right but pastorally wrong. If you are, as a community, proceeding unlovingly, then you are doing it wrong. It is worth noting that only at Ephesus is the whole community under risk of judgment and retribution. In Ephesus, the whole church needs to change its behavior or otherwise risk being proverbially “divorced” by Jesus. This is very different than the calls to repentance at Pergamum and Thyatira, where specific factions are being warned rather than the church community as a whole. The seriousness of this call to repentance cannot be overstated. 
While those in this community are appropriately called to repent for being unloving, defining what is “unloving” will certainly be the central sticking point and discussion around this will continue to be needed. As we move forward and begin to discern what being “loving” looks like in our contemporary contexts, let me propose a couple guidelines from the wider context of these letters for what we may conclude it doesn’t look like: 
1) It does not include affirming porneia. God makes it explicit that he hates the works of the Nicolaitans [2:6] (which contextually seems to include porneia, based on 2:14-15).
2) It does not include enduring or tolerating leadership, especially those claiming to be apostles or prophets, who are promoting and teaching in such a way that will endorse porneia. Jesus clearly commends Ephesus (2:2) for not enduring such individuals and rebukes Thyatira (2:20) for tolerating them.
3) It does not include allowing, to the extent possible, individuals within the community to be led astray by such teachings. Jesus rebukes Pergamum (2:14) for allowing this to occur within the community. 
Those seem to be the boundaries for being loving from the context of these letters. What is certain is that room should always be made for those moving towards Jesus and abundant grace for those struggling to follow in His footsteps. I think that charting a way forward will require “prophetic imagination” (in the words of Walter Brueggemann) as we attempt to reimagine how to do life in a way that is both radically welcoming and radically pursuing holiness. Whatever way we discern forward needs to hold these two calls in tension. 
On the Faithful in Thyatira 
Finally, a faction within Thyatira, those that have rejected Jezebel’s teachings, are surprisingly encouraged instead of rebuked. Jesus promises them he will lay no additional burden upon them (which, as mentioned previously, seems to be echoing the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15) and exhorts them to remain faithful and “hold fast” (Rev 2:24-25) until He comes. 
This exhortation may strike some as odd given our fractious, Protestant heritage. In neither Pergamum nor Thyatira does Jesus exhort the communities to split. In both communities it is He that will war against the transgressors and bring judgment. Surprisingly, church discipline and ejection from the communities don’t seem to be within view, at least not explicitly, in either of these communities. While the faithful within Thyatira may have been in the minority within this community (and thus unable to exercise authority to remove Jezebel), Jesus does not exhort these faithful to leave and start Thyatira church plant 2.0. In some sense, this church community seems to be a living example of the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt 13:24-30). While some may see this as an argument from silence, I think Jesus’ exhortation to the faithful in Thyatira is particularly telling. For those who are finding themselves in divided communities, I think Jesus word is significant: “Remain faithful and hold on.” 
Furthermore, if I may go one step farther, I think an appropriate inference in that exhortation is also this command: “Continue witnessing to the truth so that some may be saved.” Such advice seems inline with Paul’s advice to spouses who find themselves married to unbelievers, a situation not totally unlike what is happening within these communities.[10] Just as Paul acknowledges that an unbelieving spouse may be saved, so too may fellow believers in covenant communities come to see their sin through the witness of the faithful and repent. 
Let me be clear: I am not suggesting doing away with church discipline (where appropriate) but rather acknowledging that such options may not be available in some communities, especially when it is leadership who are part of the compromised parties. For those in such divided communities, I think the exhortation is to remain faithful and maintain your covenant commitments to your faith community and witness to the truth as the Holy Spirit leads and empowers you to. I recognize such an exhortation will most likely not be received in our factionary, western Protestant consumer Christianity but I think it is something that we all must consider as we discern what “unity” looks like in the Church. For those willing to receive this word, my personal exhortation would be to stay with the proverbial “unbelieving spouse” for as long as they will have you; if they leave, in the words of Paul, “Let it be so…It is to peace that God has called you” (1 Cor 7:15). 
Radical Welcome and Radical Holiness 
So there we have it. As a whole, I think the letters to these three churches in Revelation form a much more comprehensive and appropriate model for understanding all of the various elements and currents within this discussion on LGBT practice within the church as well as providing particular calls to repentance to individuals and communities at various points along the spectrum of responses. 
I profoundly agree with Bill Arnold on the point that we are “starting in the wrong place” with LGBT issues. I think any discussion on this must start with porneia, not same-sex sexual activity. I certainly think Ken is right in his critique of some of the ways we have dealt with divorce and remarriage. There is certainly a reason why Jesus’ disciples marveled at this teaching and suggested it might be better not to marry at all (Matt 19:10)! I likewise largely agree with Peter Davids, a NT scholar and friend of the Vineyard, that with wholesale “accepting divorce evangelicals largely went against scripture…. Yes, this is a wakeup call to revisit the question of divorce.” 
But this is even bigger than divorce. Remember that these prohibitions apply equally to a wide range of sexual activity also including adultery, most divorce, premarital sex, polyamory/polygamy, incest, and bestiality. Luckily, many of these activities are not socially or legally acceptable so they are not in view of the current debates…yet
Ultimately, I think this entire issue speaks to a much more significant, underdeveloped area in Vineyard’s Kingdom Theology. Traditionally, we have done very well talking about the Kingdom coming powerfully through signs and wonders. Our very origin as a movement echoes with these elements of the Kingdom. In recent years, the Vineyard has done an excellent job exploring what it looks like when the Kingdom comes and encounters issues and systems of social and economic injustice. We do a very good job theologically and practically describing what the telos of the Kingdom looks like in these instances. 
But this is the question we need to spend a little more time reflecting on and developing: what does it look like when the Kingdom of God comes into the interior life of a believer? Or, rather, what John Wesley, when talking about the Kingdom of God, describes as “heaven opened in the soul” and God setting “up his throne in our hearts.” Or, more systematically, what is often referred to simply as “holiness.” What is does the telos of the Christian life look like? 
Finally, however we proceed from here must include both radical welcome and the radical call towards holiness. Ephesus failed the radical welcome. Some in Thyatira and Pergamum failed to pursue the radical holiness of Jesus. We must hold on to both and continue to be a both-and people, a people in and through which God’s eschatological in-breaking Kingdom life and praxis is realized in ever increasing degrees of holiness.

tjc on altmc

Thomas John Creedy has written a few reviews of Ken Wilson's, A Letter to my Congregation. In his first post, First Thoughts, Creedy outlines three initial reactions:
  1. A faulty starting point
  2. A dangerous idea
  3. Surprising brevity
In regard to a faulty starting point, Wilson's subtitle includes the statement, "people who are gay, lesbian and transgender". Creedy proffers:
I think it is dangerous to make such a statement, to not acknowledge the Image-Bearing humanity of every person. By placing these terms - and indeed any definition of sex and gender offered in a fluid culture - as ontological markers is incredibly limiting. The people I know who identify as LGBT are just that, people. To reduce someone to their sexuality, or their gender, is incredibly limiting and damaging and dangerous. There is also the implicit assumption that those who don't take Ken's line ... are not embracing people into the company of Jesus. I don't think that's true. 
By starting without challenging our culture's construction of identity, I think Ken misses a trick. I think this would be a wonderful place to consider instead the root problem of our culture, in my limited opinion, the fact that we have in fact a crisis of humanhood. 'Self-definition', bluntly, is a fancy way of echoing that wonderful(ish) line from M People 'Search for the Hero Inside yourself'. Rather, I would tentatively argue (and I haven't finished my dissertation yet, and I certainly haven't written a book on it [yet?]) that true identity can only come from the grace and pronouncements of God. This is why I've written 'Says Who?', 'Soapy Ethics', and reviewed 'The Big Ego Trip', 'Note to Self', and so on. In my mind, the place to start when thinking about specific groups of human beings - however they might refer to themselves - is to start with what God says and gives us regarding all human beings. I could write about this topic till the cows come home, but, bluntly, I think this is a vital topic that Ken could have really engaged with a bit more. I point interested readers to my paper on a summary of the Imago Dei, my first blog post on the Imago Dei, and some reflections from Karl Barth on sexual difference in the Imago Dei
There is also a lot to be said about the inherently American nature of the binary model Ken seeks to move beyond with his so-called 'Third Way', but I'll leave that for another time.
In regard to a dangerous idea, Creedy reacts to Wilson's statement; ""A pastor is the jack of many trades, master of none. In the age of specialization this intimidates pastors. I have come to believe that we pastors can only be true to our calling when we understand it as something other than another professional specialty. We are not professionals, even those of us who are paid for our service. We are members of a body with a history that precedes the age of professionalism and specialization. Yes, we study our Bibles and if we're wise, we include the tools developed by the professional Bible scholars in our toolbox, but we do so in the context of the community whose book the Bible is. We do so as followers of Jesus who are also pastors. And if we are alert to wisdom, we understand thattheology is not simply an academic discipline. It's something all God seekers do."

After several affirmations, Creedy notes;
The issue, then, comes as we start to place the 'context of the community' above the Bible, above God, or make it an equal for determining things. Ken's reflections on his presentation of an early version of this book make for interesting reading - but set up a dichotomy that I think must be avoided. There should not be a divide between the academy and the church. Where there is, it should be bridged. I am reminded of John Piper's excellent 'Brothers We are Not Professionals', and Piper and Carson's 'The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor'. And so I am concerned that Ken is setting himself up as 'one of the good guys', contrasting the homely, caring pastor with the cold, hard academic. As a young Christian attempting to discern whether I am called to scholarship or pastoral ministry, or what both/and would look like, I am wary of favouring one over the other.
Creedy continues his review here and here - both are worth reading. I found Creedy's analysis of Wilson's rejection of the Biblical prohibition against homosexuality especially useful.

At the outset, as Ken places the observation at the outset (even if he deals with it in more detail later), it is worth noting that we read; 'I had read the texts on divorce and remarriage differently after walking with people through the complexities and anguish of divorce. Only experience pressed me to scrutinize the text and my assumptions about the text more carefully' [Kindle Location 896]. In a recent blog article, Ken again directly compares the the two topics - divorce/remarriage and homosexuality - in a way that is at least frustrating and at worst dishonest. I do not want to underplay, at all, the complexity and difficulty of the question over divorce. But in my mind, when Jesus himself (in Matthew 19:9) uses the word 'except' regarding divorce, there is a conversation to be had about that. There is an exception, a nuance, a point to clarify As we shall see, there is a difference between divorce and homosexuality in the Bible, as the biblical texts are uniformly negative regarding the latter, even though we must note that divorce is not God's best. To compare the two directly is not a good way to treat the texts. And I'm not saying that as a weaselly systematic semi-theologian - I'm observing that Jesus himself says 'except' in a case of divorce, where he is silent, especially regarding showing us a more 'enlightened' way, on the pre-existing prohibition of same-sex activity. Jesus does affirm the created order in terms of marriage, but that is by the by for the purposes of this part of the review. ...
Ken rightly recognises that the Bible addresses same-sex activity a handful of times. I will happily go along with the texts Ken has chosen, for the purposes of responding him, but would note that these need to be read with the wealth of texts celebrating sex in the context of marriage between a man and a wife, and with at least an awareness of the whole range of texts dealing with other kinds of sexual activities. For Ken, the battlegrounds, as it were are Leviticus 18, 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1. Ken does note, helpfully, that the term 'homosexuality' is a late term, but I would observe that we are skewed in our culture by our obsession and idolatry with sex, and so this is important to note, but I would argue it is more important to go beyond the sexuality discussion, as Michael Hannon notes in his powerful article 'Against Heteroseuxality. I appreciated Ken's humility on this area, stressing that fact 'I hadn't done my homework' [Kindle Loc. 950], but my concern is that the homework has not yet been finished.

Ken begins his discussion by say that 'the effect of this traditional reading is thoroughgoing exclusion of all gay persons from the life and ministry of the church, which is widely practiced' [Kindle Loc. 960]. This is a powerful rhetorical point, but it can quickly be demonstrated to be untrue. Whilst I would not want to diminish the struggles that many LGBT folk face in churches, and have written against some of that in the past, I would note the stories of Wesley Hill and Sean Doherty, at least, as good examples of the opposite. Ken moves through the texts in order of scriptural appearance. I was puzzled by Ken's statement that 'Leviticus has nothing to say about lesbian sex' [Kindle Loc. 1005], given that he is in favour of equality been men and women. It would seem selective to apply rules where men are mentioned to only men, if you then apply similar rules, etc, to women in other contexts. Leviticus is dealing with human beings - the point is two people of the same sex. Ken unfortunately misquotes Robert Gagnon, in the same way that Justin Lee has already done in print, and that Gagnon has responded to. I don't need to add to Gagnon's response. 
Continuing the side-stepping of texts in the Bible that deal with sex more generally, we jump from Leviticus straight to Romans. Again, Ken states that 'Like Leviticus 18, Romans 1 is framed as commentary on pagan idolatry' [Kindle Loc. 1027]. He quotes Luke Timothy Johnson on the topic - and as ever, it is worth noting that Johnson, like Ken, rejects the biblical prohibitions in this area. Johnson goes further, honestly stating; 'I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good' (Source). I am at a loss to see how this squares with Ken's stated aim of following scripture [Kindle Loc. 888]. But I digress. Ken bases his reading solely on the work of Sarah Ruden, whose book I am in the process of reading. Richard Hays, in The Moral Vision of the New Testament, is more straightforward, and, I think, closer to what is actually happening in the text:

'Paul singles out homosexual intercourse for special attention because he regards it as providing a particularly graphic image of the way in which human fallenness distorts God's created order. God the Creator made man and woman for each other, to cleave together, to be fruitful and multiply....

Homosexaul acts are not, however, specifically reprehensible sins; they are no worse than any of the other manifestations of human unrighteousness listed in the passage (vv. 29-31)' [p. 388, emphasis mine]

Ken goes on to say, as a method of dismissing sources that he finds unconvincing, that these 'simply weren't dealing with the questions that I faced as a pastor' [Kindle loc. 1138]. I would point, now, to theEvangelical Alliance's book, The Living Out Team, Sam Allberry'sbook, Wesley Hill's book, Alex Tylee's book, Vaughan Roberts' book on Friendship, and many other resources (perhaps the work of Henri Nouwen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and others, as calls to better community and deeper relationships), as being some that directly engage with pastoral issues in this area. Whilst some were not available as Ken was writing, many were, and I'd hope that in any future edition/conversation he might engage with them, too.

Moving on to 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, via a slight mudding of the water on Ken's part - 'Get ready for some more mind-numbing detail' [Kindle Loc. 1160] - we begin with a slightly frustrating discussion of the meaning of arsenokoitai, which I understand as 'men who have sex with men', which I think is a more nuanced and less loaded understanding than the common translation of 'homosexuals'. My friend Peter Ould has written a very thorough piece on the meaning of this word which I refer Ken and my readers to. I would also note that Ken focuses in so much on the detail of these words, rather than the context of the texts, that he ignores the trajectory and theme of sanctification that is central to the vice list of 1 Corinthians 6, for example:

'And such some of you were. Buy you were washed ,you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God' (1 Cor 6:11)

The trajectory of new life in Christ is a stripping away of false labels, dangerous idols, and un-real identities, in favour of the fundamental, radical, eternal identity of 'beloved child of God'. There are all sorts of things that are incompatible with this identity, and yet God, I believe, is very gracious in transforming us at a pace that is bearable. Following the vice list - which includes greedy, like me, drunkards, like I can be, and others - is this powerful promise, that there is more, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

... 
In closing this part of my review, then, we have seen that Ken has engaged the right texts but in a rather strange way. By consistently using the badge/motif of 'pastor' as a way of sidestepping some issues (in line with scholar Luke Timothy Johnson's honest rejection), A Letter to my Congregation muddies the waters and forces the unprepared reader to follow Ken's argument. From my perspective, the biblical texts are clear, they are prohibitive, and resources exist to encourage and call the church to be all she can be to all kinds of people in all kinds of places. We don't have to buy in to the false dichotomy that says if you believe certain things are sinful, you must hate and exclude certain people. Jesus didn't do that. He confronted people with their sin, while providing a solution, and offering a better life. And this is what the church must do. Not muddy the waters, confounding the scriptures, but speaking of life, a better life. Jesus must be more attractive than any human way of living, because he is, because he is God, because he died for us. Do go and read my post about the breaking and damaging of the Image of God, where I talk about 'ex-gay' camps, abortion, and other things.

reftagger