Professor, author discusses the question: Can you be gay and Christian?
by Joseph Slife
Posted 4/28/15, 03:32 pm
Over the past decade, a radically different view of sexuality has become the prevailing norm in many mainline Protestant denominations. Now the idea the church should accept and affirm same-sex relationship is beginning to find supporters in more traditionally conservative, evangelical circles.
Michael Brown is the author of Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding with Love and Truth to Questions about Homosexuality. He is president of Fire School of Ministry in Concord, N.C. I talked with him about a biblical approach to sexuality.
You approach this issue not in abstract terms, but in a personal way by quoting many individuals who have same-sex attraction. You’re not just making doctrinal points, but also talking about real-world challenges and experience. You’re absolutely right. People who see things the way I do, who see things in terms of the Bible being very clear on this subject, do need to get a greater heart of compassion for those who identify as lesbian, gay, transsexual, or transgender. And through the book, I believe, they will really be able to get into the shoes of those whom they differ with or those whom they’re unable to relate to in this way. It will help them, out of more compassion, serve those who are struggling … and represent Jesus to them more effectively.
The central argument made by those who promote acceptance of homosexual relationships in the church is that God calls us to love our neighbors. And the loving thing to do in regard to people who have same-sex attraction is to affirm that is simply who they are. It’s a very powerful argument. “Love does no harm to its neighbor,” that’s what Paul writes. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” as Jesus teaches. So we are told that when we teach that homosexual practice is sinful, that God does not bless same-sex relationships, that we are driving people to suicide and we are driving people to depression. It’s something that we need to wrestle with and feel the pain of so that when we respond, we can respond with compassion.
But here’s the answer: No. 1, Jesus tells every human being in order to follow Him we have to deny ourselves and take up the cross. That means the end of my life, the end of my desires, the end of “it’s all about me.” And from there on, it becomes a matter of, “It’s all about Him.” “What can I do to please Him?” as opposed to, “What can he do to please me?”
Let’s also recognize that, through the centuries, there have always been people who were same-sex attracted and wanted to follow the Lord, and God gave them grace. He either gave them grace to be celibate or He gave them grace to have tremendous friendships around that satisfied their need for companionship, or He changed them and they went from homosexual to heterosexual. This happened with my late brother-in-law, for example. The problem today in America is that we start with “me.” It’s all about me, even in the church. It’s a narcissistic, me-centric gospel. It starts with me, and God is now obligated to fulfill my desires.
The biblical gospel starts with God, and we are obligated to fulfill His desires. We talk about God being love. That means that He sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we could be with Him forever and serve Him forever. It doesn’t mean that all Muslims go to heaven or all nice atheists go to heaven. I’m a Jewish follower of Jesus. I certainly don’t believe that all Jews go to heaven without Jesus. “God is love” doesn’t mean that He meets everyone where they are and caters to where they are. It means He meets us where we are and changes us so we can serve Him.
Often this argument points to a handful of specific passages in the Old and New Testaments, and you deal with those in the book. But you also make a broader argument that goes from one end of the Bible to the other. We are constantly told there are six main passages in the Bible that address homosexual practice. Out of an entire Bible, [we’re asked], how can you base something just on six passages? In point of fact, it’s a complete wrong way of looking at it. The principle passages that are used remain clear in terms of their meaning and understanding. But what we need to recognize is that the Bible doesn’t talk a lot about homosexual practice because it presupposes heterosexuality throughout.
For example, if you go to an astronomy class and you say, “Man, the professor only talked about UFOs once,” that’s because he’s presupposing there are no UFOs. He made one comment, “There are no UFOs; we won’t talk about it in this class,” and then he taught astronomy the rest of the time.
God establishes He creates human beings male and female. Then He establishes that the man and woman come together for life, are joined together as one. Then every single example of human relationships that he blesses is male-female through the Bible, even the analogy of Christ and the church being like the husband and the wife. All the teaching about parenting is male-female; children are told to honor their father and mother. Husbands are told to love their wives. Wives [are told] to honor their husbands, etc. So it presupposes heterosexuality throughout.
The Bible absolutely never countenanced homosexual relations. To the contrary, it only countenanced, described, blessed, and legislated heterosexual relations from Genesis to Revelation. That’s from the beginning of the Bible to the end. [Let’s say] you have a same-sex couple and they really care about each other and they’re trying to work this out. [They] want to be Christian, want their relationship to be blessed, and they go to read the passages about God establishing the human race and bringing Adam and Eve together, and He says “Be fruitful and multiply.” They can’t do that. How does that work? “Husbands, love your wives,” well, which one is the husband? “Honor your father and mother”—who is my mother? The whole thing breaks down.
This issue of how to view homosexuality is tearing apart denominations. It has certainly undermined public discourse to the point where suggesting that homosexuality is morally wrong opens one to charges of bigotry, hatred, and extremism. Is there any hope here for a way out of this theological and cultural war? I believe that, ultimately, the gay revolution will fail. I believe that ultimately, there will be a turning of the tide because we are plunging into a time of sexual anarchy. We are plunging into a time when even gender distinctions are becoming meaningless. Society can’t be sustained like this. We may crash and burn first on some level, but I do believe that a change will come.
The other thing is, there are many people who have been delivered from homosexuality. I know some fine Christians who still have same-sex attractions, but they just don’t act on them. They don’t give themselves to it. They don’t act on it, and they’re celibate and blessed. They say, Jesus is more than enough for me. But I know others who have legitimately been delivered from homosexuality. The more of them that raise their voices, the more people will not be able to believe the lie that homosexuality is innate and immutable. Change can come within the church, and change can come within the society. It’s going to be a very, very difficult, painful season as that happens, with much separation. But if we hold onto what’s right, value marriage the way God intended it, revere the Scriptures, and walk in love, when the storm dies down, we’ll be the ones left standing.
Listen to Joseph Slife’s conversation with Michael Brown on The World and Everything in It.
Joseph is the senior producer of WORLD Radio and the co-host of The World and Everything in It.