The coronavirus challenged compassion-providing ministries in new ways
WORLD last year and this has reviewed positively at least six books regarding homosexuality: Kevin DeYoung’s What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality, Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet’s Same-Sex Marriage, Adam Barr and Ron Citlau’s Compassion without Compromise, Glenn Stanton’s Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor, Rosaria Butterfield’s The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, and Christopher and Angela Yuan’s Out of a Far Country.
I’ve just read a seventh that’s also good, Sam Allberry’s Is God anti-gay? (The Good Book Company). Allberry differentiates between “same-sex attracted” and “gay,” exegetes Scripture briefly but well, and shows how churches can help those who are struggling.
I can’t be positive, though, about Ken Wilson’s A Letter to My Congregation (Read The Spirit Books), an important book because it has already influenced City Church in San Francisco (see "Blindsided" in this issue) and others. Sadly, it has numerous exegetical, historical, and sociological flaws: I’ll mention only two:
• Wilson cites Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18 to claim churches are inconsistent in accepting the remarriages of divorced persons whose first spouses are still alive. But those who follow the classic exegetical principle, let Scripture interpret Scripture, go immediately to Matthew 19:9, where Jesus says sexual immorality is also an acceptable reason for divorce. Nothing comparably provides a counter to the Bible’s consistent message starting in Genesis that marriage should be between a man and a woman and its explicit sixfold condemnation of homosexual conduct.
• Wilson says those biblical condemnations concern particular types of homosexual conduct, but he acknowledges that his case is undercut by the scholarship of N.T. Wright and others. Wilson repeatedly expresses his support for “contemporary monogamous gay unions” and generalizes that into an embrace of all gays, but does not note the sociological data that most gays are not monogamous. Wilson argues that to love one another we must extend church membership to LGBTs, but how is that loving to those who have struggled to be celibate and have succeeded, only to have the rug now pulled from under them?
I appreciate the honesty of Emory University professor Luke Timothy Johnson, who teaches courses on the New Testament and acknowledges that he and liberal seminary colleagues “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. … We are fully aware of the weight of scriptural evidence pointing away from our position, yet place our trust in the power of the living God to reveal as powerfully through personal experience and testimony as through written texts.”
Some say subjective experience should outweigh the objective truth of the Bible, but since Butterfield, Yuan, Allberry, and others testify to the power of Christ in changing them, do we balance their subjective experience against other subjectivities? Johnson admits that basing doctrine on experience is “risky,” and he understands that much Christian opposition to homosexuality “has less to do with sex than with perceived threats to the authority of Scripture.”
Our cover story also quotes Tim Keller, whose sermons were one highlight of my three years living in New York: Keller’s new book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism (Viking) should be required reading for many pastors. I always enjoyed waiting for the Jesus turn in his preaching, when Keller would connect the particular text to Christ’s sacrifice: Chapter 3 gives great insights on how the Old Testament shows Christ in every book, genre, theme, profile, image, and story of delivery.
Some pessimists have bought the atheists’ lie that Christianity cannot stand up to intellectual arguments, but Alvin Plantinga disproves that in Knowledge and Christian Belief (Eerdmans, 2015). He knocks down “defeaters” such as the problem of evil, and notes that perhaps God invites to eternal fellowship with Him “creatures who have fallen, suffered, and been redeemed.” —M.O.