Archive | Moral Issues

How Jesus Would Act in a Homosexual Bar? or “How to Evangelize Homosexuals”

Christian-Homosexual

This is one of the most commonly asked questions that I get lately: How do I evangelize homosexuals? It is such a sensitive issue as there are so many passions involved and a growing variety of opinions. The volatility could not be greater and I could not be dumber for writing on this! Nevertheless, I am going to do my best to answer here.

I have a family member who lives in an apartment that backs up to a homosexual bar. I can imagine that in the church, there are people who think this is wrong. It’s not that these would assume she might be a homosexual, but that why would she, being a Christian, even dare live in such proximity to such evil. I am sorry to say this, but its very sad—no, tragic—to say that the church is filled with such a mentality. Oh, they have their verses to justify it, but these are always based in unbiblical emotional passions that cannot ever be justified.

Hold on, it gets worse so hang with me.

I, personally, was pretty excited that she moved in there. Why? What a great place to live! It is filled with opportunity and excitement. It is filled with the possibility of having the power of the Holy Spirit work in a place that few in the church would dare to go.

Let me back up and ask the key question: How do we, as Christians, evangelize (give the Gospel to) homosexuals? Here we go . . .

If this family member were to ask me this question, this is what I would tell her:

First, what a great place you are living! What a great opportunity! But I think it would be best if we asked another question: what Jesus would have done in such a situation. Here are the steps I believe he would take:

First, he would go to the bar Continue Reading →

Can Homosexuals Be Saved?

I have been asked this quite a few times over the years and the issue was brought up again recently. Can homosexuals be Christians? Or, better, is there such a thing as a “homosexual Christian”? Many would believe that someone who engages in a homosexual life style is necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God unless they repent. Repentance here would mean a change of thinking and, shortly following, a change of action – no longer participating in this lifestyle. In other words, while some would be willing to say that a homosexual can be saved, their salvation necessitates their change of lifestyle within a short period of time.

While I agree with those who say that homosexuality is a terrible sin (Lev. 18:22, 20:13 Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:6; 1 Tim. 1:10), I do not believe it is one that is outside the realm of a believer’s carnality. Neither do I believe that if one practices homosexuality their entire life, they are necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God. I hope people do not misunderstand my purpose here. I in no way endorse homosexual behavior or seek to relativize its standing before the Lord as an abomination. But I do think that sometimes, we who are not tempted in such a way can fail to see the seriousness of the struggle experienced by people who are tempted towards homosexuality.

Sexual sin and temptation are part of everyone’s life. We are born with a drive toward fulfillment of this God-given part of our humanity. Some will deny this drive because of God’s calling in their lives (e.g., singleness). Yet sin has corrupted this drive and we are all born infected with sin. Because of upbringing, genetics, cultural influences, and other factors, people will experience this corruption to greater and lesser degrees. I personally have never felt any inclination toward expressing my sexual corruption in a way that was focused on the same sex. Why? Not necessarily because of good choices I have made, but because the genetics, upbringing, and influences were not there. I have just never had the sinful bent within me that compels me to lust after someone of the same sex. Don’t get me wrong. I have a sinful sexual bent, but it is of the more natural kind. This does not justify it or make me more innately righteous than the homosexual, it is just a fact that this is not a sin I have ever had to deal with. Continue Reading →

Orientations, Identities, Disorders, and Future Possibilities that Might Make you Squirm a Little

DSM-IVRecently there was a stir about something in the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. A couple of headlines were saying that this fifth and latest version was identifying pedophilia as a “sexual orientation.” Not long after those headlines registered their requisite shock and response, the APA issued a retraction and clarification.

Watching this unfold I was reminded again how seemingly confusing is the use of terminology by this group, especially when it comes to key words like “orientation,” “identity” and “disorder.” A first principle of critical thinking is the clear and precise use of important terms. Failure to define these words with clarity and consistency in this case includes an ominous potential to carry our society down a moral and logical river that runs straight into a sewage pond. To see what I mean, consider more carefully the definition and use of each of these strategic words.

Orientation

The APA & similar organizations describe “sexual orientation” as persistent attraction to those of a particular type or group. The attraction is of a sexual (in some cases they add “emotional” or “romantic”) nature. Sometimes you see, along with “attraction,” other words such as “tendency,” “proclivity,” “interest” & “preference.” So in essence a person’s sexual orientation, according to this characterization, amounts to his or her feelings of attraction toward a given group.

Usually the emphasis of the ‘group’ to which a person is attracted is along the lines of gender (i.e., attracted to males, females, or both), but there is nothing in the definition to prevent other things besides gender from defining the parameters of the group. There is no reason given, for example, why such an orientation would not instead have to do with age (e.g., attraction to the elderly or to children), body type (e.g., attraction to the obese or to “little people”), or something else.

Clearly a person who does experience one of these peculiar kinds of sexual attraction (or interest or preference) based on something other than gender would have a legitimate case for his or her attraction being an “orientation” by the definition commonly used. So the description of pedophilia as an “orientation,” for all of the reaction it evoked, would nevertheless, by the reasoning of the APA, be perfectly sensible. I don’t see any argument they could make against that application of the word as it has been loosely defined.

Identity

Now a safe bet for why many people were so uncomfortable with notion that pedophilic attraction could be an “orientation” is that there is another (seemingly added on) aspect of “orientation” that is often mentioned when the term is being discussed and explained. This aspect is basically a sense of one’s identity being in some way tied to the sexual attraction one feels toward the given group. Like the feelings of attraction themselves, this sense of personal identity is entirely 1st person  and subjective. I have the specific orientation if I say that I do, and thus it is part of my identity if I say that it is.

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If procreation is part of marriage, are infertile couples unmarried? And if human beings walk on two legs, are amputees not human beings?

Simple logical errors sometimes pass by undetected, and in a few cases a persistent fallacy becomes so frequent in the wider public conversation that we don’t even think to analyze and question it. One such mistake that I’ve noticed involves definitions of things and a kind of mistaking of the exception for the rule. Before you stop reading because this just seems like uninteresting academic nitpicking, let me assure you that this rational error is relevant in some of today’s most heated topics of debate. It makes a difference whether we recognize it or not.

To explain:  definitions of things are basic to all of our understanding and communication. In any debate on any subject, terms have to be defined. Additionally, things have natures, which is part of why we define them as we do. In other words, there are things that are generally true about, for example, a tree. It is part of the nature of a tree to have roots, to have branches, to grow upward, to have foliage, to use the sun and water for growth, etc. I wouldn’t say those things about a dolphin, since it has a very different nature. Some people may deny that things have natures, since they may not like the implication of design (teleology) that this idea implies. But such objectors are a minority and I will not deal with them at present.

Nothing I’m saying here is novel. We could go back through the centuries all the way to the Greeks and let Aristotle explain this, but I want to be brief and succinct so I’m trying to give you the Cliff’s Notes (Clint’s Notes, to be exact). Christian thinkers have certainly always understood this, and all the more since they recognize that the natures to which things conform are definitely by design. Think, then, about how definitions of things involve their natures, and ask yourself: Are there ever exceptions? And of course you will recognize that there are. Rarely does a definition of something in this world apply to every member of the class or category being described. When you think of birds, for example, you think of flight, since it is generally in the nature of birds to fly. BUT there are a few exceptions.  There are a few species of flightless birds. And even if there were no species of flightless birds, there will always be the individual cases of birds that cannot fly because of developmental deformities in their wings or having been wounded.

Human Nature

This brings us to one of the examples in the title of this post. One thing we usually talk about as having a nature is a human being (as in the term “human nature”). When discussing the definition of human beings, we do our best to consider what is part of the nature of humanity – physically, mentally, and otherwise. Our definition of what it means to be human is, like others, general. It is not meant to say that every single human being will always have all of the traits we ascribe to human beings. It is meant to say, rather, that, all things functioning properly and in accord with what is the nature of a human being, the definition will apply.
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The question that never gets answered: What is wrong with people?

The most recent surprise attack of civilian violence has prompted the same group of questions that the last one did (and the one before that, and the one before that, and so on). What is wrong with people? How could someone do this? What kind of a person would do such a thing? What is going through people’s minds?  We asked these questions when a grade school was riddled with bullets not too long ago, and then we re-asked them when improvised bombs blew body parts off of marathoners on Patriot’s Day.

It may be that these questions are not fully answerable, at least not to a level that would satisfy us completely. People certainly offer possible answers, ranging from mental conditions to upbringing to past abuse to psychological disorders to violent video games. But those always leave the issue wanting. One or more may account partially for this or that specific element in a person’s frame of mind, but the deeper existential weight of the questions is still felt upon the collective psyche of the rest of us.

I see a missing link in the already suspect chains of reasoning that generally attend these kinds of discussions today. It’s like a puzzle in which one enormous piece is absent, without which there isn’t enough of a remaining visual clue as to how the picture is supposed to be filled out. What is missing in this case is the element of belief. When considering an act of head-scratching and heart-rending depravity, we can’t neglect the question, “What were/are the beliefs of this person?” regardless of how uncomfortable people today may be with moving the conversation in that direction.

The attempt to psychologize everything tends to result in an emphasis on the causes of a person’s action. But people act not just as a result of causes (mental illness, depression, drugs, etc.); they act for reasons. And those reasons do not fail to reveal important things about the person’s view of the world, including his or her beliefs, no matter how splintered or convoluted, about God, about human beings, about life’s mission, about the nature of happiness, about his or her own place in the universe.

The contemporary world is marred by the terrible habit of neglecting the importance of beliefs. Because we exist on the rushed and distracted surface of life’s waters, we have neglected and forgotten about the depths below. We are more pragmatic and short-term in our approach to life’s problems than those who came before us. And it hasn’t served us well in times of crisis.

Beliefs matter immensely. Nearly every morally controversial act on the part of a given individual or group is rooted in the peculiar beliefs of that person or group.   When we read or hear about terrorist slaughters in one part of the world, human trafficking in another, and genocide in yet another, our inner moral gage registers the immediate disdain for such evil proceedings. But how much slower are we to also recognize the woefully faulty beliefs of those at the forefront of the events? No doubt the two are causally linked.
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Should William & Kate Get an Abortion?

It’s hard to miss the big news story of the week. Britain’s Prince William and Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting a baby. The news broke sooner than the royal family were probably intending. The Duchess is experiencing severe morning sickness which forced her to be hospitalized.

I know there’s a great deal of excitement in the air regarding this pregnancy. I fear, however, cooler heads need to prevail. There seem to be reasonable issues on the table here making an abortion a good option for the royal family. Here are just three examples why William and Kate should terminate the pregnancy:

First, the royal couple have not even been married for two years yet. They have their whole life in front of them. There will be plenty of time to settle down and start a family. Right now, however, is not a good time. They need to first travel the world and enjoy their youth.

Second, Kate is very early in her pregnancy. Yes, the news is saying she is pregnant with a “baby.” Does anyone know who the uneducated backwoods hick is feeding such silliness to the news agencies? Anyone with even a high-school education should know Kate simply has a blob of cells inside her starting as a zygote forming into a fetus. Kate is simply experiencing a parasite feeding off of her body. No wonder she’s sick. If Kate terminated the pregnancy right now she would be well in her rights since the parasite is so early in development. If it were removed right now it could not survive outside the womb, no harm, no foul.

Third, someone has to think about Kate’s health. Our planet has advanced so far in support of women’s health. It’s a shame for us all to sit back and allow ourselves to be thrown back into the dark ages as Kate suffers. I’m thankful to be far enough removed from the situation to be able to think clearly on this point. Kate is obviously suffering due to this parasite. Kate is an intelligent, professional woman with the entire world in front of her. Why should we allow her to suffer? Perhaps William is a selfish jerk? He doesn’t seem like it, but do you really ever know somebody? Someone needs to make sure William is not forcing her to have the baby against her will. Kate, if you’re reading this, think about yourself.

Should William and Kate get an abortion? If the same reasoning used throughout the developed civilized world is used in William & Kate’s situation the answer very well could be: yes. They should get an abortion.

I think this situation, however, has revealed something inside the heart of all people. The entire world would rightfully place our hands over our mouths and gasp if William and Kate decided to terminate the pregnancy. If their explanation was, “Well, it was just not the right time. We’ve only been married for a year and a half. Kate was suffering with morning sickness. We’ll start a family some day, but not today.”
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Did Jesus Turn Water into Wine or Grape Juice?

The issue of alcohol and the Christian is an incredibly volatile subject causing great division and stern judgments on both sides. I have been deeply affected by this issue myself, as I have many friends and family members who are controlled by alcohol. I am not a teetotaler, but I rarely drink. I don’t like wine. Some beers are pretty good. I like tequila. But if the consumption of alcohol were made illegal, I would not even really notice.

There are so many different positions out there with regard to this issue. Let me try to name a few:

  1. Those who abstain from alcohol and believe that this is the biblical position for everyone.
  2. Those who abstain from alcohol but don’t believe this is a biblical mandate to enforce on others.
  3. Those who drink alcohol only for “celebratory” purposes (i.e., Lord’s table), but don’t get drunk.
  4. Those who casually drink wine or beer, but abstain from “hard liquor” and don’t get drunk.
  5. Those who casually drink alcohol in order to feel “merry” or “tipsy” but don’t get drunk.
  6. Those who drink alcohol and get drunk occasionally but are not “drunkards” (i.e. addicted).

Outside of this, all Christians would (or should) agree that being addicted to alcohol is expressly forbidden in Scripture, as it relinquishes control of our faculties to alcohol rather than to the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). Paul warns Timothy about such abuses with regard to the qualifications of a deacon (1 Tim. 3:8) and elders (1 Tim. 3:3).

I am not going to discuss here which of the above positions is correct. However, I do want to discuss one passage of Scripture that infuses the debate over alcohol with great passion. It is the subject of Christ and his relation to alcohol while here on earth. Most specifically, I want to ask the question of whether Christ, during the miracle at the Wedding of Cana in John 2, turned the water into wine, unfermented grape juice, or something else. Here is the text:

John 2:1-11
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

This question raised by this passage does indeed contribute a great deal to the overall debate. For if Christ turned the water into an alcoholic beverage, then his participation in the issue certainly does not bode well for those who preach that the biblical position requires Christians to abstain from alcohol altogether. He would have been serving as a bartender, if you will, at a celebration where abuse of alcohol certainly may have taken place. More than that, there is no reason to doubt that he himself would have drunk this wine.

Yet some maintain that the wine Jesus produced was a non-fermented type of wine called “new wine” (kainos neos). In this case, it would be like grape juice. Others believe that the wine Jesus created was watered down so much that one would have to suffer a severe bladder problem in order to get drunk. However, neither of these interpretations are supported by the best textual scholarship, and seem to be driven by a desire to maintain a rigid teetotaler position.

New Wine is Unfermented Wine? Continue Reading →

“America is Going Downhill Fast” . . . and Other Stupid Statements

Is America in a state of moral decline? Are we teetering on the edge of judgement from the angry hands of God? Maybe, but I am not as convinced as some are. What I do know is that nostalgia is a common condition among us politically conservative Christians. “If we could only get back to the way things used to be.” If we could only see how America is going downhill fast. If we could only see how far we are fallen in our morality. Divorce, gay marriage, socialism, abortion, and the like are often used to raise the big red flag and dictate our marching orders.

Fear. That is the word. Fear calls us to action. Fear, it could be argued, is as great a motivator as hope. And with the elections coming up, fear tactics seem to be used to take away hope. For years I have heard comparisons to the great civilizations of the past and how they fell. America, we are told, is not far behind. Once this type of fear begins to sterilize hope, the guns come out of the closet.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have often admitted that I am a one-issue voter. Regardless of the importance of the myriad issues facing our society, abortion is the one my mind and conscience simply cannot overlook.  I pride myself in being able to see all sides of an issue, but this is one where I have never been able to see the “pro-choice” side and I don’t suppose I ever will.

However, that aside, I am not so sure that yesteryear looks much better than today. Getting back to the “glory days” of early America seems like a bit of wishful thinking where we are not fond of wearing our historians’ caps. Do we really want to get back there? Do we really think that we are in the death valley of American history? For me, it is hard to see how, excluding abortion, America was not worse then than it is now (or at least on equal footing). Here is a list of things that goes through my mind:

1. Over half a century ago, blacks were thought to be inferior to whites. In many cases they had to use separate restrooms, ride separate school buses, drink from separate water fountains, and a host of other unconscionable things.

Let that sink in for a bit.

2. I don’t think women were better off. Back in the “good ol’ days,” it was culturally acceptable for husbands to beat their wives. It took activists nearly 100 years to win women the right to vote in 1920. Continue Reading →