Homosexuality

Things are moving quickly in American culture.  Like predators striking their prey opportunistically, godless forces in our culture are pouncing on any remaining vestiges of Judeo-Christian ethics in America.  The homosexual rights groups are just such an example, as seen from their recent efforts to remove an evangelical preacher from President Obama’s inauguration, because he preached against homosexuality a decade ago.  I encourage you to read the comments below regarding this latest attempt to pounce on ethics.

Louie Giglio’s Ouster from the Presidential Inauguration for a Sermon on Homosexuality from the ’90s

Joe Carter:

For the past several decades voices inside and outside the church have said that Christians have hurt our witness by focusing on issues that challenge individualistic sexual permissiveness. They say that if we would only focus on actions that show how much we love our neighbor, actions like ending human trafficking, we would be welcomed in the public square. But as the Giglio incident reveals, no amount of good works can atone for committing the secular sin of subscribing to the biblical view of sexuality.

It’s not even enough to stop talking about the issue. As Giglio says in his statement,
“Clearly, speaking on [homosexuality] has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years.” But for the sexual liberationists, both secular and religious, it is not enough to have stopped talking about an issue decades ago. Anyone who has ever spoken about the issue—or at least has not recanted from believing what God says about homosexuality—is to be treated as a bigot.

Russell Moore:

When it is now impossible for one who holds to the catholic Christian view of marriage and the gospel to pray at a public event, we now have a de facto established state church.  Just as the pre-constitutional Anglican and congregational churches required a license to preach in order to exclude Baptists, the new state church requires a “license” of embracing sexual liberation in all its forms.

Note, this now doesn’t simply exclude harsh and intemperate statements or even activism. Simply holding the view held by every Roman pontiff and by every congregation and synagogue in the world until very recent days is enough to make one “radioactive” in public.

As citizens, we ought to insist that the President stand up to his “base” and articulate a vision of a healthy pluralism in the public square. Notice that the problem is not that this evangelical wants to “impose his religion” on the rest of society.  The problem is not that he wants to exclude homosexuals or others from the public square or of their civil rights. The problem is that he won’t say that they can go to heaven without repentance. That’s not a civil issue, but a religious test of orthodoxy.

Albert Mohler:

The Presidential Inaugural Committee and the White House have now declared historic, biblical Christianity to be out of bounds, casting it off the inaugural program as an embarrassment. By its newly articulated standard, any preacher who holds to the faith of the church for the last 2,000 years is persona non grata. By this standard, no Roman Catholic prelate or priest can participate in the ceremony. No Evangelical who holds to biblical orthodoxy is welcome. The vast majority of Christians around the world have been disinvited. Mormons, and the rabbis of Orthodox Judaism are out. Any Muslim imam who could walk freely in Cairo would be denied a place on the inaugural program. Billy Graham, who participated in at least ten presidential inaugurations is welcome no more. Rick Warren, who incited a similar controversy when he prayed at President Obama’s first inauguration, is way out of bounds. In the span of just four years, the rules are fully changed.

The gauntlet was thrown down yesterday, and the axe fell today. Wayne Besen, founder of the activist group Truth Wins Out, told The New York Times yesterday: “It is imperative that Giglio clarify his remarks and explain whether he has evolved on gay rights, like so many other faith and political leaders. It would be a shame to select a preacher with backward views on LBGT people at a moment when the nation is rapidly moving forward on our issues.”

And there you have it — anyone who has ever believed that homosexuality is morally problematic in any way must now offer public repentance and evidence of having “evolved” on the question. This is the language that President Obama used of his own “evolving” position on same-sex marriage. This is what is now openly demanded of Christians today. If you want to avoid being thrown off the program, you had better learn to evolve fast, and repent in public.

This is precisely what biblical Christians cannot do. While seeking to be gentle in spirit and ruthlessly Gospel-centered in speaking of any sin, we cannot cease to speak of sin as sin. To do so is not only to deny the authority of Scripture, not only to reject the moral consensus of the saints, but it undermines the Gospel itself. The Gospel makes no sense, and is robbed of its saving power, if sin is denied as sin.

An imbroglio is a painful and embarrassing conflict. The imbroglio surrounding Louie Giglio is not only painful, it is revealing. We now see the new Moral McCarthyism in its undisguised and unvarnished reality. If you are a Christian, get ready for the question you will now undoubtedly face: “Do you now or have you ever believed that homosexuality is a sin?” There is nowhere to hide.

 

Turning Right Instead of Going Straight.

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I turned right last week in Nicaragua instead of continuing straight, and God changed lives as a result.  I was on foot, walking the muddy streets of the village of El Carmen in north-central Nicaragua.  Accompanied by a handful of fellow North Americans who were taking a break from their tasks at the medical clinic, I was leading them out to visit house-to-house.

As we dropped down the hill from the clinic, I planned to follow a mountain path that winds its way high through the rugged terrain.  A glance at the team changed my mind.  One lady in particular wouldn’t be able to endure the lengthy, steep hike.  So I turned right instead.  The rest is eternal history.  Who knows what would have happened had I stayed straight?  What I know for certain is that God orchestrated the presence of the lady who steered my course to the right, ensuring that our path would cross that of several people He led to that particular road as well.

The rain-soaked, puddle filled, dirt road wasn’t choked with foot traffic, but our “house visit” outing soon transformed into several gospel conversations along the way.  Small groups of people grew curious, I suppose, as to why white people from the U.S. were standing on the road talking with villagers.  New arrivals seemed to wait their turn to talk.  One lady from our little team used balloons to magically create animals for the waiting children, while others handed out candy.

We talked, moved down the road a bit and talked some more, made our way into a few homes to share the gospel, and then hit the trail again.  In the course of one afternoon, God’s providence never let us leave the road.  And we never needed to.  He directed people’s steps to us.  By the time we hiked back to the village center for dinner, our hearts were raw with emotion.  God had given us the high and holy privilege of being the instruments through which He saved people, drew others back to Him, and planted gospel seeds for future harvest.

I can still see the face of a young school teacher, tears streaming down her face as my translator and I shared Christ with her.  Already a Christian, she had gradually re-embraced a life of sin, walking away from the Lord.  Gospel words opened the floodgate of guilt and regret.  Hearing her heartfelt prayer of repentance brought tears to our eyes.

With heaviness of heart, I see the young mother whose husband left her and their children.  She too was a Christian, but sin, a hard life, and man-made religion worked to lead her far from the cross of Christ.  Her husband had cruelly woven a web of deceit, telling her that the Roman Catholic Church allowed him to legally divorce her, but she wasn’t free to remarry.

Depression had settled on her so heavily that she couldn’t meet our gaze.  Her home was perched high on the mountainside, providing a spectacular view across the valley and clear river that cut through it.  North Americans would pay a substantial sum for such a picturesque lot, but the beauty was entirely lost on her dark heart.  She sat alone with her melancholic thoughts, her ignored children bustling about around her.

As we gently shared the gospel story, reminding her of God’s love in spite of our sinfulness, God gradually softened her heart.  Though we were total strangers, this dear woman opened her heart to us and shared her heart-breaking story.  We were able to teach her that her husband and the Catholic Church had lied to her, that God doesn’t bind her to man-made laws.  We were able to share with her the blessed forgiveness of Jesus Christ when we repent of our sins with a sincere heart.  Her quiet prayer of repentance warmed our hearts.

I slid back down the muddy trail to the road below, praying earnestly that God will heal her, encourage her, and grow her in the days ahead.  Waiting at the bottom were two or three members of my little team, those who had stayed behind because the woman mentioned earlier wasn’t able to climb the hill to the lady’s house.  Again, God’s providence had kept them below.

Their presence on the road perfectly coincided with that of a 12-year old boy.  They had stopped him, made a balloon creation for him, given him candy, and tried their best to communicate, even though they didn’t speak a word of Spanish.  When my translator and I arrived, we introduced ourselves, learned his name, and shared the gospel with him.  He nodded with conviction when I asked if he wanted to heed Jesus’ command, “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  We gathered around and laid our hands on his shoulders as he prayed and placed his belief in Christ for salvation.

The afternoon on that particular mountain road was filled with just such encounters.  At some stops, we planted gospel seeds, finding rejection, but knowing that God’s word never returns void.  At other stops, we found and gave encouragement to solid believers.  We never had to walk far.  God seemed to bring the people to us.  We didn’t have to climb the high road I had intended.  All we had to do was turn right.  God is a powerful, sovereign God whose work is abundantly evident to those who go on mission.

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Christianity, Unplugged

Are we using today’s new media tools (e.g., smartphones, iPads, Internet, etc.) as tools, or are the tools of our invention controlling and shaping us?  Increasing evidence reveals that our minds – the way we think, respond, and react – are actually being reshaped by persistent exposure to tools which are turning the tables on us and becoming our masters.

Dr. K. Scott Oliphint is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He has written an excellent article on the importance of Christians regularly withdrawing from contact with the “always on” world.  Enjoy.

 

Christianity, Unplugged

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When was the last time you withdrew? Not the last time you were the only person in the room or in the house — when was the last time you withdrew from contact with anyone else? Jesus “would withdraw” from the crowds “to deslolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16). He knew that His busy schedule required time alone — completely alone — with His heavenly Father.

In the twenty-first century, being alone and withdrawing mean much more than being the only person in the room. They mean being unplugged. In our appreciation for the help that technology can bring, we have perhaps been unaware of its more subtle dangers. And its dangers are not simply located in the content that technology can deliver, harmful as that may be. Its dangers lie also in the behavior that is required by its use. Owning a smartphone creates the peer pressure of immediate communication. How many times a day do you check your email — by phone, computer, laptop, or tablet? How many times do you check it even when you’re in the middle of a conversation? Also, with the reality of our new penchant to be in constant contact comes the reality of others’ constant expectations of us. Owning a cell phone brings expectations that one should never be alone.

One of the historical paradigm shifts in neurology came when the “standard view” of the brain as a hardwired machine was shown to be false. Instead, studies have shown, the brain is a pliable organ. It is shaped and molded, in large part, not simply by what we think but by the manner or way that we choose to inform our brains. This phenomenon of pliability is called “neuroplasticity.” The brain is a kind of soft and supple clay. Like clay, it can be formed and conformed; but like clay, it can gain a rigidity over time, once formed in a particular way. If we train the brain to be distracted, it will “learn” that distraction is its normal mode of operation. It will also “learn” that contemplation and thinking are foreign to its practice.

It was Marshall McLuhan who coined the phrase “the medium is the message.” What McLuhan was setting forth with that phrase was that it was not only the content of a particular medium that is important to recognize. For instance, it is not only the images that a television communicates that are important. Perhaps even more important, because it is more subtle, is that it communicates by way of images. The medium — that is, the communication of images on the television — is the message. Images are two-dimensional; they cannot communicate depth. They are not context dependent; they are their own context. Images are unable to communicate concepts like universals or the content of emotion (though they can communicate the emotion itself).

With the ever-burgeoning advances in technology, we have become a society (and a church?) that has committed itself, perhaps unwittingly, to distraction. The problem of distraction is serious enough, but the power of that distraction to train our plastic brains can be deadly for Christian growth. If the brain is really molded by how we think, then it is possible that our addiction to distraction will eventually train us not to think at all. We will be so mastered by our constant urge to check and answer our email, to look at our smartphones every time they buzz, to check the scores of our favorite teams, to “text” notes that our ability to think, to pray, to savor the truth of God will be all but gone.

Like Christ, Christians must withdraw, unplug. It is time to make sure that we are molding our plastic brains in a way that they will be trained again to think carefully, to concentrate, to work through difficulties, to meditate on God’s character, to revel in His glory. The Apostle Paul commanded us to let the Word of Christ dwell in us. It might be possible to fulfill that command by reading and memorizing Scripture. The adverb, however, is all-important. The word of Christ is to dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). The adverb expresses a depth and abundance that can come to us only if that Word that we read, even memorize, takes its place in our minds such that we contemplate and meditate on its truths. If the medium is the message, then the Word of God in Scripture is given to us so that we might continue to renew and train our plastic minds to think God’s thoughts after Him.

When the crowds pressed in on Jesus, He knew that obedience to His heavenly Father required that He must at times withdraw to focus on that relationship, and on it alone, in order to meet and confront a needy and hostile world afterward. A Christian who is serious about growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ will make technology a resourceful servant, not a mind-numbing master, and will commit to making a habit of withdrawing from it all in order to mold the mind, more and more, in conformity to the depth and truth of the Christian faith.