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The Times They Are A-Changin’

March 21, 2013 Posted in Commentary | 18 comments
The Times They Are A-Changin’

Recently a prominent Republican leader and controversial pastor came out in support of homosexual marriage. Both used the teachings of Christ as a reason to affirm these “marriages.”

Senator Rob Portman from Ohio released a statement announcing his changed view on homosexual “marriage” after learning that his son was living a homosexual lifestyle. In it, he claims the shift was in part because of his faith and what he reads in the Bible.

"I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for [my son] to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister," he continued. "Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God ...We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives. We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society. We should encourage people to make long-term commitments to each other and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility."

In another announcement, Pastor Rob Bell stated that he supports homosexual marriage. “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man.”

This shift in supposed “Christian” thought isn’t new, but is happening more frequently. In fact, this is exactly the same tactic used by President Obama when he endorsed homosexual marriage last year.

Christians must learn to discern the fallacies in these statements and affirm God’s truth. Ultimately only God’s whole counsel revealed in Scripture brings true freedom and love, not man’s twisted notions about morality.

TRUE LOVE

Many people, like Senator Rob Portman, are using broad Biblical “themes of love and compassion” in order to cancel out Biblical particulars about human sexuality, as if the two are incompatible. The prohibition on sodomy is based on God’s love and compassion. If the Bible is really true, that those who practice homosexuality will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, then saying otherwise is not loving or compassionate.

“BUT TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’”

Some people suggest that religions should follow shifts in the culture rather than hold firm to their historic beliefs. This is exactly wrong. Christians are commanded to hold fast to the faith once delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3) The culture ought to conform to the truth of these beliefs and ethics, not vise versa.

To advocate for shifting morality is completely off the Christian reservation and sounds more like a "process theology." This heresy believes that God is evolving and changing in time, so there are no fixed reference points for ethics. Christians believe that God and his moral law are unchanging, regardless of whether or not the culture conforms to His will or not. This unchanging moral standard will be the one God uses to judge all mankind.

Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said, “When people quote the passages in Leviticus condemning homosexuality, I say to them - if you read the whole of the Old Testament and took everything that was there in a literal way, as being what God and religion is about, you’d have some pretty tough policies across the whole of the piece.” The problem with this reasoning is the New Testament condemns sodomy, too. (Matthew 5:17; Romans 1:24-29; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10; Jude 6)

Some argue the prohibition on sodomy is simply not practical for this age. So pragmatism, not God’s revealed will, is the mercurial basis for ethics. This is a very whimsical and arbitrary standard and vulnerable to gross abuse. One man’s pragmatism is another’s tyranny. The only way out of the dilemma is to live as one nation under God and His revealed will. The Founders called this “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” i.e. His moral law.

Political correctness urges Christians to move away from “entrenched attitudes” on homosexuality and “rethink” their doctrine. So whose thinking are we to consult? Reasoning apart from God’s revelation in the Bible is bankrupt human speculation. Apparently liberals are not convinced of their own limitations and fallibility that can become very corrupt, especially when it comes to rationalizing sexual sin.

BAD THEOLOGY LEADS TO BAD CONCLUSIONS

In a sign of the growing apostasy among the dying mainline churches, the official magazine of the Church of Scotland, Life and Work, published an editorial that urged acceptance of the appointment of a homosexual minister. The author, Muriel Armstrong, disputed homosexuality is outlawed by the Bible.

The tactic Armstrong used is one commonly used by homosexual activists to confuse the uniformed. She insults and accuses those who uphold the Biblical teaching regarding homosexuality of being “selective literalists” in their readings.

Here’s the gist of her argument. "What is clear to the lay-person is that not everything Biblical is Christ-like. Every student of the Bible is a selective literalist… Those who swear by the anti-homosexual laws in the Book of Leviticus wouldn't publicly advocate slavery or stoning women taken in adultery… They presumably no longer accept Biblical teaching on sexual matters such as polygamy and sex with slaves."

Let’s deconstruct Armstrong’s deceitful line of reasoning from a conservative approach to the Bible. According to Armstrong, “What is clear to the lay-person is that not everything Biblical is Christ-like.” This is a very clever and cunning statement. What does she mean?

The Bible certainly does accurately report the sinful acts of people in the Bible. Even the greatest heroes of the Bible are revealed to be fatally flawed. Think of Moses’ temper or David’s adultery.

Everyone in the Bible, except the sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ, is sinful and fallen. Evangelical Christianity does not claim the examples of any Biblical figure other than Christ are the standard. While we can learn both positive and negative lessons from other people’s lives, no serious theologian claims that just because something is in the Bible it is to be followed.

Evangelicals agree with Armstrong that Christ is the standard, but her assertion that not everything in the Bible is Christ-like is irrelevant and self-evident. It seems only intended to defame the Bible, confuse the ill informed and gain support for her unbiblical conclusions.

But this begs the question then, what is “Christ-like?” Apparently for Armstrong her subjective idea of what constitutes “Christ-likeness” is the basis for rejecting the clear teachings of the Old and New Testament regarding sexual immorality. In other words, she’s just making stuff up.

Christ affirmed the whole of the Old Testament.

According to Christ, to be Christ-like is to take the law of God very seriously.

“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:18-20)

Armstrong makes some very cavalier remarks about God’s law. “Those who swear by the anti-homosexual laws in the Book of Leviticus wouldn't publicly advocate slavery or stoning women taken in adultery… They presumably no longer accept Biblical teaching on sexual matters such as polygamy and sex with slaves.”

Again, a very cunning remark intended to change the subject and to create a prejudicial view of God’s law. What Armstrong is either ignorant of, or intentionally refuses to acknowledge, is that her approach to the Old Testament law is defective.

Every first year Bible student knows that some of the Old Testament law was unique to the nation of Israel as a theocracy, like the laws she cites regarding slavery. Those specific laws that governed Israel as a nation passed away when the nation of Israel passed away in 70 AD.

The New Testament tells us that the ceremonial law, with all its sacrifices and offerings, also passed away because they were all pointing to Christ. Now that Christ has come and is our Eternal High Priest who offered his own blood for our sin, the need for the Old Testament sacrificial system and priesthood is gone (Heb. 9:23 ff.)

The same can be said of the dietary laws. While one may choose to eat the Old Testament diet for their health’s sake, the spiritual and moral purpose for the dietary laws also passed away with Israel. The dietary laws were to set Israel apart from the Gentile nations. Now in the New Testament we find the kingdom of God consists of both Jews and Gentiles and “is not a matter of eating and drinking, but righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 14:17)

So what, if any, of the Old Testament laws are left? What about the prohibition on homosexual acts in the Old Testament? We see it clearly affirmed in the New Testament, which Armstrong fails to mention. Historic, Biblical theology holds that the general equity of the moral law, as codified in the Ten Commandments, is still binding on all people everywhere. God will use this standard to judge the world.

New Testament Sexual Morality

Certainly Armstrong knows that the New Testament does not negate the Old Testament moral law about human sexuality. In fact, the New Testament corresponds exactly with the Old Testament in this regard and even holds forth a higher sexual ethic.

Whether we are talking about the sins of fornication (2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5), adultery (John 8:11; Rom13:9), incest (1 Cor. 5:1), or homosexuality (Rom. 1:26&27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim.1:10; Jude 6), the New Testament is clear and unambiguous. Sex outside of the covenant of marriage is sinful and forbidden. No exceptions. It goes without saying that if these sins are wrong, then the Old Testament ban on bestiality and incest are still binding, too. Armstrong fails to mention the same rationalization she uses for accepting homosexuality would also apply to sex with animals and family members.

Some have the idea the New Testament lowered God’s moral standards. This is a glaring heterodox position. God does not change, so how can his moral law change? It is sad that theologians who ought to know better traffic in ambiguity in order to confuse the ill informed.

Any changes we see in the application of the Old Testament law are not moral, but circumstantial. Because Old Testament Israel passed away, it’s civil, ceremonial and dietary laws have also passed away. But the moral law is still intact.

In fact, Jesus wants us to see the spirit behind the moral law. He taught that even entertaining the desire to sin is, spiritually speaking, like taking the action. Sexual sin is also a matter of illicit thoughts. “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matt 5:28 / NKJV

Armstrong is either ignorant of the New Testament or has such a high opinion of her own subjective notions of what constitutes “Christ-likeness” that she will not tolerate Biblical truth. She has made herself a law unto herself and the judge of the Bible and presumes to stand above God and his Word.

Selective literalists?

Of all Armstrong’s deceits, this one is perhaps the most dangerous. She says, “Every student of the Bible is a selective literalist.” This is a common homosexual argument used to confuse the ignorant and to destroy God’s Biblical standards. Her argument is again prejudicial, not substantive.

Serious theologians agree there are portions of the Bible that we must be very careful to understand. Some passages are to be read literally, like the history of the Torah and the New Testament Epistles, although they may contain metaphors, etc.. Some passages and books are very poetic, like the book of Psalms, or highly symbolic, like Revelation. Of course you don’t read non-literal Bible passages literally. You must accept the Bible on its own terms as God has revealed it. This is not selective literalism it is common sense.

But when it comes to the moral law of God there is no room for this kind of confusion. The laws are emphatically clear. What, pray tell, is not perfectly clear about “thou shall not murder, steal or commit adultery?” These are straightforward commandments. Any child can make that distinction.

THE NEW TESTAMENT IS UNAMBIGUOUS

The New Testament picks up right where the Old Testament leaves off. Jesus and the Apostles affirm sexual expression is reserved for the covenant of heterosexual marriage. Homosexuality is singled out for very serious censor.

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Romans 1:26-27

“And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire [i.e. strange flesh], serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” Jude 6&7

God’s retribution on Sodom and Gomorrah for homosexual sin is used as a severe warning of what will come to all who refuse to repent of their sin.

THE GOOD NEWS FOR HOMOSEXUALS

From the beginning of the church, God has saved and delivered people from homosexuality. After listing the various kinds of people that would not see God’s kingdom, including homosexuals and sodomites, Paul concludes with this glorious reminder: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11

Praise God for the gracious invitation extended to all sinners: repent from your sin, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. This offer is available to whosoever will believe. No one is disqualified, no matter how bad or hopeless you might think you are. There is a sure hope in Jesus Christ for redemption.

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18 comments

  • Mark Steiner says:

    I think Bell, Portman and Armstrong should read I Timothy 4:1-4 and other related verses in II Peter 2 and Jude and consider if they fit into the people described in these verses.

  • Morris says:

    Seems these people are twisting scripture in efforts to justify sinful behavior, reminding me of what’s written in the Bible regarding those who wrest the scriptures to their own destruction. Loving and clinging to sinful lifestyles they refuse to abandon, the practice of perverting God’s Word to suit the situation seems prevalent these days, people not wanting to allow God’s Word to change them while at the same time wanting to appear as though they’re right with God. A love for the truth is obviously not something these people possess, thereby damning themselves to eternal flame. Jesus said there would be many false prophets and much false doctrine in the last days; many deceivers who will deceive many; the blind leading the blind straight to Hell.

  • Anonymous says:

    So let me get this straight, are you saying that this country should be run by an out of date book, whose Gospels writers (Luke, John, Mark, Matthew) weren’t even around when Jesus was alive?

    So if we take the Bible as literal truth and all should follow it, then shall we also implement Deuteronomy 22:11,
    “Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.” New International Version, 2011.

    Any country run by that book would fall fast.

    • gary says:

      first of all, that old book is the word of god. Second of all, you need to have a little backbone and start believing in something, other than what is popular. anonymous, you are a follower, not a leader. get off the band wagon and start believing in something instead of following the crowd

      • Jonathan Delafield says:

        Nonsense. I defy you to prove that the bible is the word of God. Christians just made that up. It’s a collection of stories written man by over centuries. It doesn’t deserve to be the our source of guidance more than any other book.

    • gary says:

      “Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination” leviticus 18:22

    • Jeryl says:

      I’ll pray for you. It’s obvious that you’ve never come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.

  • Democratic Sensibilities says:

    Hey Anonymous. Your history of the Gospels is hopelessly flawed. “The Gospel writers (Luke, John, Mark, Matthew) weren’t even around.” Are you kidding me? You need to check in for some scholarship therapy bro. Those Q theories have been dead for quit a while. OK, you’ll find hangers on, but those that hang on to it these days are just looking for a cause, any cause IMHO.

    One way to test a theory is to take it to stress test it by extending it to its logical extreme to see if it remains true even then. If all marriages on the planet are homosexual marriages, we have a problem. No procreation. That means no one will be left once that generation passes. Therefore logically, homosexuality must be a departure from the norm and not an institution of human relationship to be codified. That said, the Gospels also say that each human has free will. There are many human behaviors that result, not all of which should be codified in our laws for governing our human community; codes that can be passed on from generation to generation.

    Homosexual relations is one of those human choices that, while certainly the right of two individuals human beings to choose, does not necessary equate to a venerable right that we should pass on to our children as a true and lasting value.

    Perhaps this dichotomy has caused the confusion of rights. One is a human right, the other is a legal right. They are often not the same, or don’t have the same priority in the governance of a society.

  • Kristine says:

    Instead of Rob Portman accepting his son’s gay lifestyle, he would be more loving if he didn’t accept it and tried to present the gospel to him so he could change his thinking. God destroyed Sodom and Gommorah for a reason. His son actually will NOT be happy with his life style. He will be happy being free and serving God.

  • Rick L. says:

    Fundies aren’t really concerned with listening to God. The have wailed, and they have cried, and they have gnashed their teeth; and the wonder why God doesn’t answer their prayers to save them from the left. The fact is God is answering, they just don’t like the answer, so they make an idol of the printed words in a book rather than listen to the living word of God which speaks to them in their hearts.

    • Jeryl says:

      Christ affirmed that the words of Scripture were true. I’d much rather believe him than the flawed words of questionable professors. God has proven His word true over and over in my life.

  • sanford says:

    From Ed Brayton

    But isn’t that exactly what Christians do with things like slavery? There are many explicit commands in the Bible in favor of slavery. God commands them to take slaves from the “heathens” that are around them and explicitly says that they and their offspring are the property of their owners, to be handed down as possessions. He commands that as long as you don’t kill them, you can abuse them horribly. And there is not a single verse that says slavery is wrong. So why do Christians today reject slavery? By doing exactly what Cass accuses Portman of doing, by saying that slavery is wrong because it violates those same broad Biblical themes of love and compassion. Apparently, that’s only wrong when it leads to a conclusion Cass doesn’t like.

  • jkl49 says:

    All of you pick and choose what you follow in the Bible. Do any of you think that eating shrimp and wearing polyester are abominations worthy of God’s wrath? I doubt it, but they’re right up there with the worst abominations. How many of you have tattoos? That’s there too. Nobody but Orthodox Jews follow EVERYTHING in the Bible.

  • Pat says:

    Notice the ANONYMOUS comment that makes an argument for selective literalism, something this article ALREADY refuted. Tired, old argument. Mixing fibers in clothing is nowhere condemned in the New Testament. Homosexual practice is.

    On a side note, maybe refusing to mix fibers is a good idea. Look at the way some large corporations are destroying some plants used for food, through genetic engineering, mixing widely diverse species!

    • Jane says:

      Pat, slavery is also “nowhere condemned in the New Testament” but it is explicitly approved of and instructions given on how to treat one’s slaves (anything short of killing them) in the OT. Christianity seemed to evolve on this point (literally at the point of a gun) and now condemns slavery, often citing the Gospel’s message of love and treating people the way we would like to be treated. Also, mixing fibers is indeed prohibited in Deuteronomy 19:19 and Leviticus 22:11.

      All of the supposed condemnations of homosexuality in the NT are within letters written by Paul and not part of the Gospels. I prefer to heed the words of Jesus who came to forgive us our sins, whatever they may be, not Paul, or else I would call myself a Pauline and not a Christian. Are you a Pauline? Do you also subscribe to his belief that women should not speak out in church or teach scripture? If not, why the obsession with homosexuality?

      To address my previous point in light of Paul, he was also an advocate of slavery and expressed the idea that those who did their masters bidding while keeping Jesus in their heart would be blessed in the Kingdom of Heaven (Ephesians 6:5-9). Of course, he was a man of his time, but that point should say to us that he may not have been divinely inspired. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was revolutionary, so upsetting the status quo on an issue like slavery should not have been an issue. The Gospel continues to be revolutionary. It is hard to love your enemies and it is hard to spread love instead of animosity or hate, but that is the message I take away. The Word does not change, but our understanding of the Word can change as we confront new issues and try to spread the Gospel to as many people as we can. All people can go to Heaven. That was the freely given gift of God through his Son, Jesus Christ.

  • Salmo says:

    It’s so cute that you act like picking and choosing the rules of the Bible you follow is a bad thing, and then spend time of your column explaining why you do that. Oh, any rule you don’t feel like following was intended only for the nation of Israel? How very convenient. I’m sorry to tell you, but the Bible advocates slavery. It tells you how to take slaves, how to sell slaves, how to beat slaves, how to emotionally blackmail male Hebrew slaves into staying with you, and how to sell your daughter as a sex slave. What it does not say is “these rules are only for the nation of Israel”.

  • James says:

    Understanding comes through the heart, not your eyes. They are merely for relating what you see from your particular vantage point..


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